4 Reasons To Visit Cardiff

Cardiff has been my home for the past six months. I’ve created so many memories as a visitor and as a student of Cardiff University. I was fortunate to get to know my surroundings in the small city. I was able to visit places like the National Museum of Cardiff, Cardiff Castle, and soon the Millennium Stadium in June! If you (the reader) is planning to visit Cardiff, here are a few things you should do:

1. Walk everywhere! Explore your surroundings.

I’m going to miss walking everywhere. Although a part of me misses transportation, it was great to not rely on it. I was able to walk to class everyday and to the city centre when I needed something. I loved the shortcuts I found to get to places faster.

IMG_6004

2. So many food options. Try them all! 

I’m glad that I was able to try different restaurants, diners, and food joints all around Cardiff. There are even hidden arcades with even more food places to try. Whether it was brunch or a traditional Welsh dish, it was great to try different things each time. I enjoy brunch the most because who doesn’t love a good breakfast in the afternoon?

19618_10205709097623366_981561682487174566_n

3. Catch a rugby game at a bar or live. 

An exciting thing I was able to do in April was cheer on Cardiff University in a rugby match. Students traveled to Swansea to go against the university there. It was great to dress in red and represent Cardiff. I’ve never been to a college game before and it was exciting! There was school pride everywhere I turned with cheers and banters against the other team.

It was also exciting to go inside a stadium for the first time. I’ve never been in a stadium before and I never realized how huge it was! I’m pretty sure it’s smaller than most stadiums, but I like that even though I was in the second to last row of the stadium I was able to view everything. Rugby is still a confusing sport, but every time Cardiff scored a point, I cheered so loud! The day got even better because Cardiff University won!

11157369_10205583772050305_6395045423025134888_o

10389595_10205698708300831_691010269531690590_n

4. Visit Cardiff’s attractions. 

I got to visit the one and only Cardiff Castle. I remember seeing it the first time when I arrived in Cardiff and I was glad I finally got to visit. I got a Castle key (it’s great for three years) and all it had to offer. The Cardiff Castle has the best view of Cardiff. The breathtaking view brought a big smile on my face. I also learned the history of the castle and was happy about the sunny weather.

10885602_10205709098703393_6812830524009792244_n

I visited City Hall and although it was limited there was a lot of things I did get to see. I was able to see an art piece of Princess Diana and marble statues of important people from Wales. It was a very elegant place that many events are held there.

I also returned to Cardiff Bay and saw the difference between the first time I went to now. The weather was warmer, so many people were out enjoying the sun. I was able to go inside a building filled with history of the bay and Wales as a whole. It was perfect weather for a burger and walking around the bay. I even tried the best Welsh cakes in Wales and let me tell you that they were telling the truth!

Since I only have three weeks left, I decided to visit the National Museum again. It was a different experience since I was alone exploring it again. I was able to sit down and draw a few of my favorite paintings and statues. I also got to visit the new exhibits and fall in love with art all over again. I was glad to have the opportunity to just leave my flat one morning and walk to the museum for the day.

I can’t believe that I’m almost heading back to the states. I’ve been so accustomed to Cardiff and all that it offers. I hope that I have the chance to visit Cardiff again in the future.

Final Stop: Austria & Germany!

I couldn’t believe Spring Break was almost over. Before I was returning to Cardiff for my last weeks of classes, I headed to Austria for a few days. I’ve heard of Austria briefly and I was curious to find out all about it. The minute the plane landed and I was surrounded by a breathtaking view of the mountains, I knew I was going to fall in love with the country.

10439397_10205494823466646_4484747282834376222_n

I stayed in Salzburg, Austria, the home to the famous movie Sound of Music. It’s also the hometown to the composer Mozart. The town is small, but nonetheless it held a lot of history and fun things to do. It was a change from the busy cities I’ve traveled previously. We spent the whole time walking around rather than relying on transportation.

10359083_10205494953909907_1987609618087479968_o

11102641_10205494965230190_8238097687250427298_n

On our second day in Austria, my friend and I went on the Sound of Music tour. We got to see places where they shot the classic movie. It was also a great opportunity to see how scenic Austria was. Austria is filled with so much green life, it’s honestly the most beautiful place in the world.

