Shannon: Expecting the Unexpected

When I began my Irish adventure in January, I had no idea what surprises were in store. When you go to a foreign country, possibilities seem endless and you may feel like your bank account has no limits. Sorry to crush your hopes and dreams, but you may not get to visit every place on your list. To help with this struggle, I recommend choosing a few places that you will definitely visit. Some may be spontaneous European adventures with international friends or if you’re a geek like me, historical sites may be more your cup of tea. Below, I have included a few of my travelling highlights, some may be familiar and some are gems that I never knew about before.

Location A: Butler’s (Irish) Chocolate Factory

We didn’t just get a tour of the factory, but we had chocolate samples and finished with a small cup of hot chocolate and decorating our own chocolate elephant. To say that I now have a Butler’s addiction would be an understatement (rip bank account). The cool thing about Butler’s is that with every drink you order, you can choose a free piece of gourmet chocolate!

With my American friend, Eliza at the entrance of the Butler’s factory—I felt like a scientist
Decorating my chocolate elephant, named Harold


Location B: Malahide Castle

Situated further out in Dublin, this stunning family castle is accompanied by a luxurious garden and is definitely worth visiting. If you are careful, you may find the fairies and wild rabbits hiding among the trees. The family background involves mystery, drama, loss, and magic—I’m not going to give away any spoilers but one particularly well-known tale is The White Lady.


I found this surprise in one area of the garden—it reminded me of the Maraes in New Zealand

Location C: Wicklow and Kilkenny

The scenery here stunned me and I felt like I was in the land of Tolkien. Fun fact: We were taken through the valley where scenes in Braveheart were filmed halfway through our trip – there’s a surprising fact for you.


Admiring the beauty of the Wicklow Mountains and embracing the crazy winds at one of the lakes

Location D: Belfast and the Titanic Museum

I loved hearing the incredible buskers and learning more about the Titanic. While it was difficult to see the effects of the Titanic’s demise, it was incredible to see how much work went into its construction. I stood where the Titanic stood before it was launched which was crazy! The green squares in the middle are memorials with names of all of the victims of the tragedy and those who died during the Titanic’s construction, which I think is beautiful.

Overall, I had to budget for my trips but those that I invested in created wonderful memories that I know will last me for a lifetime. Have hope! You can still enjoy travelling on a budget by looking at what you should prioritise and what you can leave for future adventures.

Also, I just want to clarify that you don’t need to travel outside your host city to have fun when you’re studying abroad. Days when I have just wandered the streets of Dublin have been some of my highlights because you can always find something new to explore.

The majestic city hall of Belfast
The Titanic Museum in Belfast
On the pier where the Titanic first stood in 1911


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