Reagan Scott, a junior management major from Lincoln, Nebraska, will study abroad with the Nebraska at Oxford program from July 15 to August 11. The most popular study abroad program offered by the university, Nebraska at Oxford celebrates its 30th anniversary this summer. In her four-weeks in England, she will take two courses concerning the British political and international economic policy. Scott chose to study abroad at Oxford because she has always had an affinity for British culture and wanted to have the experience of studying at the world’s oldest English-speaking university. She said, “I am really looking forward to immersing myself into everyday life at Oxford. It’s crazy to think I will actually be living in another country for four weeks and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for me there!” She also plans on exploring Galway, Ireland, and London after her program concludes.
8/18/18 - The End of the Beginning
I can't believe that after five weeks in Europe, I'm finally home. Looking back, my time in Galway seems as though it happened forever ago, but as my plane landed on the runway in Omaha, it seemed as though no time had passed since I left. There are so many things that I’m going to miss about Oxford that I couldn’t put them all into words, but the memories that I made there will stay with me for a long time.
Our last week in Oxford was spent finishing up both of our classes and studying for our finals that Thursday and Friday. I really enjoyed getting to learn more about Brexit during our last days in class since it wasn’t something that I had known a lot about previously. Although I would never consider studying a fun task, my final days were punctuated with trips to the coffee stand on the corner during study breaks, late night Hassan’s runs and even an impromptu dance party in my room. I went into this trip knowing a few people but came away with a new group of friends who made every day special.
Once finals were over and our time at Oxford was done, I got to spend a few days in London further exploring one of my favorite cities. I was glad that I hadn’t booked a ticket back right away because I wasn't quite ready to return home just yet. We had spent so much time studying for finals in our last few days that it hadn't really hit me that I was about to say goodbye to one of the most beautiful cities I've visited. Luckily, my time in London certainly kept me distracted from melancholy at leaving Oxford. I spent time visiting many of the city's free museums and spent a good part of my last full day touring Warner Brothers Studio where they filmed much of the “Harry Potter” movies. I traveled on the tube eight times in one day and spent my final night at Her Majesty's Theatre, where I got to see “The Phantom of the Opera.” Spending time in London really was worth the extra time and money, and I was ready to come back after living out of my suitcase again. Now that I'm back, I've had more time to process what happened and what I learned during my time at Oxford.
This program really does offer something for everyone, including cultural events like plays and concerts, sports and nights out with friends. Jesus College is centrally located in Oxford, meaning that anything you might need is only minutes away. There was always so much to do that my friends and I would often struggle with the decision to either spend more time exploring the city or trying to catch up on sleep. If I could get to bed early enough, I was able to get up before breakfast and walk through Oxford's streets before they were filled with tourists. This was definitely time well spent. Whether or not you are able to study abroad at Oxford, this city is worth a visit.
I might be biased towards the Nebraska at Oxford program, but I am of the firm belief that everyone should travel during their time in college, no matter the destination. Travel pushes us outside of our comfort zone where some of the best learning happens. I learned that sometimes, the best plan might be no plan at all and that I'm more flexible than I originally believed. I learned that joy can be found in the simplest of moments and that money spent on experiences is money well spent. Finally, I found that sometimes, you have to leave the familiar to truly live. After all, if you never leave, you never get to come home.
8/5/18 - Another Busy Week!
On Monday, Dr. Holmes told us that, although we were just halfway through the program, our life at Oxford would not be slowing down. Suffice to say, he was absolutely right. Some of the highlights from the week included a pizza and ice cream night, an afternoon lecture that Dr. Holmes gave on economic reforms in France and Italy and lots of free time to explore Oxford. I had mentioned our riverboat cruise in my last post, but our other excursion this week was a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare.
In Stratford, we got to see “The Duchess of Malfi” at the Swan Theatre. Although it was written by John Webster and not Shakespeare as I had first assumed, things got very confusing very quickly, much like a Shakespeare play. Fortunately, Dr. Turner, the professor for the literature course, held a lecture the day before to give us more information on the play and the period in which it was written. I felt a bit envious that the literature students get to spend time with Dr. Turner every day in their class, her lecture was incredibly entertaining. In all of the plays that I’ve been to during these past few weeks, each has employed its own creative license. “The Duchess of Malfi” was no different, using lots of fake blood, which completely covered the stage and actors as the lights faded on the end scene (it was a tragedy, after all). Despite the fact that there was no happy ending for anyone, the play was highly entertaining, and the decision to go out for ice cream upon our return to Oxford was a perfect way to end the day.
