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Nebraska at Oxford Blog by Anne Greff

Nebraska at Oxford Blog by Anne Greff
Anne Greff, a junior economics major from Lincoln, Nebraska, is studying abroad July 16-August 12. She is one of 70 students participating in the 29th annual Nebraska at Oxford Program at the University of Oxford in England, the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Greff chose to apply for the Nebraska at Oxford program because it enables her to complete six economics credit hours while exploring and familiarizing herself with English culture. She said, “I'm most excited to get to explore new places with new friends. Traveling in a new country is the perfect opportunity to bond with people and get to know them.” Before and after the program, Greff plans to travel in Europe. 

8/22/2017 – Reflecting on Oxford

The 2017 Nebraska at Oxford students
The 2017 Nebraska at Oxford students
The new school year has started up at Nebraska, and I have now had about a week to reflect on my time studying abroad at Oxford. I was in Oxford for four weeks, and during my time there I saw numerous plays, visited London, ate lots of good food and enjoyed the chance to see many famous sights in Oxford (especially colleges and museums). But despite all of the wonderful big things I got to participate in, the moments I will treasure the most from the program were the small, everyday moments I enjoyed with other people. Some of my favorite moments and things I learned while at Oxford include:

Late-night food truck runs: We had heard rumors there was a good food truck near where we were staying, but that it only came out after about 8 p.m. We tried it during the first week, and after that we were hooked. I cannot even count the number of times I would be sitting in a room with friends, just talking and laughing, and then someone would suggest we go to Hassan's food truck for some curry fries or a lamb kebab. The food was cheap, delicious, and had large portions - perfect for our college student budgets!

Morning prayer at Christ Church Cathedral: Christ Church College is the biggest and most famous college at Oxford, and they have a famous cathedral there that has daily services. My friend Brooklyn and I decided that for a new cultural experience, we were going to attend morning prayer at this cathedral. It was an early wake-up call with the service starting at 7:15 a.m., but we enjoyed the walk there and being able to see the sunrise and enjoy the quiet of the morning. The service itself was interesting too, because it was just the two of us and about 13 other locals in this massive cathedral, gathered together. It was a cool, intimate moment where we got to interact with people who actually lived in Oxford in a place that was several hundred years old.

A parting shot of Oxford.
A parting shot of Oxford.
Meeting new people: One of my favorite memories from Oxford was when we were standing in line to go up the tower at St. Mary's Cathedral. We had heard there was a good view from the top of the tour, but we had to wait an hour in line before going up. We ended up striking up a conversation with the man in front of us, and he told us that he was originally from Arizona, but had quit his job a few months ago to travel around Europe. I asked him why he would wanted to come travel in Europe, and he said he was traveling to help him discover his purpose in life and what he wanted his long-term goals to be. He was using traveling as a period of reflection. We ended up talking later about philosophy, human existence, and what our purpose here on earth is. Not your typical Saturday afternoon conversation with a stranger, but we all said we were happy to have met him and we wished him well in his travels (he was only in Oxford for a couple of days). That conversation with him gave me more courage to start conversations with people that I normally might not have introduced myself, and it also helped me appreciate how sometimes striking up a conversation with a person can end up being the highlight of my day.

Learning more about myself: One of the aspects of studying abroad I valued was the chance to learn a lot more about myself. Being away from familiar places and people helped me to understand myself more. I learned that although I enjoy seeing monuments and museums and famous sights, if I am given the chance to walk along the Thames River and have a conversation with a fellow student, I'll choose that option every time. I learned that my favorite way to spend an evening was not to go out and have a crazy time. I much prefer the chance to find a local restaurant or pub to sit with friends, and play cards, have conversations and laugh until we cried. I have always considered myself more of an outgoing and extroverted person, but on this trip I especially learned that I also really value time to myself to just reflect on different things in life. I frequently got up early in the morning to take a little walk or go sit in the Jesus College courtyard, just to write or read. I never realized before how much I enjoyed just having a little time with myself.
My studies in Europe swept me away from Nebraska and to some of the most well-known places in the world, and since I chose to fully immerse myself in everything that studying abroad has to offer, I found the global immersion experience to be one of the most fun, rewarding and beautiful adventures that I have ever had in my life. One of my biggest takeaways from studying abroad was that it is not always just about the place that you are living. It is so much more about the people that you are with and your willingness to let your experiences with them change you into a better person. I may be back in Nebraska for now, but I certainly left a little piece of my heart at Jesus College in Oxford.

