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Tuesday, February 27, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

Keep calm and carry on

The idea of studying abroad is fairly romantic. You pack up your best clothing, the shampoo you can't live without and a couple pairs of bikinis and off you go. You assume studying abroad means taking general education requirement courses and jetsetting to beaches, markets, and backpacking across Europe – an extended vacation, if you will.

Coming back to UB as a transfer in my junior year, I scrounged for excuses for why I transferred. I wanted to be a journalist. I wanted to join the newspaper. I wanted to be back at home. This was my stepping stone.

My first week back, I frolicked in to the Study Abroad Office to look at brochures and dreamed of basking on the Greek islands, or going to my homeland of Italy to gorge on caprese salads and homemade wine. I came across a packet on colleges in England and realized that the last thing I planned on taking was another year of a language to study abroad. So, it was England. And then it was London, then Oxford.

The University of Oxford, one of the most prestigious and challenging universities in the world, was my choice. I applied, I was accepted and without looking back I sent a deposit in and waited to leave for three months after all of my friends started jetsetting in January. I've heard stories of friends in Turkey, going island hopping and clubbing until dawn, and stories of friends in South Africa, hiking up mountains and going on week-long journeys through restricted territories. All I needed to do was get to England and I would be set; I could travel, stand under the Eiffel Tower, go to beaches in Spain, and the like.

I arrived in Oxford ready to go. The world was my oyster and I was ready to see things, meet people and dance the night away.

The town of Oxford is quaint; its beautiful architecture adorning the streets with spring colors coming out to shine in all of their glory. Imagine Harry Potter, multiply it times ten, subtract the spells but not the magical essence and you now have my temporary home. Stepping off the double decker bus from London, I just wanted to spin in circles on Cornmarket Street, a tiny cobblestone alley on which even McDonald's looks like a castle. The first week had a lot of spinning; I met my flatmates, went to a number of pubs and found myself cooking more elaborate meals than Rachel Ray, because I finally had my own full kitchen without my mother over my shoulder telling me not to drop anything on the floor.

At Oxford, undergraduate students are enrolled in a tutorial system meaning that once a week you meet with a professor, after reading half a dozen books and writing somewhere near a 2500 word paper, to sit down to talk about the subject for around an hour. Piece of cake: I'm a communication major at UB, I'm invincible, I'm smart, I'm loud and I can write. All I thought was: I got this.

Walking into a professor's house is intimidating, especially when you know it was nearly impossible to read all of the 8 books on Thomas Hobbes they assigned you the past week. Maybe I was a little overzealous in taking Political Theory and Jurisprudence, but really, Leviathan? In less than a week? Nonetheless, I survived and succeeded.

What I can advise those studying abroad or thinking about such an endeavour is to challenge yourself; challenge your mind, your social skills, your confidence. Challenge everything. In my case, I chose Oxford for a plethora of reasons and I won't deny that I thought the name would work its wonders on a resume. However, I went because I had the ability to attend lectures by the legal theorists that I was studying, such as Ronald Dworkin and John Finnis. I went because I will never have the opportunity to study under such educated individuals in a one-on-one setting. I went because I love architecture and had goose-bumps when I walked into the colossal libraries that looked like something out of a fairytale. Oxford had everything I could dream of.

After eight weeks, which equates to roughly 12 hours of tutorial and 30,000 words, I barely travelled within England with the exception of days in London, Cambridge and a varsity polo match with the most outrageous and arrogant individuals I have ever come across. I've learned about myself; I ‘ve learned about character and what people are like with their walls down; I've learned that the Communist Manifesto is one of the most persuasive pieces of writing in Political Philosophy and how judges should adjudicate cases without any bias in Jurisprudence. Most importantly, I threw myself out of any comfort zone and succeeded and grew up a little bit.

Through the SUNY system, undergraduate students have the ability to travel anywhere in the world and for as long as they please. The study abroad offices are always available for help and make you feel like as long as you get on the right flight, you'll be taken care of for your time abroad.

I'm going to attempt to peer pressure anyone reading this and tell you that your undergraduate career is incomplete if you don't decide to study abroad. It was the best decision I've made thus far in my academic experience. I'm ready to come back to my beloved Buffalo but when I wake up the morning after I get home, I think I'll blink twice, click my heels and want to come back.


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