What I Expected Studying Abroad At The University Of Cambridge And What I Actually Got

What I Expected Studying Abroad At The University Of Cambridge And What I Actually Got

Studying abroad in Cambridge was the trip of a lifetime, but experience and planning could only half prepare me for my two months abroad.
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This summer I jumped on a flight across the Atlantic. I planned to arrive at Gonville and Caius College in Cambridge, England and study literature there. I had traveled to Europe the previous year and studied at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, so this trip did not give me the anxiety that I had felt before when I left the first time.

I was going to own this trip.

Unlike my first trip, I had plans to make this study abroad trip the single greatest experience of my life. I chose the best courses that gave me units towards a degree and that would also prepare me to write a thesis. My goals were to study like mad under my two University of Cambridge instructors, but also to make friends and see the beauty of England.

Making friends was a necessity because I was the only person from my part of California, and mostly everyone else in the program attended the University of New Hampshire which is a few time zones east from Fresno State. I made the most of my opportunity in England, and I set out to be the all-American student who would be smart, popular, and own Cambridge. This made sense because that is how I live back home, but it was not exactly what happened.

What actually happened was a cross between me making the most of a great trip and also an attempt to deal with the incidents that I could not predict.


Cambridge was one of the most beautiful towns in England, and it was also one of the most ancient. Thousands of years ago Romans were settled along the River Cam, and here I am walking along the same river to get a cup of coffee before class at eight.

I immediately felt at home in the town despite its intense draw for tourism, and I even started feeling a bit English as I started to settle in. Cambridge is indeed a beautiful city that could take a month for someone to visit all of the colleges, museums, and landmarks.

What surprised me was that the hundreds of students spending their summer abroad in Cambridge were not doing it for the culture. At night, Cambridge turned into a place for young adults to club and drink. With a legal drinking age of eighteen, tons of students flocked past the centuries-old colleges and into the clubs with booming pop music so that they could experience the party life that Cambridge offered.

When the group I studied abroad with first met, we also decided that the right move for twenty jet-lagged students is to go to the nearest pub. This was an easy task and soon we were ordering drinks and getting the best of English drinking culture. The other students and I were getting along well and starting to form friendships when I discovered that they were not drinking the traditional pint of English ale but instead following more American traditions of shooting tequila. After this discovery and the behavior that resulted from it, my expectations changed.

Studying abroad is great, but nobody tells you that staying with the same twenty people morning, noon, and night at their best and at their worst will affect your stay. What was unexpected for me on the trip was that every student attending was incredibly intelligent, but still, some were somewhat rude.

A majority of the students I stayed with and I experienced sleep deprivation, stressful assignment deadlines, hunger, fatigue, having a bit too much to drink, and hangovers before class. This all turned a trip that was supposed to be a beautiful time of new friendship into a time where people at their worst were getting annoyed by one another and causing fractures within the group.

After a week or so, the group had become cliquish and the majority of female students split off into groups of their own. Myself and the other three male students found ourselves living closely with groups of students that we could never really become a part of. Tensions started to run higher and friendly conversations turned into arguments after a visit to the local pubs. At times, the trip reminded me a lot of Lord of the Flies. All of the turmoil was a sizable damper to the trip, and it put me into occasional bad moods where I would have to find peace on my own.

However, it would take a lot more than not getting along with everyone in the group to take away from the adventure of a lifetime. Despite the disagreements among the students, I still formed friendships with very intelligent and friendly people in the group and we explored England and Scotland together.

I even managed to make a good friend with a University of Cambridge full-time student who was at the top of his class in aerospace engineering. This guy was brilliant and really made my trip better. He reinforced my self-confidence to go out and take in as much of the city as I could, and he introduced me to a lot of English culture that I could not have discovered on my own.

Meeting him and the other Cambridge locals, as well as other students studying abroad from places like Spain and Switzerland really made my trip fantastic and the cultural experience memorable.

The most beautiful time I had abroad was the classes' weekend trip to Edinburgh. There we saw the historic wall dividing the Romans in England from the Celtic Scots in Scotland. Hadrian's wall is the inspiration for George R. R. Martin's wall in the Game of Thrones series that protects the people of the seven kingdoms from the white walkers.

While in Edinburgh, I had some Haggis and Scottish beer; that meal alone was fantastic made the trip worth it. The group went on an Edinburgh ghost tour at night and enjoyed the haunted vaults under the city that were over two hundred years old. We toured the colossal Edinburgh castle that fended off many invasions from the English and was unlike anything you could see in the United States.

