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!
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!