Sorry for the delay, I’ve actually been back in Oxford for the last week or so and am into the first week of my last term (!) but before I get into the tons of things happening in Trinity Term I wanted to finish off my ‘Carmen Sandiego’ travels part of my blog, or the places I went during our enormous six-week break between terms.
In my last post, I talked about London, Rome and Scotland, and I took a break between trips to reboot (and buy a smaller suitcase- thanks, Easyjet) and then I was off to Spain for about 2 1/2 weeks! As a note to future study abroad students,traveling via visiting your fellow HC aborad friends or other college students you know studying aborad will save you a lot of money (though hostels can definitely be an excellent source of quirky travel stories). Sometimes you also run into your fellow crusaders completely unplanned! Kelsey (who worked with me on CINE-GLOS last summer) and I literally walked into each other while in the Plaza Mayor in Madrid!
Over the two weeks, I visited Palma Mallorca, Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla, ending my trip watching Semana Santa and going to Easter Mass in the Sevilla Cathedral. While I’m still pretty fond of the HC Chapel, I admit there’s something to be said for going to Easter Mass in a church older than my home country.
It was fantastic to be back in Spain (I lived in Madrid for a little over a month when I was in high school) and dust off my Spanish, which had gotten really rusty while in Oxford, since I haven’t been able to take any Spanish classes. I also got to ask my friends about their study abroad programs in Spain and see how their experiences have compared to mine. The food, of course, was also wonderfully exotic after months of English food (Sorry, England! Though I have to say the Mansfield Dining Hall food is excellent). Every night me and my travel buddies would either order enormous plates of paella and seafood dishes like pulpo planchado (grilled octopus- seriously, it’s delicious) or go to a tapas bar and share a ton of small tapas plates.
I hadn’t realized how much traveling itself is an integral part of the study abroad experience- speaking as someone who is much more ‘book smart’ than ’street smart,’ navigating around foreign airports, making connecting flights, and booking the right transportation demands a lot of responsibility and awareness. Probably the scariest moment of my entire trip was when I was taking a 6-hour bus from Sevilla to Madrid to fly back to London, and the bus stopped at a rest station to let passengers off for about ten minutes to stretch their legs. I got off the bus with just my purse, bought a sandwich, walked back outside and my bus had disappeared.
Of course, after (sort of) calmly asking people around me if they had been on my bus, I found out that the buses move to the back of the rest station to refuel and change drivers before returning to the front, but there was a few minutes in which I genuinely though I was stranded somewhere in Southeast Spain with just a wallet and non-working British phone. These are the situations that study abroad prepares you for.
So, in this shameless plug for the study abroad program, while you can’t add ‘traveler extraordinaire’ to your resume, traveling during breaks on study abroad has definitely given me the hard-knocks education I can’t get in the Bodleian (and that’s saying something, considering you can find pretty much everything else in the Bodleian)
Sheila Coursey '13