What to Expect in November

november

And just like that, October’s flown by! I spotted city workers out and about already putting up Christmas lights today, and the photos from this weekend’s Halloween “festivities” are still rolling in. November is an odd month between two holidays here. Though I’m sad that Thanksgiving doesn’t happen, I do have a few (dare I say) more exciting things in store!

 

Recap of October

october

October was actually a really good month. I had a few new experiences; more importantly, I got into the swing of this grad school thing. Though I didn’t quite post twice weekly, I did at least scrap up one post a week. I’ve been pretty good at updating social media (as I mentioned in “What to Expect in October“)!

 

Life in November

november

I even took a training course for skydiving in October! Talk about exciting!

November promises to be EXTREMELY exciting! Since it’s officially half-term, I’m lucky enough to get a “reading week;” that’s an entire week away from classes to…well, read. But never fear! I have much bigger plans than that! Ironically enough, my reading week coincides with my anniversary with Matt. Since this is the first we’ve gotten to spend together in person, we’re going all-out with two vacations! Keep your eyes on @travelsofkayla on Instagram and knightdz on Snapchat for peeks of where we’re going!

On top of exciting vacations and celebrations, I started the month off with exciting news! I’ve been offered a part-time job through the university, and I’ve been accepted onto a leadership course done through my Graduate School! These are definitely awesome opportunities, though they’re liking to upset the work-life balance I’ve got going here.

 

The Blog in November

november

With delivery fruit & veg boxes, I’ll definitely be eating healthier in November!

As usual, my main goal this month is to post post post. Though the ultimate goal is to work in two posts a week, my true goal is to maintain my streak of at least one a week. Since both of my vacations are multi-day excursions to two cities (so far just two…), I plan to actually post photos before my blog posts! So far, I’ve intentionally avoided that; what I’ve noticed, though, is that if I wait around for my writing to catch up with my photos, my photos never see the light of day. So keep your eyes peeled; you should be seeing lots of images in the next two weeks!

The Struggles of Coffee Abroad

coffee

Anyone who’s known me in recent years knows that coffee runs through my veins in place of blood Monday-Friday. To be blunt, that was way easier to make happen in the US. Though I can’t speak for the rest of the globe, the UK’s take on my morning drink is just different enough to make getting my caffeine supply a little complicated. Below are a few of the struggles I’ve experienced so far and the measures I’ve taken to keep myself (and those around me) safe from any caffeine withdrawals.

 

Coffee Makers

I would include a photo of my beloved Keurig here, but alas…it’s at home. In South Carolina. I haven’t found a similar option that I’m willing to shell out the GBP for (or leave in my communal kitchen). I’ve found that Nespresso machines are a nice alternative, but aren’t an economical option for me. A French press may also work, but doesn’t seem quite so simple as pressing a few Keurig buttons.

 

Tea

struggles of coffee

Though this photo was taken at a local Chinese restaurant, tea is still very prevalent in British society.

One reason coffee isn’t as much of a priority for most in the British Isles? Tea. It’s almost too stereotypical, but most folks here just drink tea when I would typically have the more highly caffeinated of the beverages. I can’t blame them; I’ve also learned to enjoy a nice cuppa in the morning, or afternoon, or evening…

 

Instant

struggles of coffee

A relatively tasty, cheap way to get my morning fix.

For those UK coffee drinkers in situations similar to mine, instant coffee is an easy fix. It’s pretty cheap, and just as easy to make as a cup of tea. Just boil the kettle, scoop out a spoonful of instant, and ta-da! You have an acceptable mug that can get you going in the morning. The only downside here is that I’m a slight snob who just doesn’t think highly of instant coffee. Sorry.

 

Starbucks/Coffee Shops

struggles of coffee

One of my favorite local coffee shops is Kaffe O. They even have a rewards card!

