Ashley Quiring is a junior accounting major from Henderson, Nebraska. She will be one of 70 students participating in the 27th annual Nebraska at Oxford Program July 19 – Aug. 15 at the University of Oxford in England, the oldest university in the English-speaking world. She first heard about the Nebraska at Oxford program when she visited UNL as a senior in high school and knew immediately this would be the study abroad experience for her. Quiring is excited to Start Something abroad and share her academic and travel experiences with the CBA community.
Back in Nebraska – August 26
It’s hard to believe that over a week ago I was over 4,000 miles away in Oxford finishing up my finals! Now that the dust has settled from all my traveling, I’ve had a chance to look back on my program experience and what I’ve learned over the past six weeks.
Everything about the program was worth it - the classes, planned excursions, cultural events, meeting new friends, you name it! It all was incredible! Dr. Holmes and Dr. Horsewood in particular made the entire program more enjoyable. The two of them kept me so thoroughly entertained with their witty comments, jokes and stories (often at the other’s expense) that at times I forgot I was studying economics. That is, until I got to the final and found I now know more about the UK and its political economy and approach to economics than I do about the United States (if anyone wants to know about Greece and the Eurozone crisis, just let me know).
As for the nonacademic things I learned from my time abroad, I’ve found:
It’s okay to have a plan, but that plan will change, and sometimes things will happen that catch me off guard. Instead of panicking when that happens, I’ve learned to take it in stride and rationally come up with a solution.
I can now travel by plane, train, bus or subway and make reservations like a professional (well, almost).
Living in the moment rather than stressing about the things that are out of my control makes life much more enjoyable.
Getting lost is not always a bad thing. Some of my favorite parts of the trip were when we just got lost and wandered around.
A great group of friends turns a good experience into an incredible one! I don’t think the program would have been the same without my wonderful group of friends - we always found something to do to keep us entertained.
I’ve enjoyed every minute of my time at the Nebraska at Oxford program, and I can’t believe it’s over. I guess it’s on to internalizing and using what I’ve learned to embrace the next change - moving back to Lincoln and starting my next semester. So long Europe…until next time!
Shakespeare, Shakespeare, and More Shakespeare! – August 12
I’m almost ashamed to admit that before I came to Oxford, I had never experienced a Shakespeare play. Okay, I read “Macbeth” and “Romeo and Juliet” in high school (and watched the movies), but I had never actually seen
a live Shakespeare performance. I’m happy to say all this has now changed! In fact, in the past four weeks of the Oxford program, I have seen more Shakespeare plays than I have movies.
To kick off my Shakespeare experience, I went with another group of students to “Hamlet” in the University Parks during the first week of the program. I had no clue what to expect, but I had formed this mental image of rows of chairs outside in the park with the actors in front on the grass. When we got there and I saw the large marquee where the stage was set up, I realized I was completely wrong. I must admit, I had a hard time adjusting to the old English and missed some of the speeches, but with the help of the incredibly talented actors/actresses (and the synopsis that I read before the play started), I ended up following along pretty well. Overall, my first Shakespeare play was an enormous success.
A few days later, I decided that I hadn’t gotten enough of Shakespeare, so I signed up to go to “The Twelfth Night.” This play was set in one of the university gardens and was more like what I imagined Shakespeare in the park to be. “The Twelfth Night” was a bit more lighthearted than Hamlet, and I found myself getting caught up in the jokes and storyline. Once again, I was amazed by how talented the actors and actresses were. I was in theater in high school, and I know how difficult it can be to learn the lines; I can’t imagine throwing Shakespeare’s English into the mix. I still don’t know how they do it.
Just when I thought I had seen some amazing actors, the program coordinated an excursion to Stratford-upon-Avon to watch the Royal Shakespeare Company perform “The Merchant of Venice.” Wow. I’m still not entirely sure how to describe the experience, but I’ll try. When we first walked into the theater, the first thing that struck me was how the stage jutted out into the middle of the floor and was surrounded on three of the four sides by seating. I found my seat (in the second row!) and then kept looking around and noticed the lack of props - there was absolutely no set, and the backdrop was only a paneled wall of mirrors. Finally, I realized that the man dressed in black who was standing on stage looking incredibly distressed was one of the actors. The play began, and all of my doubts about the necessity of props/an elaborate set vanished. It was incredible how skillful the actors were at catching me up in the storyline, even when their backs were turned to my side of the stage. I also found I had an easier time following this play. Maybe it was the quality of the acting or simply that the play itself was easier to understand than the other two, but I like to think it was because I was starting to become acclimated to hearing and interpreting the old English way of speaking.
