A piece of advice that really resonated with me before I left was “explore a lot of your home country.” With that in mind, I made time to do so. I took time to explore Southampton, Bath, Eastbourne, Kingston, Lewes, Lancaster, Manchester, Glasgow and, of course, London.

Wednesday, 15 October: I went to Southampton for a Senses Fail show. I arrived at Southampton Central and walked through town (including a quick pop into a Lord of the Rings themed pub, The Hobbit) to meet up with my long-time friend, Alex. We are both huge Senses Fail fans and it was surreal to see them together after years of half-joking, half-fantasizing about it for so long. The show itself wasn’t the best; they were an opening band so the crowd was really low energy, but they sounded great and I got a drumstick! I wasn’t overwhelmed with Southampton, but it was nice to spend time with Alex.

Saturday, 17 October: My friend, Chris, goes to university in Bath and was always on about how beautiful it is. When I made my way up there, he showed me around the city. The architecture was really unique and the rolling hills and the fall foliage were beautiful. After that, we hung out with his roommates by playing board games, watching movies and taking random online quizzes. It’s awesome having friends all around England, it makes the experience much more personal when they know all the worthwhile places to see and you can retire to a comforting place rather than a noisy hostel.

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I can’t remember exactly when my infatuation started, but I know I’ve wanted to visit the small country of Monaco for a long time. Monaco is so small (less than one square mile), it doesn’t have an airport, so I begrudgingly looked at flights into Nice (pronounced “niece”), France, about a half hour’s drive from Monaco. As it turns out, Nice has several critically acclaimed beaches and after looking into it more (“it” being the outrageous room prices in Monaco), I decided to spend some time there, as well.

Friday, 9 October: After arriving in the early evening, I walked around for a bit. My hostel was a stone’s throw away from the beach and near a lot of shops and restaurants. I had a delicious crepe for dinner to start off my time in France the right way.

Saturday, 10 October: On my way to the port, I went up Castle Hill to get amazing panoramic views of the city. From the port, I took a bus to Monaco. First, I visited the casino and the casino square. I didn’t go in because I wasn’t bothered to pay ten Euros to probably lose even more than that. After that, I enjoyed a walk around the harbor and admired all the yachts. A boat taxi took me to the other side, where I visited the Oceanography Museum before heading back to Nice for the evening.

Sunday, 11 October: I welcomed a (somewhat) lazy Sunday with reading and relaxing on the beach. I dipped my feet in the water, but the crude pebble beach makes it difficult to enjoy the shoreline. After that, I went on a walk through Old Town, a series of thin alleyways and unique buildings with an atmosphere to match. North of Old Town, I stumbled upon the European Masters’ Games village square, where there were festivities celebrating the event. When I got back to my hostel, I met someone else from the United States, Lucas, who has been traveling Europe alone for five months. We shared about our traveling experiences and got to know each other better over (another) long walk through Old Town and around the port before watching the sun set over the hills.

I had a wonderful weekend of enjoying the sunny weather and beach atmosphere. Nice has been my favorite single city thus far, although my Ireland trip remains my favorite as a whole. My next international trip isn’t for another month and a half, so I’m going to take this time to explore parts of England, starting with Bath and Southampton this week.

My next adventure: Prague, Czech Republic!

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While I was talking with Pat (my friend from Philadelphia) about Rise Against’s upcoming U.S. fall tour, he mentioned a Europe tour I was previously unaware about. Although they’re not coming to the United Kingdom, I thought it would be fun to see my all-time favorite band abroad. I compared flights with my university timetable and came to the conclusion that seeing them in Milan was the most economic choice that won’t interfere with classes. I was originally going to go alone, but in a matter of a few weeks, I got my roommate, Ben,  into them and convinced him to go with me to see them!

