Looking Back at 2018

Every year for the past few years (2015, 2016, 2017) I’ve made one of these posts, and each year I’m even more surprised by how much can be packed into just twelve months.

2018 was a whirlwind year. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the first half of it was spent in magical Oxford, England, traveling and studying and making memories that I will always, always fondly look back on with immense gratitude. While the transition back home was far from easy–I missed everyone and everything from my time at Oxford so dearly–it was made a thousand times better thanks to endless support from friends and family. Senior year at Wheaton has turned out to be more exciting, eye-opening, and formative than I ever expected. I found a true sense of belonging in 2018, something I feel as though I had been lacking for a long time.

2018 was also a year of countless firsts. I traveled to so many new places for the first time, from Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna, and Mondsee abroad to new mountains and cities back home in the States. I began traveling by myself more for the first time here, more comfortable with venturing off on my own. I had my first (and thankfully only) abroad allergic reaction and my first allergic reaction to occur at Wheaton, but survived them both and bounced back with the help and kind words of those around me. I finished my first semester as a college senior and have begun to confront the terrifying, exciting fact that this is it. I took the LSAT, applied to law schools, and got accepted to law schools for the first time. Never before have I felt so validated academically, like all of my hard work over the years has finally, finally paid off. It’s an amazing, incredible feeling.

2018 taught me many things, but above all I learned balance. I feel as though I’ve finally found a sort of equilibrium between friends, family, work, school, looking towards the future, reflecting on the past, and finding time to do the things that make me happy. It’s not a perfect balance, but something tells me that’s not truly possible to achieve. For now, I’m content with the balance I’ve struck.

2018 was far from flawless; there were many rough patches and turbulent waters, but somehow it all skyrocketed to an amazing end of the year. I know 2019 will be a year of huge transition for me–graduating college, entering law school, figuring out what my path forward looks like–but I’m happy knowing that 2018 set me up as best it could with unforgettable memories, challenging new experiences, and a better support network of friends and family than I could have ever asked for.

Thanks to everyone who made 2018 so wonderful; I hope I can return the favor in 2019. Happy New Year!!

How was your 2018? Highlights? Things you overcame? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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So you’ve just come back from studying abroad… now what? | Holly Goes Abroad

If you’ve been following this blog for the past year or so, then you’re probably well aware that I spent the last academic year studying abroad at the University of Oxford in England. Why? Because I talk about it incessantly. Why? Because I had an amazing time. As you can imagine (and as this post made abundantly clear) coming back to the United States at the beginning of the summer was incredibly difficult. After working so hard to settle in a new place, make new friends, and integrate myself into the Mansfield College community, it was jarring to be suddenly uprooted and expected to return back to my usual life back in the States.

Everyone talks about culture shock when you’re preparing to go abroad, but few people discuss the idea of reverse culture shock: i.e., the process of returning back home and having to adjust back to old environments, activities, and customs. Today I’d like to give a few pieces of advice that will hopefully help others (and myself!) with their adjustment returning from studying abroad.

+ Give yourself a mourning period. This might sound dramatic, but I’m not joking. Leaving a place and people you dearly love is difficult, and you won’t be able to fully move on unless you allow yourself to feel all of the emotions you need to feel. Cry if you have to. Look through all of the photos you took and reminisce about the remarkable memories you made. However, be sure not to get stuck in this rut. Once you feel as though you’ve given yourself enough time to let off some steam, it’s time to start looking forward more often than looking back.

+ Accept where you are. Your study abroad experience is done. There’s no way to go back and recreate it. While embracing these facts is important, it’s equally essential to remember that just because something is over doesn’t mean you have to completely forget about it. Keep in touch with friends you made abroad, look fondly at the great times you had, and try not to lose the happiness and curiosity you exuded while you were there. It might feel like you’re in the middle of some in-between state, and that’s okay: you are.

Oxford.

+ Reach out. One of the things that helped me the most this past summer was reaching out to friends and family, both old and new. Staying in touch with the friends I made at Oxford was incredibly helpful because we were able to talk about how we were all feeling in the midst of this transition. You can imagine the relief we all felt once we realized that we were all riding similar rollercoasters of emotions. Likewise, reaching out to friends and family from home helped me turn my attention to the present and future. Not only was it fun catching up with everyone I hadn’t seen in months, but hanging out with old friends and spending time with family reminded me of what I love about home, too.

