Adventures Across the Pond: My Study Abroad to Oxford University

By Lily O’Connor

Last spring, I had the opportunity to study at the University of Oxford for a semester.  While there, I was able to travel to numerous countries, and see lots of amazing things.  Here, you’ll also be able to travel to the places I did, as I share some of the highlights of my trip!

Home Sweet Home

Photo by Cathryn Lien

This is the Vines.  I lived here for the three-and-a-half months at I was in Oxford, along with 33 other students from the United States.

An Oxford Library

Photo by Natalie Seale

This beautiful building is the Radcliffe Camera, one of the many libraries that grace the city of Oxford. I spent many hours in this library reading historical texts and working on essays.

Buckingham Palace

Photo by Cathryn Lien

Here we see the official residence of the queen: Buckingham Palace.  It’s always been a dream of mine to see this place, so I was thrilled when I got to go not once, but twice!  Unfortunately, I was unable to go inside, but there’s always next time.

A Day Trip to Wales

Photo by Lily O’Connor

One of the places I got to visit was Cardiff, Wales.  We took a train from Oxford and spend the day exploring city centre, Cardiff Castle and the bay area.  I loved getting to see the history of this place, and experience a culture that was similar to England but still quite different as well.


Photo by Lily O’Connor

I was also thrilled that we got to go to Stonehenge.  Even though I was told not to get too excited, since it was just a “pile of rocks,” it was so cool to see and to imagine how people over 1,000 years ago managed to stack the rocks like they did.  It was also fun to hear the different theories about why Stonehenge exists.


Photo by Lily O’Connor

During my Mid-Term break, some friends and I traveled to Poland for three days.  We explored Warsaw and Krakow, looking at the old architecture and exploring the Jewish quarters.  We also spent a day touring Auschwitz and Birkenau, which was incredibly emotional, but I learned so much about the people who died there and the impact the camps had on Poland.  As a history major, and even more so as a human being, I was shaken as I stood in the same place thousands of people died and tried to imagine what it must have felt like then.

La Sagrada Família

Photo by Christine Murphy

On a lighter note, after exploring Poland, I traveled to Barcelona to finish out my Mid-Term break.  While there, I got to see La Sagrada Família, which is a Gaudi-designed basilica.  It has been under construction for about 100 years, but as the detail is so intricate, it is easy to understand why!  We also look at some other Gaudi buildings, walked along La Rambla,and stuck our feet in the Mediterranean Sea.  I definitely felt like I was in the Ed Sheeran song while here.

The City of Bath

Photo by Lily O’Connor

While studying at Oxford, we went on class field trips to different cities throughout England.  One of these cities was Bath, which is appropriately named due to it being the home of the Roman Baths.  While the water does not look very appealing, it was amazing to visit a place the Romans once used.

The Coventry Cathedral

Photo by Lily O’Connor

This is the Coventry Cathedral, in the city of Coventry.  The city had been heavily bombed during WWII, and was mostly destroyed, including the cathedral on the left.  All that remained of the original cathedral were the walls and the altar.  They eventually rebuilt the cathedral, seen on the right, and host daily ceremonies to remind people about what happened in Coventry, to show the power of forgiveness and to pray that something like this never occurs somewhere else again.


Photo by Meghan Hui

As a huge Harry Potter fan, I couldn’t not explore one of the most iconic places: Hogwarts!  Now, I didn’t get to visit Warner Brothers’ Studios, but I did get to visit something just as good, Christ Church College.  This is where the Great Hall is based on, and where the staircases that lead to the Great Hall are located, as seen above.  These staircases are easily visible in the first movie, which always gives me a sense of happiness and nostalgia every time I watch the films.

All Things London

Photo by Lily O’Connor

Last but not least, is this photo from London.  It is so quintessentially British that I would be a fool not to include it!  You have Big Ben’s tower, the London Eye, a black cab, and a red double-decker bus all in one shot.  I loved getting to explore London, and I had the opportunity to spend my last day in England exploring this amazing city.  I spent hours inside the Tower of London, walked across Tower Bridge, saw Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, walked through Trafalgar Square and ended the night by seeing Les Misérables live on the West End.  I was so sad to leave this beautiful place, but I can’t wait to go back and see everything once more!  I love England so much and it will always have a very special place in my heart.


If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more about my semester abroad, you can read my blog,

Willkommen in Deutschland!

