We’re approaching day 22 of preseason, but the grueling long set of two a days are only just beginning. Our ten days in the UK proved to be one of the greatest experiences of my young life, but then again, what more could a girl ask for in a trip? Soccer, travel, and surrounded by your best friends and teammates. Here’s a (relatively) quick recap of our trip.
The return to my “homeland” was everything I expected and more. We began our trip in London and spent the entire first day on our feet , walking from our Hotel at County Hall, across the bridge to Westminster Abby, along the River Thames, then back to Buckingham Palace. Though we were exhausted from our red eye from New York, we mustered enough energy to tour the city that day to allow for more free time in London during the trip.
After a solid night’s rest and the most wonderful breakfast buffet ever (thank you County Hall Marriott!), we set out to explore the London Underground with a trip to the Tower of London, followed by some free time. The Tower of London proved to be an incredibly educational experience, but an even better photo opportunity with the Tower Bridge ( more commonly known by its misnomer, London Bridge). From the Tower Of London, Phebe and I ventured to Harrods then Picadilly Circus, but had to figure out the Tube to do so.
After successfully mastering the Tube, we walked back to the hotel and took a quick nap before we left for our game that night. That night we traveled outside the city to face off against Watford Ladies. We ended with a 2-1 loss, but the overall experience was very eye opening. I think what we all realized was how lucky we are, despite the numerous difficulties we face as NYU soccer players. What surprised us most, that despite England being a soccer powerhouse, the female professional teams, have subpar facilities, treatment, and access. It really set a fire deep in my soul, that made me want to do something.
Our last day in London began with a walking tour from NYU London’s own Director for Student Affairs, Nigel Freeman. We walked through Convent Gardens, through the British Musem to NYU London. It’s been really an incredible experience to have set foot in 3 different NYU campuses in Europe just this past year. Though NYU Madrid will forever hold a special place in my heart, NYU London was stunning. If I had more time to study abroad, I would definitely go back to the UK! After the walking tour, we boarded a bus and headed out to Teviot Rangers FC’s home field for a soccer clinic. I think this was definitely one of the highlights of the trip, considering the fact that we got play soccer with little kids with adorable british accents. The sad part however, was that the club didn’t have enough girls to start a girls team to compete – illustrating once again gender inequality in women’s “football” in the UK – something I was familiar with from my time in Spain.
We continued our trip in England with a half day stop in Stratford-Upon-Avon, more commonly known as Shakespeare’s birth place. We were on our own, so Phebe and I set out with our guide, Jack and walked along the river, where we saw numerous rowers practicing. A side note: Jack told us that Stratford-Upon-Avon has one of the best crew clubs in England and has produced many Olympians. We strolled around, basked in the beauty around us, and ended our halfway with a visit to Shakespeare’s grave and lovely French restaurant, where I indulged in my favorite French dish, Croque Madame.
After lunch we hopped on our lovely coach (“bus” for all us Americans) and headed to a professional soccer match. West Bromwich played Bologna in an international friendly with a final score of 2-0 in favor of West Brom. Though it was my first EPL match, it didn’t even begin to compare to the other soccer games I have been to, including El Clásico in February. Following the game, we ventured North to Wales to retreat for the night.
Though we were based in Wales, the majority of Days 5&6 were spent in Chester, England. We spent the morning learning about the ancient Roman, Anglo-Saxon (Mercian), Norman, & Parliamentarian history of sieges and warfare built into the walls of the city of Chester. It was a very beautiful city, considering the age. My favorite part was being able to walk around the entire city outskirts on the raised fortress walls.
That afternoon we faced off against Manchester City Women’s team. Though we didn’t play their full squad, the game was more than competitive. Man City was a great, feisty, physical opponent that will definitely be a benchmark for the rest of the season. Though we didn’t come away with a W, there were many lessons to be learned from that match.
After the game, we made a surprise pit stop at Old Trafford, home to Manchester United. Even though we couldn’t go inside, it was so cool to see the stadium, the Munich memorial, and statues of old players.
