HOME | Holly Goes Abroad

I genuinely can’t believe that it’s already time for me to write this post. It’s a post I’ve been simultaneously dreading and looking forward to writing for months as I’ve oscillated between being homesick and never wanting to step foot outside of Oxford again.

I’m home.

Yesterday I made the teary-eyed flight from Heathrow Airport in London to Logan in Boston, too emotional to even register how tired I was from sleeping a mere two hours the night before. Walking into my house in New Hampshire was one of the strangest feelings–everything feels familiar yet strangely new. I was surprised to find that I had forgotten where I keep a lot of things in my bedroom, how I used to go about my morning routine, and what it feels like to take a shower without having to wear flip-flops. This feeling of disorientation in a space that should feel inherently familiar to me is similar to the confusion I felt the summer after my freshman year at Wheaton, but much, much more intense this time around. It’s amazing how the number of “homes” you can have seems to multiply the more places you go and people you meet.

Mansfield College, Oxford. 

My time at Oxford was undoubtedly the best year of my life. I did so many new things, explored so many new places, and met so many new people who I already miss dearly. From traveling to different cities over spring break to eating in formal halls and punting down the river, I’ll never forget all of the incredible memories I’ve made over the past ten months. It’s difficult to explain this year to people in words–where do I possibly begin?! Sometimes it feels like it’s something you can’t fully understand unless you were there alongside us all in the moment, walking those streets that feel like they’re straight out of a movie set and hurriedly writing essays in the Crypt cafe so you have time to go a pub later that night.

Leaving Oxford was one of the most emotional, challenging experiences I’ve ever had. It’s one thing to graduate high school or leave Wheaton for the summer, but a completely different ordeal entirely when you don’t know if you’ll ever see these far away friends again. We did our best to instill the “it’s not goodbye, just see you later!” mantra in our minds over the past week, but it’s definitely not enough to stop the tears from flowing completely. I can’t express how grateful I am to have had this amazing year abroad. It was better than my highest expectations!

However, the fact that I’m now back in the States doesn’t mean that this blog series is ending! There are so many more experiences I’d still love to share with you all (I still haven’t shared my trips to Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Berlin, or Vienna!!), which means that these weekly posts will likely continue throughout the summer. If there are any specific posts you’d like to see, I’d love your suggestions!

Thanks so much for coming along on this study abroad bonanza with me. I’ve had so much fun chatting with you all about different cities, experiences, museums, and memories over the past year and I’m really looking forward to continuing these lovely conversations this summer.

As always, click here to check out other posts in my Holly Goes Abroad series!

Have you ever had to leave somewhere you desperately wanted to stay? Did you ever study abroad? What would you like me to write about next? Let me know in the comments section below!




Summer in Oxford | Holly Goes Abroad

As you may have guessed from my lack of posts the past few days, Oxford has kept me plenty busy as the end of Trinity term fast approaches. With less than a week left in this wonderful city, my friends and I have been trying to squeak in as much last-minute Oxford things as possible while still trying to maintain the semblance that we’re constantly reading articles and writing essays. Today I’d like to share just a few of the fun adventures Oxford offers in the summer months:


When you tell someone that you have a few hours of spare time in Oxford, one of the first things they always suggest is going punting. Punting involves using a pole to guide a small boat down a river and can be much trickier than talented punters make it appear. Not only is the Magdalen Boathouse quite close to where I live, but Mansfield College also rents out a punt that its students can book with more availability and for a cheaper price. There’s nothing better than taking a punt out in the late afternoon with some friends, eating snacks, listening to music, and enjoying the usual Oxford punting drink: Pimm’s.


As you can probably tell from my past post about Carfax Tower, I adore climbing towers in Oxford. This is the perfect time of year to climb them because you can see some amazing views if you go on a clear day and you won’t be freezing at the top like you would in Michaelmas or Hilary terms. Recently I climbed the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin for the first time and the view of the Radcliffe Camera was absolutely breathtaking. There’s something about being elevated among Oxford’s many spires that gives you a different perspective on the city. It’s easy to get bogged down in writing essays and preparing for tutorials, but moments like these remind you what being in Oxford is really all about.

