Where to begin! I had the most amazing opportunity to study abroad in Oxford, England this past month. Before the trip, I had always dreamed of exploring the campus of Oxford – with its beautiful, towering buildings, numerous coffee shops and bookstores, and the impressive history that surrounds the university. I must say that I had high expectations for Oxford… but my mind was blown the minute I stepped onto the cobbled streets of the city. Walking into the charming grounds of Worcester College, I immediately felt at home. The perfectly manicured lawn and colorful flora was a sight to behold, and I feel so grateful to have resided in such a beautiful place for a month. I could probably write a whole novel about my time abroad, but I’ll stick to the highlights for this post!
On our second night, one of our amazing professors, Mrs. Jones, led us on a beautiful walk through a quieter part of Oxford, which just so happened to be the route that author J.R.R. Tolkien took from his favorite pub to his house! It was nice to get away from the hustle-and-bustle of Oxford’s ‘downtown’ area, and this walk proved to be a great bonding experience for my classmates and I. We meandered down a path along the River Cherwell and eventually stumbled upon a bench dedicated to Tolkien himself! It was such a humbling and amazing experience to sit where one of my favorite authors frequented. I could imagine him admiring the same view that I was! After a couple more miles of walking, we reached what used to be Tolkien’s house. The current tenants saw us admiring the house and kindly invited us further onto their lawn! The professors said that this was the first time that has ever happened. That was a night I will remember forever.
St. Mary’s Church became a central aspect of my visit to Oxford. One of the most amazing experiences was climbing to the top of the iconic tower. Although the curved flight of stairs was a bit challenging for my group to ascend, the view was most definitely worth it. From the top of St. Mary’s, you can see the entire city of Oxford – from the Radcliffe Camera to the hills of the Oxfordshire countryside. I completely fell in love with Oxford in this moment. St. Mary’s itself was also extremely beautiful and important to British history. Within the very chapel, you can see where damage was done to a pillar in the event of building a stage for the trial of Thomas Cranmer. Casually witnessing such a historic moment was a theme of my experience in Oxford! Also within St. Mary’s was the Vaults & Garden Tearoom. My friends and I found that this was the best place to go for afternoon tea! We could decompress after our classes and admire the view of the Radcliffe Camera over a steaming pot of English Breakfast tea. It’s the simple experience such as afternoon teas with my friends that made this trip so special to me.
To cap off this post, I’ll mention one of the best experiences of the trip – the Alice walk! In one of my classes, The Arts of Oxford, we discussed the impact that Oxford had on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. As the daughter of the dean of Christ Church, Alice Liddell grew up in Oxford, where she would meet Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll. On sunny days, Dodgson would row Alice and her sisters along the Thames River, making up fantastical stories. One day, Alice begged Dodgson to write down the stories, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was born! We were led by Mrs. Jones down the same route that Dodgson and the Liddells would have rowed! We began our journey on a walk through the beautiful Port Meadow (which would become one of our favorite spots) and visited St. Frideswide (Oxford’s patron saint)’s well. This was the well that Dodgson used as inspiration for the Pool of Tears! We then visited a charming pub, called The Perch, and I had my absolute favorite drink – a Pimm’s Cup. After our break, we tracked to the ruins of Godstow Abbey, an abandoned chapel. We then rested at the Trout Inn pub before our long walk back to Worcester. I have always loved Alice in Wonderland, so to see for myself the spots in which the story began was very special.
I could write so much more about my trip, such as High Table, jumping in the Thames, and exploring the many bookstores of Oxford with my friends – but I’ll cap it here! I honestly could not have asked for a better study abroad experience. As a senior, I did not think I was capable of making more friends in college, but study abroad definitely changed that! I’ve met some amazing people who I know will be lifetime friends. I am so thankful for my experience in Oxford, and I long to return to the city soon!