After two quick days in Wales, we were back on the road to Scotland, home to our guide, Jack. Although I wasn’t initially excited about making the trip up to Glasgow and Edinburgh, the anticipation continued to grow because I didn’t know what to expect. Jack continued to build up my excitement throughout the bus ride before we made one last final stop in Carlisle, England at the second most famous wall in the World: Hadrian’s Wall. On the way, we made an impromptu stop at Lanercost Priory because our education guide, Angie, recommended it from past visits. The priory was gorgeous and if I were to ever get married in England, I would definitely consider that as a location – it’s stunning. Check out some photos here! We spent the majority of our afternoon however in Carlisle, exploring the ruins of Hadrian’s Wall. It’s incredible to think that these ruins have been around for over 1800 years!
We finally made our way into Scotland by dusk, settling into our hotel in Glasgow. We ate a quick dinner before most of us went out to work out and then to sleep.
We were up bright and early on Tuesday to head into Edinburgh to see the Edinburgh Castle and get a local walking tour. The views from the top of the castle were like none other and the city itself was bustling with tourists – I had no idea it’d be so full. After our walking tour, we were given a few hours to explore the city on our own. I had no idea where to start, but Phebe and I just started walking around the city. I would return to Edinburgh in a heart beat, I feel like I left so much undiscovered.
After a full day in Edinburgh, we boarded the bus back to Glasgow and immediately threw on some soccer gear for our training session at St. Mirren park. We ended up practicing at an indoor facility, which was a new experience for me – I really liked it, except the small field boundaries.
Time seemed to pass by so slow over the course of our trip, that I had begun to feel like I had been in the UK for weeks – I loved it. We began one of our last days with a trip to Loch Lamond, which is at the foot of the Scottish Highlands. We walked around part of the massive lake, and then took a boat tour, where we got to see some old castles along the coastline.
Later that day, we laced up our cleats for a final match against the Hamilton Accies. Though it was a pretty even match, the Accies came out on top.
The final full day of our trip will forever hold a special place in my heart and soul. Part of our trip included giving back to the community, and we did so by volunteering at a soccer clinic as well as visiting a Children’s Hospital in Yorkhill Scotland. Though the hospital and our coaches warned us that we might get emotional, nothing could prepare us for the pang of mixed feelings that I felt.
I had the distinct opportunity to meet six year old Euan. He’s an adorable Scottish lad with a debilitating auto-immune disorder that has left him in the hospital for his past three birthdays and on the bone marrow transplant list for quite some time. Even though he didn’t want to wear a hat or talk to us, I just sat there until he got really excited and wanted to show me his robot. Euan and I sat together for no longer than 30 minutes, but he had a profound impact on my life – teaching me that despite the odds, you can find purpose in the work you do – just like his robot.
As we left the hospital, I couldn’t help but tear up. We met tons of children with disease, disabilities, and sicknesses that we were so fortunate to have avoided. It brought me satisfaction that we were able to cheer them up, even if it was just for a little bit. What’s even better is that all the funds that SAAC raises this year through special events is going directly back to the Yorkhill Foundation
Here’s a video that we presented to the children, which showcases our first couple of days in the UK: NYU Video for Yorkhill Hospital
After our time at the Hospital, we had enough time to venture back to Edinburgh. We were on our own for four hours, so Phebe and I walked up this giant hill to these ruins with views of Scotland – simply stunning. We then returned down the hill, walked on the opposite side of the castle through cute little shops. I picked my Dad up a Scottish rugby jersey and I found some Trinity Shaped earrings I’ve been dying to get before we headed back to Glasgow for our final night in the UK.
This trip passed by quicker than ever, and I caught myself wishing that we could just stay in the UK for an extended period of time. My extreme case of wanderlust has hit me hard and I can only dream about the next time I set foot on an airplane.
Our final half day in the UK was spent exploring Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Museum, which had an array of old paintings, sculptures and displays. It wasn’t before long that we were headed to the airport to head back to London then NY. This trip was a blast and I cannot even begin to thank the numerous people who made this all possible including my parents, coaches, athletic department and of course my team!
For more photos and coverage of our trip visit: http://teamnyuglobal.tumblr.com
Until next time!