Wednesday, September 30: I arrived just in time to grab a bite to eat before heading over to the venue. After grabbing a few drinks once we got inside the venue, we watched the opening band, Raised Fist. They were pretty different from Rise Against, but I liked them nonetheless. When Rise Against came on, the room exploded and the next hour was an awesome mess of pushing (and being pushed), crowd surfing and singing. I lost Ben for a while, but found him just in time for my favorite song of the set: “Black Masks and Gasoline.” It was a great show and I appreciate them carrying on with the tour even when their front man (Tim) broke his wrist. Afterwards, we waited outside to meet them and sure enough, they came out. First, Brandon (the drummer) appeared alone, but we didn’t get a chance to talk to him until the other three came out and he retired. I first talked to Zach (the guitarist) and once I told him I’m from Arizona, he recognized me from when I met them in April and gave them a painting. After that, I got to talk to Joe (the bassist) and Tim before we had to head back to the hostel. I’m upset I didn’t get to meet Brandon again, but meeting the three of them and getting my ticket signed was overwhelming.

Thursday, October 1: We didn’t have a lot of time before we had to head to the airport, but we got the quick tour of Milan by having quality pizza, gelato and exploring the Duomo. The view of the plaza from the terrace and the architecture of the building was especially impressive.

It was a bad stroke of luck that the concert was on a school night, further minimizing my time there, but I’m excited to explore the rest of Italy this spring.

My next adventure: Nice, France!

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During the spring semester, the study abroad office at my home university held a pre-departure orientation, where the highlight was meeting four other girls going to the University of Sussex. One of these girls, Emily, and I were in touch often and were talking about our travel aspirations. As it turns out, we shared a mutual priority of visiting Amsterdam. Without further ado, we booked a trip together and started getting excited. Soon after. Another girl from Arizona State, Jessica, asked to join us. I’m all for “the more, the merrier” policy, so with that, the three of us set off!

Friday, 25 September: We didn’t arrive at our hostel until early evening, so we didn’t do much for our first night aside from dining out and bar hopping around our hostel.

Saturday, 26 September: We had a really busy first day, starting off with a visit to Dam Square; the town square with shops and landmarks like the Royal Palace and National Monument. After that, we went on an hour-long canal tour. On our way to the other side of town, we walked through the floating Flower Market. We weren’t bothered to buy anything, but it’s a neat place nonetheless. Then, we visited the Van Gogh Museum before walking around a nearby park to end our day.

Sunday, 27 September: Although we weren’t bothered to wait in line on Saturday, we returned to the Anne Frank House Sunday morning, determined to get in this time. We waited in the queue for about an hour, but it was worth it, the history behind the home is really interesting. After that, we grabbed a bite to eat at a pancake, which was (what I think) the best meal we had. Emily and I shared two crepes; one sweet with Nutella, bananas and coconut and one savory with cheese, onions and mushrooms. They were both very good, but you can never go wrong with sweet. We then visited the Tulip Museum, which was probably the biggest surprise. I had no idea the flower had such a history. Lastly, we rented bikes for a few hours without any real direction and ended up in the Red Light District. It was pretty weird, I’m just glad I didn’t go at night.

The three of us are in consensus that it was a fun, but tiring trip. I had a great time with the two of them and can’t wait to travel with them again.

My next adventure: Milan, Italy!

Photo by Autumn Studio.

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I have now been settled in England for about two weeks and it’s been amazing. I’m convinced I live in the best city in the country.

The day after my initial arrival at London Heathrow, Joe drove me to stay with my friend, Adam, outside Worthing, a town about half an hour west of Brighton. I spent a few days relaxing there with Adam and his roommate, Clare, (both of whom I’ve become close with) and exploring the town. After my Dublin and Copenhagen trips, I returned there for one last night before heading to Brighton.

Upon my arrival in Brighton, Emily, another exchange student from Arizona State, was waiting at a hotel we’d both share that night before moving in the next morning. Together, we explored Brighton. It was a beautiful day, so we walked around the pier and went on the Brighton Wheel. I can best describe Brighton as a downsized mix between Santa Monica with its lively beach scene (well, as lively as you can get in England) and San Francisco with its liberal attitude and unique architecture.

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