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Posts Tagged ‘study abroad’

It’s been two years since I last visited Oxford, and four years since I moved there to begin my yearlong sojourn as a graduate student. In so many ways, I am very far from that (relatively) carefree, travel-filled, single student life.

However, there are certain times of the year where my body, almost on its own, seems to remember where I was and what I was doing at this time four years ago. Late August means my arrival in Oxford with two bulging suitcases; early November and early April both mean Paris; the first weekend in February always means Whitby. And so I’ve been thinking about where I was four Septembers ago – climbing onto a tour bus with a fresh-faced, excited crowd of ACU students, and heading off for a weekend in Wales.

We began with visits to Bath and Bristol, both somewhat known quantities to me since I’d been to them before. But after wandering Bath Abbey, touring a lovely Georgian home, and absorbing as much information as we could at the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol, we headed west to a new place: a charming, rambling old farmhouse-turned-hostel just outside the wee village of Brecon, tucked away in the hills of the Brecon Beacons.

Over the next two days, we did some hiking, some browsing in the village shops, some eating together in the hostel’s cozy dining area (I remember the hot apple crumble), and – my favorite – lots of just hanging out in the sunny front yard, with a view of these hills:

I held an unusual position with that group of students – as a 24-year-old grad student, working part-time for their study abroad program, I was not quite a faculty member, yet not quite a student. I’d just met the new crop of students (and was sharing a kitchen and bathroom with five of them, all male), so I was a little nervous about heading off with them for a whole weekend.

That weekend contains, in my memory, no earth-shattering moments – no deep revelations, no particularly surprising conversations. (Those would come later, usually late at night, often in the basement kitchen where we cooked and studied and washed dishes and became part of each other’s lives.) But I do remember walking to the village with Nick, down a dark road (only one streetlight for three miles), our way lit only by the flashlight he held, and meeting some other students at the village pub. We sat at picnic tables outside, and then we walked back together in twos and threes along the same dark lane, tipping our heads back every few feet to look at the stars.

Most of all I remember sitting on the hillside that evening, Moose stretched out beside me and Nathan sitting on my other side, the dampness soaking through our jeans as we watched the fog roll in over the hills. We talked of nothing in particular, still a bit shy with one another, still feeling our way into these friendships that had just begun. Inside the hostel, there was warmth and light, board games and laughter – and we eventually got up, stretched our stiff muscles and went in to join our friends.

But for that brief space of time (an hour? Two hours? An eon?), I remember sinking deeply into the green damp grass and the crisp night air and the warm, solid, safe presence of the two boys next to me. We were new housemates and even newer friends, but somehow, that quiet hour on the hillside five thousand miles from home forged a deep bond between us. And when we got up to go inside the hostel, I knew we had come home in an entirely different way.

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