Three long flights later, I arrived home last week.
Studying abroad has transformed my life. I experienced the beauty and diversity of Europe, and Scotland became my second home. I forged friendships with people from all around the world. And I learned the fundamental importance of embracing the unfamiliar.
I said it before, but going abroad was by no means an easy decision. A year on, I am beyond grateful for those in my life who encouraged me to seize the opportunity. I hope this blog has helped others on the fence do the same.
I will always cherish my time at St Andrews and hope I will one day have the opportunity to return to that incredible community. Until then.
We arrived in Tenerife after long flight delays, and we immediately descended on the towns and beaches around us as the sun began to set.
The next morning, we hiked through mountains near the small town of Santiago del Teide, which was almost quiet but for the sound of chickens clucking. We enjoyed unbelievable views of the island from the top. Afterward, we rode a bus to Playa de la Arena, a beach of crystal blue water and dark volcanic sand. It felt like walking on a stovetop, but we cooled down by swimming out into the open ocean. It is a memory I don’t think I will ever forget.
We flew to Seville after a few days in Tenerife. I was taken aback by the rich culture and liveliness of the city, but not surprised. After all, Spain has been one of my favorite countries on the continent since my trip to Barcelona last semester.
We explored Isla de la Cartuja, the site of the Seville Expo ’92. The futuristic buildings and monuments that had been built for the world fair more than thirty years ago today sit largely abandoned. Overgrown weeds nearly obscured our view of the Cohete Ariane 4, a towering model rocket that stood as a symbol of scientific progress and innovation. There were very few people in that part of Seville, which only added to the eery but undeniably cool effect.
Next, we visited Plaza de España in the Parque de María Luisa. Coincidentally, the plaza was hosting a Porsche exhibition commemorating the 60th anniversary of the 911, so we were surrounded by luxury vehicles. It was an incredible sight.
Throughout our trip, I was stunned by the beauty of Spain. The Spanish people are incredibly welcoming, and I am so glad I had one more chance to explore the country before the end of my study-abroad experience.
I finally turned in my last essay of the semester. With nothing left to complete but final exams, it is beginning to feel as though the end of my year abroad is approaching. Next week, I will be heading to Tenerife and Seville. It is sure to be a great way to begin the summer. I don’t have much else to share right now, but I’ll be sure to update you about my trip when I return.
It is a really busy part of the semester, but I figured I’d drop in for a quick update. Studying abroad has given me a passion for exploring the world. Nothing is set in stone yet, but I have been working on making travel plans with some friends over the past few days. I have to get back to work now, but I’ll be able to share more soon.
Netflix has arrived on campus to shoot the final season of their Emmy-winning series The Crown, which will focus on Prince William and Kate Middleton as they attend the University of St Andrews. I caught a film crew preparing to shoot a scene outside of my class building yesterday. Tomorrow, they’ll be filming in the common room of my dorm. I haven’t seen the show before, but I might have to give it a try.
My family traces our roots to Ireland but we were never sure what connections we still had to the homeland. When we discovered our many Irish relatives over the winter break, I knew I had to visit.
Last Wednesday, I landed in Belfast and met my family for the first time at the airport. Over the next few days, they showed me much of Ireland, and we made our way west to the farm my grandmother grew up on in County Mayo.
Along the way, I took in the emerald countryside. We stopped at Classiebawn Castle, an idyllic estate overlooking the Atlantic, and the grave of the Irish literary great and Nobel Prize laureate W. B. Yeats. I was becoming immersed in the beauty of Irish culture and history.
A long drive later, we arrived in Mayo. We visited my grandmother’s farm and the church where she made communion and was confirmed. It was moving to walk in her footsteps and reconnect with my family’s homeland.
While in Mayo, we visited the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock. There, on August 21, 1879, an apparition of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, and Saint John the Evangelist, surrounded by angels, is said to have occurred. It was humbling to be in such an important place of pilgrimage, one visited by Pope John Paul II in 1979, Pope Francis in 2018, and many millions of people over the years.