I differentiate between the two because Starbucks has (imho) become too much of an institution in recent years. It’s not just a coffee shop, it’s an international sensation that has sparked a pumpkin spice pandemic. Anyways…coffee shops. Belfast’s culture seems to cater to these small, often independently-owned shops that are usually pretty nice to hang out in. I’ve been in several around the university, especially; though the Americanos are pretty great, the cost definitely adds up. At least my favorite shop has a rewards card!

 

So…

How do you think you’d fare in the UK’s slower coffee culture? Any suggestions for how to make my cup o’ joe a little easier here? Drop a comment below to let me know!

Checking Out: Titanic Belfast

checking-out-titanic-belfast

Just in case you’ve forgotten recently, there are pros and cons to almost any aspect of life. Travel is no different, and graduate school is DEFINITELY no different. On one hand, these things combined makes life a little expensive and difficult. On the other (nicer!) hand, it opens up plenty of opportunities! For example, QUB’s Accommodation team work to provide a range of outings for all students to participate in every semester. With heavily subsidized tickets, the school trip to The Titanic Experience at Titanic Belfast was a trip I just couldn’t pass up!

 

A Run-Down of My Day at Titanic Belfast

On the way to Titanic Belfast

One thing I love about ground travel? I can still see things going on around me!

For starters, I should explain that this wasn’t a day trip (or an overnight trip). Anyone living or visiting Belfast, a few hours are all you need to appreciate this exhibit. I met my group at school at noon, left school at about 12:15, and was happily waiting in line at the Titanic Experience at 12:30. I was back on the bus again at 3:00PM, having enjoyed every part of the exhibit along with the Titanic Store and Bistro 401 Restaurant afterwards.

The Titanic Experience at Titanic Belfast was wonderful. There are nine levels to the exhibit, running in chronological order. Level 1 starts the audience off in “Boomtown Belfast,” which explains the aspects of Belfast life that made it the perfect place for the RMS TItanic to be built. From there, you move through the shipyard, get a peek at the layout of the ship (and its furnishings), and eventually learn about passengers who did and didn’t survive the iceberg collision. There are various artifacts on most of the floors, and a short attraction that gives riders a closer look at the industrial work that went into the ship.

After going through all of the levels, I was happy to check out the more modern attractions on the ground floor. As would be expected, the Bistro was a little too expensive for budget travelers, but their carrot cake was heavenly! Most things at the Titanic Store weren’t as expensive as I thought they’d be.

 

The Good

titanic belfast

Though the building is too big for a full view, it sure is beautiful!

Time

As I said above, it didn’t take much time to go through the Experience. This would make a nice outing if you’re on a crunch for time, or would just like to get out of Belfast’s weather for a little while. Slight disclaimer here; I wasn’t bogged down by any children (though this is a family-friend attraction). I was able to go at my own pace, which meant that I dawdled over things that grabbed my attention, and merely viewed other parts of the exhibit.

Educational Entertainment

At the top of the map/guide I was given as I walked into the exhibit, there’s a blurb that reads “Take a journey through Titanic Belfast’s 9 interactive galleries telling the story of the world’s most famous ship, RMS Titanic.” While the Experience definitely told a story, it wasn’t the type that I could sleep through. There are artifacts on six of the nine levels; interactive screens on walls and even the floor kept the youngest around me engaged. When walking through The Shipyard gallery, I found myself looking down from a height comparable to what the ship builders dealt with, and listened to the story of a young ship builder’s experience.

Interactive Guides

Though I didn’t use one of these guides myself, many of my fellow audience members did. The idea alone seems attractive to me; you’re given a headset in your preferred language (there are seven to choose from) that will provide a personal audio guide through the entire exhibit. I wish I could say more, but we’ll have to wait until I go back to find out how this is!

 

The Bad

thomas hardy titanic belfast

If you know me, then you know that I LOVE Thomas Hardy (in an academic sense). He definitely has a way with words, especially in bleak circumstances.

