The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

How study abroad taught me to stop studying

The fleeting whims of study abroad showed me that life isn’t meant to be spent in a library

<p>I never said no to any opportunity that would bring me closer to the people I was coming to love and the place that was starting to feel like a second home.&nbsp;</p>

I never said no to any opportunity that would bring me closer to the people I was coming to love and the place that was starting to feel like a second home. 

While almost a year has passed since I studied abroad at the University of Oxford last summer, glimpses of my time there have slipped into my mind every day since. Whether I’m cramming for an exam in Clem or catching up with a friend on the Corner, all of my favorite memories from abroad flash through my head like an infinite film reel. 

Studying for my final exams this week has made me realize that despite earning six credits abroad in thought-provoking and challenging classes, I rarely reminisce on the studying. Oxford’s ivy covered, stone-crafted library flaunts all of the requisites of the ideal dark-academia aesthetic, yet I barely remember the few hours I spent inside it. Turns out, it took attending one of the most prestigious universities in the world for me to realize there’s more to life than studying.

My first day at Oxford was unforgettable. I remember stepping off the red bus and onto the cobblestone sidewalks in complete awe — I was met with British accents and quaint tea shops and regal stone buildings at every corner. When nighttime came, despite having been awake for over 30 hours and having endured a three-hour walking tour of the town, all of my new friends and I stayed up chatting, laughing and dancing in the school’s underground bar, the Beer Cellar. 

Even the first day of class was fun — in place of the old wooden desks I had imagined, our classroom had a single sectional couch on which my 13 classmates and I all squished together. My Politics of the European Union professor, Othon Anastasakis, was a joyous and passionate man from Greece who loved to tease us Americans about our politics. We loved to tease him back about his idiosyncrasies. As he would say, it was a paradox of sorts — if you know, you know.

On the second day of class, however, the perfection that was my first 48 hours abroad came to a sudden halt. My class got back from tea time — the program’s daily gathering in the grand dining hall where we would pretend to like tea just so we could hold the little porcelain cups — and Othon told us we would all give presentations on the history of the EU that week. I drew the unlucky straw and had to present the next day.

My friends were going on a pub crawl of all the historic Oxford pubs that night. My project was technically done, but it wasn’t outstanding. So I stayed in. I learned everything there was to know about the EU. I made the slideshow beautiful. I called my parents crying while simultaneously assuring them I was having the time of my life — the whole nine yards. 

The next morning, I killed the presentation. Then I sat down on my one square foot of the sectional couch and realized I didn’t care at all. 

A switch flipped in my head — the relief of doing well on the presentation was a speck compared to the weight of missing out on the pub crawl that I would hear about from my friends for the next year. I probably could’ve stressed 50 percent less and still done 95 percent as well. It was at that moment that I decided I no longer wanted to waste half my life to get that extra 5 percent. 

This was the mentality I kept for the rest of my time at Oxford. I never said no to any opportunity that would bring me closer to the people I was coming to love and the place that was starting to feel like a second home. 

Over the course of a few weeks, we went from a jumbled up mix of forty-something students from every corner of the University to a band of best friends, and we had ourselves a ball. Excursions to castles and landmarks, such as the Globe Theater and Stonehenge, filled our days, and trips to our favorite local bar, Hank’s, filled our nights. On the weekends, we voyaged to the breathtaking beaches of the French Riviera or the bustling streets of Paris and London or the iconic pubs and music of Dublin. 

Oh, and everyone was in love with each other. And not in the boring college way either, but in the really cute “let's go on a romantic stroll by the pond” British way that I thought only existed in Jane Austen novels. I’m not sure if any of these love stories made it back to the United States, but the jokes about them certainly did. 

Instead of spending six weeks in the library, I spent six weeks basking in the sunlight and moonlight of the Fellows’ Garden, competing in — and losing — a croquet tournament and galavanting up and down the streets, trying not to get hit by all the cars going the “wrong way.” We secretly walked on the forbidden grass of the quad and dressed to the nines at the prim and proper high table dinners and laughed and laughed at our own tomfoolery. These are the moments that will continue to flash through my mind forever. I know I won’t even remember my grades. 

Now back at the University, I have realized this mentality doesn’t just apply to life at Oxford. I only had six weeks to soak in all the summertime whimsy of Oxford, but we also only have four years to experience all of the fantastical vivacity of college. And — not to get existential — but who knows how long we have in this life? 

So, I treat everyday like it's study abroad now. I say yes to a long lunch at Bodo’s, and I push back readings to go to that show at the Jefferson Theater and I count talking about nothing on the Lawn as “being productive.” 

College is about learning, academics are important and you should do your homework. Don't fail your classes, don't be lazy and all that stuff everyone has told you your whole life. But also, don’t say you'll have fun once you pass your finals, don’t say you'll be happy once you have good grades and don't blow off your life in the name of your GPA.

I have a final paper, a final project and two final exams this week. That’s okay — I know I’ll get them done. For now, I’m going to keep reminiscing on how much I miss the university I had the privilege of exploring last summer and how much I love the one I have the honor of living in now.  


Latest Podcast

Today, we sit down with both the president and treasurer of the Virginia women's club basketball team to discuss everything from making free throws to recent increased viewership in women's basketball.