High: Parents Visit

Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales

Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales

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.

View from the horse farm in Auvergne, France

View from the horse farm in Auvergne, France

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!

High: Traveling and Friends

by Julia Greider

High: The only way I can sum it up is: traveling and friends.

Ireland

Ireland

April was such a high month in general that the only way I can sum it up is: traveling and friends. First I went to Ireland, where I got to see three friends from Smith and spend enough time in Galway with Josie that I could really appreciate the town. Suffice to say it was fantastic – a bustling, easygoing place where I was never out of earshot of street musicians. Ireland is definitely a place to which I want to return. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that Galway offered me the first truly springlike weather of the year. Then, the last two and a half weeks of April saw me hopping all over Europe with my friend Trudy. I got pretty good at rattling off all our destinations:

Barcelona

Barcelona

London, Copenhagen, Malmö, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Venice, Barcelona, Madrid. If that sounds like a lot for two and a half weeks, it was – but I had been worried that it would be too much, and it wasn’t! We stayed longer in Copenhagen than anywhere else, as my Smith friend Anna hosted us and acted as a fantastic guide of the city’s history and restaurants (the food was amazing). She also came to Berlin with us, which was more or less where our routine for the rest of the trip began: arrive, find the hostel, get a map, go to a restaurant, make a list of destinations according to the map, wander in the evening, sleep, and visit as many of the places on our list as possible during our only full day in the city.

Copenhagen

Copenhagen

After conquering a few cities in this fashion, Trudy and I devised a dependable formula of sights that included a water view (river or ocean or, in the case of Venice, literally everywhere), a view from on high (usually a tower), a park, a church, and a museum. Trudy wrote our intended destinations in a handy notebook and at meals we had the satisfaction of checking off the places we had visited. Even as dazzling as all these places were in themselves, however, I know that I would have had a far less enjoyable time without all of the friends whose company throughout the month allowed me to feel at home no matter where on the continent I found myself.

Low: Missing home.

More and more lately I’ve been missing home – both Smith and Virginia. The coming of spring made me want to go sit out in the garden behind my house at Smith or ride the pony I owned in high school. Seniors are getting ready to graduate and my friends studying abroad are getting ready to head home, but I won’t be back in the States for three more months. Even as much as I’ve enjoyed being introduced to so many new places, I’m also learning the value of an intimate connection to one place, and the importance of the memories that attach to it and shade the way you experience it in the present.

Glitter: Everything became something unexpectedly glittery.

The only things Trudy and I had planned for our trip were the accommodations and the travel between cities. Other than that, we arrived in each destination with hardly any sense of what it offered. We often found ourselves on a train or plane saying, “What’s Vienna even like? Where even is it?” This may sound like a recipe for disaster, but it ended up to the contrary. Everything became something unexpectedly glittery as we perused our crisp new map and discovered that we could visit a mirror maze in Prague or the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, or when we arrived in Madrid to find that the next day was a grand holiday celebrating Spain’s victory over Napoleon and featuring a military parade of horses and marching bands. When we first set out our trip felt like a blank page in a coloring book; we had the outlines but didn’t quite know what would fill them in. And having come to the end, I can say that Europe provided some pretty fantastic crayons.

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!

Glitter: London Treasures

First-ever selfie on horseback

First-ever selfie on horseback after mock hunt

by Julia Greider

High: I was able to go on a lot of great horseback rides this month.

I’ve been taking lessons in Exeter since the beginning of February, but more recently I had the opportunity to go on quite a few hacks (riding out of the ring, in the countryside). First I went on a beach ride with the university riding club. Riding on the beach is something I had always wanted to do, and I was so happy to get the opportunity to do it! I believe it was also my first time actually riding at a full-out gallop, which was quite thrilling. The next week I went on a mock hunt with the riding club. Rather than having hounds following a fox scent, we followed a trail of crepe paper tied on the bushes at junctions and took on ourselves the role of the howling hounds. Probably the best ride, though, happened when my friend Anna, from the Smith equestrian team, came to visit. Along with an American friend whom I met here and take riding lessons with, we took a train and a bus to northern Devon and went on a long ride in Exmoor National Park. It was quite chilly, wet, and windy, but we were all up for the adventure of it. I loved the pony I got to ride – besides his confident and enthusiastic temperament, his name was Squire, which seems to me like the perfect horse name. We got to see some incredible moorland and multiple groups of adorable wild Exmoor ponies!

Ride with friends on Exmoor National Park

Ride with friends at Exmoor National Park

Low: Although joining the riding club has given me many more opportunities to go riding than I would have had otherwise, the people haven’t been terribly welcoming.

In fact, the majority of them have ignored me to an almost ridiculous extent at all the events I’ve attended. However, at some point I decided to just enjoy the horses and not let the people get to me, which has more or less worked. And it was great to get to go riding on Exmoor with my actual friends!

Glitter: I went to London twice this month without planning much beforehand, and both times turned out to be lots of fun.

The first was on the way back from Budapest (which was quite an excellent adventure in itself, but unfortunately I can’t include everything in this post). My flight came into London, so it made sense to spend the afternoon with my friend who’s studying there. We went to the British Library on a bit of a whim and were completely overwhelmed by what we found in the exhibition – da Vinci’s notebooks, the Gutenberg Bible, and original manuscripts of Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen novels, to give just a few examples. We then wandered to the impressive St. Pancras Station and a few bookshops, to complete our literary afternoon. When my friend Anna came to visit, we stayed overnight in London. We ended up seeing the musical Book of Mormon as well as exploring the National Gallery, Kensington Gardens, and Covent Garden and touring Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, which was something I really wanted to do before I left. To make it even better, we unexpectedly got to see actors rehearsing Merchant of Venice for the summer season, and our tour guide was an extremely theatrical woman doing a literature Ph.D. on werewolves! These experiences only reinforced my earlier sense that London can offer up treasures no matter how much or little planning goes into the experience.