+ Keep busy. Whenever I’m stressed or sad, I try to be as productive as possible (fortunately, there’s plenty to do going into my senior year of college!). If you don’t have much work to do, at least try to get back into a regular routine. Get out of the house, visit friends, clean your room, read a book, reply to all of those emails you’ve been meaning to catch up on—whatever it is that needs getting done, do it. Staying busy is a good way to keep your mind off of missing being abroad; besides, your future self with thank you for it when your life is more organized!

New Hampshire.

+ Do things you love. Although my year at Oxford was amazing, I didn’t have a lot of free time to do the things I love to do back home (reading things not assigned for courses, writing, blogging, etc.). Diving back into these hobbies really helped me feel more like myself as I tried to reconnect with my life back home.

+ Share your experience. If you’re anything like me, sharing your experiences helps you think through them and process them better. Share stories with friends and family or even reach out to the Study Abroad Center at your college. Often they are looking for volunteers to share their experiences with students looking to see if studying abroad is the right fit for them. Also: if anyone tells you that you talk about studying abroad too much, don’t take it too personally. If this experience was important to you, then you have the right to talk about it (so long as it’s not done in an obnoxious way).

+ Things take time. This is not an overnight process. You may continue to feel sad or a bit lost for weeks or even months, and that’s okay. Eventually all of the pieces will settle down where they belong and things will feel less scattered. For now, just focus on taking it one step at a time.

I hope these tips help anyone returning from an amazing study abroad experience! It can be tough, but it gets better.

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

Have you ever had to transition back from studying abroad? Have any tips you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Our Day at Efteling | Holly Goes Abroad

Our little journey through the Big Big Trip my friend and I took during our spring breaks continues with this week’s exciting installment: Efteling in the Netherlands!

Prior to my friend telling my about Efteling, I didn’t even know it existed. Efteling is an amusement park in Kaatscheuvel in the Netherlands that first opened in 1952. Not only is Efteling the largest theme park in the Netherlands, but it is also the one of the oldest theme parks across the globe. With thirty-five rides and over five million visitors every year, it’s a wonder I had never heard about Efteling before. Since I absolutely adore amusement parks and will go on basically any ride imaginable, I was thrilled when my friend proposed adding this to our itinerary.

Fortunately, getting to Efteling from Amsterdam was fairly simple and straightforward. After taking the tram to the center of the city from our Airbnb, we hopped on a train that took us to a closer station, and then boarded a bus directly to Efteling from there. Our excitement was almost tangible as we walked (read: basically skipped) down the long walkway to the park’s entrance. We were here! At a Dutch amusement park! What a time!

I’m not going to lie: this park was nothing like what I initially expected it to be. But I loved it. For someone who is used to the happy-go-lucky side of Disney World (which I also adore), it was really fun to experience a fantasy park with a bit of a darker twist. Many of the rides were pretty dark (both in terms of lighting and story line) and we never could predict how a ride would end. Of course, things were complicated by the fact that everything was in Dutch–we had no idea what any of the rides were supposed to be about! It was hilarious making up stories about what the animatronics could have been trying to tell us.

After being in tourist-dominated Amsterdam for a few days, it was strangely refreshing to be somewhere that didn’t cater to tourists. Few signs were in English, and those that were offered only limited translations. While this was a bit intimidating and disorienting at first, by the end of the day I felt so much more confident about my ability to navigate in a place without relying on other people knowing English. It was also fun seeing so many excited little kids run around. I couldn’t help but think about what I would have thought of Efteling had I come when I was younger. I’m 99 percent positive that Young Holly would have been terrified of all the creepy, dark rides!

My favorite part of the day was definitely walking through the strange fantasy forest section of the park. A long, winding path weaved its way through countless fantasy figures, from more well-known ones like Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltskin to ones that left us scratching our heads (like that guy with the super long neck in the photograph above!). Walking along these paths was a nice break from standing in lines for rides and provided us with some hilarious photo opportunities.