Playing Croquet

This past term I’ve discovered quite an affection for what I once thought was a boring, old-fashioned game. Playing croquet is the only time we’re allowed to step on the grass of the Mansfield center quad, so we’ve been taking full advantage of that privilege recently by taking out the croquet set whenever we have a spare sunny moment. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I’m not that bad at croquet, as well as that it’s much more interesting and strategy-based than I initially expected. Playing in the midst of Mansfield’s beautiful campus is also so surreal–there’s very little that makes me feel so stereotypically Oxford-esque.

These are just a few of the fun activities that have been distracting me from writing essays over the past term. It’s amazing how Oxford really comes alive in Trinity, particularly for those of us lucky enough to not have exams. I can’t even begin to describe how much I’ll miss these quaint summer moments!

Click here to check out other posts in my Holly Goes Abroad series!

Have you ever been to Oxford in the summer months? Do you like playing croquet or going punting? Let me know in the comments section below!



Tower of London | Holly Goes Abroad

One day while my friend and I were in London we decided to visit the Tower of London on a whim. We figured that it would take us a little more than an hour to walk through and that we would be on our way to seeing other sights shortly thereafter. Completely unaware of what we were getting ourselves into, we purchased tickets and waited eagerly for our tour to begin. Little did we know that what we thought would be a quick tourist stop ended up being an all-afternoon adventure through stone corridors, towers, staircases, and incredible exhibitions.

Where do I even begin? My friend and I were taken aback by how enormous the Tower of London is once you actually enter it–so much so that it almost feels like a little village! I didn’t know much about the Tower of London before taking the tour, so I was amazed to learn how many different functions the location had served up until this point. Not only is it famously know as being the home of the Crown Jewels of England, but it has also served as a treasury, menagerie, armory, etc. Although the tour only took one hour, actually walking through all of the buildings and exhibitions took us upwards of five hours. There’s so much to see and do within those gates!

While many people probably visit the Tower of London just to see the Crown Jewels, my favorite part was actually the plethora of interactive exhibitions you could walk through. The armory had an especially fun exhibition with many simulations of what it would be like to shoot a bow and arrow, wear chain mail, and see what each building would have been used for back in the day of fending off enemies from this fortress. We had so much fun trying on metal helmets and looking at all of the armor that the horses used to wear as they charged into battle. The exhibition kept going and going seemingly without end, and we could hardly believe how long it took us to look at everything by the time we had finished.

There is also an incredible view of Tower Bridge from the Tower of London that we stumbled upon while walking along one of the walls. It’s surreal seeing the bustling modern city so close to such an old fortress. Everything about our day here was so picturesque that we couldn’t have planned it better if we had tried. 

I know it’s already a very popular tourist stop for those visiting London, but I would still like to add my voice of high recommendation to the cacophony of praise for it. Pro tip: leave plenty of time for exploring this place because you never know for how long you’ll get sucked in!

Click here to check out other posts in my Holly Goes Abroad series!

Have you ever been to the Tower of London? What is your favorite thing to see there? Let me know in the comments section below!



A Film Screening with Neil Gaiman?!?! | Holly Goes Abroad

I’ve been a fan of Neil Gaiman’s writing for years, so when one of my friends asked if I’d like to go to a London screening of a film based on one of his short stories it was nearly impossible for me to refuse. Starring Alex Sharp and Elle Fanning, the film How to Talk to Girls at Parties is based on Neil Gaiman’s short story of the same name. The short story was initially published in the collection Fragile Things in 2006 and centers on teenage boys in the 1970s Croydon as they conclude that girls may as well be from a different planet… and meet some that actually might be.

The film screening took place at Picturehouse Central in Picadilly, a fantastic cinema with such a fun atmosphere. I loved how the vibe was a blend of old-fashioned cinema with modern touches, especially with the gorgeous lights and neon signs everywhere. There were even hair stylists doing punk-themed hairstyles before the show (the punk scene is an important part of the film), which my friend and I couldn’t resist agreeing to get done. Needless to say, walking back to the bus stop after the screening with my enormous teased hair was pretty interesting!