By Carly Thompson
Adventures on my semester abroad

Embarking on an Adventure

It is impossible to accurately put into words just how incredible my semester abroad in Germany was, except to say I have gained a second home in Europe.

On January 15, senior Allie Herkenroder and I embarked on a three-month journey in Germany for the AMBEX (American Bavarian Exchange) semester. I had never flown before, let alone been outside of the United States We had no idea what to expect and barely knew each other. Here we were, with 14 students from colleges on the west coast, trying to figure out a new life together.

Everything was new. Picture New Student Orientation (NSO) week, but thousands of  miles across the ocean in Germany. Picture 15 people you’ve never met who you have to live and room with. Now, picture an unfamiliar culture, language and time difference. It was NSO on steroids.
The semester was structured in two week periods, the first week being orientation in Nürnberg. We then moved to Regensburg for the duration of the semester.
We had five two-week classes: Christian Worldview, Reformation Theology, Modern European Literature, Art History and German Culture and Geography. Following each two week class was either a free week to travel elsewhere in Europe (we had three of these), or an academic tour week (one was a Reformation tour through cities in Germany and the other was in Austria and Italy studying art). It sounds like a lot to do in three months—it was, but it was the adventure of a lifetime.
Florence, Italy (Photo by Carly Thompson)


Exploring Europe
During the first of three independent travel weeks I went to Greece, where we climbed up to the Acropolis and took in the view of ancient Greek ruins paired with the panoramic view of the entire city of Athens. We ate a gyro a day and swam in a cave lake with tiny fish that tried to suck on our toes.
My second travel week was spent in Barcelona, Spain. We visited the Futbol Stadium and the locations of the Cheetah Girls 2 film: the natural history museum where I held colored pigeons, the fountain and Park Güell with mosaic benches.
Photo by Carly Thompson
Our final independent travel week was my favorite. It was the week of my birthday, which I spent in England and Ireland. We toured London in a single day. We awoke at 6:00 a.m. and saw the Sherlock Holmes Museum, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. We took a tour of the locations used in filming the Harry Potter movies– our tour guide dressed to look just like Hagrid. We finished the day by watching the musical “Wicked” at the Apollo Theater, my dream come true, and taking pictures at Platform 9¾ in King’s Cross Station.
We took a ferry over to Ireland for the rest of the week, staying in Dublin, Killarney and Galway. We stayed in both the countryside, with brilliant green grass and sheep, and in bustling cities. We visited the Cliffs of Moher, took meandering walks through the countryside and experienced the city life of street performers and Irish music while celebrating my birthday in Galway.
A New Home
We always returned home to Regensburg after our excursions. Living in Germany was like living in a storybook. Every cobblestone street, narrow alley and red-roofed building took us back in time to a history preserved tangibly in their culture. Regensburg is a quaint little town on the Danube River, with storybook Bavarian architecture, unmistakable red roofs, cathedrals and home to the royal Thurn and Taxis family living in their elaborate palace.
We lived in one wing of our Jungendherberge (hostel) in rooms that resembled standard dorms, except the windows didn’t have any screens.
On our trip we had 15 girls and one guy, so girls got to rotate roommates while poor Jonah was by himself.
Photo by Carly Thompson
Our classes took place in a conference room in our hostel down the hall from our rooms, and we would usually meet from 8:00 a.m. until lunchtime for class every day for two weeks. After lunch we had free time for the rest of the day to do “homework,” which meant explore the city.
Most days we would frequent cafes and listen to the locals converse while eating delectable pastries. In the winter, most of our exploring involved food. Bavarian pretzels, chocolate and gelato were staples every day. If we didn’t like the food at the hostel, our favorite meal
to grab was döner kebabs (pita stuffed with shaved meat, cabbage, cucumbers, onions and special sauce) and dürum (which is everything inside döner but stuffed into a wrap). Our spring explorations took us on walks down the river on paths lined with hundreds of wild flowers, or up the hill to a small chapel where we climbed into the largest tree I had ever seen. Every day was an adventure.
On one of our adventures at the ice skating rink I met my dear German friend, Maike. We were brought together by her longing to be back in America and my longing for a local friendship.
We skated and talked the entire night about our love of books, writing and cultural differences. Maike also attended Lifestream church where we went on Sundays, an independent “free” church which met in a bar. The congregation was so hospitable and friendly. Although the services were conducted in German, we were connected by our faith. Whether we sang in English or German, we were united in one language—God’s language. Regensburg will forever have a piece of my heart.