We had this weekend free to study or travel as we saw fit and to be completely honest, I did more traveling than studying. Yesterday, my friends and I decided to go to Windsor Castle for the afternoon. We had a great time exploring the castle complex and getting to see Saint George’s Chapel, where Meghan Markle and Prince Harry got married just a few months ago. One of the most fun facts that I learned was that there is a Royal Dairy at Windsor, home of the Queen’s Jersey cow herd. I also learned firsthand that the ice cream made from their milk is delicious! It was a fantastic day, and I loved having the chance to travel there by train.
Encouraged by the ease with which we had navigated the railway system the day before and the possibilities that another free day brought, I set out for Bath this morning intent upon having another full day of adventure. This time though, I was traveling alone for the first time since getting to Oxford. Nevertheless, Bath did not disappoint. My first stop was the Roman Baths, an ancient temple and bathing complex that the Romans built when they occupied Britain. The town itself is gorgeous, and I loved having hours to walk along the river and through its busy streets. Once again, I found myself thankful for all of the free time we have to do what interests us. I know that the week ahead will be bittersweet as we finish our last two days of class and prepare to leave, but every day I make more and more memories that will stay with me for a lifetime. My time at Oxford has truly been one of the best experiences of my life.
7/30/18 - Bound for Belfast
Admittedly, this blog post has been a bit difficult for me to write. The problem with my visit to Northern Ireland is that it has filled me with so much to say that it’s hard to pick out the most important parts. If I were to write about everything that I did, saw and thought, this would be closer in length to a paper than a blog post. The truth of the matter is, Belfast has well and truly baffled me (in the best way).
I mentioned in my last post that Belfast has a really rich history, but I really didn’t have a grasp of it before visiting. Luckily, my friends and I inadvertently planned a day full of education on the city during our first day there, which was eye-opening for us all. We got to start the morning at Belfast’s Titanic museum, a personal request of mine. I’ve been obsessed with learning about the Titanic since I was little, so getting the chance to see artifacts and stand where it was built felt like the opportunity of a lifetime.
Our afternoon consisted of a walking tour of the city, which was when we learned more about the Troubles in Belfast from our tour guide. The Troubles refers to decades of contention between the nationalists/republicans who believed in creating one unified Ireland, and the unionists/loyalists who wanted to remain a part of the United Kingdom. The nationalists (mostly Catholics) and unionists (mostly Protestants) remained locked in what has been described as a "guerrilla war" from the late 1960s to 1998 that left over 3500 people dead. Things became better in Belfast after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement was signed, but some tensions still remain.
On Sunday, a few of us went to find some of the peace walls that remain in Belfast. As of 2017, there are at least 59 of these walls still standing in Northern Ireland. In total, they span over 21 miles. Just a few minutes outside of town, we found one of the most famous walls, which was easy to spot. Standing over 40 feet tall, this barrier of concrete and steel still separates two neighborhoods with Catholics/nationalists on one side and Protestants/unionists on the other. It was a really sobering experience to see these barriers remain, over 20 years since the Good Friday Agreement was signed. Some of them are even still locked at night.
There has been talk of removing these peace walls, but people indicated that taking the walls down might cause more trouble than if they stay up. There is hope though, as strategies have been devised to eventually bring down the walls. Maybe one day the divides that separate Northern Ireland will become a thing of the past.
Our day on Saturday was a bit lighter though, as we left Belfast to go on a tour of the Northern Ireland coast. We started our day at the Giant's Causeway, a site I had on my bucket list for years. It's one thing to see the unique landscape in pictures, but it was another thing entirely to be there. We also got to visit the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. Spanning over 60 feet and almost 100 feet above the ground, the bridge was quite the adventure to traverse, especially when the winds picked up on our way back across.
We got back to Oxford around 1:15 Monday morning and I can say that, as fun as the weekend was, it’s nice to be back. Today’s excursion, a cruise down the River Thames was the perfect way to relax after a very action-packed break. As I met back up with the other students at breakfast this morning, it was fun to hear about their weekend adventures and share my own. Every time someone asked how Belfast was though, I still struggled to put my feelings into words. I have never been anywhere like it. The past is ever-present in Belfast from the walls that still separate its neighborhoods to its shipyards, which produced some of the world’s greatest ocean vessels. But, its citizens are very future-focused as they continue to revitalize their city. So, while this enigma of a city may be hard to define, it’s a place that I am extremely thankful to have visited.
7/25/18 – Off to the Races!
I feel like I’ve been going nonstop since my last post and I’ll admit, it’s been really hard to balance everything that I want to do with getting enough sleep. Already, my friends and I have been commenting on how fast time is flying, and how much we still have left to see and do before finals approach and our time here is done. Tomorrow, many students will be setting off for their various three-day weekend adventures — the halfway marker for the program. I’m really excited to be heading to Belfast, Northern Ireland, although I wish I could be traveling on a bit more sleep.