The best part of that weekend trip was our trip up a beautiful hill overlooking the city named Arthur's Seat at five in the morning to watch the sunrise. The view was unreal and the wind blowing over the summit made me feel absolutely alive and refreshed after a night out on the town. Sitting there at the summit as the sun rose was the most beautiful part of my experience I would not trade that feeling for anything. Edinburgh, Scotland was my favorite destination of the trip and I would love to visit there again.

Along with James Joyce's Ulysses and assorted works from Shakespeare, I learned a ton from my trip abroad. I learned that however much you prepare yourself, you can never fully conquer something that happens unexpectedly. I can not imagine another way of studying abroad because the experience is about jumping out of a comfort zone and embracing the beauty of the unknown.

Even with my experience of not getting along with everyone, I would do it all again in a heartbeat. The relationships I gained from the program made me treasure people who make an effort to have a friendship with me. I cannot thank enough those who made my trip better by being a companion through the often unexpected and challenging United Kingdom countryside. I appreciate everyone on the trip for what they've given me during the time of my life that I grew the most.

I will forever remember the beautiful Cambridge where I aced my favorite class and walked down the lane to grab a beer with my coolest professor.


Cover Image Credit: Robert Breuer

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To The Boy Who Will Love Me Next

If you can't understand these few things, leave before things get too involved
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To the boy that will love me next, I need you to know and understand things about me and my past. The things I have been though not only have shaped the person I’ve become, but also sometimes controls my life. In the past I’ve been used, abused, and taken for granted, and I want something real this time. The guys before you were just boys; they didn’t know how to treat me until it was too late. They didn’t understand how to love me, until I broke my own heart. Before you truly decide to love me I want you to understand these things.

When I tell you something, please listen.

I’m my own person, I want to be loved a certain way. If I ask you to come over and watch movies with me please do it, if I ask for you to leave me alone for a few hours because it’s a girl’s night please do it. I don’t just say things to hear my own voice, I say things to you because it’s important to my life and the way I want to be loved. I’m not a needy person when it comes to being loved and cared for, but I do ask for you to do the small things that I am say.

Forgive my past.

My past is not a pretty brick road, it is a highway that has a bunch of potholes and cracks in it. I have a lot of baggage, and most of it you won’t understand. But don’t let my past decided whether you want to love me or not. My past has helped form who I am today, but it does not define who I am. My past experiences might try and make an appearance every once in a while, but I will not go back to that person I once was, I will not return to all that hurt I once went though. When I say those things, I’m telling the complete and honest truth. I relive my past every day, somethings haunt me and somethings are good reminds. But for you to love me, I need you to accept my past, present and future.

I’m just another bro to the other guys.

I have always hung out with boys, I don’t fit in with the girl groups. I have 10 close girlfriends, but the majority of my friends are guy, but don’t let this scare you. If I wanted to be with one of my guy friends I would already be with him, and if you haven’t noticed I don’t want them because I’m with you. I will not lose my friendships with all my guy friends to be able to stay with you. I will not cut off ties because you don’t like my guy friends. I have lost too many buddies because of my ex-boyfriends and I promised myself I wouldn’t do that again. If you don’t like how many guy friends I have you can leave now. Don’t bother trying to date me if you can accept the fact I’m just another bro.

I might be a badass, but I actually have a big heart.

To a lot of people I come off to be a very crazy and wild girl. I will agree I can be crazy and wild, but I’m more than that. I’m independent, caring, responsible, understanding, forgiving, and so such more type of woman. Many people think that I’m a badass because I don’t take any negatively from anyone. Just like we learned when we were younger, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” Most people can’t do that in today’s world, so I stick up for myself and my friends. I don’t care what anyone thinks about me, or their option on how I live my life. The only thing I care about is being able to make myself happy. Even though I’m an independent woman, understand that I do have a big heart. Honesty when I truly care for someone I will do just about anything they ask, but don’t take advantage of this. Once you take advantage of this part of me, all respect will be lost for you.

I’m hard to love.

Sometimes I want to be cuddle and get attention, and sometimes I don’t want you to talk to me for a couple hours. Sometimes I want you to take me out for a nice meal, but sometimes I want a home cooked meal. Every day is different for me, sometimes I change my mind every hour. My mood swings are terrible on certain days, and on those days you should probably just ignore me. I’m not easy to love, so you’ll either be willing to find a way to love me, or you’ll walk out like so many others have.

I’m scared.