As you can probably tell from the photos, Efteling was a WILD time. It was definitely one of my favorite parts of the entire trip! Would HIGHLY recommend to anyone visiting the Netherlands!

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

Have you ever been to Efteling? What are your favorite amusement parks around the world? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Amsterdam Adventures | Holly Goes Abroad

This summer I’ll be sharing adventures from the Big Big Trip through Europe that my friend and I took during our spring breaks. Last week I talked about our days exploring Edinburgh, so today I’ll cover the next place we visited: Amsterdam! Amsterdam is one of those cities that seemingly everyone studying abroad in Europe visits. Not only is it beautiful and packed with amazing sights to see, but it’s also very easy to get around. Here are some of the highlights from the few days we were there:

Rijksmuseum

This was our first stop in Amsterdam and it definitely didn’t disappoint. The Rijksmuseum is enormous–just when we thought we had seen everything, there was another corner to turn or another floor to explore. I loved the variety of artwork there as well as the interactive features it had (like the third photo of me standing behind a wooden cutout). We spent hours in this museum on our first morning in Amsterdam, but we easily could have spent another few perusing the rooms that most interested us. The architecture of the museum itself is also gorgeous. I spent so much time gazing up at beautiful ceilings!

Van Gogh Museum

The Van Gogh Museum is one of the most well-curated museums I have ever visited. Each floor presents a different time in Van Gogh’s life, going chronologically upward following a floor of self-portraits. Placards throughout the museum basically tell Van Gogh’s life story, meaning that you need to know little to nothing about this brilliant artist beforehand in order to enjoy this museum. They don’t allow photography, which I actually preferred. It’s nice to be able to simply enjoy the art without everyone around you constantly stopping in order to get the perfect photo of it. Whether or not you’re a fan of his artwork, I would highly recommend adding this expansive museum to your Amsterdam “must see” list.

Tulips & Parks

Amsterdam is a beautiful city to begin with, but the gorgeous April weather we had during our visit made it even more amazing. I adored walking through parks and taking in all of the colorful tulips scattered in front of the giant “I Amsterdam” letters. After spending several hours in museums in the mornings, there was no better way to spend the afternoon than by strolling through so many green spaces.

Canals

I loved walking along the canals the crisscrossed through the city, especially in the mornings when it was quiet and the evenings as the sun began to set. One afternoon we took a canal cruise as a little break from walking everywhere. It was lovely to watch all of the adorable houses go by and learn more about the history of the city. And the house boats were so fun to see!

Trams

I. Love. Trams. Amsterdam was by far the easiest city to get around that we visited. Not only are the trams relatively cheap if you plan ahead and by certain tickets, but they are also reliable and come quite frequently. Fortunately there was a tram stop near our Airbnb (we were staying about a thirty minute ride out of the city center) so we were easily able to take the tram back and forth from our accommodations. Such a great mode of public transport!

All in all, I had an amazing time in Amsterdam and would absolutely love to visit again if I get the chance. Even though my friend and I packed a lot of exploring into a few short days, there’s still so much I’d like to see. Now I know why so many students visit this wonderful city when they study abroad!

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

Have you ever been to Amsterdam? What are your favorite things to do there? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

JUNE 2018 | Wrap-Up

What a wild month of June it was! So much has happened recently that I don’t even know where to begin. (I know I say something like this every month, but this time I really mean it!). Here’s what I’ve been up to:

In June I read a total of 5 books:

  1. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
  2. Grimm Tales: For Young and Old by Philip Pullman
  3. The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  4. Why I Am Not Going to Buy A Computer by Wendell Berry
  5. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Between finishing up my time at Oxford, adjusting back to living in America, and starting work, I’ve hardly had the time to read. However, the books I did end up reading were fantastic, making it difficult to choose just one favorite. While I loved having my mind blown away by learning that The Lost World was the inspiration for Jurassic Park (which I discuss in my recent Classic Couple post) my favorite novel from June would probably have to be Lincoln in the Bardo. A full review will be posted shortly, so for now I’ll just say that this book is both bizarre and brilliant. I love the unique format as well as the fascinating blend between historical fact and fiction. Would absolutely recommend it!

