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.
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!