One of the things that I liked so much about this program when I first found it were all of the included excursions, and the ones that we’ve been on so far have not disappointed! On Saturday, we got to spend the day in London. This was one of the parts of our trip that I was most excited for as it included a chance to see “Les Misérables,” one of my favorite musicals. We set out right after breakfast and had a few hours to spend exploring the city before the show started. My friends and I spent time walking along the Thames River and got lunch at the Borough Market, an open-air market with lots of food trucks where we had many options for an inexpensive and delicious lunch.
It wasn’t long before we were off to the theater, filled with excitement. I had seen Les Mis done at my high school and have seen the movie, but getting the chance to see it live, done by such talented actors, was an experience that I will never forget. None of my previous experiences compared to the real thing, and I think that I might have a new favorite experience from the program.
We had a free day on Sunday, so I ended up going to Blenheim Palace with five other girls. Located about 10 miles from Oxford, it was really easy to just hop on the bus in town and get off right at the palace gates. Blenheim is gorgeous and has a lot of fascinating history. I was really impressed to learn that there is still a duke who lives in the palace, and that Winston Churchill was born there. It is also somewhere that my mom visited during her time in college, and I really enjoyed getting to recreate some of the pictures that she took when she was there.
Today featured another highlight from our program itinerary: a chance to see the horse races at Sandown Park. We had a great afternoon watching the races and trying to guess which horses would win each one. My favorite part was being able to stand along the fence by the finish line where the horses passed within 50 feet of us. Since this was my first race experience, I was so impressed to see the speed of the horses, and it was easy to get caught up in the excitement of the crowd as they cheered for the horses that they had placed bets on. I had wanted to place a bet, but I wasn’t able to get it in before the first race started — maybe a good thing as I quickly realized I would have lost my money.
As I prepare for the weekend ahead, I am a bit sad to be leaving Oxford, even for just a short time. It’s kind of strange to think that I’m almost taking a vacation within a vacation. Belfast has a really rich history however, and I am so excited to experience the city firsthand. In just a few short hours I’ll be off!
7/20/18 – Feeling at Home
After almost six days at Oxford, I already know that it’s going to be incredibly hard to leave the place that I’m calling home during these four weeks. As my bus drove into town on Sunday afternoon, I found myself in awe of the beautiful old buildings that I could see out the window. There's so much amazing architecture here in Oxford, and every day I try to take a minute to realize the beauty around me and acknowledge how fortunate I am to be here. It's really difficult for me to wrap my head around that fact that I'm surrounded by so much history, and that I’m now a part of it.
At the start of the program, it was hard for me to reconcile the fact that while this trip was going to be a lot of fun, I would also have to be in a school mindset. After all, this is a study
abroad. After five classes though, I can honestly say that while it can be hard to get up in the morning to be in class by 9, I haven’t attended a lecture where Dr. Holmes or Dr. Horsewood has failed to make me laugh out loud. It’s obvious the two are as passionate about economics as they are about poking fun at each other at every chance they get.
Outside of class, there’s plenty of free time to explore the city, and there are cultural events planned for us every evening. The assistant program director, Beth, and the student assistants Ellie, Charlotte and Niamh, are all wonderful and are always working to make sure we have a good time. Already, I’ve seen a play adapted from the book “Brave New World” performed in the open-air mall here in town, “Treasure Island” in the gardens of Trinity College and two Shakespeare plays, one of which was set in the ’70s. The highlight of the week so far though, in my opinion, was getting to go to high tea on Tuesday afternoon — although today’s activity, punting, came in as a close second.
Another thing I have enjoyed about my time here is free time spent with friends. Often, we will plan afternoon activities together or head to a pub to meet up with the other students after the night's cultural event. Sometimes, our plans will change entirely, like they did yesterday when a group of us found out that all of the tours of the Bodleian Library were booked. (We had planned to see places where “Harry Potter” was filmed). Instead, we ended up going into St. Mary's Cathedral and climbing the tower there to see some of the best views of the city. I've really learned that flexibility when traveling is key, and some of the best discoveries can be made when you don't have a plan at all.
Already, I can say this week has been one of the best of my life, and I know my time here is going to pass in a flash. There's so much to do in Oxford, and every day it seems as though I've found something else I want to try or another place to visit. But, in the true spirit of adventure, I'm diving into everything I can with enthusiasm. People aren’t lying when they say studying abroad is the opportunity of a lifetime, and I would encourage everyone to try to study abroad during their time in college. The world is a big place, and there’s no better time than college to go out and explore it!
7/15/18 – Getting Lost on Purpose
As I head to Oxford, it’s hard for me not to be missing Ireland. It did take me over 24 hours to get there, but I managed to navigate the airports and find my bus to Galway. The Emerald Isle that I remembered is not the same as it was two summers ago, however. A warm, rainless summer has turned the grass in the fields yellow, and the days were cloudless with temperatures in the 80s. However, it certainly felt a lot cooler than Nebraska felt before I left!