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!

High: All the Traveling

IMG_2124
by Julia Greider

High: The best part of this month has definitely been all of the traveling and exploring that I’ve done.

The first weekend, I went to Exmouth with a German friend that I’ve met here. Although the town of Exmouth was somewhat underwhelming, the coastline was fantastic – we walked along the beach, then on top of the huge red sandstone cliffs that form the geologically significant Jurassic Coast. Besides the beautiful ocean, the rocks along the beach and the cliffs themselves made it a truly stunning hike. The next weekend, I met up in Oxford with one of my high school friends, Trudy, who’s studying in London this semester. We had a great time admiring the architecture and taking pictures of each other imitating animal specimens and anthropological artifacts in the museums we visited. A week later I went to London for the first time and met up with Trudy again, as well as with two friends from Smith, Josie and Eilis, who are also studying in Europe this semester, and two of Josie’s new friends from Ireland. This trip was really the highlight of the month – not only was there fantastic company, but I fell a little bit in love with London! I’m not usually a big fan of cities, but London felt calmer and somehow more regal and composed than the other cities I’ve visited, and I managed to feel quite comfortable navigating the Tube system despite having limited experience with public transportation. I really didn’t want to leave at the end of the weekend! Finally, this past weekend Trudy came to visit me, and we took the train to Plymouth. Although we had practically no idea beforehand what Plymouth offered, we had a great day of adventures in the city, by the seaside, and on a more isolated peninsula called Cremyll. (More about this in my glitter!)

Low: I haven’t been enjoying my classes here nearly as much as I enjoy my classes back at Smith.

The discussions feel more or less aimless, the professors aren’t so focused and enthusiastic, and some of the material itself just doesn’t catch my interest. Luckily, I only have two classes, so that leaves me a lot of time to travel and experience Europe, which is what I feel I’m really learning from. And when I return to Smith next fall, I know I’ll appreciate the academics more than ever!

Glitter: I’ve decided that the unexpected things that happen or turn up on my travels are almost always the best parts.

There’s something that makes them special simply because they were unexpected – and if I had planned for them to happen, they wouldn’t have been so exciting. A few example of fun surprises I’ve had while adventuring this month: a troupe of elaborately costumed people dancing along the Thames to jazzy music at night (seemingly for Mardi Gras, although they were four days late), a bunch of middle-aged men intently racing model sailboats around a fountain in Plymouth, a group of folk dancers performing very enthusiastically and colorfully in front of the Exeter train station, and a ruin (which actually ended up to be built in the 18thcentury just to look like a ruin) on the side of a hill in Cremyll which we climbed up into to get a brilliant view of the ocean. Many wonderful happenings occurred because other things went wrong along the way – there was no transportation to get where we wanted to go, we missed a ferry, or the house we were going to tour was closed. It really made me appreciate the saying that when one door closes, another opens – and it made me think maybe I should just never plan anything, so that everything can take on that luster of the unexpected!

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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!

My High: I’m in England!

Roman Baths in Bath

Roman Baths in Bath

by Julia Greider

High: I’m in England! So far I’m pretty happy with the simple fact that I’ve made it here and settled in with hardly any glitches. I’m really enjoying the experience of living in a foreign country, even as I’m grateful for the common language and more or less familiar culture. My flatmates are fantastic, my classes are decent, and I’ve learned my way around the city and the campus. I love exploring new places, and I’ve gotten a chance to do this not only in Exeter, but also the last three weekends in other areas. I’ve visited the seaside town of St Ives, Cornwall; the elegant city of Bath, which practically bursts with historical significance spanning from the Romans to World War II; and in the beautiful countryside around Portsmouth, where I went hiking with the Out of Doors Society. Sometimes the smallest things make me happy just by reminding me I’m in the UK – the European license plates, a little girl talking to her parents in an adorable British accent, or the guy next to me in class saying “Cheers” when I pass him the handouts.

Hiking near Dartmouth

Hiking near Dartmouth

Low: Horseback riding keeps me sane, and I haven’t been able to sign up for lessons here yet. I’m trying to join the riding club, but I’ve had trouble communicating with the people in charge, so I haven’t been able to make anything work out yet. It’s been frustrating and I still haven’t gotten near any horses! However, I’m hopeful that I’ll get into some lessons soon.

Glitter: One of the aspects of my experience here that I hadn’t considered much beforehand was the internationalism of Exeter. I’m living in a dorm that’s mostly filled with other international students studying abroad, and that’s helped me meet people from Canada, Mexico, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland, France, Turkey, Slovenia, Poland, Switzerland, China, Australia – and the list goes on. Not to mention meeting people from closer to home than I ever imagined – the town right next to where I’m from, in fact – and a surprising number of people from states such as Iowa and Montana that send practically no one to my college back home. Getting to know people from all over the world makes places I’ve never visited feel so much more real than they used to. One of the most fascinating experiences I’ve had so far has simply been sitting around with people from all different countries and comparing how things are done in our respective homes, from the positioning of knife and fork on a dinner plate, to universal healthcare (or lack thereof), to the apparent dearth of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on every continent but North America. Simply through friendship with my fellow students, I’m learning about much more than just England or Thomas Hardy’s literature, and it seems to me that finding this international perspective is the real goal of studying abroad.

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!