Blues, Bath, and “The Bod”

Whether you’re on a weekend trip or abroad for months, it can be hard to find a “new normal” in a foreign place. Picking out negatives is easy: Schoolwork is hard, traveling is stressful, and being away from those you love can feel lonely. When you’re traveling long-term, it is completely normal to experience ups and downs. No one can be happy for four months straight!

Here’s how to keep the blue days away!

 

1) Let go of expectations and the concept of “normal”

Traveling is full of expectations, goals, and bucket lists. Most of the time, expectations will fall short not because they are too high, but simply because they don’t match up with what the country or place is actually like. In a foreign country, sometimes nothing will feel “normal” and nothing will go as expected and that is okay! Stepping outside our our comfort zone is what helps us grow. Saying yes to things without expectations and appreciating what is different can be so fun! Similarly, if you constantly are comparing your experience to someone else’s, you will be disappointed every time. This is one I really struggle with! FOMO is real!

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One thing that I always find interesting is seeing what different grocery stores are like! Here is me freaking out because in Switzerland, you carry around this mini scanner as you shop for your groceries and scan each one before you drop it into your bag. Every 10th person or so gets “checked” to keep people honest. When you’re done shopping, you just scan your card and walk out!

2) Combat negativity with positives

Since I tend to gravitate towards time alone, I have made it a personal goal to branch out at least once a week to someone and make plans. This gives me something to look forward to each week and allows me to meet new people. Choosing positive people to spend time with is also extremely important. This week, I attended a cocktail making event at the Slug and Lettuce, made plans to get dinner with one of my Swiss friends, and had a delicious wine and cheese night at 1855 wine bar in Oxford.

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3) Explore your own city

Between a heavy workload and various weekend travel plans, it is easy to overlook the awesome city that you’re actually calling home! This Friday, I had an awesome opportunity to visit Oxford’s famous Bodleian library (affectionately known as “the Bod” with a small crew of other Elon kids and Professor Kevin Boyle. If you are in Oxford (and especially if you are a Harry Potter fan), please do this!! An hour tour only costs 8 pounds. You’ll get to see the “heart” of Oxford University, one of the best gothic ceilings, and the Bodleian library itself which opened originally in 1602 and boasts an absolutely incredible 12 million books, most of which are housed underground.

Arguably best of all, you will walk through several rooms featured in the Harry Potter films, including the “Restricted Section”!!! I’m still not over it. Seriously, please visit.

Unfortunately, pictures in the library are not allowed but I did snap a few of the lecture hall and other downstairs rooms.

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Oxford is so beautiful!

4) Always say yes to free things

I’ll thank my Dad for teaching me this valuable life lesson. Say yes to free things! This Saturday, the lovely St. Clare’s hosted a free day trip to Bath. While we are still responsible for paying for our own activities, the transportation is free and you bet your bottom dollar I am not saying no to that offer.

We only spent a short time in Bath but I loved the historical feel of the city! I toured the Roman Baths, Jane Austen Centre, and saw the Circus and the Royal Crescent – two historic sites featuring expensive flats that are incredible works of architecture -#homegoals for sure.

For lunch, we ate at the Pump Room right next to the baths entrance. This place was incredibly classy (an orchestra played as we ate) and the food was delicious. I tried crab risotto and creamy potatoes. I would love to spend more time exploring this city!

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Keep up with my adventures as I head out to Venice, Italy in just 5 days!

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My First Taste of England

Let’s be honest – there isn’t a single thing that could replace queso, fajitas, or kolaches, or my family’s Sunday night dinners…but England is trying its best. In addition to eating my way around Oxford, I am taking advantage of my dorm room kitchen that I share with four other girls by finally learning to cook! Luckily, my roommate Tatjana only makes fun of me a little bit when I ask her basic cooking questions.

While I haven’t found the “food of all foods” here yet, I am still on the hunt. Here’s what has stood out so far!

IMy first meal across the pond obviously had to be fish and chips. The green sauce was questionable, but the fish and chips were divine. As of now, my best effort at ordering a drink requires asking what the waiter recommends, but I’ll get there one day.

The food at our Welcome Dinner, hosted by Trinity College, was unreal. Unfortunately, I failed to get a picture of the delicious duck confit. This room (pictured right) is where students who attend Trinity College eat their daily meals. It sure beats Lakeside at Elon!

