Category: Cambridge (page 1 of 24)

All posts from students studying abroad in Cambridge, England

New Experiences in an Old Country

Author: Emily Neuharth

Location: Cambridge, England

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Reflections on living in a country that is deeply rooted in history— a new experience for me.

I have always been the type of person that felt interested in history because it was something that I felt like I should be interested in. As a student immersed in creative writing, literature, and humanities courses, studying context has become like muscle-memory to me. As the city’s unprecedented historical depth was continually used as a selling-point for the Cambridge program, I anticipated growing in this forced-interest and I had (and still have) high hopes for the positive influences it will have on my writing and understanding of the world. The beginning of our time here has been jam-packed with British Life and culture excursions all around Cambridge and England in general, the majority of these focusing on famously historical, traditional locations.

Liz and I in front of Ely Cathedral (photo taken by Jasmine!)

I should make clear that I do feel incredibly fortunate to be able to witness and learn from these ancient churches and free museums (all museums in England are free!!); I have been trying very hard to be intentional and not take any of it for granted. But there have been many moments where I’ve become overwhelmed trying to truly wrap my mind around the fact these places have existed for as long as they do.

For example, we climbed 170 steps to get to the top of Ely Cathedral where we were met with a breathtaking (not just from the stairs), misty view. Watching the birds nestle on top of gargoyles, I thought about our newly acquired facts, like how part of the Cathedral is from the 600s, that the magnificent trees used to support these 250 ft. towers were from the 300s, and that, in the 900s, they could create something so tall and long-lasting. I was in awe, but I couldn’t muster the profound wonder that I felt the Cathedral and its history deserved. And it wasn’t like I was reading about Ely in a textbook— I felt one of those trees with my hand and I stood on top of this massive tower!

Liz and Jasmine at the top of the tower.

This photo was taken about halfway up the tower.

I think it was the mindset that history in itself should be enough to captivate and deeply inspire me that often resulted in me feeling discouraged after the first of these excursions. Upon reflection, I’ve reminded myself that everyone’s interests are varied and that that’s okay— it’s not really something I can force. But I’ve also realized that finding personal connections to something historical has led me to the awe that I felt I was lacking.

The following are some parts of Ely where I experienced profound wonder through witnessing the interaction of past and present.

I’ve discovered that it’s often been in noticing the little things that I find wonder and feel like I’m doing something right with my precious time abroad. Some generous-spirited stranger had placed this little painted rock in a perfect little nook, and it really was one of my favorite observations from Ely. Not only was that bird now finally in her rightful home, but it also brought humanity to this indestructible building. It inspired me to consider how many people have come to see this Cathedral (as tourists, church-goers, mourners, historians, musicians, workers, clergy, royalty etc.). Who painted this rock and who brought it here?

I think another reason why I had difficulty sustaining interest in some of our initial historical sightseeing was that when I couldn’t find any personal connection, I subconsciously felt like it couldn’t apply to me or that it was something I was excluded from. But I have been growing in appreciating the vast amount of time that these places have existed, rather than letting its mysterious incomprehensibility make me feel insignificant. And still, there have been times where we’ve been able to magically impose our present lives into the insurmountable past— like how our trip to Ely coincidentally fell on Ellie’s birthday!

An amazing photo that Jasmine took of Ellie at Ely!

A Typical Tuesday in Cambridge

Author: Ulises E. Hernandez

Location: Cambridge, England

Pronouns: He/Him/His

As we approach the end of our study abroad program, I feel that it’s time to reflect on what goes on in my life on a typical Tuesday in Cambridge. You might wonder, why Tuesday? Well, the Valparaiso University is partnered with the Westfield house which is part of the Theological Federation of Cambridge University. Every Tuesday, it is customary for all Valparaiso and Concordia students to meet for a social tea gathering that ends with an evening prayer service. That event takes place in the evening, so first, let’s backtrack and cover my entire day from the moment I wake up.

