It’s October!

So it occurred to me the other day while I was writing a post for one of my other blogs that I haven’t posted in this one since July!! It’s now the beginning of October and I feel awful for leaving this blog for so long. I figured that I would just write a little update about what I’ve been up to since then.

October. It’s one of my favourite months and only because Halloween is this month. Anyone on Tumblr knows that Halloween season basically starts after Easter, but it’s now acceptable for the rest of the world to start getting ready too. I also enjoy (Canadian) Thanksgiving, but I won’t be going home this year so my Thanksgiving will be spent with my school work. I’ll probably be thankful that midterm season is almost over at that point. My midterms go into November, but the bulk of them are around Thanksgiving.

I’ve been missing Scotland lately. Missing abroad really. I obviously still have friends living in Scotland, and I still have friends who are abroad and travelling. I miss everything about it. I miss waking up and seeing mountains everyday and being able to breath in the cool crisp air. I miss going on trips to Scottish villages, and the highlands or getting on a plane to another country. Seeing everyone’s photos and Snapchats is lovely, but it’s also hard to see everything I am missing. My saving grace from this is talking to my overseas friends. I may have mentioned this before, but I have been writing letters to one of my friends from Europe. It’s so painful waiting weeks to get a response, but it makes coming home every day to check the mail exciting. I am going to start exchanging letters with another friend of mine once she gets settled into her permanent flat. I also use Facebook to connect with a ton of people. I love the group chats we have, because it seems like I could still be living in my flat just twenty minutes away from everyone.

Since I am no longer able to travel between countries over the weekend, I’ve decided to get more involved with school. I am excited to say that I am a new member of Alpha Omicron Pi Fraternity! The fraternity bit is slightly misleading – it’s a women’s fraternity (sorority). It’s been a wild ride so far, and I am so overwhelmed by how nice and welcoming everybody has been. It is still a recent development, but I am sure I will have much more to say before long!

I have plans for a couple of tattoos! Since Scotland I have been trying to figure out what I would like to get permanently inked into my skin, and I think I have made some decisions! My first tattoo is going to be something personal to me, I am thinking either a constellation (debating Ursa Minor or Orion currently) or the Celtic knot that is on my necklace. My second one is actually going to be one of a pair. Emma (who I write Young, Crazy and Gorgeous with) and I are planning on getting tattoos together. We haven’t worked out any details yet, but we will. I am excited. I have always kind of wanted a tattoo, but no idea what I wanted or where I wanted it placed. If I have any further developments I will be sure to post!

I think that is all that is going on in my life right now! If you wish, please let me know what’s going on in your life in the comments! I would love to hear what everybody is doing. 🙂

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Rückkehrunruhe

It has been just over 2 months since I came back to Canada (2 months and 6 days to be exact, but who’s counting?). My life has mostly gone back to normal, I wake up most days, eat breakfast, go to work and come home. On my days off I run errands. However ‘normal’ my life has become, there are still many times during my daily routines that I am reminded of my time abroad.

I spoke to a woman at work today who asked me about my necklace. For those who are unaware, I wear the necklace that I bought in Scotland almost every day. I loved talking to her about my experience in Scotland, but it made me realize how quickly my time abroad is becoming a thing of the past.

This isn’t the first time this has crossed my mind either. I finally finished the chapstick that I bought while I was abroad and it was a weird thing to go pick up another one. It was literally something so simple and mindless, but it was one of the last things I had been using from Scotland and I was sad to see it go.

It’s easy to focus on how long it’s been since I went on my exchange and all the things that I miss. What’s not easy is seeing all the ways that my time in Scotland is still affecting my life. Without going into how it changed me as a person, I made a lot of friends while I was in Europe and I still talk to a fair amount of them. I message a few people daily, I’ve started talking to exchange students from Europe that are going to be starting at my school in the fall, and I’ve even started writing letters to one of my friends in Germany.

I often forget that when I’m messaging people on Facebook or Whatsapp how incredible it is that we are talking. I am very much aware of the time difference, not that anyone pays much attention to that – everyone just responds when they’re awake and it works out fine. But because Facebook is such a normal part of my life in Canada, I don’t always realize how special it is to be able to talk to people in different countries any time I want.

