It’s All New to Me

Lauren Kelly Hertford College,University of Oxford, England


September 17, 2020
Currently Studying At: Hertford College, University Of Oxford, England
Homeschool: Lawrence University
Somewhere in the sky, worried the plane will crash

You know, you might be wondering what it is like to be alone and abroad for the first time in a pandemic—simply put, it’s all new to me. From navigating TSA and immigration to traveling through four airports with a mask on and too many people around, to being six hours ahead of my loved ones, I have faced a lot so far. Unfortunately, I still have not been rewarded with what my January self had thought I would be getting to do right about now—I am going on to day six of being trapped in my room in South Oxford. At this time, every traveler from the United States must quarantine for fourteen days. Luckily, I have support from Arcadia, Hertford, and my loved ones back at home to help me get through it. Additionally, I have a room with a great view of the River Thames, where I see so many birds, people, boats, and cars, I can almost pretend that I am experiencing what they are. I also share a kitchen with the other Hertford students who are quarantining here, as well as a beautiful quad area. However, those are the only places I can sight-see for now and, as you might imagine, even the view got old pretty quickly.

The view from my quarantine room
The quad’s bridges over the Thames

That being said, I am constantly reminded of how cool this opportunity is and how lucky I am that I get to have it. When I started my application in November, I did not think that I would get accepted, and when I found out that I did get accepted in January, my happiness and excitement quickly disappeared in March. I had basically been in limbo from March to the second my plane touched down in Heathrow (because I still had some doubt during my almost 24-hour journey that this was really going to happen). Now, I am enjoying hearing British accents from my window, having my four-hour online September History Seminar class, and learning more about the opportunities I can have in the United Kingdom even despite the pandemic. For one, I get to study English at the oldest English-speaking institution in the world—specifically, twentieth-century colonial literature and modernist short stories, areas in which many British authors wrote. I can visit historic buildings, shops, and landmarks and step outside (eventually!) to walk alongside Christchurch Meadows and the River Thames. Also, I get to meet so many new, interesting people in clubs, music ensembles, and my subjects. This is especially exciting considering how holed up I have been!

Though this is an experience filled with things that are completely new to me (and thus mostly out of my comfort zone), and I was very hesitant to do this all in-person, I am glad that I am here in Oxford. I have proven to myself and others that I am capable of traveling alone; now I am proving to myself that I can be far away from home, even in isolation. The next couple of days will certainly be challenging, but I am so excited to finish quarantine, leave my room, and explore the parts of Oxford beyond what I can see from my window!