The film itself was wild, bizarre, and unpredictable–but what else would you expect from something inspired by the brilliantly creative mind of Neil Gaiman? I decided not to read the short story until after watching the film so I  didn’t have any prior expectations, but after finally reading the short story it’s safe to say that it wouldn’t have made a difference. The film strikes a perfect balance between capturing the essence of the short story and fully fleshing out the world that the characters inhabit in ways that the reader would never have seen coming. As someone who adores science fiction, I couldn’t help but be captivated by the meticulous attention to detail regarding the film’s alien world. From costumes and choreography to the dialogue itself, no aspect of alien life was left unaccounted for.

In the Q&A session following the screening, Neil Gaiman made it abundantly clear that he loves when other creators take inspiration from his work and make it their own. Hearing him speak about this adaptation was surreal in many ways–not only am I a huge fan of his work, but it was also so fascinating to hear his thoughts on something I had just watched. Alongside him on stage were Elle Fanning and screenwriter Philippa Goslett, both of whom offered really great insight as to the creation of the film and their experiences watching it unfold. Weeks have passed since I attended this event but I still can’t believe that I actually saw Neil Gaiman in person–it’s something I never even dreamed of putting on my bucket list int he first place!

Thus far, my third term at Oxford has been an interesting balancing act between studiously getting work done and making time for amazing opportunity that I may never have the chance to experience again. Learning when to sacrifice a night of sleep or a few extra hours working on an essay in order to do something like see Neil Gaiman speak is something that has taken time to get used to, but in most cases I think it’s always worth it in the long run. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Friday night!

I highly recommend visiting Picturehouse Central in Picadilly if you ever get the chance, as well as reading Neil Gaiman’s short story “How to Talk to Girls at Parties.” And, of course, go see this beautifully bizarre film!

Click here to check out other posts in my Holly Goes Abroad series!

Have you ever seen this film, read the short story, or been to an event with Neil Gaiman? Do you have a favorite novel or short story by Neil Gaiman? Let me know in the comments section below!



Sherlock Holmes Museum | Holly Goes Abroad

My mother and I have been fans of Sherlock Holmes–both in book and BBC form–for years, so visiting the Sherlock Holmes Museum was high on our list of priorities for our trip to London. Located at the actual address of 221B Baker Street, the Sherlock Holmes Museum was founded in 1990 as an homage to the famous fictional detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The museum is currently run by a non-profit organization called the Sherlock Holmes Society of England and is located in an actual Georgian town house.

The Sherlock Holmes Museum may be small, but it is packed with objects dating back to the time when Sherlock Holmes and John Watson would have been alive. There are several rooms to explore, including the iconic living room, Holmes’s bedroom, and various other spaces filled with knickknacks and unexpected artifacts. One floor of the museum is nearly entirely dedicated to wax figures of characters from the Sherlock Holmes stories, as shown by the photo below of Holmes and Watson. (As someone who is not a fan of wax figures–they’re so creepy!–it’s safe to say that I didn’t spend much time on that floor.) The tour of the museum is a mix of guided time with speakers that tell you about the artifacts as well as time for you to explore on your own.

After exploring this museum, it’s easy to forget that Sherlock Holmes wasn’t actually a real person. The tour guides are careful to explain that while the objects are from the time that Sherlock Holmes would have been doing detective work in London, they obviously were not owned by Sherlock Holmes himself. However, it’s hilarious and so much fun to walk through this museum as though Sherlock and Watson did actually exist. The attention to detail is impressive, as is the effort to incorporate as many references to the Sherlock Holmes stories in these rooms as possible. It makes me want to finish reading all of the stories, which is something I’ve been promising myself for years that I would complete.