8/4/2017 – Ireland

Touring the library in Ireland.
Touring the library in Ireland.
This past weekend, we had an extended weekend, meaning we didn't have class on Friday. Many of us took advantage of this and chose to travel to other parts of Europe. There were several of us that decided to visit Ireland. We arrived in Dublin Thursday evening and stayed until Sunday.

On Friday, we decided to see some of the highlights of the city. We purchased tickets for a hop on, hop off bus, which is a bus that will take you to different sites around the city by allowing you to get off and stay at a certain location for however much time you want before hopping back on a bus when you were ready to leave.
Our first stop of the day was Trinity College, a renowned college in Ireland. I especially was interested in seeing the library that they have as it is the home of the Book of Kells. We waited in line for approximately 20 minutes before purchasing our tickets and gaining entrance. I had heard of the Book of Kells before, but I was not entirely sure what it was until this visit. Written in Latin, the Book of Kells is a 9th century illuminated manuscript of the four gospels from the New Testament of the Bible. Needless to say, the manuscript was incredible to see. It was amazing how well-preserved the illustrations were and how detailed they were! I cannot imagine writing a book by hand, much less adding intricate and symbolic drawings to it as well. The library at Trinity did not disappoint – it is a beautiful long hall with high ceilings and is lined with old books.

Our second visit of the day was Jameson Distillery, a distillery that was established in Dublin in 1780. We got a tour of the place and got to learn a lot about its history. I thought it was really interesting to hear about the business difficulties they encountered at different points and how they overcame them. We also learned about how Jameson makes their whiskey and what makes them different from other distilleries.

Overwhelmed by the view from the Cliffs of Moher.
Overwhelmed by the view from the Cliffs of Moher.
We couldn't visit Dublin without a visit to the famous Guinness Storehouse. We took ourselves on a self-guided tour through the seven floors of the storehouse. Across the seven floors, the story is told of how Guinness is brewed and what makes it distinctive. Parts of the tour are interactive and work to engage people walking through the tour, which was cool. On the top floor, they have a bar where people can enjoy a complimentary pint of Guinness and while looking out to see an almost-360 degree view of Dublin.

On Saturday, we decided to get out of Dublin for a day and travel across Ireland to the Cliffs of Moher. Many of us were eager to get out of a city and out into nature a little bit. The drive to the Cliffs of Moher was almost four hours long, but the views of the Irish countryside on the way made it worth it. The Irish countryside is composed of endless green hills and valleys, usually dotted with cows, sheep and quaint farm homes. There are also a lot of ruins of old buildings and towers, which was really neat to see.

When we arrived at the cliffs, it was one of the most amazing and beautiful sights I have ever seen. The cliffs stretch along the coast for approximately five miles and at times reach heights of 750 feet tall. After being in cities and towns for the past several weeks, it was incredible to get the chance to hike along the cliffs, sit on some grass and watch the blue water waves crash against the rocky cliffs. It was hands down my favorite part of my study abroad experience so far. The cliffs are a natural wonder that stirred something deep inside me and refueled my love for adventure and discovering new places that the world has to offer.

Sunday morning was our last opportunity to see things in Dublin, and I chose to visit Christ Church Cathedral. Some people also went and visited an immigration museum. Both of the places afforded us the opportunity to learn a little bit more about Ireland's history.

Although it was good to get back to Jesus College on Sunday evening, there is still a little bit of me that misses Ireland. It truly was a truly wonderful experience. I did not expect to love it as much as I did, but seeing the coast and the countryside made me fall in love with the place. I definitely want to go back someday!