After my alarm goes off, I get up without hitting the snooze button at exactly 7 am. I get dressed and I make my way down to the bathroom to shave and brush my teeth. After that, I go to the kitchen and prepare myself three eggs, a cup of Greek yogurt and ½ of a cup of oatmeal. After I have prepared and eaten my first meal, I go back to my room to grab my backpack and clothes in order to later take a shower at the gym. By 8 am, I grab my backpack and bicycle keys and ride to a fitness center called Kelsey Kerridge, which is located about 15-20 minutes away from the Valparaiso study center. On Tuesday’s, I focus on deadlifting and the upper back muscle groups which take me about 2-3 hours depending on the day and my level of energy. After my workout, I cool down for 15-20 minutes by eating my second meal of the day which consists of a protein shake, rice, vegetables, and a piece of chicken breast. After my meal, I take either an ice bath, I get on the hot tub or I sit in the sauna for 12-20 minutes. My decision will be based upon the day and the intensity level of my workout, once I finish on those things I take a regular shower and I get dressed.

Tuesdays are usually my easiest day of the week because I only have a Marketing class that starts at 1 pm. This class is two-hours longs and the class is set up to be a more project-based learning instead of a conventional lecture. We will do some type of activity for the first hour which is usually market research based. For the second portion of the class, we usually tend to discuss our findings followed by a small lecture presentation done by the professor. After class, I will go back to Kelsey Kerridge to pick up my gym bag and I ride my bicycle back to the study center.

Once I get to the study center, I will prepare my third meal of the day which consists of the exact same thing as my second meal. After I eat my meal, I usually take about an hour to read for my next day classes. At 4:30 pm, we all meet at the Chapel for tea and that takes about an hour. We usually talk about events during the week that are usually planned by Cambridge University or about upcoming trips we plan on our own. After tea, we all go to the evening prayer that is most of the time organized by students. Last week I had the chance to play tuba for the first time since High School during service and it was a great experience! After Evening prayer, we all usually go back to the study center and some of us work on homework for a few hours in the living room. Usually, I’ll have my fourth meal at 7 pm which consists of the exact same thing as my second and third meal! After eating my dinner, I’ll go to my room and I usually do about 2-3 hours of reading for my next day classes. After the reading, I usually work on my final papers until 1 in the morning. This paper is typically very long and the entire course grade depends on them. After working on my papers and reading, I usually go downstairs to the kitchen to drink a protein shake and to brush my teeth in the bathroom. After that, I change and I get ready for bed. That’s my typical Tuesdays and I have two more Tuesdays remaining!

Around England

Author: Emma Hecht

Location: Cambridge, England

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

I don’t know anything about sports. So, when my friend and her family took me to the Chelsea vs. Crystal Palace soccer (“football”) game two Sundays ago at Stamford Bridge, I learned a lot: 1. They water the field right before the game. To someone mildly accident-prone, this seemed particularly hazardous. But, I guess it’s just to get the field to the right texture… I don’t know, it still seems dangerous to me.
2. Sometimes you just need a five minute nap to get through the first quarter.
3. British/European fans are very reserved. They sit quietly in their seats observing the game, occasionally chanting uniformly. They only stand and cheer when their team makes a goal. (Which is what? Like, max four times a game?) I don’t know any American who has sat through even a little league game that mildly.
4. The players use their heads and chests almost as much as their feet to get the ball around. I’m
not sure how that doesn’t hurt.