I went to one more Shakespeare play and it was a completely different experience than the first three! For one, we went to “As You Like It,” which is a lighthearted comedy that starkly contrasts with both “Hamlet” and “The Merchant of Venice.” For another, the play was an example of “promenade” theater. In other words, the audience was much more involved, and we followed the actors from place to place as the scene changed. We started out in the open garden of one of the colleges where there was reserved seating set up (much like the seating for “The Twelfth Night”). When the scene changed, we followed the actors through the gardens to another stage. After 15 or so minutes, the scene changed again and we found ourselves walking to a little train depot that had been set up for the play. After another ten minutes, we “followed the actors to freedom” by walking through the forest. It continued on like this for some time until we were back where the play started and remained there for the rest of the time. The play itself was hilarious, but the stunning college grounds we walked through really made the night exceptional. I must admit, there were times when I got distracted by the beauty of the surrounding gardens - by the way the weeping willow trees lined the bank of the river and by the light of the setting sun filtering in through the trees - only to have my attention jerked back to the play when everyone else starting laughing and I realized I had missed a witty line. Overall, the beautiful college grounds, funny content, and stellar acting, made “As You Like It” the perfect play to wrap up my Oxford Shakespeare experience!
Punting Down the Thames – August 7
Friday was a gorgeous day in Oxford; it was 73 and sunny, with just enough of a breeze to keep the air moving. In other words, it was the perfect day to go punting! Now when you think of “punting,” you most likely flash back to Sam Foltz in a Husker football game, but punting here in Oxford has nothing to do with a play in football. Instead, it has everything to do with a boat, a very long pole, and in this case, the River Thames.
When we got to the dock, we were given a map, a 30-second explanation of where to go, and then we hopped in and pushed off without a clue as to what we were doing. From observing everyone else, we figured out that one person stands in the back of the boat with the long pole while the other four sit facing each other. In a way it sort of looks like the gondolas in Venice, except the person who has the pole pushes off of the bottom of the river. One of the other passengers also has a small oar that we mainly used to push off of rocks and trees when the person punting inevitably got too close to the shore of the Thames.
After trying my hand at punting, I now have a newfound appreciation for anyone who punts on a regular basis. It was incredibly difficult to get the boat to go straight, and when it did, it never lasted for long! I was constantly trying to switch my pole to the other side of the boat, and I never quite decided if it was better to spin around and switch sides, or to lift the heavy pole completely out of the water and move it to the other side, or if we were even supposed to switch sides. When I finally started to get the hang of it, we came upon a pileup of boats that blocked the entire channel of the river. It was fairly comical to watch as each boat came around the corner only to be added into the pileup. Thanks to my expert punting skills (or maybe it was just dumb luck), we made it around the other boats and back to the dock without any mishaps!
Rounders – August 5, 2015
What do a bunch of college students do when it’s a balmy 72 degrees and they want to get away from studying economics? That’s right, play a little game called rounders which is similar to baseball, except there are five outs. And a smaller bat. And a smaller ball. And no gloves. And you can only score points if you make it to second base on your hit (you get half a point, known as half a rounder), or if you make it home (which is one rounder). So really, it is quite different from baseball, but it is still a great deal of fun!
During the first week of the program, I merely watched my friends play rounders, but this time I was feeling competitive so I joined the game. After I found out that I could not swing the same way as I do when playing softball, I was able to get a hit and make it to first base. Unfortunately, because I didn’t make it to either second base or home on my hit, I didn’t score any points for my team – I just managed to keep from getting out. The second time I was up to bat, I swung and missed, but because of the way rounders works, I was still able to run. I wish I could say that I made it, but I ended up getting out at first. Towards the end of the game, my team rallied and won! Now back to my room to study a bit of economics – after all, it is
called a study
Extended Weekend at Ireland – August 3, 2015
First off, let me start by saying if you're in the Nebraska at Oxford program and don’t know where to go for the extended weekend, I highly recommend traveling to Ireland! A group of my friends and I just got back from our trip to Dublin, and I loved our time there. Unlike several of the other students in the program, I knew that I was going to travel with a group of five other friends to Dublin over the extended weekend, so before the program started, I booked our flight to Ireland as well as the hostel. This made things much less stressful (and cheaper), and we were still able to meet up with our new friends who were staying in different hostels. I’d definitely recommend booking before you come to Oxford, or at the very least, book within the first week of being here - it gets rather expensive and hostels fill up quickly if you wait too long. Oh, and another piece of advice - flying out of Birmingham through Aer Lingus can be a great deal cheaper than flying from London!
