by Julia Greider
High: My parents came to visit at the beginning of the month.
We first went hiking in the Cotswolds, which was idyllic and pastoral especially after spending the previous weeks in Europe’s cities. We then took the train to Wales and explored both mountains and towns, including the self-proclaimed bookstore capital of the world, Hay-on-Wye. I had been wanting to visit Wales most of the semester, so I was very glad to be able to do so. Unfortunately, I had to take an exam a few days later, so my parents returned to Exeter with me and went on adventures of their own while I studied. I was able to have dinner with them almost every night, though, which was excellent not only for their company, but also because we got to discover a number of gastronomical gems in Exeter that I had not yet been able to sample.
Low: Homesick on a horse farm in central France.
The last two weeks of May I spent working on a horse farm in central France. Although this was all-around an enjoyable experience, the first few days were definitely the low point of the month. My hosts took a little while to warm up to me, and it was stressful trying to learn all the very particular ways that they wanted me to do tasks on the farm. On top of it all was the fact that I was basically in an immersive French environment, and even though I’ve taken French classes for a number of years, it was extremely difficult to understand and communicate, especially before I acclimated to some of the more farm-specific vocabulary. These factors compounded to make me quite homesick, and the first few days were very trying. Luckily, things began to look up once I got the hang of the routine and my responsibilities.
Glitter: Rewarding rides on a grey horse named Reïcha
The best part about working on the farm was that I got to ride, and I had some really rewarding rides on a grey horse named Reïcha. I haven’t had the chance to do very much jumping this semester, even though it’s probably my favorite equestrian activity, but I had a wonderful jumping lesson on Reïcha that restored my self-confidence as a rider. I also got to ride Reïcha while following my hosts on two endurance training rides, which involved long spells of trotting and cantering through gorgeous French countryside. This was especially interesting because I had never before been exposed to the endurance discipline of the equestrian world. I additionally had the opportunity to try vaulting, which at the higher levels amounts to gymnastics on horseback. It was great fun – I turned myself all the way around while the horse was trotting, cantered while kneeling, and almost managed to stand up at the walk!
Julia Greider is a junior at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, double majoring in English and the Study of Women and Gender. She is studying abroad at the University of Exeter in England for five months. She loves reading and being outside, but there are few things she would rather do in her free time than go horseback riding!