On the morning before I flew back to Scotland, we made one last drive up the Glenshane Pass, a massive mountain that cuts through the Sperrins in Derry. Sheep were, as always, everywhere. We took in a view of much of Ireland from the top, with green fields and mountains stretching far into the distance.
Studying abroad has not only broadened my horizons but expanded my family tree. I am so glad I was able to explore Ireland and meet my relatives this year.
Our break has begun and I could not be more excited for the days ahead. Next week, I will be traveling to Ireland and meeting some family for the first time. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on my journey, but right now I have to get back to packing my bags. Watch this space.
It’s hard not to get into the habit of taking pictures when you’re living in a place like St Andrews. Follow along as I share some of what I have captured while walking through this incredible town.
St Salvator’s Chapel
Founded in 1450, St Salvator’s Chapel is a center of spiritual life at the University, with its breathtaking Gothic architecture and warm atmosphere. Whether attending a service or simply stopping in to reflect, the chapel never fails to leave a lasting impression.
I captured this picture while walking along Market Street on my way to a class in the Mediaeval History building. This is how a lot of the streets look on campus: peaceful, colorful, and invariably steeped in history.
Tesco (and the newsstands)
Tesco is a staple of British life — and so are the tabloids. They never fail to grab my attention. As an outsider looking in, it is always interesting to catch a glimpse at how this great country consumes its news. And, of course, the sometimes-outlandish headlines are often good for a few laughs.
Holy Trinity Church
Locals paid tribute to the legacy of Queen Elizabeth II following her passing last semester. I saw this memorial honoring the Queen’s seventy-year reign while walking past one of the churches in St Andrews.
St Andrews Castle
Last week, I explored the ruins of St Andrews Castle. Built around 1200, the castle served as a residence of St Andrews’ bishops and as the site of numerous battles and sieges throughout the medieval period. It was fascinating to walk through what remains of a castle that played such an important role in Scottish political and religious history.
St Andrews’ beaches make it one of the most breathtaking places to study in the world. I have made so many great memories down on the sands. As my dorm overlooks the beach pictured above, it’s always nice to crack my windows open and hear the sound of the waves.
The Old Course
St Andrews is renowned as the home of golf. Established in 1552, the Old Course is the oldest and most iconic golf course in the world. I pass by almost every day, and its rich history and legacy in the sport of golf never fail to inspire me.
What better way to end a day than by lifting weights at the sports center?
Studying abroad has offered so many opportunities to travel Europe. Last semester, I set out on a week-long trip with some friends through Barcelona, Rome, and Vienna—a lot of traveling for a guy who had never been off the east coast up to four months ago.
Barcelona was unlike any other city I had ever experienced, with its welcoming, easy-going culture and rich history. The legacy of the seminal Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí could be seen throughout the city. Our first glimpse of his work came in Park Güell, a vibrant park featuring colorful mosaics, musicians, and incredible views overlooking all of Barcelona.
We also saw the awe-inspiring Sagrada Família, an enormous basilica that towers over its surroundings. We quickly found out that we could find our way to the heart of the city by looking for Sagrada Família in the distance—it’s so large that we could almost always see it. Of course, we couldn’t leave Barcelona without enjoying its lively beaches and viewing some of the works of Picasso.
Next, we spent twenty-four momentous hours in Italy. We made our way to the Vatican to hear Pope Francis deliver mass in Saint Peter’s Square. From there, we explored all the unbelievable history Rome had to offer, stopping at the Colosseum and many other sites. We ended up logging close to 40,000 steps by the end of the day.
Our last stop was in Vienna, which has to be one of the nicest cities in Europe. The food was great, and we even ate at Café Landtmann, a famous coffee house that, over its 150 years of history, has hosted a range of figures from Sigmund Freud to Paul McCartney. We also visited the Hofburg and a few other spots related to the Habsburgs. It was incredible, to say the least.
I never believed I would have traveled much of Europe by the time I finished college, but studying abroad opens up so many possibilities. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on where life takes me this semester.