As difficult as it was, I’m home now. My journey back from Europe was rife with transit cancellations, delays, fun nights out and great times with friends, and it’s kind of unbelievable that a week ago I was in Europe and now I’m sitting with my family at the kitchen table. It’s nice. I am learning how to drive again, grateful for the nice weather (it was 80 degrees on Christmas in Southern California). I get to pet my cat again, and spend time with my family who I missed dearly while abroad.
I really miss it though.
It might just be the stark difference in environment from England to here, but I miss it terribly. I miss the underground, the restaurants, and the Curzon theatre chain most of all. I miss Oxford’s Christmas decorations and the view from my dorm room. I miss the different sales tax and scones and cream and all sorts of other British things. This is in direct contrast to my final days in England, where I couldn’t wait to be home. I guess this is an inescapable part of being a person, always looking forward to the next thing and not realising what you have until it’s gone.
Going back to school will be hard. I already miss my friends from Oxford terribly, and I also miss my school friends, who I’ll see in a couple weeks. Even though I just got back, everything seems so far away. I feel that everything has quickly gone back to normal, and the only change is the Oxford Puffer by my door.
Trying to write a reflection of my time abroad is really hard. I suspect the real reflection will be done months and years from now, as I attend and graduate school and recount stories of the time I lived abroad at social functions forevermore. Even at this particular vantage point, I can see that this experience has really changed me. Academically, of course, I’ve never been challenged like that before. I have fond memories of the parties, engaging tutorials, wonderful meals and spending time with friends. Right now, however, the things that are sticking with me are my solitary experiences of walking around both London and Oxford on my own. The hour I spent in St. James Park, watching the ducks and children play. Walking through Russel and Tavistock square, listening to an audiobook of Mrs. Dalloway. The 30 minute trip in the rain to and from Westgate shopping centre, anticipating or reflecting upon a film I had decided to see. The Radcliffe Camera at night. These moments are so visceral to me, and will remain with me for the rest of my life, even as the other things fill in with distance.
In my first post, written first in July before I left, I was mostly terrified of what was to come.
I think it would be appropriate to reassure past me by addressing the fears I wrote down in that post.
Question: What if I'm not cut out for the program I applied for?
Answer: It was really, really hard, but you did it. Now that you’re back home, you’re considering applying there for a Master’s degree. Worry about that next.
Question: How will I keep in contact with my friends?
Answer: You deleted a lot of social media apps because it was becoming too hard to get lonely. Whatsapp was your secret weapon, and you even got to visit friends who were also abroad that you hadn’t seen in years. It was hard at times, but you were able to talk to people who love you when you needed to. (Plus, you got everyone gifts for the holidays, so I am sure they will be appreciative.)
Question: How will I make friends in England?
Answer: The fellow IES Abroad students were such a great group. You had a lot of fun in London, and having an established base of friends when you got to Oxford was wonderful. Then, all of the other Visiting Students were just as excited as you to try new things and take advantage of Oxford’s many offerings. You were never without someone to go to dinner, take up fencing, or completely lose at Trivia. Clubs and other Oxford city events were great too. I know it’s scary, but it was better than you could’ve imagined.
Question: How will I be able to leave these friends? Answer: Still processing leaving everyone behind. Now that I have friends all over the world, the best I can do is keep up with them on Whatsapp and Instagram and extend an invitation for them to visit if they are ever in Southern California
It was a huge decision to live abroad, to go to Oxford, to have the confidence in myself to go. For all of the things study abroad has allowed me to develop, I think this confidence is the most important. Things seem much less daunting now. I moved abroad and studied at Oxford. I can do lots of things if I decide to.
All in all, studying abroad was a terrifying, exciting, painful, amazing experience, and I am very glad I did it. It was not easy, but now that it’s over, I can’t wait to travel again, to have similar experiences in other places in the world. Now, I end my blogging correspondence. As much as this has just been me reflecting on my own experiences, I hope others who are considering the program I did get a good picture of what they might expect. If you are thinking of studying abroad at St. Catz, I say do it! It can’t hurt to apply. You can do this.
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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.