Exploring Abroad: A Short Guide to Navigating New Horizons

Studying abroad is a dream that many college students look forward to, but the reality of leaving behind the comfort and familiarity of home can be very daunting. Personally, I felt both excited and intimated as I embarked on my journey to study abroad in Oxford, UK, last month. Despite these fears, my time spent at St. Claire’s in Oxford proved to exceed all my expectations. While I was there, I made amazing friendships and explored countless corners of England. Each day in Oxford offered new lessons and enriching experiences that I am forever grateful for.

Now that I am back home and can reflect on my trip, I see several factors that made my study abroad so incredible. For anyone considering studying abroad, there are three essential tips I recommend. First, immerse yourself in the local culture and explore as much as possible. Second, make the most of your courses to deepen your knowledge and broaden your perspectives. Finally, step outside your comfort zone, as it’s where you’ll discover your greatest personal growth. Studying abroad can truly be one of the most rewarding experiences, so I hope you take the leap and refer back to these tips when it is your time to go abroad!

The photo taken on the left shows where Oxford is located on a map. It is situated along the River Thames and is only a one hour train ride to London. The photo taken on the right comes from the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, which showcases the city’s stunning landscape.

Tip 1: Immerse yourself in the culture and explore the city as much as possible.

Wherever you study abroad, exploring and enjoying the city should be a top priority. Try every café and walk into every bookstore that intrigues you. Don’t be afraid to take a wrong turn. It’s okay to get lost every once in a while. These moments may lead you to discover your new favorite spot in town. Additionally, immerse yourself in the local culture and participate in community events. This will help transform your new city into a home.

Exploring the city of Oxford was one of my favorite things to do while abroad, as it is such a beautiful place with so much to offer. As I walked around and admired the stunning landscape and architecture, I discovered hidden gems in the form of quaint alleyways and gardens. I also immersed myself in the culture by trying traditional pubs, drinking high tea, and even punting, which is a classic Oxford experience. These activities really helped me connect with the city and its traditions.

The photo on the left shows the inside of an Oxford pub. Pubs are an Oxford staple as they are a place locals go to relax and unwind with friends. While there, I discovered many quaint pubs, like Turf Tavern, which is pictured above. The photo on the right shows my friends and I punting in the River Cherwell, which is a traditional activity where you propel a flat-bottomed boat along the river using a long metal pole.

Tip 2: Make the most of your courses to deepen your knowledge and broaden your perspectives.

When it comes down to it, academics are a crucial part of studying abroad. Although going out and exploring the city may be a top priority, it is also important to take your courses seriously. Just like any other semester, you must put aside time dedicated towards reading, studying, and writing papers. Finding a healthy balance between academics and fun ensures a fulfilling and successful study abroad experience. 

I truly loved the courses I took while abroad in Oxford. In “Literature of the Place” with Dr. Gomaa, we were able to connect iconic literary works in the context of their real-world settings. My favorite part was rereading “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll as an adult and uncovering the Oxford locations that inspired his writing. In “Oxford Art and Architecture” with Dr. Clarke, I loved exploring the city during our classes and delving into the rich history of Oxford’s architecture. The class truly deepened my appreciation for Oxford as a whole and opened my eyes to the beauty of the city. 

Elements from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland could be found all throughout the city, which helped bring the story to life during my time in Oxford. The left photo features “Alice’s Shop” on Aldate’s Street, while the right photo shows the Cheshire Cat hidden among the trees in Oxford’s Botanical Gardens.

Tip 3: Step outside your comfort zone, as it’s where you’ll discover your greatest personal growth.

Leaving your home behind to study abroad inherently involves stepping outside of your comfort zone. As I mentioned earlier, it can be very daunting to leave behind familiar surroundings and embark on a journey to a new place where you must navigate unfamiliar streets, customs, or even a new language. Despite the initial intimidation, the decision to study abroad will undoubtedly prove worth it. 

It is through experiences like studying abroad that we encounter our most significant personal growth. Personally, I found myself becoming more independent and confident in my ability to navigate change. I also managed to dispel many of my initial fears about studying abroad, such as missing home or struggling to form meaningful friendships. By the end of the trip, I found myself surrounded by a wonderful group of new friends and not wanting to leave Oxford. 

I also found it very helpful to set aside time for journaling and reflecting on my experiences studying abroad. It was crucial for me to stay connected with my thoughts and emotions, especially during a time of so much significant change. I strongly recommend that others do the same while they study abroad. 

The photo on the right shows my newfound friends and I in front of Tower Bridge in London. The photo on the left was taken in Oxford Botanical Gardens, one of the most serene places in Oxford and one of my favorite spots to journal.

Concluding Thoughts

All in all, my time in Oxford was filled with so many new adventures and thrilling experiences. I had an unforgettable time exploring the city through my classes, which deepened my appreciation for Oxford’s rich history, literary significance, and architecture. Moreover, this journey has been transformative for me as I’ve gained valuable insights about myself and have become more confident and independent. I hope my tips prove useful for anyone considering studying abroad in the near future. I truly recommend it, and I wish you the best on your own study abroad journey!

Comments are closed.