Stamford Bridge Stadium

Another big thing here in England  is the holiday Bonfire Night (also called Guy Fawkes Night) on November 5th . It started years after Guy Fawkes, a Catholic activist, and a dozen other men planted gunpowder under the House of Parliament to blow it up. This would have killed the political members inside that were religiously persecuting the Catholics, if Guy Fawkes hadn’t gotten caught just hours before he was going to light the match and complete the plot. Great Britain began to remember this day to celebrate that their King and Parliament members weren’t killed, which was definitely very anti-Catholic. However, today that anti-Catholic message is gone and it’s simply an act of community where people get together and set off fireworks and light a huge bonfire. The event I attended was organized by the city of Cambridge. There were twenty minutes of fireworks, which might’ve been the best fireworks I’ve ever seen, and, of course, an enormous bonfire. The fact that the Brits will light this bonfire astounds me. They are crazy about their fire safety. Pretty much all of the doors in the house I live in are “fire doors” and they have to be closed at all times. Any building you go into has marked fire exits (not emergency exits—fire exits). In one church service, I was in, there was even a designated seat for a fire marshal.

The fireworks, which lasted twenty minutes

A terrible picture of the bonfire, but the best one my iPhone 6 camera could take—I could feel
the heat from where I was standing

Three other Valpo girls and I took a little field trip with our director, Dr. Brugh, and her husband this past weekend to Anglesey Abbey. We walked around the grounds, which were kept up beautifully, and contained all kinds of trees and plants. Right near the main house, there is also a working flour mill, one of the last of its kind in England, where the flour is hand-ground. The house itself is built on the foundation of an old abbey where monks used to live and work. However, it was rebuilt around the 17 th century. Now, however, all of its decorations come from the 1920’s, since its buyer in that era wanted to modernize it.

River through the grounds of Anglesey Abbey, leading to the flour mill (the white building)

The back of the house

The British Education System

Author: Emma Hecht

Location: Cambridge, England

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

The education system here in England is extremely different from what we’re used to in the United States. I attend two different schools: the University of Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin. The University of Cambridge is made up of thirty-one colleges, each with their own dormitories, libraries, and classrooms. Each student accepted to the university is part of one and only one college, such as Kings or Trinity. However, students from each college sit in lectures together, which are not held at any college in particular, but on a different part of campus in buildings of lecture halls. The lectures are typically small, about twenty students, but can be up to around two-hundred. The lecturer basically just walks into class, gives a speech, leaves, and class is over. After the big community lecture, the students go back to their respective colleges and meet with a tutor (a different professor that belongs to their college), which is the person that facilitates a discussion about the class. These meeting might be one on one or in a very small group. Students will turn in all their course work to this tutor, not the lecturer. Speaking of course work, English professors do not assign coursework for a grade during the semester. The only thing that is due for the entire semester is a substantial paper at the end that expresses some sort of knowledge regarding an aspect of the course. There are recommended readings each week, but no quizzes, exams, or in class discussions of what you read. You can choose to read what’s recommended, read something different, or not read at all. Since Valpo students can’t belong to one of the thirty-one colleges, we get access to our Cambridge classes through the Westfield House, the building next door to our house, which is part of the Cambridge University Theological Federation. It’s like a Lutheran seminary that is connected to the lecture halls of Cambridge. So, Valpo students can have lectures in the Cambridge lecture halls, and then we come back to the Westfield House and meet with our tutor (e.g.—I sit in a twenty-five person lecture at the Faculty of Divinity lecture hall for my Sociology of Religion class and then come back to Westfield and meet with Dr. Gunjevic and two other Valpo students to talk over readings and decide on our paper topics). My classes at Anglia Ruskin are similar to Cambridge, but much more relaxed. It’s a small school like Valpo, where my classes (Database Design, Writing Poetry, and Prose Fiction) consist of ten to twenty students. Like Cambridge, there is only one assignment, due at the end of the semester (some of them due after the semester end at the beginning of January). Because they only assign one cumulative assessment, each class typically just once a week for two hours. For these classes, you have to “tap in,” which means you tap your student ID on a little electronic device on the wall inside the door that takes attendance. Even though Anglia uses this system to track exactly how many classes you attend, many students skip classes. But if you study abroad here, you are not allowed to skip more than two, or you get sent back to the States.