That’s one of the things I love about having an actual pen pal. We sit down and physically write each other letters. Yes they take a long time to be delivered, but it reminds me how amazing that connection is. I would never give up electronically messaging my friends – it makes life much easier, and it is such a convenient way to keep in touch. There’s just something about getting a letter in the mail knowing it came from somewhere far away that makes me realize that while I may not be abroad any more, it still impacts my life more than I often realize.

Rückkehrunruhe: the feeling of returning home after an immersive trip only to find it fading rapidly from your awareness (Dictionary Of Obscure Sorrows)

Where I Stayed In Europe

I wasn’t planning to do a post like this, but since talking about my trip online a lot of people have been asking me about where I stayed so I thought I would do a masterpost of the reviews I gave each hostel! They were all reviewed on Hostelworld, which lets you leave a review and rate different aspects of the hostel which they convert into a percentage rating. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask!

Travel Joy Hostels Chelsea, London, England (71%)

The rooms were clean, although they were extremely hot at night and we couldn’t figure out how to open a window or turn on some AC. The bathrooms and showers could have been a little cleaner, but they were usable. The free breakfast was incredible!! The staff was all friendly, but you could tell who the regulars/favourites were. The open mic nights were amazing, and you couldn’t hear a thing in the rooms! The location wasn’t great, but I enjoyed my stay!

Kinlay House Dublin, Dublin, Ireland (71%)

I really enjoyed my stay here. The rooms were nice and clean, although the temperature was either freezing cold or way too hot. The rest of the hostel was generally freezing as well so I had to wear my jacket quite a lot. I had a hard time finding the bathroom, I ended up using a handicap one the whole time and I still don’t know if there was another. The location was perfect. Within walking distance to whatever you could want! Only one toaster slot was working (out of 5 toasters), not very good

City Backpacker – Hostel Biber, Zurich, Switzerland (57%)

I only stayed for one night and it was just okay. Going into the building I walked up many floors to find reception. The common room was really quiet all the time- people didn’t want to interact with others. My bed was nice, I liked how there was a sink in the room. The bathroom was decently clean, but the shower was out of order. It was within walking distance to the major train station. I only met 1 staff member, she seemed nice, just tired. For a short stay I would go again.

Hostel ELF, Prague, Czech Republic (83%)

The location is further away from the main center, but you can easily walk or jump on the bus to the city center! Incredibly cheap compared to other hostels in Prague, and the staff are amazing! One guy spent most of the night with us while we tried to figure out what to see and where to go. He even followed up with us the next day! It’s super clean, there’s one woman who is constantly cleaning the place. Their knock off Nutella during breakfast is better than the actual stuff! Loved it!

Hostella Female Only, Rome, Italy (89%)

This place was in a great location, very secure and close to everything. The breakfast wasn’t great, just some croissants (which weren’t good) and fruit. The staff were incredibly friendly! I loved the female only atmosphere!

Hostel Pisa, Pisa, Italy (60%)

The hostel is close to the train station and the airport which is nice. They have lunch and dinner buffets which are decent for only €7! There was no security, our room had a lock on the door but it didn’t work. Anyone could easily walk into the hostel and into any of the rooms. There was also a lot of hair in my sheets.

Mediterranean Youth Hostel, Barcelona, Spain (77%)

This hostel was really nice! The home cooked dinner was good, but very late! I wasn’t expecting the cleaning lady to be as thorough as she was, so it was nice but when she made my bed she moved all the stuff away and that was nerve wracking when I first realized my stuff wasn’t where I left it. All in all, not a bad place

Lisbon Destination Hostel, Lisbon, Portugal (97%)

I loved my stay at this hostel. I immediately felt at home and everyone was incredibly friendly. The entire place was nicer than my house, and the bathrooms were to die for. The breakfast was amazing and the wifi was great. I loved the bracelet and the fact that there are sister hostels we can go to within Lisbon. I still wear the bracelet every day to remind me of this place, and I cannot wait to come back!