Expensive

Luckily, my ticket to the exhibit was subsidized by my school. Otherwise, general admission tickets for adults run at £17.50. With my university student ID, I could potentially get a student ticket for £14.50, which is about $17.77. This might not seem like a lot to some, but it can limit those on a student budget. That’s not mentioning the extras that are around for purchase. While my postcards and magnets weren’t too terribly expensive, t-shirts and other memorabilia could be. Eating in the building would also throw the budget for a loop. My delicious slice of carrot cake with a bottle of water cost me almost £5! Desperate times called for desperate measures, but I’ll pack my own snacks next time.

Long Lines

Of course, the early afternoon on a Saturday isn’t the time to go anywhere and not expect a crowd. It was a little frustrating, considering this was a self-guided experience. I found myself stuck several times, unable to move on as I would’ve liked because a slower-paced person was in front of me. This exhibit does attract lots of international visitors, as well, which definitely made the experience interesting at times! Just remember to pack your patience and it’ll be fine.

Photo Opportunities

There weren’t many good photo opportunities inside the exhibit; while I assume this was intentional, it made documenting my experience difficult. They do have signs posted that request “No Flash Photography,” which is very understandable (many parts of the exhibit have low lighting to set the mood). The truly unfortunate part of this is that many people completely ignore this request to get photos galore. So…on one hand, I was a little bitter about not getting photos. On the other hand, I was really annoyed that I kept being blinded by parents trying to get snapshots of their pre-teens.

h&w belfast titanic

The iconic H & W as seen from my bus window!

So…

Where are your favorite museums? How do you approach Saturday crowds when visiting? Have you ever been to Titanic Belfast? Drop a comment below to share!

Grocery Shopping in Belfast

grocery-shoppingOne of the hugest differences people notice from country-to-country involves food. It would (and will) take several posts to explain all of the differences I’ve found in culinary tastes in the UK/Ireland when compared to food from home. Eating out, delivery, and just foods themselves are culturally unique. This week, I decided to take a break from takeaway and cook a little for myself! Preparing my own food meant grocery shopping. Thankfully, this wasn’t my first Tesco’s run, but it’s still very different from grocery shopping at home! Read on to see what I noticed!

 

Ingredient/Nutrition Labels

kellogg's food

The Nutri-Grain bar is a pretty common idea in the US, too.

kellogg's food

But check out the back of the box!

As you can see, the labels on food are very different from the standard American ones. One disclaimer: most food labels are English-only, but this highlights the inter-nationality of Belfast’s population. Almost all food labels here list two values for each category; the first column shows the “Typical value per 100g,” and the second usually gives a value for an average serving size. On most ingredients lists, ingredients that are commonly avoided (for allergies and intolerances) are printed in bold, making them easier to spot!

 

Squash

squash food

Definitely not the yellow vegetables I’m used to slicing at home!

I’ve never come across this type of squash in the US, so I was pretty thrown off to see shelves of it at the grocery store. That being said, I’ve come to love it! Don’t drink this juice out of the bottle (unless you’re brave); the instructions on the back say to “dilute to taste (one part squash to nine parts water).” In my opinion, the finished taste is comparable to many American “fruit” juices, but has WAY less sugar—just 0.2g per 100ml of squash!

 

Peanut Butter

peanut butter food

Oh, smooth peanut butter…

If you know me personally, you know that my favorite food is peanut butter. With that in mind, I have to admit that this is one of the only negative things about being abroad. While I would rather have Sun Pat than nothing, I really really miss my Jif. Peanut butter isn’t an incredibly popular item in the UK; this is the only brand available in four of the local food stores. I was able to find Reese’s (like the candy brand) further afield in Ballymena, but even that didn’t taste like home. (Don’t worry, I’ll order Jif from Amazon when I get desperate.)

 

Chips/Crisps

crisps food

I promise I eat more than junk food here…

I messaged one of my sisters yesterday to exclaim about how weird the chip flavors here are. I became pretty familiar with (and fond of) Prawn Cocktail crisps when I studied abroad, but that’s not the most savory flavor I’ve found. I recently tried a bag of Tayto’s Ulster Fry crisps (which were actually good); Ulster fries usually consist of sausages, bacon, potato bread, soda bread, tomatoes, black pudding, white pudding, and runny eggs.

