Tales From Abroad: U.K. and Oxford Adventures Sep05

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Tales From Abroad: U.K. and Oxford Adventures

I once heard someone say “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” I have adopted this as a foundational truth in my life. While there are obviously price tags on plane tickets, hostels, and gelato, there is no price tag on the perspective and richness that is added to your life when you travel. The lessons I learned on my month-long study abroad trip to Oxford, England, are lessons I could not have learned any other way than to immerse myself in a new setting and embrace a culture that (although still speaks English) is not quite the same as my own. Throughout my month in the Europe, there were many highs and lows. From having my phone pick-pocketed right out of my purse in Paris, to road tripping through the unbelievable alps of Switzerland, this experience was unforgettable.

 

FRANCE:

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Our day started at 4 a.m. in Oxford. Our group of 36 headed out to catch a train to Paris out of London. It was the opening day of the Eurocup, which was hosted by Paris this year. Needless to say, the city was pretty chaotic. Security was unbelievably tight—I even had to let security guards look through my bag in order to go inside McDonald’s. We spent the afternoon exploring Paris and then took a group bike tour in the evening. As we were getting closer to the bike shop at the end of our tour, the streets were less crowded and we ended up driving right through the middle of the road as a group of close to 40 bicycles. All of the sudden, people sitting out on the patios of café’s that lined the road started shouting and cheering for us. It was as if we were part of the Tour de France. Our entire group lit up with smiles and laughter and it was one of the most memorable moments of the trip. We spent a day and a half more in Paris before we continued our trip to Normandy. The Normandy area was beautiful and full of history. We stayed in the most charming seaside town I have ever been to. The beauty and peacefulness of our time there was humbling in light of the history that had occurred on those beaches. We spent one day doing a World War 2 tour of the area. It was sobering and made what we all learned in our history classes a lot more real. On our last day in France we went to Mont Saint Michel. It is now entirely a tourist spot, but it used to be in abbey. It was really incredible and looked like a castle straight out of a Disney princess movie. France exceeded my expectations in every way!

 

OUR SWISS ADVENTURE:

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On one of our free weekends I went with a group of 9 to Switzerland. We rented cars and stayed in a charming chateau in the Alps. We road-tripped two and a half hours from our chateau to Interlaken and went hiking through the rain. Switzerland is breathtaking and unlike anywhere else in the world. They are also famous for their chocolate, and I love chocolate, so I was in heaven there. Our group had a blast adventuring through this incredible country, even if we spent $17 USD at McDonald’s.

 

 

OUR DAYS IN THE U.K.:

 

While we did get to travel some, the majority of our trip was spent in the U.K. I absolutely loved our time in Oxford. It is a charming city with lots of life and beauty. The mile walk into City Centre was pretty much a daily occurrence and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I loved the contrast of colors from the overcast weather and the bright flowers in everyone’s garden. I was fascinated by the way the University of Oxford is set up with its 38 colleges. Seeing students in their exam uniforms with silly string and whip cream all over their faces is something I will never forget. I enjoyed just listening to people talk and hearing their conversations and interaction. It was nice that we all shared the same language, which made it easier to connect and relate. However, it was Anna5also interesting to discover the differences in our cultures. They may seem subtle, but they are definitely there. Touring a few of the colleges was one of the best parts of our time in Oxford. I also loved going to the covered markets, and I probably consumed too many Ben’s Cookies to count. One of my very favorite experiences in Oxford was going to St. Aldate’s church. When I found out some of my friends were going, I was not very interested. I ended up tagging along and I am so glad I did. It was so beautiful to worship God in another country. The church had such a sweet spirit and there was authenticity and kindness in the people there. It reminded me that God is God across the ocean, and sometimes I need to look outside my small world into something bigger. Being in Oxford was great and I hope to go back soon!

 

 

One thing I did not know before going into the trip was how much of the U.K. (besides Oxford) that we would get to see. We took an overnight trip the Peak District, staying in the historic village of Eyam. We toured Chatsworth Estate, and took a day trip to Manchester for a company visit. We spent a lot of time in a bus driving to various tours. It sometimes felt like a lot of driving, but looking back I realize that we go to see a whole lot of the English countryside, which is beautiful! Another great British city was Bath. In my opinion, Bath had the best shopping and such a fun feel. And of course the baths were really cool too! I went to London three times. One of my favorite spots was the Portobello Road Market. I ate some of the best food on the trip from street vendors in this market. Overall, I fell in love with the U.K. It is absolutely beautiful!

 

 

REFLECTIONS FROM HOME:

 

In some ways, these experiences enlarged my world. In other ways, they shrunk it. While it was not all perfect or even what I expected, I would not trade this month abroad for anything. Up to this point I have mostly shared what we did, but what mattered most was what was done to my heart during this time. I learned so much about myself from being forced to be flexible and patient amidst the craziness of international travel in such a large group. I learned about people and friendships from being with a group that I do not normally spend my time with. I learned Anna4about how much bigger the world is than the small bubble I live in. I also learned how small the world is by realizing that we all share in many of the same experiences and struggles. This was definitely a growing experience and I am so thankful I had the opportunity to go. Travelling always makes you richer!