I’m so excited to bring back the Holly Goes Abroad feature! If you’ve stuck around this blog for a while then you might know that I spent my junior year of college studying abroad at Mansfield College in the University of Oxford in England. Recently I was lucky enough to return to Oxford for a week to visit some friends finishing up their degrees and to see some of my old favorite places. Some of you requested that I bring this feature back to share a few of my new adventures, so here we are! Today I’d like to talk about my experience returning to Oxford in general.
Oxford itself is a city that is slow to change. Not only is this reluctance evident in the centuries-old spires reaching up to the sky and the cobblestone streets with their winding passages, but it is also visible in the unchanging structure of terms and even social events for students. Oxford’s reliability in this way made booking and planning a trip several months in advance quite easy: we knew which number week it would be, and therefor could predict what social events we could expect there to be. As someone who thrives on order and reliability, I love Oxford for these qualities.
However, when I arrived in Oxford I found that the city’s unchanging nature also led to a deceiving sense of sameness and familiarity. I recognized everything around me–the same shops, cafes, and signs–but the people were different. Although I obviously knew the friends I had gone over to stay with, there were so many unfamiliar faces around the tiny Mansfield College quad that I didn’t know. A new round of visiting students had studied there the past year, following in our footsteps as they too experienced Oxford for the first time. It was both disorientating and comforting to see firsthand how Oxford had moved on in this way: disorientating because I hadn’t expected to feel so removed, but comforting in the sense that I had moved on, too.
I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to return to Oxford and spend time with friends who I didn’t know if I would ever see again. And while Oxford will always feel like a sort of home, it’s nice to know that it isn’t as static as one might think. This realization simultaneously means that there are always new things to experience and that my year abroad there can never be replicated. And I think this trip has finally made me at peace with that reality.
I’m excited to share some of my adventures with you over the course of the summer. Are there any specific things about either this trip or my year abroad that you would like to hear about? Let me know in the comments section below!