 

Candy/Sweets

Haribo food

I swear, I really do eat more than just junk food…

I’m really starting to appreciate the cheap candy available here. A lot of American brands are found on the shelves, but these Haribo sweets are EVERYWHERE. And for good reason! Once I got used to how chewy these are, I became slightly addicted. As you can see, they’re also really cheap! Win win!

 

Missing a Few Things…

Most of the above regard foods that are a little different here, but there are several foods that are completely absent. If you’re packing for a visit (mom), pack ranch dressing. Obsessed with Chinese food? Bring your own duck sauce. Thinking of sending me a care package? SEND ME JIF AND KRAFT MAC & CHEESE. (But really, send me a message for my address!!). And Kool-Aid. I could seriously go on and on.

 

So…

Were there any foods you were surprised to see on my list? Any must-haves you’re worried may not be in Britain? Drop a comment and let me know!

Different Kind of Schools

different-kind-of-schools

If you’ve missed the past few weeks, know that I’ve spent them buried in the beginnings of graduate school. Don’t worry; I don’t plan on harping too much about how busy it’s been! I just find it interesting to think about how different things are here. It should come as no surprise that the differences in schools are the first to come to mind. Keep reading to check out the differences I’ve noticed in American and UK universities!

 

What They’re Called

QUB schools

QUB’s iconic Lanyon Building is always a beautiful sight.

In the UK: Universities. That’s it; no confusion about it. The word “college” here indicates a school were some younger students (usually ages 16-18) go to finish basic formal education. Asking any native which college they attended as an undergraduate will assuredly throw them off for a few minutes…until they catch your American accent.

In the US: While schools at this level in the States go by different names, it’s safe to say that “college,” “university,” and “tech school” all indicate similar levels of prior education. Traditionally, students enter these institutions after graduating “high school,” which they attend from ages 14-18.

 

When and How Long Classes Meet

schools

Less frequent classes means more time for societies…right?

In the US: As an undergraduate student, each of my classes met 2-3 times per week. This usually meant that I would have the same rota of classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and a separate rota for Tuesdays and Thursdays. This didn’t change when I began taking cross-listed courses (where graduate and undergraduate students shared a class) my senior year. Course times varied greatly; as a freshman, I was subjected to multiple 8am classes, but by senior year start times trended towards the late afternoon.

In the UK: Modules (British for “classes”) during both my study abroad and grad school experiences met less often for longer amounts of time. Instead of meeting for 1.5 hours three times per week, my current classes meet once per week for a little over two hours. In my study abroad experience, two of my modules were broken down even further into seminars and tutorials. I would sit in a two-hour long lecture (seminar) before switching to a two-hour long class discussion (tutorial) of the lecture. And the earliest class I’ve heard of here began at 9am.

 

Assessments

library schools

When it comes to the three essays that will form my entire grade for the semester, you’ll find me writing here at the McClay Library!

In the UK: Here’s another simple answer—essays. I took history, literature, and film studies modules when I studied abroad, and never had the slew of assessments that mark American education. Matt’s undergraduate computer security degree did come with a few group projects and exams, but usually only 1-2 assessments make up a student’s grade for the semester.

In the US: Projects. Quizzes. Homework. Participation. Essays. Attendance. Exams. Presentations. American schools really throw the book at students when it comes to grades. I’ve come to view this as both a blessing and a curse; juggling so much for each class was always a struggle, but the multitude of graded material meant that my chances of failing a class with one poor assignment were much lower.

 

How Long It Lasts

schools

This time next year, I’ll be able to actually relax in the Quad. Maybe.

In the US: Forever. Okay, okay, just kidding (mostly)! Undergraduate degrees like my BA traditionally take four years of study. Part-time study, gap years, and rough transitions to college life can stretch the process out a bit, and a 5-6 year period of study is definitely not uncommon. Most Master’s degrees take two years of full-time study.

In the UK: A few of my British classmates are concerned that it takes Americans so long to graduate. Here, full-time undergraduate students graduate in three years; my MA programme only lasts for one calendar year (or three semesters, fall-spring-summer), which is the standard.