Anglia Ruskin University (where I take 3 classes)

Faculty of Divinity, Cambridge University (where I have my lecture once a week)

No, I Didn’t Meet the Queen

Author: Emma Hecht

Location: London, England

I arrived here in Cambridge on August 23rd and even though I’ve been here for a little over a month, I still haven’t acquired a British accent, which has been on the top of my to-do list since I started reading Harry Potter in the 5th grade. Despite this, my 33 days in Europe has been extremely productive, eye-opening, and full of wonder in different ways.

One of the first nights I was here, my friend Claire and I went to a pub down the road, The Mitre. We walked in and stood by the door for a good thirty seconds, wondering if someone would come and take us to a table. Around the thirty-first second, it became increasingly apparent that we were on our own. To confirm this, we approached the bartender and asked, “Do we seat ourselves?” She replied with a turn of phrase odd to the American ear, “Oh yes you absolutely can do so.” So, we found a corner table and sat and sat, waiting for our waitress. She came up to us after a good bit of waiting and took our drink and food order, both of which were out in record time. We scarfed it all up, talked for a bit, and then sat and sat and sat, waiting for our bill. After an hour and a half of sitting and not seeing our waitress anywhere, I got up and walked around, trying to spot her. After determining that she forgot about us and went home, I went back to the bartender and asked if we could pay her at her register. We could, so we did. And left a 20% tip to which she responded with a surprised, “Oh wow, that’s so kind of you!”

Rules for eating in a pub (which we learned the following day):

  1. You seat yourself.
  2. You go to the bartender to order.
  3. You go to the bartender to pay.
  4. You don’t have to tip your waitress.

Pictured here: the traditional English meal I ordered at The Mitre after I told myself I couldn’t get macaroni and cheese because I can’t eat the same things I eat in the United States when I’m in England.

In Cambridge, classes don’t begin until late September/early October (excluding our British Life and Culture class, which is taken through Valpo and began when we arrived), so I’ve had quite a lot of time to wander around the city. Boots serves as the UK Walgreen’s, and I do most of my grocery shopping at Sainsbury’s or Aldi. The architecture is incredible, every piece of every building carefully formed, uniting to make magnificent buildings. One day I took a book and read for a few hours (well, read for an hour, napped for a couple more) in front of St. John’s college on the River Cam (pictured below).

We’ve also gone over to London a couple times, visiting the Churchill War Rooms, Piccadilly Circus (not a circus as I thought it would be, rather an English Time’s Square that for some reason hosts a three-story M&M’s store), the Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe (to see a three hour performance of Othello, for which we were in the standing court—a great performance that also greatly tired my legs), Borough Market, Westminster Abbey (where we got to see Stephen Hawking’s stone, just put in two-three weeks previous to our visit), Kensington Palace, and Buckingham Palace (a portion of it pictured below—and no, I didn’t meet the Queen).


While I enjoyed London, at times it feels just like any other metropolitan city, like being in Chicago or NYC. However, I love being in Cambridge (so far—we’ll see how I’m doing later when the stress of classes sets in). The town, while it is big, just feels friendly and welcoming, a perfect home for four months abroad.

Exploring the city of London

Author: Ulises E. Hernandez
Location London, United Kingdom

One of the classes that you are required to take as part of the Study Abroad Program when you come to the United Kingdom is British Life and Culture. In this course, you get to learn many types of literature and social aspects in the English way of life not only through assignments and readings but also through field trips. One of the very first field trips that we experienced as a class was visiting the great city of London. From Cambridge to London we took the train and we got to see the great grassy planes and traditional small English towns during our 50-minute ride. Once we arrived at the iconic King’s Cross Station in London, we had the chance to walk through the streets of London and really get experience not only the tourist-oriented destinations of the city but also many of the areas where the locals reside. London in many aspects is not only a very welcoming city but also very unique due to its breathtaking history and its very diverse population. While in London, we visited the British Museum, The Churchill War Rooms Museum, The Tate Modern Museum, The Shakespeare Globe, and St. Paul’s Cathedral which were all located in the heart of London. In every single one of those destinations, priceless artifacts are carefully preserved, stored, and put on display for millions of people to see. My personal favorite Museum was the British Museum because it not only included art from the United Kingdom, but also a large variety of historical items from around the world.