I’ve only seen the movie twice (my friend Lauren was more of the fan), so I got to learn about the scenes, fun facts, and even sing along on the bus with other fans. By the end of the trip, I knew all the words, and I  may have even get some holy water from the famous church that the main character got married in.

10246277_10205498908168761_4724070105006897406_n

 

397562_10205498911728850_5837471293956446950_nOne of the things I miss from Austria is their delicious food. I got to try their famous pretzels, apple strudels, schnitzel, and goulash. I loved the opportunity to eat different foods from the different countries I visited.

11053599_10205494927429245_2154369568093717531_n

Tip #1: Don’t be afraid to try new things. When you’re traveling, step out of your comfort zone.

On our third day, we decided to take a trip to Munich, Germany! We took a train from Salzburg and decided on a hop on/off bus for the day.

Tip #2: If you’re only in a country for a day, try a hop on/off bus. It’s a great way to see everything that country has to offer and learn about them in a short amount of time.

The weather was nice to see Germany through the top of the bus. It was nice to get off the bus and spend time to see the city through our eyes. It was weird to see everyone out and about because most of thee stores were closed. This was a repeated pattern in Europe. Either stores were closed completely on the weekends or they closed earlier than I’m use to. I’m so use to stores being open everyday on late hours. Just one of the many differences between Europe and America.

10956092_10205527481963088_701639382802099476_n

A moment that I will always remember is when an elderly woman dropped her phone, I picked it up, and gave it back to her. She was so thankful, she decided to give me some German chocolate and 50 cents. I wasn’t expecting that and it just made my day that she was just so happy that I helped her out. It made my experience in Germany even brighter.

Tip #3: Expect the unexpected. There are good people in the world.

I couldn’t believe Austria and Germany was my last countries that I visited for the break, but it was a good way to end the best trips of my life. So when you’re planning your trip to explore Europe, don’t forget to add Austria and Germany to your list.

Third Stop: Rome!

The next stop for five days was in the beautiful city of Rome! Not only was I spending the first week in April in Rome, but I was spending my birthday in the ancient city.

The weather in Rome was a nice change from the wind and rain from our previous trips. Before heading to Rome, one of the things I was looking forward to was the food! The first meal I had in Rome was a pizza filled with prosciutto. I knew from that first meal that Italy was not going to disappoint!

IMG_5237

The first place I visited was the Vatican Museum. The Vatican Museum was overwhelming, amazing, but overwhelming! There was so many things to look at. In every direction, there was beautiful art that I wanted to capture in my mind forever. It took my breath away at the amount of work that went into making these masterpieces we know today.

From my time at the Vatican Museum, I learned two things:

  • Be VERY careful: I learned before traveling about the thieves, but also keep in mind for the people trying to sell you a bag, selfie stick, tour, whatever. Be mindful and smart.
  • Be in the moment: I made the mistake of missing the most important piece in the Vatican. I was so focused on taking a photo of the overall picture, I forgot to take the finer details in. Put down the phone and just take it in.

11101398_10205444657412526_3889769622512705951_n

Aside from the Vatican. I saw the Colosseum and I was in awe. I’ve always saw this on television and photos that actually being there left me speechless. I remember taking photos and realizing how unreal it looked. I also had the opportunity to go inside and explore it’s history. I was surprised at the information I’ve already knew. (Thanks SUNY New Paltz!)

18390_10205451254417447_8723749378113561810_n

Since I went the week of Easter, I was honored to see the Pope! On Good Friday, we were able to see him and be apart of a mass in front of the Colosseum with over thousands of people from around the world. It was a surreal experience that I will never forget. Also seeing the sunset behind the Colosseum wasn’t a bad sight.

11109698_10205444687773285_1285316797554095544_n

Towards the end of the trip, I wanted to fulfill my Lizzie McGuire dream of seeing the Trevi Fountain. Now, I knew beforehand it was under construction, but I was in for a surprise.

11138623_10205451265897734_5960167429261595584_n

11136711_10205586654539557_4556149303509631352_n

Tip #3: Don’t assume things are going to be like the movies or the way you wanted it.

Even though it was HEAVILY under construction, it was still great to see it and throw a coin, even if no water was running.

