My name is Lilly, and a couple weeks after finishing up my sophomore year at Salve Regina, I flew across the Atlantic to embark on a month-long journey to Oxford, England (with a few visits to London too!). I was out of my comfort zone for the entirety of the trip, and honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. To me, being open to new experiences is the best way to learn and grow as a person. Exploring new places, meeting new people, and learning about the culture of Oxford has been such a wonderful experience, and I am incredibly grateful for this unique opportunity. Follow along as I recap some of my favorite parts of this trip, especially if you’re interested in visiting Oxford for yourself!
A Royal Experience
England is home to some of the most beautiful buildings and architecture I have ever seen!
It seems like there’s an endless number of colleges and cathedrals to see, gardens and idyllic paths in the woods to explore. I absolutely loved visiting every part of the city, but there was one excursion I went on with my classmates that I will remember for the rest of my life: Blenheim Palace.
The moment we arrived at the palace, I was instantly struck by its magnitude and beauty (definitely a major highlight of my trip, and probably my favorite place we visited!) I also knew I had seen it somewhere before. Blenheim Palace is not only a magnificent and historical building, but it is also the filming site of different well-known shows and movies, such as…
- Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story
- Mission Impossible
The palace is located just outside of Oxford, in Woodstock, so traveling there was simple. The entire property is over 2,000 acres, and I could have easily spent a full day there.
Walking through the gardens and along the pathways, I imagined myself wearing an elegant ballgown as if I lived in the palace and was on an early evening stroll. If you ever get the chance to visit, I really believe that visiting Blenheim Palace should be first your bucket list!
Education Experiences Abroad
Attending classes in Oxford was truly an unforgettable experience. Every morning, I waited down the street from my dorm for a double-decker bus to pick me up and drive me to the academic building. During class, I not only learned about Eastern Religions and the Literature of Oxford, but I also learned a lot about the city through the humorous stories told to us by my British professor. It’s important to balance the study with the abroad on a trip like this, so I was very grateful for these less serious moments in the classroom, as well as the sight-seeing excursions built into class time.
My Literature class focused on some of the most well-known literary works of the city, such as Lewis Carrol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and the poems of Matthew Arnold. The authors of these classic works were heavily influenced and inspired by the city of Oxford and its surrounding countryside; being in the city truly helped me envision, understand, and appreciate each story more than I could have anywhere else. For instance, while exploring Christchurch College, I saw the very garden that the real Alice grew up playing in.
I also visited the British Museum in London, and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. In each place, I saw paintings and statues related to different eastern religions, mainly focusing on Hinduism and Buddhism. This was a wonderful opportunity, especially since we had the chance to choose any artifact in the British Museum to write about for a class assignment. Being surrounded by such special and divine pieces sparked my curiosity and inspired me to focus on my studies even more.
A couple of my favorite pieces from the British Museum in London
My Fondest Memories
Spending an entire month in another country can seem daunting at first. While I was definitely excited for this adventure, I was also nervous about many aspects of the trip as well. Will the classes be more difficult than I’m used to? Will I be able to make new friends? Will I get lost in the city? What if I hate it there? These worries bounced around in my head for a while, only for them to disappear once we finally arrived in England. The new memories I was already making completely took over the anxieties, and I could finally take a breath and realize that I made it, I was abroad. So, here are some of my fondest memories from the trip!
Adventures with new friends:
I was lucky to meet very kind and friendly people from Salve during this trip. From exploring the city, to making grocery store runs and watching movies in the common room, I found the study abroad experience much more enjoyable with a group of people to share it with. I also went to the movie theater (or theatre, as they spell in in England) twice, successfully completed an escape room (in 44 minutes and 44 seconds!), saw a play at the Globe Theatre in London, and went punting down the river with my new friends (to name just a few more activities). These are memories that will easily stay with me for the rest of my life.
Eating lots of gelato:
It seems like every street in Oxford’s city center has at least one gelato stand. While the scoops are expensive, they’re definitely worth it. If you have a sweet tooth, I 100% recommend getting yourself some gelato in England!
Seeing beautiful nature:
During this trip, I saw some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. Oxford is full of lush greenery, flowers, flowing rivers, and beautiful fields. Driving along the highway, you are surrounded by seemingly endless hills and farmland, with plenty of cows and sheep grazing in the grass. It was refreshing and relaxing to wander throughout the city, taking in the unique beauty of the area. I especially loved exploring the local botanical gardens, as they provided a comforting escape from the busy, urban environment of the city center.
Lessons I Learned While Studying Abroad
My main takeaway from this trip involved confidence and open-mindedness. It is so incredibly important to believe in yourself and your ability to adapt in an unfamiliar environment. Although I was nervous at first, I quickly learned that being confident would help me navigate the city on my own. Even if I had to feign this confidence at times, I still found it helpful to act like I knew what I was doing–especially if I was ever by myself (you probably know the saying: fake it ’til you make it). I came out of this experience abroad much more confident in my ability to navigate new places and take care of myself over 3,000 miles away from home.
I also learned that being open-minded is incredibly valuable when abroad, because it allows you to stray from your comfort zone and thus discover new things and make new memories. Going with the flow, accepting new opportunities, and trying new things (like punting, eating foods you’ve never tried before, or going to an escape room) were some of the best decisions I made, and I look forward to applying these lessons to my future explorations and endeavors, during and beyond my college life.
If you’re planning on studying abroad in the future, regardless of where you end up, please make the most of your time there! Schoolwork can sometimes be overwhelming, especially during a short-term study abroad, but to me, it’s more important to make lasting memories than to stay cooped-up in your room for days at a time, working on assignments. Be sure to manage your time well, making room for both your studies and your explorations (sometimes, I would do my work in a local cafe or park, combining my academic obligations with my yearn to get out of the dorm). You only have so much time abroad, so make the most of it!
Oh, and to add a couple more specific, practical pieces of advice: make sure to bring a portable charger during excursions (like day trips to London), and be sure to check for both cars and bicycles when crossing the street in Europe. Trust me.