That’s enough of my advice (for now at least). Let’s get to the fun part - what I got to do in Ireland! On Friday, we met up with another group from Nebraska and toured the Dublin Castle. We split up for lunch, and my group ended up eating at “The Brazen Head,” which is officially Ireland’s oldest pub. The food there was great, but the atmosphere was even better! It was this quaint little place with random decorations and knickknacks all over the walls. Which leads me to another tip; if you’re traveling to Ireland: plan on saving a bit of extra money to eat at Irish pubs like “The Brazen Head,” because its definitely worth it.
We continued our adventure at the Guinness Storehouse where we not only learned about the fascinating history of Guinness (Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000 year lease for the brewery property!), but also about how to pour our own pint of Guinness using the tried and true six-step process. While we were enjoying the fruits of our lesson, a woman came up and convinced us to take on another lesson - dancing. For those of you who don’t know me, I don’t dance. Well, I guess it’s more like I can’t
dance. At all. But for some reason, I found myself in a line with my friends dancing to a little Irish jig! It was actually quite fun, and we left the storehouse in high spirits.
Saturday brought about our excursion to the Cliffs of Moher. Because the journey was a large commitment (the cliffs are on the completely opposite side of Ireland, which is over three hours one way by bus), I was a little indecisive at first about whether or not I wanted to give up an entire day just to see them. My friends and I committed to going and we were not disappointed. If you’re looking for a place to get incredible pictures, be mildly terrified, and then feel an adrenaline rush after sitting with your feet near the edge of a cliff the height of the Empire State Building, then the Cliffs of Moher are for you! Once I got over my initial shock of being so close to the edge of a cliff where on average one person dies a month, I was able to take in the sights and enjoy myself. I got some amazing pictures thanks to the selfie stick my sister gave me as a gift before I left for Europe (knock them all you want, but they're actually great for taking group photos or
pictures from crazy angles off the cliffs). I easily could have stayed longer than the hour and a half we had there. The Cliffs of Moher were a perfect finale to my extended weekend in Ireland!
Excursion to Sandown Park – July 31, 2015
We took an excursion to Sandown Park to watch the horse races. I’ve never been to the races in the U.S. (I’ve actually never even watched a horse race on TV), so I had no idea what to expect. There were several other students who were in the same boat as me, so Dr. Horsewood gave our class a very simplified version of how our day at Sandown Park would work. Many of us were also interested in how betting on horses worked in the U.K., so he spent some time detailing what to look for in a winning horse and how to place a bet. It was all fairly overwhelming – when I finally thought I knew what all I needed to compare from horse to horse, he would tell us another think to look for. When he finished explaining, I decided to take the easy way out – to look for the favorites and hope for the best!
After lunch, we all went back to our rooms to get dressed in our semi-formal attire. The bus left at 3 p.m., and my friends and I spent the ride reading the “Racing Post” in the hopes that we would be able to make slightly more educated bets (and lose less money) at the park. When we arrived at Sandown Park, we took about an hour or so to get our bearings and figure out where the finish line and parade ring were. Using the race card that our program coordinators gave us, my friends and I started to pick out which horses we thought stood a chance to win.
Eventually the parade for the first race started, and I watched as each horse made its way around the ring. I pretended to know what I was looking for, and I picked the horse that I was going to cheer for because of the way it looked as it walked around the ring. I didn’t make an official
bet for the first race (I left that to my friends who knew more about betting than I did), but I did start up a little friendly competition with one of my friends. On the first race, I ended up losing £1 to my friend, but I made up for it in the next couple of races.
