Tag Archives: England

The People I’ve Met

When I left England at the conclusion of my study abroad program in August I had no plans to return. If you had told me then that I would be back in a month’s time, I would have laughed in disbelief.

A few days after my program ended I boarded a plane to Venice, Italy where I began three (delicious) weeks of travel in northern and central Italy. Many pizzas later, I flew to Athens and spent a few glorious days on the island of Santorini, Greece where we lounged on the warm black sand beaches. Continuing east, I arrived in Armenia where I met an incredible group of friends with whom I explored the natural beauty and the blossoming art scene of Yerevan. I was originally supposed to return home at this point, but sometimes things don’t quite go as planned.

A delicious bowl of gnocchi in Sorrento Italy, the stunning Path of the Gods in Amalfi Italy with my college roommate, a church on Santorini Greece, and new friends in Armenia playing games and eating snacks.

In Bologna I was trying to enjoy my first week in Italy, but my heart was still in Cambridge. I couldn’t stop thinking about the friends I had made through the program and with the locals. Feeling rather blue, I did what any late-blooming millennial would do: I called my mom. After expressing my feelings she asked, why don’t you just go back? 

I was floored. It was such a simple solution, but the idea of extending my trip had not occurred to me. After hanging up I found that it was indeed possible to change my flights and my friend Ignacio, an Argentinian expat, said he was happy to host me. So I changed my flights in my tiny hostel room and my forlornness was replaced with excitement about the prospect of returning to England after Armenia.

Textiles from the outdoor market in Yerevan and me and one of my best friends at the Symphony of Rocks in Garni, Armenia.

After an exhausting fifteen hour trip from Armenia, I finally arrived in Cambridge long after I should have been asleep. Being back in Cambridge without my peers was a bit weird at first. In summer I ran into familiar faces all day long and now I was relatively alone in the swarms of returning Cambridge students. However, everyday I spend here I meet new people and my connection to Cambridge deepens in a more permanent way than is possible in a six week summer session.

My friend Ignacio lives in graduate student accommodations and shares a kitchen with four other people. One of the floor mates, Danny, is Ignacio’s best friend and a wonderful person. A couple days ago I walked into the kitchen and found Danny with his computer at the dining table. As I set out the ingredients for a lemon pound cake, he told me he was feeling rather anxious and was playing one of his favorite childhood video games as a distraction. At this point Ignacio walked in playing Billie Holiday, and Danny opened a bottle of wine. I set the boys to zesting the lemons and smiled as Danny, a Spaniard, and Ignacio broke into boisterous Spanish as they raced to be the first to finish their citrus-y task. As we sipped from our glasses, our attempts to convert cups and tablespoons into metric units became more and more disastrous. With mascarpone in my hair and lemon juice on their hands we all toasted as our haphazard cake entered the oven.

After a few surprisingly-good slices of cake, Danny went to bed in much higher spirits. Later Ignacio told me that it was good for Danny to have some family time. It filled me with happiness to think that the simple act of sharing a meal has the same heartwarming effects halfway across the world as it does back in California. Home can be anywhere in the world if you are with the right people. From my study abroad program and my travels I have made new friends in Singapore, Taiwan, China, Spain, France, Armenia and many more countries. Knowing that I have friends in so many countries makes the world feel simultaneously smaller and larger. Learning from my friends about their various home countries makes those cultures feel more relatable and accessible, while simultaneously deepening my appreciation for the variety of people and lifestyles that exist in our global community.

Studying and traveling abroad has provided me with so many marvelous moments and opportunities for reflection and growth, but one of the most important aspects of this program was the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people. The friends I have made on this trip, and the memories I have shared with them, will always have a special place in my heart regardless if I am living in California or Cambridge. Sometimes life requires changing plane tickets and baking a cake with new friends.

Ignacio with the local wildlife and my friends from the program.

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A Day in the Life in Canterbury, England

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Finishing college and Cambridge

This week I finished my college degree. In the past five years I have written dozens of papers, taken countless tests and quizzes, and spent hundreds of hours in the library, but Thursday night that all concluded when I submitted my final paper. As I said before it all feels a bit odd finishing my degree at the University of Cambridge, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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A pasture near River Great Ouse.

With the completion of this study abroad program I feel well prepared to jump into my next stage of life. In college I lived in the urban city of Berkeley, the rural mountain community of Monteverde Costa Rica, and now finally the historical town of Cambridge. I never thought going to university would provide the opportunity to travel and live in so many new places and I can confidently say that living abroad has been the most educational experiences during my time in college. Powerpoints, lectures, and discussions provide for academic growth, but living in a new country allows for growth in far more important ways.

