—-From New Oxford, PA to Oxford, UK—

Fritz’s Experiences Studying Abroad

Summer 2023

Studying in Oxford has most definitely broadened my understanding and perceptions about the world outside of my own. Through conversations with others, lecture experiences and observations during excursions, I believe that I am more knowledgeable and have grown as a person. From the historical sites and beautiful architecture to the relationships that I built and all that I have learned, I will forever treasure the experience. Originally born near small New Oxford, Pennsylvania, growing up in a rural area and never traveling to Europe, it exceeded all of my expectations.

Social/Cultural Highlights

1. Relationships with International Students

A highlight of the experience was building relationships with international students that lived in our complex from Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Russia. We spent countless hours sharing stories about our lives and comparing cultural differences.  They were inquisitive and somewhat fascinated by the stereotypical American traditions. They all seemed to have a curiosity about our U.S. government makeup compared to their own.  

I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the stories about their lives and it was interesting hearing their perceptions about the USA.  They shared strong opinions about our politics and our news media. From what they viewed through their news sources, they identified that there is a political gap in our country with some extremism.  I listened to their opinions as well as their individual hopes for their own futures. It made me realize that we are more similar than I imagined. 

On the contrary, I was taken back listening to Vlad from Russia as he shared his fears about the war and being forced to fight, especially if his grades suffered. It gave me a stronger realization of our country’s place in the global world and provided me with a better sense of how lucky I am. I really valued the time spent with them.

2. Roman Baths-Bath, UK

I have always loved history, especially that associated with Ancient Rome.  Therefore, I loved visiting the Roman Baths. It is amazing to me that it was constructed close to 2000 years ago as a thermae and temple. I was in awe by how well it has remained preserved, still with hot flowing water today. It was like stepping back in time. This was my first time in Europe and Bath was one of many examples that made me reflect on just how young the USA is as a country compared to so many places in the world. It was by far my favorite historical site.

3. Globe Theater

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed attending the Globe Theater.  The play, Much Ado about Nothing, was very enjoyable. The environment of the theater with its rich history and open air was a surreal experience for me like stepping into a Shakespearean play. We were fortunate to be there on a beautifully clear evening.  I found myself engrossed in the delightful performance as well as the ambiance.

4. Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace is located in Woodstock and is the birthplace of Winston Churchill, the former Prime Minister of England. It was built 300 years ago and is still owned by the Churchill family.  The estate is exquisite sitting on approximately 2,000 acres with breathtaking gardens and landscape. It is massive, actually larger than Buckingham Palace. The interior is decadent with large ornate murals and carvings. There are 12 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms.

The history of Blenheim Palace is quite rich.  I am fascinated with WW2 history and I thought it was interesting that it was requisitioned at the start of the war and used in many facets from a meeting place for the British council and M15 to housing residents of a local school who needed to evacuate for safety. Winston Churchill led the British toward victory during the war and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The palace is also the site used in filming of the series Downton Abbey. I had seen many pictures prior to the visit as my mother is a big fan of the show.  Although I sent her many pictures on the day of the visit, nothing compares to seeing it in person.  It is magnificent!

5. British Food

A common reaction to my telling others that I was going to Oxford was warning me that the food was horrible. Additionally, I was told that I needed to try the fish and chips.  I love fish and chips so this sounded promising.  I made many stops throughout my travels, ordering fish and chips, at iconic places including top rated Poppies in London. In my opinion, it all came down to the tartar sauce. It was tasty but also fun to experience.

Unlike what many shared, I thought the food was typically fine, sometimes really good.  It was often different in flavor and I quickly learned that you don’t order a Philly cheese steak or New York style pizza and expect it to taste or even look authentic.  I looked forward to some USA local staples returning home. My biggest surprise was that I still personally believe after many taste tests that the best fish and chips is from Moorings in  Newport, RI.

Academic Highlights

There is no doubt that exploring the UK was academically rewarding. The knowledge acquired through listening to influential speakers with various opinions and touring iconic and often historical landmarks was priceless, often leaving me inspired.

1. London Stock Exchange Simulation

Mr. Sacco’s Stock challenge was a new and exciting experience for me with the simulation of the London Stock Exchange.  He gave each of us an imaginary million dollars to invest into European companies in a virtual portfolio.  I have always enjoyed good competition and I researched London stocks for the best outcome. I loved that I was ahead of most of my peers throughout the majority of the experience.  However, this led to a crash for me on the last day losing eighty thousand dollars.  It was all pretend, but I don’t like to lose.  I am not a gambler or a big risk taker so this was telling to me that I don’t have the stomach for short term stakes in the stock market. It was a new and fun experience for me.

2. Girl, Woman, Other 

  I found Girl, Woman, Other to be an inspirational and thought-provoking read.  It captures the intersecting stories of twelve women of various generations coping with issues of gender, race, class, culture and identity.  I recognize that it is a book mostly taking place in England and the majority of the diverse characters were of color, but it hit home with some of the women in my personal life in the United States who have struggled with similar challenges where generational bias and stereotyping play a role.  I recommend Girl, Woman, Other. It is a powerful book that helped me to gain perspective regarding the women in my own life.

