Imagination Becomes a Reality

For many years now, I have wanted to come to the United Kingdom and Ireland, the British Isles. I never really knew why nor did I have a real reason why, but there was something about this region that drew my attention unlike any other place in the world. It has class, elegance, grandeur, simplicity….and those accents….not enough can be said about a pure accent from Ireland or the United Kingdom.


I didn’t expect Northern Ireland to be my point of entry into this region of the world, but it is already making me think and appreciate this area way more than I thought I would after two days. There are so many areas that I have read about and seen in books and movies and tv shows that are now being played out in normal, everyday life. The accents, the Fish and Chips, the pub scene, the driving on the other side of the road, the rain, the act of everything being in English, causally watching a Premier League match on the telly, the double-decker buses as public transit, the history, the architecture….it’s all too surreal to take in. Everything is a joy and another amazing realization (even if it’s as small as a random man saying ‘Cheers’ to me).

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I think I’m falling in love perhaps…maybe the romantic English literature is getting to me.

Tonight, after finally indulging in some ‘traditional’ Fish and Chips, a group of friends and I ventured downstairs to my first ever Irish/English pub. There was Guinness (not drunk my me, but still…), there were people of all ages gathering together, conversing and celebrating each other’s company, and there was even live music. Authentic live music. Authentic Northern Irish live music…here is a link from my Facebook…just watch it. You can’t not be happy.

The recorder…the guitar…the keyboard…the singing….My goodness. You can’t help but picture rolling green hills, with the added sense of peacefulness and tranquility that envelops you in its power and refuses to let go (as if you want to leave its trance anyways). It’s sensational to experience and to be able to be in Northern Ireland, a place that has had so much strife, so much conflict, so much needed resurrection, this moment seems like a needed remedy, if not a way of forgetting what lies outside the city centre.

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It now seems like we’ve walked around a good portion of the city now. The only times there has been any resemblance of sectarianism, political strife, or reverberations of past violence has been out in the lower-class suburbs. The city itself is figuratively isolated. I don’t recall seeing a sign of either side of the split or a sign that any conflict has ever occurred just 15 minutes away.

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It’s an odd phenomenon, really. There appears to be a feeling of neutrality from Belfast centre, but that begs the question, then, of whether there really is such thing as neutrality in a conflicting situation such as the one between Irish Catholics and British Protestants. How are the people going to be able to integrate and get along with another if there’s a two kilometer long wall separating the neighborhoods, forcing people on their side after and before certain times? Is this just an act of the lower class social disorganization (this strife surely has to flow other places, like football matches or other classes)?

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This really just adds to the amount of curiosity that I have towards this region. This land is a land full of contrasting differences, all united under one main flag. There may be some lingering tension, but this does not taint the image I have of all of this. I am unsure if I’ll ever be fully able to explain how I am feeling, but I am sure that you have had or will have the same feeling. I have imagined what it would be like for so long that, now that I am seeing it all, it simply is way too much joyous emotion for someone like me to contain. When you get to a place and your emotions run so high with anxious excitement that you struggle finding the words—or when you feel so comfortable in a place shortly after arriving—then you have found your special place. You have found a place that you can connect to and that you can fall in love with just after first sight. It is simply pure travel magic.

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And it is beautiful….To the British Isles: I hope this relationship lasts for a very long time. ‘Cause I like this. I like where this is going, and I am a fan. Never change! Love, Robby.

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 -- Robby Veronesi, WSA Intern Fall 2013, DIS, Denmark


Katrina Alford, Concordia University - Irvine

Happy Backpackers

This past weekend, I traveled to Budapest with WSA with a couple of friends from my university abroad, and I couldn't have asked for a better trip! After arriving at the hostel, we met Bogi, our tour guide for the weekend, who was instantly friendly and welcoming. Throughout the weekend, Bogi was an amazing guide! She showed us some great places for shopping and food, as well as the top sights around the city. You could tell she loved her job and never passed up an opportunity to share about her hometown and some of its history. She was so friendly and was sincerely interested in us as individuals and did everything she could do accommodate our priorities for the weekend (whether it was food, shopping, nightlife, sightseeing, etc.) I would highly recommend WSA's guided tours for any student studying abroad who wants to explore more than their university's city!

Katrina Alford, Concordia University - Irvine ~ AIFS Richmond, Spring 2015

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