First stop, Belfast -By Erin Gray

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On Friday, May 19, 2017 I traveled to another country on my own as a 22 year-old and recent graduate of Michigan State University. This is my first experience leaving the US and entering another country -besides for spending a weekend in Windsor, Canada with my girlfriends when we all turned 19. The week of the flight, for days I was very nervous and also excited. I was nervous to be on my own for five weeks and I was nervous about navigating through the airport and making it to my flight. I was also excited to leave the state of Michigan and see how people live in other parts of the world.

IMG_6252Now that I have arrived, my nerves have calmed and I  made it. Our first arrival is in the city of Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. Belfast is the birthplace of the famous Titanic ship and we visited the Titanic museum where I learned the history of ship-making in Ireland.

The culture here is different than America. The streets are small and brick. Cars are tiny and move fast, it is easy to almost get hit while walking on the sidewalk. Many of the buildings and pubs are older and small, they look just how one would expect them to.  Women here wear more edgy clothing and they are big on the heavy make-uIMG_6271p, eyebrow filling and dark lipstick look. Many of them are very pale, I have not seen many tan or colored people in this area.

It is funny because many places we walk into, locals automatically know our group is not from here. Sometimes, before any of us speak, they ask where we are from and what brought us here. So far, I have not run in to anyone who was rude or unwelcoming. The accents here are not difficult to understand and they are really cool and pleasant to the ear. It makes me wonder what we sound like to the people here with our American accents!

It seems very safe here, because I  have seen children under 12 years-old just playing around the city without parental supervision and a group of about four young boys were talking to us and taking pictures with us and even flipped us off to be funny.

IMG_6257 I think my favorite area of this downtown is Victoria Square. It is a very nice shopping center with a movie theater and shops. It is nicer than any mall I have seen in America. This afternoon, I am going out shopping with a few girls from the group.

The food here is not too different from America. On the first night, we found a KCF and a McDonald’s. The McDonald’s menu has different options than America’s menu has. There, they still have chicken selects and they sell donuts along with other things. Also the Premier Inn, the hotel we are staying at, serves a continental breaIMG_6267kfast. This breakfast always serves beans which is interesting and I have seen a lot of beans commercials on the television here. We also ate at a place called Nando’s which everyone seemed to know about. Apparently it is a well-known fast-food in the U.K. There, I got a portabella burger and garlic toast.

The hotel accommodations are different here than in America. They do not provide as much. The room is nice, but does nIMG_6268ot offer an iron, nor toiletries. There is shower gel in the shower and hand soap by the sink but that is all. They don’t provide wash cloths here either. Thank God there is at least a blowdryer. Here, one has to insert their room key in a slot to turn on all electricity in the room, which apparently is a common thing in the U.K.
So far, I am enjoying my time in Belfast and tomorrow we are taking “black cab” tours of the city which sounds really fun. There are other areas I would like to see, like more of the countryIMG_6263-side and where people live which I hope we get to before we leave for our next location.

I would also like to add that the night life here is fun and it is really cool meeting locals. We spent a few nights out at this place called “The Dirty Onion” which seems to be our spot here. I was engaging with locals about American politics over a beer and it was cool. This is definitely one place I would like to visit again in the future.

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