While my mom and I had a blast at this museum, I would add in a disclaimer that the rather costly price (fifteen pounds per adult) is only really worth it for avid Sherlock Holmes fans. Without a passion for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fiction, I can imagine that this museum would appear rather boring and uninteresting to the average person.

All in all, I would highly recommend the Sherlock Holmes Museum to anyone who loves the Sherlock Holmes stories, modern adaptations of the texts, or detective fiction in general. Besides, it’s worth it for a trip to the iconic Baker Street itself! To learn more about the museum, check out their website here. 

Click here to check out other posts in my Holly Goes Abroad series!

Have you ever visited the Sherlock Holmes Museum? Are you a fan of the stories or any modern adaptations of them? Let me know in the comments section below!



A Year of Oxford Reading Lists | Holly Goes Abroad

What do we have here? A Holly Goes Abroad post on a Wednesday?! Indeed. A few weeks ago someone commented asking if I could share all of my required reading lists from my year studying at Oxford, so that’s what I’m going to do today. I’m posting this in the middle of the week because it’s more about books than the traveling aspect itself… besides, I have so many of these abroad posts that I want to write and not enough Sundays to post them on!

Here’s how my required reading works: about a month before each term begins I get reading lists for the primary and secondary tutorials I’ll be taking next (primary meets every week, secondary meets every other). I usually try to read all of those books during my five-week breaks between term because once term begins I’m inundated with mountains of secondary sources (mostly literary criticism articles from JSTOR) which I use to write my weekly essays. Doing so much prep reading is arduous to say the least, but it definitely pays off in the long run because it eases some of the pressure of term-time. To be honest, I don’t know how people survive without doing any prep work at all– especially English lit students!

The following lists are all of the primary texts (mostly novels, but also some essays and poems) I’ve had to read for my tutorials–and yes, I’ve read every. single. one. of. them. (If you’ve wondering how I’ve managed to double my Goodreads reading goal already, this is why.)

Primary: Victorian Literature

  1. Hard Times by Charles Dickens
  2. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  3. Alfred Tennyson, Ulysses’
  4. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, ‘The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point’
  5. Robert Browning ‘Porphyria’s Lover’; ‘Fra Lippo Lippi’
  6. Matthew Arnold, ‘Dover Beach’
  7. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  8. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  9. Christina Rossetti, ‘Goblin Market’
  10. DG Rossetti, ‘Jenny’
  11. Augusta Webster ‘A Castaway’
  12. Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
  13. Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
  14. Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
  15. Bram Stoker, Dracula
  16. Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
  17. E.M. Forster, Where Angels Fear to Tread

Secondary: William Faulkner

  1. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  2. Light in August by William Faulkner
  3. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
  4. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  5. Intruder in the Dust by William Faulkner

Primary: English Literature 1910-Present

  1. Ann Veronica by H.G. Wells
  2. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  3. Not So Quiet: Stepdaughters of War by Helen Zenna Smith
  4. “Peace” by Rupert Brooke
  5. “Glory to Women” by Siegfried Sassoon
  6. “Anthem for Doomed Youth” by Wilfred Owen
  7. “Dulce et decorum est” by Wilfred Owen
  8. Nightwood by Djuna Barnes
  9. Night by Eli Wiesel
  10. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
  11. On Beauty by Zadie Smith
  12. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Secondary: Writing Feminisms

  1. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
  2. Woman and Labour by Olive Schreiner
  3. “This Sex Which Is Not One” by Luce Irigaray
  4. “Fin de Siecle, Fin de Sexe: transsexuality and the death of history” in Doing Time by Rita Felski
  5. Many, many, many poems by Emily Dickinson
  6. Memorial: An Excavation of the Iliad by Alice Oswald
  7. White Teeth by Zadie Smith
  8. Playing in the Dark by Toni Morrison

Primary: Postcolonial Literature

  1. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  2. The Bacchae of Euripides by Wole Soyinka
  3. Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka
  4. Butterfly Burning by Yvonne Vera
  5. Changes by Ama Ata Aidoo
  6. The Autobiography of My Mother by Jamaica Kincaid
  7. Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid
  8. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
  9. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  10. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundati Roy

Secondary: Virginia Woolf in Modernist Contexts

  1. The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot
  2. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  3. Ulysses by James Joyce (only the first few sections)
  4. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  5. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  6. How to be Both by Ali Smith
  7. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
  8. Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look into what I’ve been reading for the past year… it’s a lot! I don’t know how I managed to read all of these AND sneak in some books for fun along the way… SO. MUCH. READING.

