As is apparent from the articles I have written this semester, my study abroad experience has mostly been in managing the tension between lofty goals and the reality of my limits as a person. As the semester draws to a close, I have to wonder—did I get beyond my fears and make the most of it? Of course, from this vantage point, the only thing I am thinking about is what I wasn’t able to do in my short time here.
The first thing: Punting. We tried very hard to do it, believe me. On the final day the boats were open, I worked diligently to try to finish my essay the night before so that I would have the hour of leisure to enjoy this classic Oxford pastime. I finished my lecture and walked as fast as I could without attracting too much attention down to Magdalen College, only to find out just before I arrived that it had been closed early. So I never got to go punting. I do feel disappointed, but it was not the most crushing.
The second thing: An Oxford ball. I did get tickets to one, but I was unable to go because I got sick (and had a great deal of homework to finish). This was perhaps for the best, as I really dropped the ball (get it?) on finding a dress that was appropriate to the theme, so even if I wasn’t sick, I probably couldn’t have enjoyed it to the highest extent.
And the third thing: Attending a Quaker meeting. This one I am quite disappointed about. I am a practising Quaker, and I told my family and friends that I was interested in attending a meeting in Oxford. The meeting here is quite well known in the community for different social activist causes, including the founding of Oxfam. I thought that meeting was at 9:30 a.m. on Sundays, which I was basically unable to attend because I spent my evenings working on writing essays well into the night. However, I wanted to go at least once, so I planned to attend on the last Sunday I would be here. I woke up, printed my travelling notice, and got to the meeting house at 9:30 a.m. It was wonderful. Talking with people in the community, especially those unaffiliated with the university was a really wonderful experience. Growing up I attended a lot of global Quaker conferences and enjoyed meeting people who shared my beliefs in different places in the world, and being able to sit in silence in England with other Quakers was very meaningful.
It was then that I found out that there was also an 11:00 a.m. meeting, that I could’ve been attending the whole time. Oh well. I loved it so much I came back the following evening for the young adult friends meeting and shared dinner. It was interesting, because, at my home institution, I never really felt the desire to go to meetings. I was okay attending when I was back home for the weekends, so I thought I would feel the same here. But the feeling was very different, perhaps because I was so far away from home. I got a lot out of attending the meeting and talking with many people from different generations, interested in the same spiritual and social things I am.
Even though the program felt so long when it began, now that it is almost over, I feel like I have missed so much. It is good to reflect on what I would’ve done differently, to understand my feelings about why I wish to have done the things I didn’t. But, as you can see, this is a short list. I think, despite the things I didn’t do, I made good use of the limited time I was here. The things I didn’t do don’t haunt me like I thought they would when I was sick in London with COVID. I suppose this is my growth as a person over the semester abroad.
Still wish I could’ve gone punting.
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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.