Vintage Hostel Gare du Nord, Paris, France (83%)

I enjoyed my stay here. The breakfast is quite light (croissants and toast), but it wasn’t bad. The rooms had a bathroom attached which was nice, but the ceiling of our bathroom leaked every time someone above us took a shower. The location was good, close to a main train/metro station and the Sacre Coeur. There is a burger place close by called Captain B which was incredible. The wifi went out our last day, but they did work really hard to get it fixed.

How I Spent My Money During My Semester Abroad

Studying abroad is an amazing experience, but it comes at a price. Of course the final cost depends on how your tuition is being paid, what type of traveller you are and how much shopping you want to do. I did a lot of research for this trip, there was no shortage of websites telling me how I could save/make money, but I had a hard time finding exactly how much I should expect to spend during my time overseas. I tracked my spending throughout the entire trip, and I thought it would be useful to post it the breakdown of my spending for anyone who is interested in going abroad and curious about how much it cost me!

Exchange rates did fluctuate while I was there, so it was hard to get a completely accurate cost, especially with so many different currencies, but I will list the costs in GBP and CAD!

Living Costs

£1,704.39 ($3,408.78)

  • This category includes the cost for my residence and all the hostels I stayed in. The cost for my campus residence was by far the most expensive part of the trip, but it was worth it. I paid £1,279.03 to live across the street from the school and I had the room from January to the beginning of June if I needed. Staying is hostels is a fantastic way to save money and meet people. I paid a total of £425.36 hostels I stayed in!

Tours/Sightseeing

£366.37 ($732.74)

  • A lot of this came from tours I did with a Glasgow based company. I’ve talked about Gary and his tours on this blog multiple times, but his tours really are amazing, and really affordable! A lot of sightseeing (museums especially) are free in Europe if you have a European student card. Another big chunk came from castles and tour buses. Castles will often charge because there is a lot of upkeep required, and it’s not something I mind paying for if it means myself and other people can continue to visit these historical sites. If you followed my vlogs, you’ll know that I went on a few of those red open top tour bus tours. Honestly, I hated these at first, honestly you stand out so much as a tourist, but I grew to love them.

Shopping

£481 ($962)

  • That looks like a very large number, but I did buy a lot of souvenirs and clothes. I know clothes are such a typical thing for girls to buy in Europe, but I needed them. I didn’t think I would be there for the ‘real’ summer weather so I didn’t bring any summer clothes and as it turns out, I needed them. Of course I also did a little bit of clothes shopping for fun, but Europe has some amazing shops.

Groceries

£243.80 ($487.60)

  • I was surprised how cheap this was. I spend way more than this for the same time period in Canada. But this was about 4 months’ worth of groceries! I did my groceries once a week, and I always did them at Tesco because they had the best deals and were the closest full grocery store to me.

Entertainment/Personal

£179.87 ($357.74)

  • This category is everything from my phone plan, to theatres, to doing laundry. I was impressed how much fun I had, and how little it cost. I didn’t go to any bars or clubs while I was there (I figured that if it was something I could do in Canada, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on it abroad), so that helped keep the costs down.

Eating Out

£434.28 ($868.56)

  • This was a little more expensive that I was expecting. While I was travelling I ate out for every meal (except free breakfast at most hostels). I never stayed in a place longer than 3 nights before heading off to the next city, so buying food to cook at the hostel was really impractical – especially because I couldn’t take any leftover food with me. I didn’t mind eating out, it was nice to experience the traditional food from each place and try new things almost every day.

Transport

£1,649.68 ($3,299.36)

  • This number hurts to look at. Keep in mind this number includes my flight back to Canada. I didn’t include my flight to Europe because I had booked that in advance, but it cost roughly $1,600. A lot of my flights were found through Skyscanner. They were pretty cheap, considering. I took trains to travel through Italy, which were slightly more expensive, but well worth it. I didn’t always have perfect plans for my trips, so I occasionally had to take a more expensive flight because I waited too long to book it, or I couldn’t fly out at a time that was cheaper.

Total: £5,059.65 ($10,119.30)

This number was pretty on par with what I was expecting to pay. I tried to plan how much I would spend in advance, and based on other blogs and websites, this is pretty average for a semester in Europe.

If you have any questions about how I budgeted, tracked my spending or want more details about where my money went, please let me know in the comments, I am more than happy to help!