Click here to check out other posts in my Holly Goes Abroad series!

Have you read any of these books before. What did you think of them? Have you taken courses like this before? Let me know in the comments section below!



Blenheim Palace | Holly Goes Abroad

When my mom came to visit me in Oxford we decided to get out of town one morning and take a short trip to the nearby Blenheim Palace. Countless travel guides and fellow students had recommended that I visit this remarkable landmark, but I had never had the time due to work and scheduling conflicts. What better time to do it than during my sprawling five-week spring break, especially with my mom?

Blenheim Palace is located in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, which is about a 20-30 minute bus ride from the Gloucester Green bus station near the center of Oxford. The palace was built between 1705 and 1722 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. It is home to the Dukes of Marlborough but is perhaps most famous today for being the birthplace of Winston Churchill, to whom an entire exhibit is dedicated inside the palace. Today the palace is open to visitors (albeit for a quite expensive fee) and is a careful blend of home and business. Often it is used for filming, such as with the 2008 television series Young Victoria and scenes from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007). The surrounding gardens are also open to the public to stroll through, with many winding paths and small footbridges to traverse.

I had never taken a regular city bus before in Oxford, so I was a little worried about timing and figuring out where to get on and off. However, everything went incredibly smoothly and left me wondering why I waited so long to do it in the first place. The S3 bus from Gloucester Green drops you off within sight of the palace gates, making it easy to come and go. The timing was reliable and the determining which stops to use was quite easy. I would highly recommend this way of getting there if you’re ever in Oxford!

Blenheim Palace is absolutely gorgeous, both inside and out. At first I wasn’t sure how many rooms inside the palace we would actually be allowed to walk through, but seeing everything actually took us much longer than I initially expected. We walked through sitting rooms, meeting rooms, dining rooms, the enormous library (my personal favorite!), long corridors and even a surprisingly large Winston Churchill exhibition. There are artifacts and old photos everywhere you look along the way, making the journey slow but certainly worth while. I knew practically nothing about Blenheim Palace before visiting other than a vague idea of its association with Winston Churchill; however, the exhibits are so informative that I left feeling like I could teach someone else about the history of this beautiful place fairly easily. I also loved how you didn’t necessarily need a guided tour in order to get a lot out of your visit to Blenheim Palace; a self-led tour suited my mom and I just fine.

While I loved perusing the inside of the palace, my favorite part of our visit was definitely walking around the grounds. The landscape is so beautiful that it almost feels like you’re walking through a fairy tale! Despite the fairly cloudy weather (and looming possibility of rain!) we managed to walk all over the grounds, past countless hedges, statues, and quaint little spots to rest on cute little benches. There is a path that leads you on a lovely walk by the lake and even a small waterfall next to an adorable little building that my mom and I took photos at for ages. I can only imagine how beautiful the grounds are when the sun is shining and flowers are in full bloom! We were able to walk through the inside of the palace and around the surrounding grounds in just a few hours, meaning that we were back in Oxford by the afternoon.

I’m so glad we decided to take a short journey over to Blenheim Palace–what a hidden gem! If you’re ever in the area and are looking for something with a bit more nature than the city has to offer, definitely check out Blenheim Palace.

Click here to check out other posts in my Holly Goes Abroad series!

Have you ever been to Blenheim Palace? What are some places you’ve been to that feel too much like a fairy tale to be real? Let me know in the comments section below!



Top Ten Tuesdays: Books I Need ASAP

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is technically Books I’d Slay a Lion to Get Early. However, as per usual I’ve decided to switch things up a bit and share the top ten books I need ASAP… of titles that I’ve created myself! (I made a similar post a few months ago with books I’d like Santa to bring me!)

