In some ways, I am absolutely ready to go.
I have figured out ways to break down the various things I need to complete to go—medical forms, academic applications, travel paperwork. I talk with everyone about rail passes, places to visit, friends that I definitely should meet up while in the UK, and mostly, it has helped to get me excited about the fall. I have been getting my tickets, reading the student handbook, and planning my wardrobe. And I am excited! I’ve wanted to live in England since I was very young. I’m sure everyone has imagined what it would be like to study in an institution like Oxford, which has educated Wilde, Hawking, Tolkien, and by some crazy stroke of luck, I get to go. I still can’t believe that in October I will be on those beautiful grounds. I have submitted almost every form ahead of schedule. I have most things taken care of.
Despite all of my preparation, there are a thousand worries that gnaw at me and send me into a spiral, watching TikTok study abroad horror stories until 2 a.m.—These worries have much less concrete solutions than what documents to submit or which flight to take. What if I'm not cut out for the program I applied for? There must have been some mistake. I might think I’m an okay student, but there’s no way I’m Oxford material. How will I keep in contact with my friends? Making college friends is hard enough in America, and I am close enough to home that I can visit my family on the weekends. I’m not the best texter, but throw in a distance of 8 hours and 5442 miles, how will I be able to be there for people when they need me? How will I make friends in England? Worse, how will I be able to leave them when it is all over?
Yeah. Harder to prepare for that. But, I have to remind myself that I have done things all my life to prepare for similar situations, and I can do so again. In moments where I put my phone away and have allowed myself to breathe, I have done these things to prepare;
What if I'm not cut out for the program I applied for? Well, I have to accept that I am. After all, the people at Oxford are very smart, and they wouldn’t have accepted my application if they thought it wasn’t right for me. Still, I have been trying to keep on top of things. I’ve been watching documentaries and lectures, going to museums, and getting into a heated debate or two with some friends about interpretations of Sigmund Freud’s Dora. I believe this will trick myself into the mindset that makes me like academics in the first place, so that I will have my interest in the content solidified for when the new standards of academic rigour become particularly challenging. I also have been reading blogs of prior students so I know what to expect.
How will I keep in contact with my friends? I never thought I would say this, but social media is your friend! I have been in contact with some high school friends who are studying in the UK, so I know it’s possible. I have been figuring out ways to meet over Zoom, despite the time difference, and to meet with them as much as I can while I am here for the summer. Whatsapp has been great, and Instagram and Twitter have DMs where I can share funny things with my friends just as I did at home. I have also decided to be a part of the orientation team at my college, so that I will have some way to feel involved with my at-home community while I’m away. It may seem horribly scary now, but I know when I am abroad at least I will have no shortage of things to talk with my local friends about when I can get them on the phone.
How will I make friends in England? Did you know Oxford has a wonderful club directory? I spent hours looking over it, navigating websites and facebook pages to find clubs of people I might click with. I found a lot of the club pages on instagram, and, realising they aren’t all that different from the club pages at my college, has made the idea of attending a little less intimidating. I’ve also been reflecting on how I met my local friends. The majority of us met by chance- we shared a room, had a dance class together, disagreed on an interpretation of a book in class. As much as I worry, I have to remind myself that connections will happen naturally, and the best way I can prepare for that is to be open to take chances to get to know people when the time comes.
How will I be able to leave these friends? I don’t think I can answer that yet.
I am now almost an expert on submitting forms to various websites, but these emotions I've been grappling with have been the hardest to prepare for. Preparing to take and leave experiences behind is a lifelong journey, and not something I’m gonna have a perfect answer to this summer. I just know I can’t let the fear of that grief prevent me from taking full advantage of this study abroad experience. No pressure.
All and all, this is my preparedness mantra- keep engaged. Learn how to use Whatsapp. Look up club events and plan to actually attend. Do not spend all my time on social media. Be open to new experiences.
Most of all, get excited. It’s gonna be hard, I know that. But I’ll never be ready if I don’t just go.
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I’m a third year student at the University of Redlands, pursuing an alternative education through the Johnston Centre of Integrative Studies, and I am studying abroad at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford. This essentially means that I design my own major, and instead of grades, I get written evaluations. I study History, Film, Literature, and Art. I’m deeply involved in the community, which means I love going to meetings and deciding policy! I love to sew costumes and clothes and to watch old movies with friends.