 

The Fun Stuff

schools

Anyone who knows me knows that I WILL attend this quiz.

In the UK: As I mentioned in “Learning from Past Trips,” alcohol is way more common around universities here. At both UK universities I’ve attended, drinking on campus is allowed—to the point of alcohol being sold on campus. Student organizations (clubs and societies) here are run similarly to the ones in the US, but it’s not uncommon for an organization to advertise a group trip to the nearest drinks spot (on a weekly basis).

In the US: Student nightlife in the States is obviously different depending on where you live at. I don’t just mean South, Northeast, Midwest…I mean whether you live in a single-sex dorm or in an apartment blocks away from campus. My undergraduate university had amenities like a movie theater, swimming pool, and a ton of student organizations to keep everyone busy. I noticed when leaving their residence halls, however, that students who didn’t live within walking distance were way more likely to drive to Charlotte, the closest city, for its wider berth of entertainments.

 

So…

Do you know of any other differences between US and UK schools? How about other schools from around the world? Drop a comment below to share!

What to Expect in October

october

Is today really the last day of September? Where did the month go? I can’t complain too much; these last few weeks have been so crazy that I’m actually really glad to settle down into a routine for the school year. I thought August was draining…my September kind of made August look like a vacation. As always, I’m looking forward to the new month as a new opportunity! Read below to see what I hope is in store for the blog this month (and how I did in September)!

 

Recap of September

September

I have to be honest, September did not go as planned for TravelsofKayla.com. My main goal for the month was to post twice-weekly updates consistently, and that hasn’t happened since I left the US. My excuses for being lax are good, so I’m trying not to beat myself up over it too much. While I haven’t been blogging much lately, I have been experiencing so much that I’d love to share with everyone! For anyone with experience critically reading, you know it’s easier to critically analyze a book (or poem, short story, etc) the second time you’ve read it. I’m hoping that’s how my experiences around Belfast will be–much easier to capture in words after another go-around.

 

Life in October

city-hall-2

The beautiful City Hall after hours! I’m hoping to take a tour there in the next few weeks…

My life will actually settle down soon. What I mean is that I’m just now getting into the swing of life abroad, so another week or two and I’ll have a better grasp of what’s going on. The pleasantly monotonous life of an academic will give me a good footing over the next few weeks to figure out my new juggling act: blogging, school work, social life, and experiences! Woohoo!

 

The Blog in October

sonic-room-1

QUB’s Sonic Room may not have been the best for photographs, but the layered speakers made for a few pretty cool listening experiences!

I’ve been feeling really guilty about my lack of communication on here, so my number one goal for October is to improve that! I had an hour-long brainstorming session yesterday for topic ideas, and I was able to plan a few posts for the coming weeks already! Now I just have to find the time to write them.

I also plan to be a little more active through different outlets of social media. I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in the world who doesn’t really get Twitter, but I’ve found Instagram and Snapchat to be really fun tools to share my experiences. Because I use both of those apps on my phone, it’s impossible to procrastinate updating when something exciting happens. If you’re interested, follow me! Insta: @travelsofkayla; Snapchat: knightdz!

 

So…

What do you have going on in October? Exciting plans for Halloween? Drop a comment below to let me know!

New to City Life: Differences Between Home and Belfast

new-to-city-life

Thank you to everyone who’s been patiently waiting for my posts recently; moving from one country to another has been an adjustment on its own, but I’m also adjusting to urban life and my new student status. It’s been a lot to juggle, but I think I’m getting the hang of it!

Those of you who’ve read “Why Go Abroad, Anyway?” already know this, but I come from the middle of nowhere. My house in the US is surrounded by hay fields and turkey barns, with neighbors scarcely scattered down the road. While the relative peace of it is nice, I’ve never been overly fond of my out-of-the-way origins. My new home is nothing like where I come from. Here are a few things that I’ve noticed happen in South Belfast that don’t happen in Small Town, USA!