+ MOVIE: My mom and I have been looking forward to seeing the new Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom for months, and we finally went to the theater to watch it on opening weekend. I know there have been some mixed reviews of it, but I really enjoyed it! There were some great plot twists at the end that made me gasp and one character in particularly that had us laughing out loud throughout the entire film. If you’re a fan of the Jurassic Park franchise in general, then I would highly recommend checking this out!

+ MUSIC: My music choice this month is very general, but very exciting: I finally purchased Spotify Premium! I used to always burn music to CDs to listened to while community an hour back and forth to work every day; however, now I can just connect my phone to my car and play whatever I want. My friends have been telling me to do it for ages, and I definitely should have listened to them earlier–it makes life so much easer (and my car rides so much better!).

+ FOOD: Since moving back home from Oxford I’ve loved being able to eat my mom’s cooking again. It feels great to be able to eat things I know for sure are safe for me to eat with my nut allergy (including my favorite burrito place, which is inexpressibly better than the burritos I ate in Oxford).

+ PLACE: I’m sure you could probably guess what I’m going to list as my favorite place this month: OXFORD. As I discussed in a recent Holly Goes Abroad post, leaving Oxford was incredibly hard and I miss it terribly. I’m so grateful for my amazing year there and cannot wait to hopefully venture back someday ❤

I spent the first half of June running around Oxford trying to squeak in all the last-minute things I wanted to do while simultaneously finishing up essays and tutorials. In a recent Holly Goes Abroad post I discussed all the fun adventures that summer term has to offer, like punting down the river and playing croquet on the Mansfield College quad. Of course, it wasn’t all fun in games–there came a time when I had to say goodbye to it all, friends and places and experiences and memories included. Before I knew it I was hopping on a seven-hour flight and heading back to New Hampshire to start my last summer as an undergrad (eek!!).

I’ll take literally ANY excuse to play with sparklers!!

My summer thus far has mostly consisted of working at the same nonprofit I’ve been at for the past few summers and studying for the LSAT (the law school entrance exam) that I’ll be taking in July. While I miss exploring new places and hanging out with my friends dearly, it’s also been nice to catch up on some reading, writing, and spending time with my family. I’ve picked up my WIP again and I’m really, really excited about it–I can’t wait to eventually show you all when it’s done! I’m a little over halfway done with a rough draft at the moment, so fingers crossed that I can finish it before the end of the summer.

My mom and I pick strawberries every summer. It wouldn’t be June without it!

 Here are some notable posts from my blog this past month:

Here are some posts that I loved reading this month:

How was your month of June? What was the best book you read? Did you do anything really fun or exciting? Let me know in the comments section below!

And for all my fellow Americans out there: Happy Fourth of July!

Yours,

HOLLY

Exploring Edinburgh, Scotland | Holly Goes Abroad

The time has finally come to share my Big Big Trip adventures (AKA the two-week trip my friend from Wheaton and I took around Europe during our spring break). After spending a few days in London, our next stop on the trip was exploring Edinburgh, Scotland, where my friend was studying abroad for the semester. We only spent a few days in Edinburgh, but we managed to see a remarkable amount in such a short span of time. Here are a few highlights:

The Elephant House

Before heading to Scotland, I had basically promised myself that I would not leave Edinburgh without at least seeing this famous cafe. Commonly known as “the birthplace of Harry Potter,” the Elephant House seems to always be bursting with eager tourists yearning to see where J.K. Rowling supposedly got the idea for her first magical Harry Potter novel. Fortunately my friend and I were seated rather quickly and I was able to enjoy a lovely cup of early grey tea in this charming, inviting, warm cafe. Strangely, the best part of this cafe was the bathroom– I’ve never seen so much Harry Potter-themed graffiti in one place before!! I would recommend the Elephant House to any and all Harry Potter fans visiting Edinburgh.

The Writers’ Museum

Tucked away in a little corner consisting of small passageways and winding staircases, the Writers’ Museum is a must-see for anyone interested in the literary history of Edinburgh. Not only is this museum thoughtfully curated, but the staff were also so friendly and knowledgeable. I particularly enjoyed the Robert Louis Stevenson parts, since he’s a writer who I was only vaguely familiar with prior to visiting this museum. I had no idea that he produced so much travel writing!