During the third race, the horse that I had picked to cheer for ended up winning. I kicked myself for not placing a bet, so for the fourth race, I finally gave in and put “£2 for Decorated Knight to win.” Decorated Knight won the race over the other crowd favorite, Pyjama Party, (sorry Dr. Holmes) and I ended up receiving £4.40 back. There’s nothing like winning back some money, so of course I placed a bet for the next race. Actually, I ended up betting twice - £3 for Italian Beauty to place, and £2 for Sahara to win. Sahara did end up winning, but Italian Beauty didn’t place. Luckily, those two bets cancelled each other out, so I walked away from that race no worse off. At the end of the races, I made a £2.20 profit (and another £7 from my friendly competition). Two of my friends ended up winning around £100, while others ended up in the red (cough, Dr. Holmes).
All in all, the excursion to Sandown Park was fantastic! I loved everything about the day – getting dressed up, watching the actual races, placing bets, having friendly competitions, and even watching Boyzone perform afterwards – I guess I may have to start paying more attention to horse races back in the US!
Core Memories - July 24, 2015
After 12 wonderful days of traveling, I’m happy to have made it safe and sound in Oxford! In just under two weeks I have seen some of the most beautiful cities and attractions in Europe. My grandpa has a motto that my friends and I religiously followed during our travels. It is, “two days in every day.” Basically it means that rather than only doing one day’s worth of activities in a day, you do two! For example, my friends and I got on a 6 a.m. flight to Rome, arrived at our hostel mid afternoon, and then walked through St. Peter’s Basilica, saw Castel Sant’Angelo, Piazza del Popolo, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, took night pictures of the Colosseum, and then went to a pizza place for a late supper. Any of those places could have been one day’s events, but in order to see as much as we could in our limited time in Rome, we packed numerous activities into a single day. This motto allowed us to see some amazing things in Europe, but it did get a bit exhausting by the time the beginning of the Nebraska at Oxford program rolled around.
With all the traveling behind me, it has been nice to come to Oxford, relax a bit, and settle into a routine. The other students and I have breakfast at 8:15, Dr. Holmes’ class at 9, Dr. Horsewood’s class at 11, lunch at 12:30, free time until dinner at 6:30, and then free time again after that. In the afternoon free time, there are several optional events we can attend. So far this week as part of these optional activities, I have learned how to play “rounders” (a game sort of similar to baseball), attended two different Shakespeare plays, and partook in high tea with 13 other students.
In the middle of this week, Dr. Tammy Beck and Jennifer Mostek came to visit us to see how the program has been going so far. After she was introduced, Dr. Beck said something that really stuck with me; she likened our time here in Europe to the Disney Pixar movie, “Inside Out.” She said everything we do here is building “core memories” that will stick with us and help shape our personality.
I wholeheartedly believe I will never forget the experiences I’ve had and memories I’ve made so far. I know I’m much more confident about my ability to remain calm and eventually find my way around in a large city after getting lost (but ultimately making it to my destination) in Rome (and Venice. And Paris. Annnnd Barcelona…). I know I’ll draw on my memory of Venice – of relaxing, wandering, and just enjoying life – the next time my life seems too stressful. I know I’ll never forget the feeling of being surrounding by a fantastic group of friends just hanging out and having a great time. Who knows what core memories I’ll make next!
Off to London! - July 7, 2015
And so begins my European adventure. The last few days prior to my departure have been crazy - running errands, packing, going to last minute appointments and saying goodbye to friends and family - but here we are, sitting in the Omaha airport waiting to fly out to Chicago and on to London! It's crazy to think that in the next 12 days, I will be traveling to Rome, Venice, Paris and Barcelona. It's the adventure of a lifetime and I can't wait to get started. Not that long ago, I still didn't quite believe I was leaving the country for six weeks; however, the trip is finally real now that I'm waiting to board my plane. Thanks to a delay, I've been given plenty of time to let the reality of the trip settle in.
Things I've learned while sitting in the Omaha airport:
1. I'm not very good at not panicking.
2. I could NEVER work at the help desk of an airport (those people are wayyyy more patient than I am).
3. ALWAYS leave a few hours of leeway in case your flight departure time gets changed three different times, you get put on a different plane and have to switch back to your original flights (just saying, it could happen).
4. Know (or at least try to convince yourself) that any minor bumps along the way make the trip more interesting.
After our little flight snafu, I'm more excited than ever to get on the plane and fly to London! This adventure is going to be incredible and I can't wait to see what the rest of the trip holds!