What books do you need ASAP? What do you think of the titles I’ve listed here? Let me know in the comments section below!



The British Library | Holly Goes Abroad

I love libraries, so it’s no surprise that the British Library was on my list of must-see places in London. Both the national library of the United Kingdom as well as the largest library on the globe, the British Library was something I couldn’t leave England without visiting at least once. Fortunately my mom, always up for fueling my bookishness, kindly agreed to make it the second stop on our London adventure.

Although we only walked through a small part of the British Library, I was amazed to learn how enormous the building actually is. Established in 1973 when it separated from the British Museum and became its own entity, the British Library has over 170 million items in its collection. The primary function of the library is for research purposes; however, they do have some exhibits that the public can view for free, which is what my mom and I walked through on our brief visit.

The first exhibition we explored was Listen: 140 Years of Recorded Sound. Not only was this exhibit a fascinating look at how the way we experience sound has changed and developed since the invention of the phonograph in 1877, but it also contained some really fun interactive elements. For instance, there were these big circular seats that allowed you to blast a wide range of different songs, from classical music to the Doctor Who theme (my personal favorite). Sitting in this strange chair made me feel like a kid playing on some futuristic playground!

The highlight of the visit for me was the remarkably impressive Treasures of the British Library exhibit. Nearly every item in this exhibit made me gasp out loud: music from Beethoven! Writing from Jane Austen! Shakespeare texts! The original Magna Carta. I was taken aback by the range, scope, and rarity of this astounding collection (and the fact that it is all free to the public!). I also enjoyed listening to the recordings available with headphones placed throughout the exhibit, especially the ones of writers talking in various interviews and reading various texts. Hearing the voices of Virginia Woolf and James Joyce for the first time was incredible… I never expected them to sound the way they did!

All in all, the British Library is well worth visiting if you’re ever in the King’s Cross area of London. Whether you’re a history buff, literature fiend, or simply interested in seeing some amazing items, there’s something for everyone in these amazing exhibitions!

Click here to check out other posts in my Holly Goes Abroad series!

Have you ever been to the British Library? What is your favorite thing to see there? Let me know in the comments section below!



Best Cafes to Study at in Oxford | Holly Goes Abroad

Staying in Oxford over spring break made me discover a new favorite pastime: studying in cafes. During term time I tend to do work in Mansfield College’s cafe or in the library, simply because that is where the majority of my friends do their work as well. However, being here over spring break when most students were away gave me plenty of time to explore beyond the reaches of my usual studying sphere. Here are a few of the great study spots I stumbled upon this spring:

Waterstones Cafe

My favorite part about this cafe is the location. Not only is it in the heart of city center, but it is also on a top floor of a bookstore. It has amazing floor-to-ceiling windows that look out at the bustling intersection below, letting in plenty of natural sunlight (or grayness, depending on the day!). Bookshops, windows, and a great view… what more could you ask for?

Cafe Nero in Blackwell’s

How could I not mention the cafe in my favorite Oxford bookshop? Not only does this cafe have a friendly, welcoming vibe, but it also looks out at the Bodleian Library and has the most comfy chairs. I particularly enjoy spending afternoons reading here with a nice cup of tea. It’s also in a pretty convenient location, which makes it enticing to pop into whenever the weather is a bit damp.

George Street Social

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this may be my favorite cafe for studying in Oxford. I adore the relaxed, fun, quirky vibe it exudes as well as its bookishness. Used books line shelves all along its walls and nooks and crannies as part of a book swap, meaning that anyone can take or leave a book. The staircase is even painted to look like book spines with names of bookish cocktails! George Street Social also always has an awesome playlist playing, which is a bonus.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into my cafe adventures! Stay tuned for even more cafe fun…

Click here to check out other posts in my Holly Goes Abroad series!

Do you like studying or doing work in cafes? Do you have a favorite cafe you always go to? What is it like? Let me know in the comments section below!