 

Walking

city-hall

I walked with friends to this landmark last week! City Hall is even more beautiful in person!

At home, walking is more of a recreational activity. People walk to play games (Pokemon GO, anyone?) or become more active, but they don’t really walk to stores or restaurants or jobs. Part of this is because it would take an entire day to walk from where I live to town and back, and South Carolina’s heat and humidity would genuinely make a person sick from that exertion.

In my heavily populated area of Belfast, walking is an integral part of daily life. The horrors of parking in the city make  cars a hassle, but everything is so close that automobiles are a bit superfluous, anyways. Even in rainy weather, the university, two grocery shops, and at least a dozen restaurants and pubs are within two minutes from my doorstep. High pedestrian traffic has marked other aspects of traffic, too; I’ve noticed that crosswalks here are kept in good order, and even construction zones leave clear alternative walking paths.

 

Riding the Train

dusk-train

Trains are perfect for when it’s a little too dark to walk, as it was on this beautiful evening!

Getting to other parts of the city isn’t very difficult, either! I attended Culture Night near Cathedral Quarter on Friday, and the commute was actually pleasant. I walked there with friends, but had to leave a little early to pack for a weekend in Ballymena. Instead of walking on my own (I’m not quite that brave), I took the train back to my neighborhood!

I’ve taken the train plenty of times when I’ve been abroad before, so this isn’t a new wonder. It is an aspect of UK culture that I really appreciate, though. With a pair of headphones and a book, it’s almost like I haven’t left my chair. I also took the train from Ballymena Sunday evening; instead of being stuck behind the wheel of a car for almost an hour, I was able to sort out a to-do list for the week and prepare for Monday, all while traveling! If only we used these at home…

 

Planning for the Weekend

the-pocket

Coffee is definitely the best way to start a weekend!

This is actually very different from what I’m used to. At home, weekends were more for relaxing than going out (since there weren’t places nearby to go to). In Belfast, there seems to be something going on every night of the week, and weekends are full of opportunity!

Last Friday’s Culture Night is a huge event held annually to showcase all the city has to offer, but major events aren’t the only thing to occupy a weekend. At the minute, I’m debating between a solo Saturday trip to St George’s Market and a school-sponsored visit to Giant’s Causeway. I may need to make a list of sights to see around the city so that I can pace myself!

Officially In My New Home: Belfast!

officially-in-belfast

I may have spoken too soon when I said I didn’t have jet-lag last week. It’s been a little too easy to stay up ridiculously late, and I’ve definitely been paying the price for it! On top of feeling drowsy so often, I ended up with a short cold that I’m just now getting over. All in all, it’s been an interesting stay in Northern Ireland so far!

On the bright side, I’ve officially moved into my room in Belfast! I’m staying right by the university in southern Belfast, so I have easy access to…well, everything!! Since I spent the past three days on different aspects of officially moving to the city/campus/my own place in Belfast, it’s only fair that I clue you guys in on what’s been going on!

 

My Place

campus living

While I’m not posting my address online, here’s a photo of my beautiful front door!

I am staying in university-owned accommodations, so I don’t have much insight into property rentals or buying in Belfast. I’m in love with the room I’ve got here, though! I discovered this morning that I can get to campus in about two walking minutes (no running involved!), and it seems like anything I need is just a block over from my front door! I’m sharing toilets, showers, and kitchens (three distinct rooms, FYI) with what the British call “flatmates,” but I have my own bedroom with a pretty view of the sky. With a little IKEA shopping over the past two days, I’m ready for the semester!

 

Food on Botanic

teriyaki-chicken-sakura-botanic-ave

Delicious chicken teriyaki from Sakura Japanese Restaurant on Botanic Avenue!

Like I said, just about anything I need is about a block away from my abode. This includes an incredible variety of food. I live just off of Botanic Avenue in Belfast, and Botanic Avenue seems to have EVERYTHING. Korean, Japanese, pizza, Chinese, Indian, burgers, BBQ, Nordic coffee, fried chicken, French bakery…you name it, I can have it for dinner. After moving my things into my room, Matt and I tried one of the Japanese restaurants, Sakura. We were definitely not disappointed! While eating, I decided that my goal is to try every restaurant on the Avenue before I move out of my accommodation!