Snapshots of St. Ives, Cambridgeshire on my 23rd birthday

Having visited the UK once before and having previously studied abroad, I did not experience the same radical personal changes that are common from your first time abroad. That being said, this experience was in no way any less important. At UC Berkeley students feel an intense pressure to immediately launch into a career, which makes a high stress environment conducive to rash decisions. Being here we were all so engaged with the Cambridge community and English culture that we didn’t have the mental space to worry too much about job apps and resumes. This is not to say that career planning was put on hold, to the contrary this program has provided the time to think deeply about my career priorities and goals. I have had many discussions with the locals, my professors, and my peers about careers in medicine and science. I even perused the job openings on the local hospital’s website this week. Studying abroad at the end of my college career has provided freedom and time to deeply ponder my career direction and aspirations, a luxury I would not have had if I was back home.

Local snacks! These were the best scones I have ever tried and we couldn’t resist indulging in the wild blackberries.

 Furthermore, living in Cambridge has given me a window into a different lifestyle. In the United States I would never have the chance to live in an 800-year-old building or visit ancient Roman sites such as Bath. There is a sense of permanence here that is oddly comforting: life has persisted for thousands of years and will continue to do so while you are here, and after you are gone. Layered upon this antiquity is a vibrant modern culture. Walking through the beautiful stone buildings you see live music almost every day, food from all over the world, and the distinctive youth fashion. Life here is founded on traditions and history, but also innovative and progressive. Getting to experience life in England I can now relate better to European foreigners and better understand what influences their morals and values. I will incorporate various habits and customs that I learned here when I return home.

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Gonville & Caius College on King’s Parade

A piece of England will always remain with me in the form of the growth I experienced here. Cambridge has given me a certain steadiness and confidence that I would not have had if I chose to do summer school in Berkeley. I feel more firm in who I am, but at the same time more open to change. Studying abroad has been an exercise in assessing my strengths and weakness; I know what I am capable of and what I need to work on. As I pack my bags, melancholy washes over me: it is difficult letting go of this beautiful chapter in my life, but I can’t help but be excited for the next one. I am no longer a university student, but I know that as long as I can travel I will never stop learning.

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A Day in the Life of Gilman Scholar Elizabeth in London

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Filed under Elizabeth in England, Western Europe

Where Are You From?

Two days into 2017 and I found myself on a long journey to the United Kingdom. After spending the holidays at home with my family in Mexico, I packed my suitcase and drove north for four hours, just me and my mom. We crossed the border and arrived in Tucson, Arizona – spending a brief night in a place that I had also once called home. Ever since my parents relocated to Mexico, I rarely have the opportunity to visit. Perhaps it was just the nostalgia, but it felt right to be in the place where it all started before flying to my college home again.

The next morning, I took in the lingering smell of the desert rain and kissed my anxious mother goodbye. Seven hours later, I found myself lugging my heavy suitcase up three flights of stairs to a mostly empty college apartment in Philadelphia. After two years studying at the University of Pennsylvania, it also felt like home to walk around my college campus and have late night conversations over noodles at the local Ramen Bar. Less than 24 hours later, I packed up my second suitcase and stumbled back down the stairs before heading back to the airport for another day of traveling.

By the time I arrived in London, I had passed through 3 different countries over 3 days of travel. Disoriented and exhausted, it was difficult to find the charm in London when I first arrived. My heater didn’t work, my phone service went out, and there was no logic in the placement of crosswalks. During orientation, I sat in the back with one of my best friends from Penn and we rolled our eyes at every cheesy presentation while introducing ourselves to an overwhelming group of new people.

What school do you go to? What are you studying? Where are you from?

 

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First day out in the city in typical London weather!

 

Though the entire situation surrounding “Abroad Orientation” called for small talk and awkward introductions, my inconsistent response to every “Where are you from?” question made me uneasy. As I stumbled to simplify my complicated background and the different layers that compose my identity, I realized that home could take on different meanings. To other American students, I was mostly from Arizona, the place where I grew up. In awkward and somewhat incoherent sentences, I would also mention Philadelphia before quickly moving on. On the other hand, to my British classmates, I was clearly American. Yet, I would often find myself clarifying that I was Mexican too.

 

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Strolls right at dusk down on Oxford Street.

 

It has been a month since I first arrived in London and as the days pass, introductions and “where are you from?” questions have become less frequent. Still, these past few weeks have encouraged me to look back and pinpoint the places that I call home and people that have inadvertently impacted and influenced who I am. At a time when the value of diversity has been questioned and undermined, I find myself embracing my background and the framework that it has provided as I find my place in this expansive and multifaceted city. Sure there is no place like home and there is no place like London but I have a feeling that the two aren’t altogether mutually exclusive.

 

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A rare day of sunshine near Tower Bridge.

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by | February 17, 2017 · 4:21 pm