Rome was filled with so much great history and delicious food. I had an amazing time and wouldn’t mind visiting Italy again.

Next Stop: Paris!

Bonjour Paris!

It took about eight hours to get to Paris. We took the night bus and I don’t think I got any sleep. At one moment, the bus was in a ferry and yet I couldn’t even feel it! I didn’t even think that was possible.

I couldn’t believe I was in Paris as I walked to my first hostel of my long trip. It was the St. Christopher’s Inn and I highly recommend it for anyone traveling to Paris! Unfortunately we were earlier than our check in date, so as a result we got free breakfast from the hostel and a free walking tour of Paris!

Tip #1: Always have back-up plans. You ever know what’s going to happen. 

My friends and I were able to put our luggages in the lockers provided in the hostel before joining the group for the tour.

IMG_5229

The free walking tour of Paris was the best decision! I was only in Paris for one day, so I wanted to be able to see all of the city in such a short amount time. I did not only see these well-known places, like the Notre Dame and Louvre, but I got to learn about its history from my tour guide.

11110806_10205428105518739_2097618937578421640_n

Tip #2: Find out what your hostel offers and do it! This can be a once and a life time opportunity, so take chances.

When the tour was over, my friends and I ventured to see the Eiffel Tower up close (it wasn’t included in the tour). It was a long walk, but when we got there, it was breathtaking! I couldn’t believe I was actually sitting in front of the Eiffel Tower. Of course, the first time I see the Eiffel Tower, I’m exhausted and my phone dies.

Tip #3: Make sure your phone is charged or you brought a portable charger. (It’s not important because it’s better to have memories than photos, but still!) 

Although I didn’t get to sleep in the hostel (long story due to poor planning), it was great to experience a day in Paris. I always dreamed of visiting the city of love and I’m glad I had the chance to!

Two small highlights of my day in Paris: I got to try a macaroon for the first time and have a crepe in France!

I also met two Australian women that were so kind and one even paid for my friend and I’s train fare when we didn’t have any.

BUTTTTTT guess what?

I returned to Paris when I left Italy! Although I was walking around Paris with my carry-on, I was glad to have the opportunity to see the city once again.

I was able to visit (and take photos) of the Eiffel Tower and the Arch de Triumph. I was able to enjoy the perfect weather and have a moment to appreciate the Eiffel Tower without taking photos with it or of it.

11136670_10205470423816670_5293606463918375678_n

Although I had fun in Paris, I still have a list of things I still want to do. Hopefully before I return home or later on in life I get the chance to visit such an amazing place again!

First Stop: London

I can’t believe spring break is officially over! I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to visit five countries in the course of three weeks. I’m constantly looking at my photos and my notes to realize that it wasn’t a dream.

There are so many things to cover and tell you guys, so I’m making four posts of my travels 🙂

I started my travels in London, England! London is the closest area to travel to from Wales (only three hours by bus). When I stayed in London, I stood in an Air B&B.  For those who don’t know, an Air B&B is an alternative place to stay other than a hostel. You are able to find a room in an apartment or a house that can provide you with a variety of extra things to make your stay worthwhile such as free breakfast, kitchen access, your own bathroom, and more!

It was just three of us that had the room to ourselves with our own bathroom and breakfast every morning from the host. It was also a great location, only twenty minutes from all the main attractions.

The bus became our main transportation. It was a great way to travel and admire London from the top deck of the double decker.11082650_10205409531214393_3875162331161001711_n

Tip #1: The first thing to remember when you’re traveling through London is to buy an Oyster card. I learned that the harder way when I didn’t have one and it took us longer to get to our place than it should have.

Since our first day in London was spent getting there, we did everything the next day. On our second day in, we spent it doing all the ‘touristy’ things. That included Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Millennium Bridge, St. Paul Cathedral, and King’s Cross. I still can’t believe we got all that done in one day and I think we only use transportation three times!

11101243_10205547703085795_4352462072142352835_n

Tip #2: It made be hard and overwhelming, but try to plan as much as you can. We tried to do that as much as we can because there’s so much of London, but so little time.

On our third day in London, we saw other parts of London such as Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Street, Soho, Shoreditch, and Abbey Road. London really reminded me of New York City. Each area had a different presence, a different way of making me smile.

