Reagan Villet 6/23/16
Now that I am home, well rested, and have officially come to terms with the fact that five of the best weeks of my life are over, I am here writing my final blog post. I don’t know how I will put in to words how phenomenal this trip has been, but this will be an attempt. I have made wonderful friends, traveled to amazing places, and learned so many things that will help me throughout my lifetime. (Side note: this post is really long so be prepared!)
We started our study abroad experience in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I went in with zero expectations, so I had no idea what to expect. Belfast was rich in culture, history, and new beginnings. The highlight of this leg of our trip was the conflict between the Catholics and the Protestants that still continues today, as I didn’t realize people still fought like this. It made me think about the current situation that America is having with Muslims, and how horrible it is that people are willing to fight and kill each other over their faith and beliefs. Belfast is also where I first met my peers, not yet knowing what a wonderful bunch of people I would have the honor to share the experience of study abroad with.
Northern Ireland wasn’t just conflict and hate, though. The Shamrocker bus tour allowed us to experience the beauty of Ireland’s nature, and I was in awe the entire time. Seeing cliffs and shorelines that I had only previously seen on the background of my computer was incredible; I fully believe that I have never before seen such beautiful nature. While being on a bus for three days really tested some limits (yes I was very motion sick by the end), and climbing what seemed like miles of hills and staircases was very physically demanding, standing on the top of said hills and cliffs made it all worth it.
The next stop on our tour was Dublin, in the Republic of Ireland. While Belfast was a city with a smaller feel, Dublin was thriving; you could feel the energy pulsing through the city. This city is where I was first introduced to the powerhouse of the Guinness brand. Every pub, store, and street corner was plastered with Guinness advertisements, from stickers and fliers to light up signs and banners. Visiting the Guinness Storehouse was one of my favorite media-related tours we went on. We were able to see the very powerful, influential advertising strategies that the brand has used throughout the years, and how they have managed to turn a small lager company into a world-wide beer “giant”. Their influence was evident to me throughout the entirety of the trip, as they were able to infiltrate the smallest pubs in Wales to huge chain restaurants in London.
A unanimous favorite part of the trip was Cardiff, Wales. I was so sad that we were not able to stay here longer, because we all agreed that Cardiff was a Wales of a time (bah dum bum!). Another unanimous favorite of the trip was our visit to Golley Slater, a local advertising agency. I had not previously heard of this agency, but after viewing some of their work, I was truly impressed by the talent and passion in their advertisements. I have always been interested in advertising, so being able to see an actual agency was very inspiring. We were told that there are many different aspects that make up an advertising agency, and there is a job for everyone. Hearing this was exciting for me, as I am not an advertising major, but I am very interested in that aspect of business.
London, England (part 1)
After a quick train ride, we arrived in London! I was especially looking forward to this leg of the trip, because I have always wanted to visit London, and we would have the opportunity to unpack and settle in somewhere for more than a few days. London was a mecca of media and advertising. We had quite a few guest lectures during the two weeks we were in London. My personal favorite was the political cartoonist, Martin Rowson, as I have always been very intrigued by politics and I am following the current American election very closely. Over the course of our trip, we have heard many European opinions on our election, and it has been very interesting to hear how the rest of the world (or at least the select Europeans I talked to) feels about our candidates and the election as a whole. Martin told us about the power that an image can carry, and how his small drawings in the newspaper can have a huge impact on the political system in London and the surrounding areas. I had never thought of cartoons as a form of mass media before, but this lecture really opened my eyes to the power of a tool as simple as a pen.
While we were staying in London, we had a free three-day weekend, so seven of my fellow students and I decided to venture to Paris. Paris is another international city similar to London, but the big difference was the language barrier. As a communications major, I should have gone in expecting it, but I definitely underestimated how difficult it would be to do even seemingly simple tasks like ordering breakfast. The signs, menus, and maps were in French; I had to download a special translator app just to tell the taxi driver where I needed to go. Although the language barrier was an issue, the language of love and emotion was universal. This was especially prevalent when seeing iconic landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame, structures I had only previously before seen in movies and photographs. There were many people speaking many different languages, of many different cultures, all in awe when the lights lit up on the tower as we gazed across Paris from the very top floor.