The thing that I was looking forward to most in Galway was just getting to explore, so the only thing that I planned for my time there was a day tour to Inis Oírr (pronounced Inisheer), the smallest of the Aran Islands off the coast of Ireland, and the Cliffs of Moher. On my first morning there, I simply put on my shoes and left the house — without a map, and without a plan.
I was lucky enough to be staying with Shannon, the daughter of one of my high school teachers who was gracious enough to offer me a place in her home. Shannon lives close to the center of town, Eyre Square, which meant that I quickly found my way around the area despite the hard to find street signs and curving streets. In the afternoon, Shannon and I had a nice talk about life in Galway, and the comfort of feeling anonymous. I know that I certainly tried my best to avoid looking like a tourist and committing any social faux pas, but sometimes, I just had to take out my camera to snap a few pictures!
My day tour was amazing, and I greatly enjoyed getting to see the cliffs, both from the sea and from the top, and spend time on Inis Oírr. The following night, I met an older man, Michael, who had been born on the island. His family has lived there for generations and he even pointed out his brother’s house in one of the pictures I took. The time I spent talking with him taught me an important lesson about not being afraid to start a conversation with someone new, something that I struggle with as a result of social anxiety.
During my last day in Galway, I spent the evening in search of traditional Irish music and a quick Google search led me to Tigh Cóilí, a small pub in the Latin Quarter that features traditional music sets every night. That’s where I met Michael, and had his beer spilled in my lap when another lady bumped it with her elbow. Another important lesson: Wear quick-drying clothes to a bar for such instances.
After another long day of traveling yesterday, I found myself in London navigating the tube system with my luggage. Of course, London is experiencing a heat wave, so I was hot and sweaty by the time I made it to my hostel. As this was my first time in a hostel, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but I ended up in a room with three girls from Australia who were nothing but kind to me. The highlight of the day though, was meeting up with one of my best friends, Claire, who is currently studying in London through ISA. We spent the evening together and I was sad to see her go at the end of the night.
I really enjoyed the solo experiences that I had, but I won’t lie and say that sometimes, I think it would be nice to have to have someone to share these experiences with, take my picture at some of the incredible places that I saw (I got good at asking other tourists), or even watch my stuff so I wouldn’t have to haul it all into the airport bathroom with me. But, despite the occasional loneliness, I wouldn’t change my time in Ireland for the world. Solo travel certainly isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t always easy, but it will definitely change you, and likely for the better!
7/9/18 - The Adventure That is to Come
As my family traveled to Texas a few weeks ago, I found myself wishing we could drive faster. As I stared at the open road ahead of us, I had an overwhelming desire to do more, see more, live
more in a shorter amount of time. But I quickly stopped that train of thought. Life is so much more than the speed at which it’s lived and if we spend too much time worrying about how quickly we’ll get to our destination, we miss the journey.
I decided I was going to study abroad at Oxford when I found out about the program during my senior year of high school. Ever since then, it’s been the biggest mile marker I could see in my future, and it’s coming at me more quickly than I ever thought possible. But the moments in between, the two-year journey that I had to embark on to get to this point made it all worth it. If I had spent the past two years solely focused on getting to Oxford, I would have missed out on a lot of amazing memories.
I’ll admit all of the excitement that I felt when I got selected for the program has turned into a muddled mess of thrill and anxiety. I’m looking forward to the little things, like walking along the streets of the city and browsing the shelves of the local grocery stores. But, I’m also worried about big things, like missing a flight or losing my passport. These pre-departure jitters aren’t uncommon in travelers, however, and I know that it’s okay to be scared as long as that fear doesn’t keep you from doing the things that you love.
I know the next five weeks will be a whirlwind, but after all of the packing, last-minute purchases and editing my to-do list, I’m ready to begin. I start my journey today as I travel to Galway, Ireland, where I will stay four nights before heading to Oxford to begin classes. At the end of my trip, I will spend an extra three days in London exploring the city by myself. I am so excited to immerse myself in life at Oxford and spend time with friends. Already, we’ve made plans to spend our extended weekend in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and get together for late night runs to the food truck that past program participants have recommended.
As I prepare to leave, I keep coming back to one of my new favorite quotes from a man named Neale Donald Walsh, who said, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” I wish I could say that some older relative shared this with me in an effort to impart some great pearl of wisdom, but really, I found it on Google after typing “quotes about change” into the search bar. Regardless, I think that it says a lot about what it means to be comfortable, and how thin the barrier is between growth and standing still. All you have to do is take one step forward.
So, here’s to meeting new people and seeing new places, to personal growth and to the adventure that is to come. I’m ready to take on the world!
Published: August 19, 2018