Shortly after leaving Dublin and driving north, there was very little I could see except green hills, trees, and the occasional herd of cows. The “emerald” in “Emerald Isle” was no exaggeration. However, shortly after driving over the border into Northern Ireland, I started to notice a change. Modest and charming houses started to come into view and soon filled most of the landscape.
We soon pulled into Armagh, and I knew my gut feeling about selecting here to study was a good decision. Quaint shops and restaurants filled the streets, and beautiful stone buildings and cathedrals filled the spaces in between. After spending most of my life in large cities, pulling up into the small city of Armagh was an unfamiliar sight, but by no means an unwelcomed one.
Our first expedition in the city showed me one thing I was not anticipating: hills. There are steep hills, and lots of them. While the tops of hills have given me great views and incredible photographs, I have yet to become used to the level of cardio required for this city. I should have added jogging to my trip preparations while I was still home.
I also learned quite quickly how warm and friendly the residents of the city are. I have had multiple strangers say hello on the streets, and every person I have spoken to has greeted me with a smile and kind words.
However, the size of the town has made me stick out like a sore thumb. Anyone who hears my voice tends to give me odd looks. Not out of rudeness, but out of confusion. I can only assume that most Armagh natives are not used to hearing foreign accents in their hometown. That, or I stick out because I haven’t figured out how to cross the street without a crosswalk. One of my goals for the month is to learn how to cross the streets like a local.
My two-day-conclusion is that Armagh and Northern Ireland are incredibly beautiful and green, and the residents, while confused by my presence, are still kind and welcoming. Choosing to travel across the world by myself has proved to be one of the best ideas that I have ever had, if my first two days in Armagh are anything to show for it.