7/30/2017 – Soccer and Sandown

Last week was one for sporting events. Early in the week, one of the Oxford student assistants helped organize a little "football" (soccer) tournament for us. We signed up as teams and then headed out one afternoon for our tournament. It was a lot of fun to get the chance to get out of the tourist part of the city and enjoy a little friendly competition. I think we all really enjoyed the chance to play sports! My team did not end up winning (we ended up tying for last, sadly), but we still had fun.

Later in the week, we got the opportunity to go to Sandown Park for an evening to watch the horse races. We were all looking forward to it, and I even went out with some girls to a department store to shop for a hat to wear to the races. Not a lot of the local people got really dressed up and wore the hats at the races, but we decided we wanted to go all out with our attire since we probably would not get the chance otherwise.

Sandown and soccer.
Sandown and soccer.
We had an hour-and-a-half bus ride to Sandown Park, and when we got there, I was very impressed with the facilities. It was a lot fancier than I expected! In addition to the grand stand and horse racing track, they also had a big area that had food and drinks for sale and betting options.

The evening overall was a lot of fun. Some of us placed small bets on horses after studying the race card and watching some of the horses. There were six races in total. Before each race, the horses were paraded around a smaller arena area, where people could observe the horse, see how it acted, whether it was nervous, what size it was, etc. All of these factors were supposedly said to be good indications as how to the horse would perform in the race. That being said, there were a couple of times where certain horses were predicted to perform badly and then they did very well.

The races themselves only lasted a couple of minutes, but it was easy to get caught up in the excitement and entertainment of the evening. Many of us were pressed up against the rail for each race, cheering on the horses and jockeys. I think we all enjoyed the chance to get dressed up and watch some classic English horse races. We all were feeling pretty British that evening!

7/24/2017 – London for the Weekend

Calling the queen.
Should I make a call to the Queen? 
After our first full week of classes at Jesus College, we packed up our bags Friday afternoon for a weekend trip to London. The Nebraska at Oxford program had an event planned in London for Saturday afternoon, so many of us decided to make a weekend of it. I'd never been to London before, and the first thing I noticed was how different London was from Oxford. It's noisier and more crowded, but it still has a lot of interesting sights to visit.
Since we only had one weekend for London, we had to maximize our time and try to see as much as possible. The first place we visited was the Churchill War Rooms, which is a museum they created around the underground rooms that Churchill used to "call the shots" of World War II. There was a lot of fascinating history about Winston Churchill there, as well as a lot of information about the different rooms in the museum. I thought one of the coolest rooms was the map room that they used to track where the enemy was. Since they didn't have the modern technology we have today, they had maps that would cover entire walls to help them plot wartime strategies.
After visiting the Churchill War Rooms, we attended our planned activity for the program, which was a trip to the West End in London to see Les Misérables. I've always been a Les Mis fan, so I had high expectations and was not disappointed! The musical was very well done, and the only disappointing part was I wasn't allowed to sing along to "Do You Hear The People Sing?"
Flying the Husker colors outside Buckingham Palace.
Flying the Husker colors outside Buckingham Palace.
On Sunday, we packed in as much as possible. I visited Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in the morning, before we all headed to the British Museum for a couple of hours. The British Museum has some really neat artifacts, including the Rosetta Stone. We all enjoyed perusing their collections, but it eventually got so crowded in the museum that we decided to move on to other destinations. Our next stop was Buckingham Palace. Sadly we didn't see any members of the royal family, but we took the opportunity there to pull out our Husker flag and snap a picture with it. Great Britain is great, but our loyalties will always lie with the Huskers and Nebraska.
We then wandered through some of the beautiful Royal Parks before heading to Westminster Abbey. Unfortunately, we weren't able to go inside Westminster Abbey, but we admired its beauty from the outside.
Our last stop in London was one that was purely for our own personal enjoyment: we went to see Abbey Road, the famous road where The Beatles took the picture for the cover of one of their albums. We listened to some Beatles music on the way there, which just added to the fun of it.
Overall, our weekend in London was a huge success. I learned some more history about Great Britain and was able to see a lot of the famous landmarks. Even though we all enjoyed London, we all agreed what we enjoyed even more was arriving in Oxford and walking from the bus station back to our HOME at Jesus College.