Two highlights of that day was finding a random picture of Bradley Cooper and getting to see the Cinderella exhibition…for free!

11081135_10205415292518422_9084221673249794048_n

1900170_10205415298838580_3877857132931323572_n

Our final day in London was filled with saying goodbye to our Air B&B, checking out Hyde Park which featured Princess Diana’s Memorial Fountain and saying goodbye to London overall.

Tip #3: Always ALWAYS double check on plans. Communication is key! I was stuck with my luggage for about two hours because of miscommunication. So always communicate with the people you’re traveling with.

11048670_10205423813971453_1851850677805148692_n 11069647_10205423813691446_4371770492530950578_n

Although the weather was never in our favor (maybe for a short while), it was still easy to travel in London. There wasn’t an area of London that we didn’t see, whether we were traveling by foot or not. I got so accustomed to traveling, I felt like I was a native in the city.

London was so fun and so rewarding with great friends. It was sad to leave London, but I was excited for the next journey. Hello Paris!

11081120_10205428103398686_5478086471868110128_n

 

St. David’s Day!

I remember when I was looking through study abroad programs and came upon Wales. It was the first time I’ve heard about the country and I knew that before I headed to the unknown I had to research it. Just from reading on the place, I was excited. Now that I’m here, two months later, I’m glad I made the right decision!

Wales is filled with nice weather, people, and places to see. Cardiff reminds me of a smaller version of New York City. Although there are differences, I feel comfortable and safe here. I have become accustom to my surroundings and cemented daily routines.

Recently, I headed down to the City Center to see their annual St. David’s Day parade, a celebration for the patron saint of Wales. I brought the Wales’ mascot hat (a red dragon) and joined the mixture of Welsh and tourists that came together for the celebration. While I walked through the streets I can see flags, flower pins, and hats everywhere I turned. In that moment,  I felt like part of the community.

IMG_4731

 

IMG_4752_2

As I continued to walk the streets, I stopped for a moment to capture a duo dancing to music, while street vendors sold Wales merch. The street vendors always come out for special events like this. The only times I see them is during the Rugby matches that I had the pleasure of going to watch a game in one of the pubs for fun.

IMG_4735

I didn’t know what to expect of the parade. I was so use to the ones at home that I just assumed it’ll be the same. But then I realize there were no barricades or security insight. Their parades were a bit smaller and intimate. Overall, it was a fun experience, seeing the people in the parades, the music playing, and the smiles on everyone’s faces around me.

Once the parade was done, there was free access into Cardiff Castle. Cardiff Castle is one of the key places to visit while you’re in Cardiff. I haven’t went inside before, so I was happy to had a chance to. Once I was inside, my jaw dropped at how beautiful it was. I felt like I was in a whole new place as I looked around at the many people crowding around the grass. Although many things were restricted (just an excuse to come back) I managed to go up to a part of the castle and look down at the sight. For a moment, I felt like I was in an episode of Game of Thrones.

IMG_4761

It was a great to celebrate Wales! Events like this makes me appreciate picking such an interesting, historical and exciting place to study abroad. I can’t wait to plan travels to explore outside of Cardiff and love Wale even more!

Academic Adjustment: Cardiff Style

I can’t believe I’m in my 8th week of classes! I only have three more weeks left until my classes are officially over and finals kick in. I remember how intimated I was on the first day. I didn’t know what to expect because I was so accustomed to classes in SUNY New Paltz.

In the beginning of the semester, I can already tell the difference between SUNY New Paltz and Cardiff University. I was only taking three classes (each count as 20 credits), Tuesdays became my off days, and the earliest class for me was 9 a.m. It’s also tough getting to classes each day, especially on Fridays. I’m so use to all the academic buildings being so close to each other that when I came here, I was in for a total workout!

It was beneficial to take courses that will count towards both my major and minor. So I decided to take two English courses called Graphic Memoir and Reading Old English. I’m also taking a Journalism course called The Making & Shaping of the News.

tumblr_nk94cfdCVE1qc4jino3_1280

This where I have Reading Old English. I’m always the first one in the classroom :p

I decided to take Reading Old English, knowing it was a challenge. I like to say it’s the most challenging class I’ve ever taken in my three years of college. I’m basically learning a whole new language that I didn’t know existed. The first time I saw the text, I already had a feeling that this wasn’t going to be an easy A.

