A Student's Review of her Trip to the British Isles

Dec 3, 2015

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by Susan Hileman '16
Edited for content and length

During my Junior Journey, our group visited Dublin, Salisbury, and London. We had many great adventures, and it was a trip I will not forget in my lifetime. We learned about the cultures and histories of the places we went. Overall, our journey was an incredible one, and hopefully I can give some advice for future travelers!


The one aspect of our journey that is very different from home life is how you travel. At home I own a car, which is 100 percent my mode of transportation. In other countries, even if you own a car you’re lucky to find parking spots when you drive, and traffic is a crazy mess to navigate. In Dublin, we walked everywhere. By walking everywhere, we were able to see things we would have missed in a car or bus. We saw protests in the streets, we saw buildings with beautiful architecture, and even saw church grounds and gardens.

In London we met a whole new dragon of transportation called the tube (subway). I never had to navigate any sort of train before, so this transition was difficult for me. Luckily, our group had a few really terrific navigators that always got us to the right places safely. After a few days, I knew what I was doing and could navigate the trains well, however if I had learned before getting to London I would have been less stressed out and worried about where our stops were. Learning about the transportation methods of your destination is the most important part of preparing for a journey.


While we were in Ireland we went to the Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs are famous because they extend for about five miles and have a sheer seven hundred foot drop to the Atlantic Ocean. Walking along the cliffs felt like you were at the edge of the world. The steep drop off was beautiful; looking out at the incredibly green grass that stops at the dark rock of the cliffs was a once in a lifetime view. Standing at the edge of the cliffs was both exhilarating and terrifying. Looking down was difficult to do, because the drop is so sheer. Seeing the cliffs up close, their magnitude is unbelievable. This sight is a must see for anyone visiting Ireland.

The Cliffs of Moher in Ireland continue for five miles.

I and other students on the trip enjoyed the lifestyle of Dublin. I could definitely live in Dublin for a long period of time; however, I would prefer the countryside of Ireland – more like Galway. Galway is mostly countryside with sheep and cow farms, but is close enough to the city to visit weekly. The expansive green grass and pastures are a breathtaking sight, and Galway has a lot of history about the potato famine and the famine walls. I could definitely see myself living in Ireland. The weather, locals, customs, and landscape are all unforgettable, and I would love to immerse myself into their culture. 

Every time we ventured out into the cities to explore, it involved shopping, sightseeing, and eating all in one. On one particular outing we wanted to eat at the oldest committed pub in Dublin called the Brazen Head. The old building was beautiful, and we had just learned about the history of the pub, which made it more exciting. The food was great. Flavors are different from what we are used to, but the food is not overbearing or too different. Dessert in other countries is not as pumped full of sugar as it is in America, which is healthier and gives more of a flavor to the dishes.

However, you will have an unpleasant surprise when you bite into ice cream that is not sweetened at all. The services in pubs are not what we are used to in America. You may have to seat yourself (which for a larger party is quite a challenge), and may not even get to see a waiter for twenty minutes to be able to order anything. Also, splitting checks (does not happen in Britain. You come as a party, you pay as a party. This can cause some frustrated party members, but as long as everyone has a bit of cash it usually works out okay. In Dublin, we learned tipping is not the norm unless gratuity is added into your bill because of the size of the table. After learning these local customs, outings become much easier to navigate, so knowing the customs is helpful!


Another memorable outing we had was in Salisbury.  One afternoon we decided to head to the farmers market and everyone bought ingredients for our group to have a picnic. This was a cheap and easy way for us to have dinner, especially after eating out every day. It was nice to have a meal we made ourselves. After making sandwiches and cutting up fruit, we went to sit on the Salisbury Cathedral’s grounds to have our picnic. The church was beautiful, and we lounged on the grass just staring at the cathedral and commenting on the many amazing aspects of the architecture. This outing was one of my favorites, because it was relaxing. We got to know each other better, we spent relaxing time staring at one of the most beautiful buildings we saw on the trip, and it was nice to take a break from more hectic travel for a day.

Whenever you have an opportunity to speak with a local in another country, take it. During our stay in Salisbury, we met a woman who had recently graduated from Oxford. She was staying in the same hostel as us so she could be close to her work place. We spent over an hour talking with this woman, asking questions about what Oxford is like, sharing what our schools are like, and connecting in ways I did not think possible. We had so much in common with her, even though she lives around the world from us. Seeing how similar our cultures and experiences were was shocking and amazing, because it makes the world seem smaller.

St. Mary's Catholic Cathedral in Salisbury

I have a different view of the world now because I can more accurately imagine and describe different countries from experience. I no longer have to guess about what the rest of the world is like, because I have firsthand knowledge on a part of it.


The woman we spoke to in Salisbury told us about a few places to go when we shared that our next stop was London. She told us about a “secret” tour in the British Museum of Natural History. The tour ended up being one of the best aspects of our trip. This tour took us to the research lab sections of the museum. Whenever I go into museums, I never think about the real reason they exist. Yes, they are there for the public, but as we learned in the background tour, so much research is funded by the museum. We got a close up on the research that happens in the museum, and walked through their twenty-three million jars of specimens. This tour was so special because we saw specimens from The Challenger, a reconstructed battleship, which was the first ship used for scientific research. We also saw specimens from Christopher Columbus. I absolutely loved learning about the behind-the-scenes activity that occurs in museums, and it will forever change how I appreciate museums around the world.