 

Nearby Scenery

street-view

A view from Elmwood Road this afternoon. Today’s weather was so nice; it was beautiful out!

If you haven’t already heard, the past few weeks have been unseasonably warm just about everywhere. Belfast is no exception, and the heat seems to have extended the life of the beautiful trees in the area surrounding my home. On such a sunny day as today, everything just looks beautiful! I’m really looking forward to exploring more of this local area, and getting to go further towards the City Centre. I’m sure I’ll have more to report later, but for now I’m going to enjoy the warmth of Belfast!

Toy Story on car

As seen near Sakura yesterday…

So…

Have you ever moved to a new city? What did you find challenging about it? How did you learn your way around? Drop a comment below—I sure could use the advice!

Arriving in Northern Ireland: What I’ve Been Up To!

im-in-northern-ireland

I’m officially in Northern Ireland!!! If you’ve followed along on Facebook or Instagram, you’ve probably noticed that I landed in Belfast at the beginning of the week. After spending eight months away from Matt and over twenty-four hours traveling, I decided it’d be okay to wait a few days to update the rest of the world on my experience. Now that my head’s stopped spinning, it’s time to talk!

 

Day One

arriving in NI

Possibly the most delicious Reuben panini I’ve ever had (excuse my shadow!).

If you didn’t read about my flight plans in “My Flight to the UK is Booked,” here’s how I flew! After leaving my house at 7AM local time, I caught the first flight from Charlotte to Toronto, Canada. The flight itself wasn’t spectacular; I’ve never had brilliant experiences on the smaller planes used for domestic flights. As usual, this one left me with a slight headache and temporarily impaired hearing (from the changing altitude, maybe?). Thanks for nothing, dramamine.

Toronto Pearson Airport wasn’t nearly as bad as online reviews made it out to be. In Terminal 1, at least, there were actually tons of iPads situated so that travelers could sit, check Facebook, charge devices, and even order food from the surrounding restaurants—all for free! Speaking of the restaurants, I didn’t see any fast food in the terminal. My dinner was a freshly cooked panini with coleslaw from a place called Fetta; even though I went a little over budget (blessed CAD$3.50 Coke!), it was actually delicious!

 

arriving in NI

The smallest, most expensive Diet Coke I’ve ever enjoyed; it was nicely presented though! And there’s part of an iPad in the background.

 

Day Two

After an almost three hour delay, my flight finally left Toronto at 10:30 Sunday night. After fighting sleep all afternoon, I was beyond happy to find that I didn’t have a neighbor on my overnight flight to London. I stacked the pillows and blankets from the two seats against the window and slept for hours! I have to admit, I was a little disappointed in Air Canada’s entertainment system; usually I plug headphones into the music channels provided in the plane’s headrests, but AC didn’t have those. If my headphones didn’t drown out noise, I’d have had a hard time getting to sleep.

 

arriving in NI

My cozy bed in the air!

Unfortunately, the lack of entertainment was only the beginning of my Monday troubles. If anyone reading was in London Gatwick around noon, I was one of the crazy people running around the terminal trying to find her flight. Running on a tight schedule thanks to my transatlantic flight delay, I was convinced that I’d missed boarding for my flight to Belfast. After literally running from security to a gate and then back to the flight board, I was a sweaty mess.

 

arriving in NI

An early morning view before I landed in London!

Thankfully, disaster didn’t strike; my flight switched gates because it was delayed, too! I made it to the right place just in time to see the line begin moving. The only further inconvenience was that I could never get London Gatwick’s free wifi to connect to my phone, which meant I couldn’t personally update Matt or my mom about this second delay. After a short trip with Ryanair, I was on the ground in Belfast and finally with Matt!