7/17/2017 – Running of the Bulls

Preparing to run with the bulls.
Preparing to run with the bulls.
Last week, I traveled with four other UNL students to Pamplona, Spain, for the Festival of San Fermín (better known as Running of the Bulls). This is a week-long celebration that takes place every year, and it is famous for the morning runs where six bulls run with people in narrow streets to the arena. Injuries from goring and trampling happen every year, but no one has died for a long time. We decided to make this trip because we thought it would be a very different experience than something that we would get in Nebraska. Studying abroad is all about taking the opportunity to have some new experiences, and Running of the Bulls was exactly that! There was always so much going on at the festival. The city was busy through all hours of the night with people eating and drinking, attending concerts and watching fireworks displays. Over the week, about a million people come through the city to watch the events.

During our first morning there, we found a spot at 6 a.m. to stand and watch the run. You have to get your spot early because otherwise you won't be able to see. It was fun to watch the barriers get erected and people slowly filter into the streets and out onto balconies to watch. When the canons sounded the run began! The run only lasts a couple of minutes, but for those few minutes everything is insanity. Spectators yell and cheer, and the runners that pack the streets try to run alongside the bulls without getting injured. We chose to sit at Dead Man's Corner. It is famous because it is a 90-degree corner, and the bulls can't usually make that sharp of a turn, so they end up slamming into the barriers, often pinning or trampling people. It was really exciting to watch the run, but also a little terrifying because the bulls are fast and not afraid to toss people out of the way.

Standing in the arena after the bullfight.
Standing in the arena after the bullfight.
That evening, we decided to attend a bullfight. The bullfights are controversial because it's seen as cruel to kill the bulls. While it can be a little hard to watch at times, we decided to attend anyways as it was a cultural experience. It was pretty cool to see how the matadors and the crowd interact with the bulls. We sat by some really fun locals during the bullfight who shared their food with us and told us stories of their previous experiences at the Running of the Bulls. I know some Spanish, as did two of the other students, so we were able to get by when making conversation.

On our second morning, there were a few of us who decided to try running with the bulls for real. We all got lined up and ready, but then five minutes before the run began I got kicked out by a police officer because I was not wearing close-toed shoes. I was pretty disappointed, but I think my mom was grateful to know I would be coming back uninjured. The guys were still able to run, so I was able to watch them and cheer on the runners.

Overall, one of my favorite parts of Running of the Bulls was the friendliness of the locals. Excitement and adrenaline were running high the entire time we were there, and everyone was eager to make friends. The locals wanted to make sure that we fully experienced the festivities. It truly was an experience unlike any other we had participated before, and we all agreed it was well worth our time. I would love to go back someday and enjoy some more time in Pamplona as it was the experience of a lifetime! ¡Viva San Fermín!

