Wandering Belfast and Where it Led Us – By Ashley Smith

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Study abroad began in the company of a good friend from high school who happened to be in the same program. Sitting together on the plane from Amsterdam to Belfast, we reminisced of our high school days, as well as cheers’d to the many memories to come. We arrived before the rest of our group, so we took the day to get lost in Belfast. Wandering the streets, we stumbled upon a vintage store. Upon entrance, I found a genuine leather jacket for only £3. The trip was off to a fantastic start. Anticipating our trip, we had made it our goal to fully immerse ourselves in the cultures of the cities we would be visiting—we wanted to live like the locals lived. After only three days abroad, we are well on our way.IMG_2751

I had no idea what to expect coming to Belfast. Looking back, this was the best way to enter a city: with no expectations and an open mind. I quickly became infatuated with the city and its people. Each person embodied their own style—had their own take on what was trendy. What was even more interesting was how they all managed to tie in the personality of the city with their style. To describe Belfast in one word would be grungy. Not the literal term, but the modernized term with a twist of hipster. The aged buildings exuded emotion. From the graffiti on the walls to the tiling in the pubs. Every detail was chosen with intention. I couldn’t wait to get to know the city even more.

Our Sunday started with a trip to the local Tesco. As we were walking back to our hotel, we took the route that had us walking down our favorite road in Belfast.IMG_2746-1.JPG The road is lined with buildings covered in expressive art and phrases, ending with a pub called Aether & Echo. This road is how we decided where we would eat lunch. Taking our entire study abroad group, we entered to the sounds of a band warming up. Live music is a detail I feel is is missing from the culture back where we are from. In Belfast, there is always live music to be found. Bands are constantly in rotation at bars, pubs, and even coffee shops. This band is what led us to our next adventure in Belfast. A suggestion from the drummer of the band playing at the pub landed us at Empire Music Hall. Coincidentally, Angel Olsen, an indie folk/rock/alternative singer, was performing that night.IMG_2794 The intimate venue introduced us to a group of locals, who took us under their wing and out to a beer garden after the show. Our new friends offered suggestions for must see’s from the eyes of the locals, as well as tips and tricks for navigating the city. Who would have thought that a suggestion from a drummer would lead us to such an impulsive yet eventful night.

The moral of this week’s story: be open. To anything. One interaction changed the trajectory of our entire night, and it has given us even more ideas for our last few days here in Belfast.

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