Victoria Street

Rumor has it that this curved, sloping street was J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley. After walking down its wide, seemingly never-ending turn I couldn’t agree more! There are also some fantastic Harry Potter shops on this street, including one where you can put on a robe and take a photo pretending to be a wizard. This entire street makes you feel like you’re walking through a movie set–definitely worth strolling down (or up, although that might be more of a hike) at least once!

Tom Riddle’s Grave

Yet another Harry Potter sight to see in Edinburgh: the grave of Tom Riddle! Learning about Tom Riddle’s back story is one of my favorite aspects of the Harry Potter series, so I was ecstatic when I learned that I would be able to see this literary landmark in person. Unfortunately it was very muddy when we went so we weren’t able to get very close to it. Nevertheless, it was an amazing spot to visit!

Frankenstein Pub

If you are at all into Frankenstein, Halloween, or themed pubs in general, then this is the place for you! The spooky, fun decor is awesome and every so often an animatronic monster comes out from a top balcony. They also have plenty of Frankenstein-themed cocktails. I’m so glad that this happened to be one of my friend’s favorite places to go because otherwise I probably would never have even known it was there!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this taste of my Edinburgh experience. There’s so much to do in this city and I know that I merely scratched the surface–all the more reason to go back some day!

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

Have you ever been to Edinburgh? What are your favorite things to do there? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Touring the Emirates Stadium in London | Holly Goes Abroad

During Trinity term I was lucky enough to have my brother visit me in Oxford for an entire week. When I asked him what he wanted to do during our day in London, there was one item on his list: tour the Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal F.C. I grew up watching my brother play soccer so I’ve always been a fan of the game, but I’m definitely not as invested in this team as he is. Figuring it would be at least something out of the ordinary to do, we made our way all the way out to the stadium.

As per usual, I completely underestimated how fun this tour would be.

We chose to do the audio tour, mostly because it was comprehensive enough and had the added bonus of allowing us to go at our own pace. I love audio tours in general due to their reliability, flexibility, and clarity. Everything is spelled out for you in great detail, from where you need to go next on your tour to the history and relevance of everything you see. There’s no need to worry about keeping up with a group or being able to hear the tour guide with audio tours; rather, you’re completely in control of how long the tour takes you, where you stop to take photos, how long you spend in each location, how much information you’d like to hear, etc. If you’re a planner like me, then audio tours are the perfect way to satisfy that planning urge while still leaving room for surprises in the mix.

One of my favorite parts of this tour is the amazing view of the field. Usually you’re able to actually walk out on the field, but unfortunately they were seeding the grass (or something to that effect) when we were touring so we weren’t able to do so. However, they did allow us to sit in seats really close to the field for an even better view, so I was happy with that compromise! It’s surreal to stand in the midst of an otherwise empty stadium, staring out at all of the seats that are usually filled with screaming fans. The stadium felt oddly smaller than one would think, although perhaps that’s simply because my brother and I are used to the enormous football stadium back home. Either way, the combination of bright green grass and clear blue sky was absolutely gorgeous!

My other favorite part of the tour was being able to go inside both locker rooms. When you first enter the away team’s locker room, your initial thought is: Okay, this is a pretty great locker room. But then you enter the ARSENAL locker room and your initial thought is: Now THIS is a locker room!! The difference in locker rooms is astounding and hilarious: the Arsenal locker room is complete with gym equipment, places for physical therapy/injury repair, and even a JACUZZI. The benches in front of the cubby holes are cushioned and each player has a journey hanging up on the wall. It’s safe to say that Arsenal definitely changes in style!

All in all, I would highly recommend the tour of the Arsenal stadium to anyone even remotely interested in soccer. Not only is it fascinating to see how a stadium operates behind the scenes, but it’s also such an amazing feeling being privy to all of this insider info. This tour will definitely give me a new perspective the next time I watch an Arsenal game on TV!

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

Have you ever been to the Emirates Stadium? Are you a fan of Arsenal? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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!

Yours,

HOLLY

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:

Punting

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.

Climbing

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!

Yours,

HOLLY

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!

Yours,

HOLLY