3. European Financial Markets

Academically as a business major, I found studying the European markets very interesting.  Like the United States, European markets are grappling with recessionary issues.  London, like our New York City, is a financial hub. I found it interesting gathering knowledge about the UK’s relationship with the European Union.  It is fascinating watching how those from England are adjusting to inflation and higher interest rates compared to the United States. This is especially difficult for them as their mortgage loans are not stretched to 20-30 years like ours in the USA.  This will be devastating to many in the UK as their living expenses will raise drastically as their loans mature in the next 2-3 years with higher rates. 

Fondest Memories

I truly appreciate that I was fortunate enough to experience Oxford.  The opportunity to spend four weeks living there with time to explore made it so much more valuable than a brief vacation. I left with memories that I will always treasure.

1. My Study Abroad Family

Most definitely my fondest memories during the Oxford experience revolve around the relationships that I built with both Salve Regina students but also the international students who resided in our complex. I grew close to Salve Regina students during the session who I never met throughout my first year there.  We became like a family away from home cooking meals for one another and looking out for each other.  I look forward to furthering my friendships with many of them as we are back together in the fall. 

 I thoroughly enjoyed sharing and comparing the life stories with those from around the world. It made me better aware of the simple facets of my life that I take for granted.  I left conversations with them feeling more appreciative of my blessings but also more aware of myself as an individual. 

Exploring the area with people that I wasn’t close with initially was interesting.  I saw their reactions and interests on sites that were different from mine.  It led me to try things that I probably wouldn’t have on my own and made me view some of the experiences differently, sometimes with more enthusiasm or focus. The unique group of personalities made my time in Oxford even more enjoyable.

2. London

Growing up in a rural environment, my city experiences have been limited to day trips.  I really enjoyed witnessing London’s historic sites.  I had a bucket list of the sites to see in person.  They ranged from the iconic smaller things like beefeaters, telephone booths and double decker buses to Big Ben, Parliament, the London Bridge and Globe Theater.  

Independently a group of us spent the weekend in the SOHO area in a small unique hotel situation.  It was so much fun exploring Piccadilly Circus, Chinatown, and the local shopping areas.  I loved the energy that I felt during that weekend meeting a diverse group of people, dining outdoors and walking to Trafalgar Square. I will never forget how beautiful the London skyline looked.  It left me considering the possibility of living in a city someday in my future.

Lessons Learned

I do believe that I left Oxford different than the person I was when I arrived, more open minded and appreciative with experiences that I will never forget.

1. Be Open Minded

One lesson that I took away from the experience related to my perceptions of others. I came with stereotypical misconceptions about people from England and other European countries. I discovered that on many occasions, I was wrong.  I left with a better appreciation of how much alike Europeans are to us as human beings but also how special the unique cultural differences truly are. For many of the people I met, there is a sense of pride about their countries but also a desire to see some change. We share many of the same struggles that come from bigotry and financial situations.  We also share many of the same joys that come from family, friends and accomplishments.  I left with a desire to remain more open minded.

2. Time Management

I learned a great deal from exploring Oxford and the city of London.  I quickly realized how the days and the weeks were rapidly moving.  I identified by the second week that I needed to plan out my days in order to get the work for class completed, but also to have time to experience the other things that I wanted to partake in during my stay. At home and in school I always organize a schedule to stay on track with work, friends and sports.  I found it rewarding to do the same in Oxford in order to accomplish all the items that I wanted to achieve.  Time management when studying abroad is necessary.

3. Stay Safe

Living in the very small community of my family’s hometown as well as residing at Salve Regina, I rarely worry about crime or feel unsafe. In London, I experienced the need to be more aware of my surroundings. I sensed an automatic vibe that I needed to be extra careful as I was not in my home country.  We traveled in groups, especially at night, and we were tough with our classmates who would wander off on their own.

We saw first-hand that there are groups of people that work together to rob and pick-pocket. On one occasion we witnessed a group playing loud music to attract crowds on the street in London.  As we were approaching it, we were warned by an employee of a local pub that they were trying to trick us. Many in the crowd were there to get close to us to steal from us discreetly without observers. I would bet that this occurs in big cities throughout the USA.  I left England with a better understanding of the importance of staying safe and taking precautions to protect yourself and others.

4. City Life

After spending time in Oxford and London, I most definitely have the urge to travel more.  Meeting the international students leads me to wanting to see more of Europe including visiting my Austrian relatives. But what struck me as most interesting; having little interest in considering residing in a larger city in the past, is that I think I want to give it a try in the future. I enjoyed the energy and close proximity of restaurants, art, culture, and nightlife.  I appreciated the diversity. Long term it may not be a fit for me, but I am eager to give it a try.

Good Bye, Oxford! I will see you again.

I am so glad that I had the opportunity to study in Oxford, UK.  From the historical sites and beautiful architecture to the relationships I built and all that I learned, I will forever treasure the experience. I believe that I came back a different person with a better understanding of the world outside my own with open-mindedness and appreciation.  It leaves me eager to further explore Europe and beyond.

Alfred (Fritz) Miklos

July 2023

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