London, England (part 2)
After our weekend in Paris, we had another week in London. When initially arriving in London, we thought we had all the time in the world, as two weeks seemed like a long time to be in one place. However, the second week was jam packed with activities, and I still feel like there is so much more that I should have made time to see. My favorite part of this week, and possibly the trip, was the visit to Warner Brothers studios “The Making of Harry Potter.” Here, we were fortunate enough to speak with Warner Brothers U.K. president Josh Berger, and hear a bit about his position, as well as how the Harry Potter series became the huge success that it is today. We were also able to explore the studio where the films were shot, seeing actual props, costumes, and sets from the series. I am a huge Harry Potter fan, so I am not ashamed to say that I was overcome with emotions during this visit. The whole tour was like seeing my childhood come to life right before my eyes, and I was absolutely in awe. This was definitely the cherry on top of an already magical two weeks in London.
The final stop on our trip was Edinburgh, where we were able to stay in a college dorm. I really liked this, because it allowed us the opportunity to compare our experiences on campus at MSU to a university in another country, with different culture and different people. Although the weather was subpar while we were there, it was a very “authentic” Scottish experience. We visited the prestigious kilt shop Kinloch Anderson, saw the very spot where J.K. Rowling wrote the “Harry Potter” series, and even scaled a “hill” (mountain!). Rain or shine, I was captivated by the vibrancy of Scottish culture, from their tartans and clans to their scotch whisky.
There is so much more that I could write about my trip, but I know you don’t want to read an entire book. Along with the above synopsis, I have decided to write a bit about some highlights of the trip and what I have learned.
One of my very favorite parts of the entire trip has been experiencing the pub culture. Here, a pub is not just a place to get drunk or watch sports, but is a place of comfort and familiarity. People go to the pub to catch up with a friend over a pint, to share a meal with family, and to meet strangers who will hopefully become friends. Yes, there is still drinking, and yes there are still some sports (Euro Cup, anyone?), but the feeling of an Irish pub is different. I do not feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable in a European pub like I often do in American bars; instead, I feel welcome and content.
A big reason I initially decided to study abroad was to meet new people that I may not have otherwise had the opportunity to on campus (there are 50,000 of us at MSU, after all!). I have been completely BLOWN AWAY by how lucky all of us were on this trip. I really don’t think I could have put together a better group of people. Each of us was different in our own special way, and that made the group flow together and work like we were all pieces to one big, perfect puzzle.
(Sidetone: I did not come up with the idea for this part of my blog by myself, thank you Katie for your beautiful words here!!!!)
Aron: Shoutout to you for being the one guy to stay with 19 girls for five weeks; I don’t know many other people who could do it as well as you. Also, thank you for being the absolute best guy I have been fortunate enough to meet in college. Thank you for being so sweet, funny, and caring, and letting us all pick on you while you laughed along with us.
Ally: I have never met a more passionate, smart, loving person in my life. I am so happy to have met you and I can’t wait to see you again in the fall; also to keep our snapchat streak up. Thank you for your intellect, and always wanting to have a fun time during any situation!
Marisa: We were so lucky to have you as the “trip mom”. You are the most caring person I have ever met in my life. Even when you are upset, you put it behind and make sure everyone else is happy. I feel so blessed to have you in my life. Thank you for comforting me, laughing with me, and making sure that everyone is always feeling loved.
Morgan Lauer: Oh Lauer, the sunshine of my life. I have never met a happier person! You are always so smiley and beautiful; you light up every room you walk in to. You are always down for a good time, whether it be heading out to the pub or sitting on a hill for hours. Thank you for being the best frat star I know.
Mia: Thank you for being the best roommate I could have asked for! I love your sense of humor, and how much fun you are (even when you hit the Meana stage!!). I’m glad we got to have more serious talks, because I feel like we were able to become a little closer. Thank you for always being fun, and making us food at 3am.
Katie: You are such a fun girl! Sorry we made you pay for that horrible nightclub in Belfast, but hey free drink for you (hahaha)! You are always down for a good time, and I love that about you. Thank you for your charismatic energy and your love of exploration.
