Give Less Popular Places a Chance! / Poland Reflection

When planning for study abroad, of course it involved creating an EXTENSIVE list of anywhere and everywhere you want to visit while in a foreign place. For myself, and for many I assume, the top of my list included every iconic city in Europe. These consisted of all of the typical ones that you see in movies and are very commercialized like Rome, Venice, Amsterdam, Paris, London, etc. I didn’t even take much time to consider less popular places because in my mind I didn’t think they held the same weight or need to visit them.

So, when I was given the opportunity to visit Poland for a weekend, I didn’t find myself jumping at the prospect of it. It was all already planned by my program so I said why not? I didn’t have another trip planned yet so let’s do it! Only 3 people in my program of 20+ decided to go, which in itself said a lot considering almost everyone went on the other trips. What I’ve found is that I think it is intimidating to people to be on a trip to a place that holds such heavy history, and Poland was the center of some of the most horrendous scenes in the last century.

The majority of our weekend in Poland focused on the central theme of World War II and its effects on the Polish people. We visited places like Auschwitz and Schindler’s Factory, which hold such weight to even be close to these sights. The majority of time spent in Poland I , as well as most other attendees, found myself in intense reflection and often times of silence trying to come up with a way to understand the things we were seeing and the heinous events that occurred. Auschwitz, “the world’s largest cemetery where nearly 1.1 million people lost their lives”, was so powerful of a place to visit and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to go.

Poland was immensely beautiful and full of life. From this weekend trip I’ve created a newfound respect for less popular places. I know Poland isn’t an “unpopular” attraction, but for sure one not one the immediately came to my mind. After visiting, however, I will recommend everyone see this beautiful country at some point in their lives.

Scotland Reflection

I was never particularly fond of nature or enjoyed driving down scenic routes for enjoyment. It wasn’t until I spent 3 days on coaches and trains surrounded by the beauty of Scotland that I actually took a step back to appreciate the natural wonders that the world has to offer. The gothic beauty of the buildings down every street in the cities was absolutely breathtaking. You could only imagine the history that those walls had stood through. With that, here’s my guide for Scotland travel: 


-Beautiful gothic city

-Learn all about Mary Queen of Scots 

-Walk the Royal Mile

-If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, visit multiple sites around the city that hold history from the show

-Birthplace of Harry Potter and where JK Rowling lives and wrote the novels

            -Actual gravestone of a man named Tom Riddle (very cool)

-Doune Castle (about 45 minutes out of the city) is the real Winterfell. They filmed the first episode of the series on this site.

Glencoe: (Lowlands)

-The most beautiful mountain scenery

-Leads into Loch Ness which is eerie and mesmerizing. You cannot take your eyes off of it (which is why I believe people think they saw something in the water!). 

-Three Sisters are a breathtaking group of mountains that you have to drive about 20 miles through the Lowlands of Scotland to get to. Completely uninhabitable area, so it is secluded and very peaceful. 

Fort Augustus:

-Very small town with maybe 500 inhabitants. It sits right on the end of Loch Ness 

-Best fish and chips I have had in Europe so far (and I live in London, the fish and chips capital)

Scotland as a whole:

-The Highland Cow is one of the most beautiful animals you will see in this world. 

-There are more sheep in Scotland than people

-They love their cashmere

-Not as many men in kilts playing bagpipes as you’d think

-Every person is so genuine and kind

Scotland was an unexpected surprise. I didn’t anticipate to be so entranced by it, but I would go back in a heartbeat and recommend it to all who get the chance to go!  

Getting Adjusted to London

It’s difficult to break from an old routine and create a new one. I realize now the importance of finding simple things you enjoy to keep you grounded and calm in times of transition, and also using each lesson to grow. To say going from a small urban area to one of the most busy cities in the world is challenging would be an understatement. It is easy to get overwhelmed being in an unfamiliar place, thrown into true independence because you can’t just call a family member to come help you when they are an ocean away! It’s also a time to be exactly who you want to be with no outside influences. There are a lot of lessons London has already taught me:

-Always bring your own grocery bags unless you want to pay for them

-Be on time

-It’s okay to rush but also take time to enjoy your surroundings

-Respect all walks of life

-Gloomy days actually make for some of the best times being holed up inside with new people

-Even the most directionally challenged people cam learn

I’m finding joy in the idea of being in charge of every aspect of my life and taking on each day with a positive frame of mind and using each one to become a better individual, student, family member, and friend.