 

Since My Arrival

As I said earlier, I’ve taken the past few days to relax and settle in. I didn’t get hit by a wall of jet-lag this time, which is always nice! I’ve been staying in Ballymena with Matt’s family, so I’m not quite in Belfast yet, but I’m very close! After spending most of Tuesday recuperating (did I mention small planes give me headaches?), Matt and I ventured into Ballymena Wednesday for lunch and an errand-run!

 

arriving in NI

McAtamney’s in Ballymena, NI! I would share a picture of my sandwich, but it was gone in no time!

After stopping in Boots, Next, and TK Maxx (yes, just like TJ Maxx!) for a few things, we grabbed sandwiches from K & G McAtamney for lunch. Matt always raves about this shop, so I was pretty excited to get my first taste from their deli! Browsing through, there were tons of delicious looking cuts of meat for sale (as it’s a butcher’s, too). Don’t tell Matt, but browsing through with him definitely gave me ideas for his upcoming birthday! I finally decided to try a cold Ploughman’s sandwich, and I was very impressed at the quality and quantity of the meat!

 

arriving in NI

Even in weather that seems a little gloomy, walking around Ballymena is always nice!

Even though I’m not in the thick of things in Belfast yet, I’m already enjoying the variety of shops and products around. I’m loving Northern Ireland already and can’t wait to see what’s in store for me in the coming weeks!

What to Expect in September

September

Y’all…it’s officially September! I’m a day away from my flight out of Charlotte; I couldn’t be a bigger ball of excitement and nerves! After a busy week of cleaning out, repacking, and saying goodbyes, I’m feeling a little drained. I almost missed the fact that August ended (yeah, really)! With only a little last-minute suitcase stuffing to do, I figure it’s only sensible to consider everything I’ve accomplished in the last month. I’d also like to carefully set a few goals for myself this month, as crazy as I know it’ll be!

 

Recap of August

August

With plenty of job switching and paperwork completing, it’s a wonder I was able to do anything with the blog in August. I did tweak my “Policy” page a little, and I’ve made concrete decisions about where I’d like to take TravelsofKayla.com in the future. Most of my smaller goals for August went unaddressed; I haven’t found a theme that fits all of my needs, and I just keep forgetting to work out the kinks in my “About Me” page.

On the other hand, I met my social media goal for pre-departure (I have over 100 followers on FB!)! I also received a ton of feedback from “Checking Out: Charleston, SC,” my very first location-based post. I’ve had the awesome opportunity to get involved in blogging groups on Facebook, too, all of which have been great sources of inspiration and guidance for both my traveling and blogging!

 

Life in September

Queen's University Belfast

The Lanyon Building at QUB!

My life in August is going to seem like nothing when compared to the chaos that will be September. As I’ve mentioned a few (million) times, I’m leaving Charlotte tomorrow morning for grad school (aka, Postgraduate study) in Northern Ireland! It’ll be quite the adjustment; while I will definitely miss my mom while I’m away, I know that this is an incredible opportunity that I’ve been blessed with. It’ll just be a matter of getting back on the bicycle of academic life, which I’m sure I can handle. This time next month, I’ll be blogging from a cozy café that I haven’t heard of yet with friends I have yet to meet.

 

The Blog in September

New logo

Maybe I’ll get to switch my designs around this month…

Speaking of blogging from a cafe…one of my September goals is to find my blogging space in Belfast. Will I have a space in my bedroom to type away from? Will I find a cozy corner of the school library to occupy? The coming month will tell! I won’t be travelling much outside of Northern Ireland for the next few weeks, but I’m already brainstorming and researching different parts of Belfast to explore and report on!

I’m not expecting much free time once I’ve left the US, so one of my major goals is to blog twice per week consistently. Just in case that isn’t a challenge enough, I’d also like to FINALLY fix my “About Me” page this month! Even with the rainy Irish weather, I’m sure I can scrape up enough good photos and motivation to get things done!

 

So…

What are your big plans for September? Any adventures in the books yet? Are you happy summer is finally over (yay boot season!)? Drop a comment below to share!