Soccer's Katy Dolesh spent 14 days studying abroad in Ireland and England. Here is a report about her experience.

Traveling abroad is one of the most rewarding experiences a college student could participate in, particularly with Miami University’s one-of-a-kind study abroad programs. Shortly after school let out in May I left for my first international trip to Dublin and London. The trip lasted 14 days, giving one week to each destination.

In all, there were six of us- all girls! Our professor, Dr. Massie, led our small but tight-knit group on some of the most incredible excursions. First, we flew to Dublin, Ireland where we stayed in the “Generator” hostel all week. Lucky for us, the hostel was originally built to be a hotel so it was much nicer than most hostels in Europe.

Our first stop in Dublin was Croke Park, home of the Gaelic Athletic Association, which hosts both men’s and women’s versions of hurling and Gaelic football. The stadium was built in 1884 so the history behind it was quite intriguing. Athletes in the GAA are all considered amateur because none of them are paid, but they are very much like our professional athletes in the U.S. The interesting part about these athletes is that they all still live and work within the county for whom they play. Croke Park is the third largest stadium in Europe, holding 82,300 people, which demonstrates how popular and important the GAA is in Ireland. After our time at Croke Park our day ended with a walking historic tour of Dublin.

Day two in Ireland we were able to visit University College Dublin where we heard lectures and held discussions about Irish history, culture, and sport. When we arrived back to the hostel that day we stopped by the Jameson distillery, which was directly behind our hostel. We did not take the tour, but still found some enjoyment in the entrance and gift shop.

Day three we were given tickets for a “hop on, hop off” bus tour of Dublin. It was our turn to explore the city for a whole day all by ourselves. We made stops at Trinity College, the Guinness Brewery, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, St. Stephens Green Park, museums, restaurants, and shopping areas. Our longest stop was at the Guinness Brewery where we purchased a ticket for the self-guided walking tour. We learned all about the ingredients, how it is made, the history behind creator Arthur Guinness, transporting the beer, advertising, and much more. The tour ended at the highest point in the Brewery where we were able to enjoy a 360 degree view of Dublin and our very own free pint of Guinness.

Day four was our first bus trip to the beautiful green countryside! We took a Celtic day tour to the Boyne Valley. We made about six stops along the way to different sites that included hills, cemeteries, castles, and abbeys. My favorite stop was Loughcrew where we climbed a rather large hill to eat lunch at the top. Once at the top the sight went out for miles across Ireland’s green rolling hills and farm land. After our day trip we were able to catch a men’s hurling game that evening for a club, La Fianna, that we had the pleasure of visiting the following day.

Day five we made our way over to La Fianna Gaelic Sports Club. I was interested in Irish club life because I myself grew up playing with clubs in the U.S. here in Ohio. In comparison they had some similarities, but club life in Ireland was much more meaningful and involved, as well as less expensive! At La Fianna we were given private lessons from members and coaches on how to play hurling, gaelic football, and handball. We also received a lesson on the exciting Irish tradition of Irish dance! That evening the seven of us purchased tickets to Belvedere Irish Nights where we enjoyed a wonderful dinner and sat front row on live Irish music and dance.

Day six was our free day and all of us decided on the day trip to Cliffs of Moher which stand tall on the west coast of Ireland. Words and pictures cannot describe the sights we saw that day. I would suggest it to anyone ever traveling to Ireland! It was my favorite scenic tour of the entire trip.

Day seven, our last day in Ireland, we visited the National Aquatic Center and Irish National Sport complex, Aviva Stadium, and Leinster Rugby club. While at the Aquatic Center we were given a chance to use their facilities and speak with the director of operations. We also were lucky enough to run into the 2008 Beijing 800m run gold medalist, Kenya's Wilfred Bungei. I even got to hold his gold medal and shake his hand!

Day eight we departed for London. Our first day we visited Marylebone Cricket Academy for private lessons on how to play. We were also given a tour of Lord’s Arena, home of cricket. That evening I was able to meet up for dinner with my former teammate at Miami Jess Kodiak (’12) as she was also traveling with Miami through a different program.

Day nine we toured around the outside of the 2012 London Summer Olympic site on bicycles. To our surprise many of the structures were only temporary for the games. Day 10 we took the train to visit Chelsea Football Club Academy, the home of a very successful soccer club in Europe. The campus was very private and absolutely beautiful, a soccer players dream! That evening we went to the UEFA Women’s Champions League women’s final at Stamford Bridge Stadium, Chelsea’s home field. VFL Wolfsburg, a German team, defeated Olympique Lyonnais, a French team.

On day 11 we toured the grass courts of Wimbledon. On our way home we also stopped by “Platform 9 3/4” to take a picture with a cart running into the wall as seen in many of the Harry Potter movies. Day 12 we had our “hop on, hop off” bus tour of London. We made stops by the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace where we witnessed the changing of the guards. The eventful day ended with an even more eventful evening as Dr. Massie and I had tickets to the UEFA Champions League men’s final at Wembley Park! Two German teams competed, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. The match was the most exciting game I have ever experienced with an out of this world atmosphere.

Day 13, our final day to sightsee, we made stops to The British Museum, London Eye, and Hyde Park where we visited Princess Diana’s memorial fountain and Kensington Palace. If I had the chance to do it all again I would! I’ll share my experiences from this trip with family, friends, and strangers for the rest of my life.