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British coffee isn’t quite the same as American coffee, but their cafes sure are cuter. Finding little spots around town to study and have a snack has quickly become my favorite afternoon activity. Oxford is the perfect size: small enough to know well, yet big enough to explore.

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Last night, Elon professor Kevin Boyle took all of us Elon students out to a nice dinner at Portabello! Definitely my best dinner out in Oxford so far with great company.

img_0040Best of all, however, has been nights spent in Logan House and meals cooked with Tatjana. This is the salmon and rice we cooked together tonight! We have been meal planning and making shopping lists together which has been so motivating. Having the opportunity to eat together and share stories about our individual experiences, culture, political systems, family, and friends has been incredibly eye-opening. Through learning about others, you really learn more about yourself. Food has an amazing way of bringing people together and making memories!

This week wrapped up with another St. Clare’s day trip; this time we went to Stonehenge! Stonehenge, thought to be built around 2,000 B.C., is a mystery to this day. No one quite knows its true purpose! Located in the middle of nowhere amidst rolling green open fields (full of cute sheep!), the monument is clearly out of place.

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We braved the cold for some photos!

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Transitioning to Life Abroad

LEAVING & ARRIVING

Moving abroad is a huge rush of mixed emotions: excitement, fear, anxiety, joy, worry, and feelings unable to even be pinpointed. While Elon does as much as possible to prepare students, nothing prepares you to fully realize – yes, I’m actually doing this. For me, reality didn’t really set in until I was doing everything at home in Texas for the “last time”. Much too soon, it was time to say goodbye to my friends and family. I’d like to give another huge thank you to my parents for always supporting me and encouraging me to attend Elon and take advantage of this experience at St. Clare’s!

Once I was dropped off at the airport and finally on the plane, most of my anxiety was wiped away. During my flight, I took time to journal, set goals, and focus on the adventure I had embarked upon. After a long day of traveling, I finally arrived at London Heathrow at 6:45am local time (what a crazy airport!) I observed little differences like signs for “toilets” and “lifts” as I maneuvered my way through customs and over to a different terminal where I met my friend Allie.

 

My arrival day was exactly as you’d expect from England: foggy, cold, and rainy, but also quite lovely. A St. Clare’s driver fetched us from Terminal 3 and one hour later, we had arrived!

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Neighborhood near me

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All set up!

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Shared dorm room in Logan House

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Bedroom window view

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Balcony view

As you can see above, Oxford is a quaint town that is already starting to feel like home. I am very proud to say that I am mastering public transportation (although I do miss my little car). One of my favorite parts about St. Clare’s is that it is not exactly a “campus”. Instead, St. Clare’s buildings are mixed into the community. As a result, I find myself having to really explore the area and get more of a bearing. Even walks (or bus rides) to class are exciting!

MEETING NEW PEOPLE

This is probably what I was both most nervous and most excited for. Thankfully, all of the St. Clare’s students are friendly and seem very open to meeting new people and making new friends. I am matched up with a German roommate, Tatjana, whom I adore. This has made connecting to the international community here much easier. Besides Germany, I have met people from Belgium, Sweden, Spain, Argentina, Switzerland, and many others! While there are no British students at my school, the professors at St. Clare’s, the Oxford community, and my school placement offer lots of opportunities to learn more about my new home.

St. Clare’s offers various programming to help us adjust to life here and get to know our peers. Since they offer 3 programs (Liberal Arts, English Language plus subjects, and English Language) they make an effort to intermix the groups as much as possible. This first week, I have enjoyed a walking tour of Oxford, a Welcome Dinner at Oxford University’s Trinity College, a London day trip, and a trip to a London Theatre with my Shakespeare class! These have all been great opportunities to make friends and get to know my cities.

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Kristy and I exploring Oxford

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Centre City, Oxford

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Oxford

Additionally, this Saturday I took advantage of the first day trip opportunity – a free trip to London! London has so much to offer and I have only just touched the surface. Check out my favorite pictures that I took below.

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TIME MANAGEMENT

One of the trickiest parts of settling in has been learning how to manage my time. My classes here will be both challenging and rewarding. Several are taught by professors who also teach at Oxford University! I am enrolled in 4 courses: Comparative Education, Shakespeare Survey, Sociology of Crime and Deviance, and Foundations of Educational Psychology. Additionally, I am interning at Cherwell School each Tuesday where I am paired up with English Language Learners. I sit next to these students in class to assist with their English and help facilitate their learning.