I’m scared to love someone again. I’ve been hurt, heartbroken, and beat to the ground in my past relationships. I want to believe you are different, I want to hope things will truly work out, but every relationship has always ended up the same way. I’m scared to trust someone, put my whole heart into them, just to be left and heartbroken again. I sick and tired of putting my whole body and soul into someone for them to just leave when it is convenient for them. If you want to love me, understand it won’t be easy for me to love you back.

When “I’m done.”

When I say “I’m done” I honestly don’t mean that I’m done. When I say that it means I need and want you to fight for me, show me why you want to be with me. I need you to prove that I’m worth it and there’s no one else but me. If I was truly done, I would just walk away, and not come back. So if I ever tell you, “I’m done,” tell me all the reasons why I’m truly not done.

For the boy who will love me next, the work is cut out for you, you just have to be willing to do it. I’m not like other girls, I am my own person, and I will need to be treated as such. For the boy that will love me next, don’t bother with me unless you really want to be with me. I don’t have time to waste on you if you aren’t going to try and make something out of us. To the boy who will love me next, the last thing I would like to say is good luck, I have faith in you.

Cover Image Credit: Danielle Balint

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9 Things To Do In Nashville If You Have No Idea What To Do

Trust me, I was just as lost as you are.

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Nashville is a great place packed full of lots of really cool smaller great places that all offer their own unique take on the city. If you're like me, though, and have a hard time ~planning ahead~, then this list is exactly what you need. I went around and got lost and tried all the coolest hidden gems in Nashville so you don't have to. Here are some of my faves.

1. Milk & Honey Nashville

Located in the Gulch, Milk & Honey is the coffee shop/cafe from my dreams. It's decorated perfectly for any cute insta story and y'all when I say their coffee is amazing I mean it. Try it. It's so worth it, and pretty easy to find, too! You can browse their menus here.

2. Frothy Monkey Coffee Shop

While we're on the topic of coffee shops, Frothy Monkey is a MUST try. Trust me, I've drunk A LOT of coffee in my lifetime, and theirs is up in the top 10 of the best. They have other good things too, but if you're a coffee person like me, this place is heaven, I promise. It's right off 12th Avenue and within walking distance of lots of other funky little shops.

3. Two Old Hippies

This is the coolest little shop you will ever go into. Tucked away in the Gulch, it's within walking distance of Milk & Honey, so stop by after you grab a coffee and browse. They have everything from handmade clothes to cool books to refrigerator magnets. This is one of my all time favorites and I know you'll love it too.

4. Baked on 8th

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I fell in love the second I saw the cute sign. Baked on 8th has a great atmosphere and even better little pastries, cookies, and cakes. Their cookies were so good it took every ounce of self-control I had to not go back and order 2 dozen. 12/10 would recommend if you're into Instagrammable locations and bomb sugar-filled desserts.

5. Burger Republic

I get it, you've gotta eat more than just cookies and coffee. As far as restaurants go, this place is home to the best burger I've ever eaten, plus the atmosphere is pretty laid back and great, and it's an awesome place to go and watch pretty much any sporting event happening anywhere relatively close to Nashville. Browse the menu so you can know exactly what to order before you even get there here.

6. Fido

In case you haven't noticed yet, I'm a HUGE fan of coffee shops and cafes. Fido was the most perfect little spot. It boasts about its gourmet coffee and great food, and rightfully so. It's also got the coolest funky vibe that makes you just want to sit and stay all day, and it's in a great location and decently close to Vanderbilt.

7. Go see some murals

Nashville is FULL of these bad boys. I know y'all have all seen the countless pictures of those people with big butterfly wings. Well, there's more and they're all around the city and on the side of pretty much every building. It's cliche, but tbh it's also kind of a must do while you're there.

8. Walk around Centennial Park and the Parthenon

This is a really nice place to visit if you're looking to spend a couple of hours away from the concrete of the city, and the Parthenon is a full-scale replica of the one in Greece.

9. Ride one of those little scooters around and explore

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I'm not gonna lie to y'all. I did not ride the scooters. They seem kind of dangerous and I know without a doubt that if I tried to get on one it would not end well for me, the scooter, or anyone within a 3-mile radius. With that being said, though, I did see a lot of people riding them and it looked pretty fun, plus it's a great way to see the city without walking too much. So if you just want to explore, hop on one of these bad boys and pray.

Nashville is a great city full of tons of tourist attractions and amazing musical history, but if you find yourself stuck with nothing to do for a couple of hours before your next walking tour, you're sure to find something on this list that you'll love. So, you're welcome.

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