I felt at ease knowing the people around me didn’t have a clue on  how to translate Old English. Without the guidance of my professor and the glossary provided in our textbooks, I would be lost. Thankfully I’ve been doing the coursework and taking my time to understand for the upcoming exam.

tumblr_nknvomeFhe1qc4jino2_1280

Long hours translating Old English!

 

IMG_4046_2

Bute Building – This is where my journalism class is held.

When it came to The Making & Shaping of the News, I was learning about UK news, something I’ve never learned before. I was learning concepts that some students were use to since their freshmen year of university. It’s also cringe worthy to watch examples of ‘bad news’ coming from America. It doesn’t help that the professor looks my way every time America is even mentioned.

But overall it’s interesting to learn about UK news and the background information I wasn’t aware of with news in general. Although this class wasn’t my first choice, I’m glad I had a chance to take it.

tumblr_nj9prx6uuV1qc4jino2_1280

Tons of reading for class!

By the end of my week, I have Graphic Memoir. I wasn’t expecting to analyze graphic memoirs! All this time, I viewed them as comic books, but there’s so much more to these work of arts. It feels similar to the English classes in SUNY New Paltz when it came to analyzing literature. However, in this case, we’re taking a closer look on concepts we learn each week on books like Maus and Fun Home.

f9228695505c517f1528d1be318f8680

This where I take my English classes!

Out of all my classes though, it’s weird to have Graphic Memoir on the same day at three different times. It’s different from SUNY New Paltz because Cardiff University breaks up their week by lectures and seminars. My lectures are in medium-size lecture halls, where we are taught in great detail the topic of the week. But, the seminars are small and intimate. Just like SUNY New Paltz, all three of my professors know who I am and it gives me a chance to interact with other students during the seminar time.

Overall, my classes have been great! It’s been informative, interesting, and overall fun! Although it’s weird being the foreigner in most of my classes, it’s great to interact with people from around the world.

Now final essays and exams are another thing…

Ambivalence & Culture Shock…It’s Inevitable!

I am having a great time here so far. I’m seven weeks in and I am loving it. I’ll have to admit, I am getting slightly homesick here and there (mainly because I don’t know how to cook…and I don’t know what I’m doing in the kitchen 99.99% of the time) I have always been so fascinated by cultures and I’m really interested in learning about them. Although one of the primary languages here in Ireland is English, the dialect here is so different! I have caught myself saying: “chips”, “lad”, “brilliant!”, “no bother”, and “you’re grand”, and “cheers”.

11041431_10206297520906709_503274_n

And the weather! It is practically summer over here! As a New York (City) native, I am so used to the cold…not to mention, it’s probably snowing as I am blogging right now! It’s usually cloudy and around 30-50 degrees Fahrenheit here. I was given the notion that it was suppose to rain a lot of here. If anything, it has been sunny more than it has rained. I think I only wore my rain boots once the whole time I have been here so far!! No complaints though, I am absolutely loving this weather. It really brings out Ireland’s natural beauty. The people are also really nice here as well. They’re very kind and show great hospitality. I remember one time, I was having dinner, and I tripped and fell on my way to the restroom. As soon as my body hit the floor, one of the employees came running towards my direction and made sure I was okay. And upon exiting, he asked if I was okay, and he seemed so worried!

 

As for food, I don’t think I’ll ever say this…but I think I am getting sick of potatoes! They literally have potatoes for every meal, and in many different variations. Mashed potatoes, french fries (chips), potato wedges, Shepard’s pie (which they make great here!), hashed browns, you name it! I haven’t had the chance to get a full Irish breakfast yet (it’s actually quite heavy!) but I did have small ones. Croissants and tea!

11009078_10206297382663253_616077896_n

Chocolate Croissant with Nutella spread, and tea!

Tea is probably the only thing I will never get sick of in Ireland. I absolutely love tea and it is my favorite hot beverage. They drink tea like water over here. It’s brilliant! (btw I am NOT a coffee person)