During the week, I hope to get into the swing of things and achieve a good balance between classwork, my school placement, social life, errands, and me time! This will be absolutely necessary because on the weekends, I want to travel! Some weekends will be spent further exploring the UK, but I am also currently planning several trips.

LITTLE DIFFERENCES

Even though England is an English speaking country, moving so far away is still a constant adjustment to “little differences”. Step 1 – the time change. I am 5 hours different than North Carolina and 6 different from Texas! This has required some adjustment both for my body clock, and for my communication back home. So far, I am doing quite well and have finally recovered from my jet-lag.

Little language differences are also quite apparent but also fun for me to dissect (why is aluminum pronounced AL-OO-MIN-IUM?!) Even trips to the grocery store are a new adventure. Newsflash: they don’t bag your groceries and checkout aisles are called “tills”. Don’t even get me started on trying to keep track of dollars, pounds, and euros.

Most of all, I am looking forward to studying the little differences between American schools and British schools. Several of my classes will discuss this within a classroom setting. It is so cool to go out and observe things in the “real world”! Some of my final projects will also center on comparing education systems.

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I can’t believe that I have only been in England for one week! Life has already been so full of new friends, new food, new classes, and new adventures.

Cheers,

Courtney

 

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Pre-Abroad Feels

My plans –> Oxford, England

For those of you who haven’t heard, in exactly one month and two days I will be headed abroad to Oxford, England! My semester in Oxford at St. Clare’s International runs from January 8th – May 6th with a couple breaks in-between. I will be flying out of DFW on January 7th and returning on May 18th after a visit from my mom! While at St. Clare’s, I will be taking my usual English and Education classes, completing an internship in a local school, and spending my free time immersing myself in English culture and traveling as much as possible.

I cannot believe that my lifelong dream of traveling Europe will actually be set in motion in such a short time! Meanwhile, I have been spending my time procrastinating my finals work by spending my time researching trips.

 

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Travel Plans

As of now, I have a one trip in the works and a couple others on the list. We have two weeks off in the middle of April for Spring Break during which I plan to backpack with a couple friends through Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Hamburg, and Amsterdam over the course of 17 nights.

Several friends and family members have also been kind enough to plan trips with me! My boyfriend, Harrison, will be visiting me during his March Spring Break and my good friends Morgan and Ally are coming the week after! Additionally, extended family in Switzerland have offered to host me for a long weekend – an opportunity I am all too excited to take advantage of. At the end of my semester, my mom and grandparents are visiting and we will be exploring London, Paris, and the surrounding areas.

If you have any connections abroad or will be in Europe from January-May please let me know! I would love to make plans with you.

 

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Visa Applications & Internships

I had absolutely no idea that my Visa application would be such a hassle! This semester has been filled with Study Abroad meetings and numerous hours dedicated to filling out my Visa, going to fingerprint appointments, and getting everything in order. I will be on a Tier 4 Student Visa which allows me to work/intern.

Luckily, Teaching Fellows has hooked us up with awesome teaching internships when I am abroad where I will be working with 15-16 year old second language students at Cherwell Secondary School in Oxford! One day a week we will be spending a full day working in the school. Additionally, I will be enrolled in a comparative education course as part of my studies and am really looking forward to studying a new culture while living there.

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Nerves

Despite being ridiculously pumped to go abroad, I’ll admit that I am a bit nervous too! I don’t think that it has really set in that I will be away from America for a full 4.5 months! Mainly, I am worried that the time difference will create a barrier between those who I have relationships with at home and myself. I know that balancing will be necessary so that I do not spend too much time communicating with those back home to the point of missing out on new things! Furthermore, I really want to make friends with some of the international students which I know will require extra effort since they may not be in my classes. Like any semester, being abroad is full of ups and downs that I must prepare for.

 

Overall, I am extraordinarily excited to embark on this journey! Please feel free to follow this blog to keep up with what I am doing abroad and here at Elon! Again, if you have any advice or insight on what places I must visit, I would love to hear it.

 

Thank you to my family for making this all possible!

Much love,

Courtney

 

 

 

Reflections Study Abroad 2016 Trips