Allison: A whole year on 3rd floor Landon, and it took us until this trip to meet. I wish we would have gotten to know each other sooner, but I am so glad this trip brought us together. You are so smart and you’re always down for a good time. Thank you for being so easy going and open to new ideas!
Colleen: Thank you for being my second closet! But more than that, thank you for allowing me to vent, for traveling to new places with me, and always keeping everyone grounded. You are so sweet and fun, and you definitely have great sense of humor. Thanks for letting me crash with you in London practically every night, thank you for cooking me food, and thank you for always looking out for me.
Camille: Little Cammie! Thanks for being our unofficial trip photographer. You are literally the sweetest person I have met in college. You are so kind and loving, and it radiates off of you. I am so happy I have gotten to know you! Thank you for always keeping the spirits up!
Darrien: You are so bouncy and bubbly, I don’t know how you keep so much energy in such a tiny little body. You are always laughing about something, and when you are interested in something, the passion practically oozes out of your skin. Thank you for being so energetic and strong-headed!
Emily: Thank you for being such a fun-loving, sweet girl! You and Jameson are so cute, and I can read the feelings you have for him in your eyes. I loved spending time with you, because you were so happy and silly all the time. Thank you for always being so optimistic and fun!
Amara: Thank you for your great sense of humor, and your fun-loving spirit. You know how to have a good time, whether we go out or stay in. You aren’t afraid to say how you feel, and I really appreciate that about you. Thank you for providing me small bits of sanity and laughs!
Jasmine: I am so sorry that everyone called you “Jazzy” the whole trip, you poor girl. Even though you were quiet, you know how to have a good night, and you always have the literal best going-out clothes! Thank you for being such a surprise; you are so quiet when you want to be, but when you have something to say, you aren’t afraid to!
Morgan B: Through ups and downs, you managed to stay pretty positive, and that is a great quality to have. You take amazing photos, and your writing is really good. I’m glad someone else was involved with YouTube, although you definitely had me beat. Thank you for always putting your best foot forward, even when you weren’t feeling it.
Emma: I am so glad I didn’t have to sit alone in a cab from the Belfast airport to our hotel! Although we didn’t spend much time together, you were so nice, and you have killer style! Thank you for making me feel so comfortable on our very first day.
Holly: Yay for being travel buddies on our way home! I’m glad we got to spend a little time together at the airport, eating questionable sushi and shopping until the very last minute. Thank you for being so bubbly and happy all the time!
Sarah: I’m not gonna lie, you intimidate me so much. You are absolutely gorgeous, and so so sweet! Although we didn’t get to talk much, the few times we did, you were always so kind and happy. Thank you for being instagram goals!!!, and always laughing at everyone’s jokes.
Brooke: You are seriously the nicest ever! You always seem so happy, and we’ve decided you look just like Mila Kunis. You have such good fashion sense, so I can see why you want to go that way career-wise. Thank you for being so sweet and inclusive to all of us!
Alexandria: Again, we didn’t spend much time together, but the few times we did were so fun! Seeing your face wrinkle up at the taste of the whisky at the distillery was the highlight of that experience. Thank you for always smiling and having fun with everyone!
Sue: I feel honored to have been lead by such a smart, influential woman. You have done some very inspiring things in your lifetime, and I know we all feel that you are a really incredible woman. Thank you for showing us around and introducing us to the history and culture of Ireland and Wales.
Troy: Again, I feel very honored to have been able to have you as a professor on this trip. You have achieved such great things in your lifetime, and it has been very motivating for all of us. We really enjoyed having you lead us around London and Edinburgh, and including you on many of our outings!
Congrats to both of you on your latest Emmy!
I have been fortunate enough to speak with people of many different professions, media related and not, on this five-week, life-changing experience. Not only have my communication skills drastically increased, but I fully believe that I am a more well-rounded person because of this trip. The culture and knowledge I have gained from this trip has changed my views on the present and the future. Although I do not know where I will end up in five or ten years, the Mass Media in the U.K. and Ireland study abroad trip has opened my eyes to so many options that I had not considered before. I know that upon my return home, as well as for the rest of my life, I will carry with me the lessons and experiences that I have gained here, and I know I am now a better person, student, and future employee because of it.