7/12/17 - Sorrento and Barcelona
Swimming in a cove in Sorrento.
Swimming in a cove in Sorrento.
I have been in Europe for one week, and I cannot believe all of the things I have managed to pack into that time! I have loved every moment so far. It is exhausting traveling around to so many different places, but it is very worth it.
My first stop after dropping off my large checked bag at Oxford was to go to Sorrento, Italy, where I was able to meet up with some friends who were studying abroad in another Nebraska global immersion program there. Since it was a childhood dream of mine to be an archeologist, I made the 20-minute trek from Sorrento to Pompeii on my first day. It was incredible to see how much of the city was preserved. Detailed frescos and tile mosaics in houses are still intact and beautiful even though the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius buried the city nearly 2,000 years ago. Archeologists are still uncovering parts of the city to this day.
Sorrento is a coastal city in Italy and has a very relaxed environment. You really cannot complain when the weather is in the mid-80s every day, and no matter where you are in the city, it's only a 10-minute walk from the beach (which includes a view of Mt. Vesuvius across the water). My favorite part of Sorrento was a private lagoon and cove my friends had discovered during their first week there. It was removed from the crowded beaches, and we spent the afternoon swimming in the warm, clear water. We even decided to try some cliff jumping, which was a new experience for me.
After my time in Sorrento, it was off to Spain. Once again, I had friends studying abroad through a global immersion program based in Barcelona. They had been there several weeks already, so they were able to give lots of recommendations for what to see, where to eat, how to use the metro system, etc. The best food I had in Barcelona was at a tapas restaurant. Tapas are appetizers, and since Spanish people typically have a large mid-day meal, they have tapas for dinner since it is a little lighter. Many of the tapas I tried featured delicious fresh seafood, which I am definitely not used to being from Nebraska.
Fresh seafood on the menu everyday.
Fresh seafood on the menu everyday.
Barcelona has so many different things to see and do. I opted to see sights most highly recommended by my friends. One thing I really enjoyed doing was taking a bike tour of Barcelona. Barcelona is a big city to get around, and the three-hour bike tour allowed us to quickly see large amounts of the city, while also stopping to see the highlights. The bike tour allowed us to see many of the historical areas and also several pieces of architecture by Antoni Gaudi, Barcelona's well-known architect. One morning, we visited a large boquería, which is a market that has lots of fresh food for sale. We also visited Camp Nou, which is the stadium for Barcelona's football (soccer) team and features a museum of the team's success over the years. The museum featured many tributes to Lionel Messi, their star player.
My favorite experience was touring the inside of La Sagrada Familia. It was designed by Gaudi and has been under construction for more than 100 years. It is on track to reach completion in 2026, at which point it will be the tallest church in the world. The inside of the basilica is very bright, colorful and open, which is a huge contrast to its exterior. The high ceilings and stained glass windows drew my eyes continuously upward towards the heavens. It amazed me learning about all of the design details he incorporated into the basilica. Gaudi tried to base all of his design elements off of something in nature – whether it was the seasons, animals or the movement of water.
In addition to seeing sights, I have enjoyed the chance to meet locals and people from the around the world in my travels. Not everyone is friendly to tourists, but when they are, it is so interesting to converse with them and learn a little bit about them. We got to know a couple of locals in Sorrento, and in Barcelona, we met some girls who were from France, and they made us dance the Macarena with them in the middle of a street in Barcelona. Not something I would typically do, but I'm trying to live in the moment as much as possible on this trip and absorb every new experience that comes my way!

7/4/17 – The Beginning of a New Adventure
Greff has her passport in hand.
Greff has her passport in hand.
I'm currently sitting in the Denver International Airport, waiting to board my flight to Europe for what I know is going to be an incredible six weeks. My four-week global immersion experience at Oxford, in addition to the travels I'll embark on before and after the program, will give me so many new experiences that I can't help but be excited for what the next few weeks will hold.
The weeks leading up to today have been filled with booking flights, buying train tickets, finding places to stay and researching local places to visit. Not to mention the stressful process packing ended up being. I think I packed, unpacked and repacked at least four times. There is always something you accidentally forget to pack and have to add to your bag last minute. Then you get to the airport and your checked-bag is overweight, so you end up sending the item home anyways! (This was me this morning).
As a Nebraska girl who has lived in Lincoln her entire life, this trip will be the longest (by far) that I have been away from home. It is a little intimidating to go to a place where I have never been and am not familiar. I worry about what will happen if I miss a flight or get lost or lose something. Despite those fears, I find myself wondering how this experience will change me. I hope to come back from this experience a more well-rounded person,  and as someone who is always willing to meet new people, try out new experiences, and have my ideas and beliefs challenged. I want to come back to Nebraska with stories to tell, pictures to share, and friends and memories that will last a lifetime.
In Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, Gandalf says to Frodo, "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." This trip is a chance for me to step out of my own door and onto a road that I've never traveled before. This is a brand new adventure, and I can't wait to see where I'm swept off to.
Published: August 24, 2017