The United Kingdom is very famous around the world for their Royal public figures. As a group, we got the chance to visit many of the Royal Palace’s which included the Buckingham Palace and the Kensington Palace which are both surrounded by beautiful parks. One of my favorite parks is Palace green, which as mentioned earlier, is located beside Kensington Palace. This park not only attracts a lot of tourists, but also many of the locals go there in the evening to feed the birds, play volleyball, run, play cricket, or just to walk through the beautiful and colorful gardens. As we made our way back to our hostel, we also passed the Palace of Westminster which is the house of parliament and also home to the very famous Big Bens clock tower. Unfortunately, large parts of the palace including Big Ben is going through a major repairment project and we did not get to experience the true magnificence of this iconic building.

The trip wouldn’t be successful without talking about food. As previously mentioned, London is very diverse and everywhere you turn, you are given the chance to experience food from all over the world. A great place to truly experience this opportunity would be the street markets. In the markets, hundreds of vendors sell their fresh homemade products and most of them offer free samples of different types of jams, cheese, meats, fish, fruits, drinks, dairy products, and a wide variety of other cooked dishes. Overall, I had a wonderful experience in the great city of London and I would highly encourage more students to join the study abroad program.

2017 Photo Contest Winners: Sense of Place

Category: Sense of Place 

1st Place:

Name: Descending to Ascend
Photographer: Emma Chelsvig
Location: Varanasi, India
Program: World Internships
Description: Locals and Indian tourists flock to the ghats in Varanasi where they bathe themselves in the Ganges’ holy water.

2nd Place:

Name: We Have  Seen the Light
Photographer: Savannah Jorgensen
Location: Florence, Italy
Program: England Study Center
Description: Florentine people celebrating

3rd Place:

Name: Nymphenburg Palace
Photographer: Kostadin Pendev
Location: Munich, Germany
Program: Reutlingen Summer Engineering Program
Description: The Nymphenburg Palace was built from the 17th to the 19th century for the Bavarian royal family. Behind the palace, there is a garden that is 88 square miles.


2017 Photo Contest Winners: People

Category: People 

1st Place:

Name: A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words
Photographer: Savannah Jorgensen
Location: London, England
Program: England Study Center
Description: Local artist showing his chalk talents off at the National Gallery

2nd Place:

Name: Reflective
Photographer: Katherine Carlson
Location: Mirror Lake, New Zealand
Program: Summer in New Zealand
Description: Self portrait of me looking off in the distance at Mirror Lake

3rd Place:

Name: Gondoliers in their Canals
Photographer: Amy Klass
Location: Venice, Italy
Program: Germany Study Center
Description: Venice, Italy is a beautiful city consisting of hundreds of canals ruled by boats, tours, and of course, gondolas! Taking a ride through the canals is the best and most unforgettable way to view the historic city of Venice.

Take a Sad Song and Make It Better

Author: Caroline Dienes

Program: Cambridge Study Center – England

What can I say? It’s bittersweet. My semester in Cambridge has come to an abrupt ending. My trips to Liverpool, Spain, Estonia, and many others seems like years go, but they all happened pretty recently in retrospect. The four people I have been living with for almost five months will now just be classmates and not roomies. A few relationships I created there ended in the phrase, “If you ever find yourself near Chicago, let me know.” I’m leaving the life I created in Cambridge.


However, I left a very familiar life when I decided to study abroad for a semester. I left my family, my friends, my Valpo, my comfort zone. I let all the adventures that I could have had a Valpo slip by. I’ve been virtually absent from the lives of all my closest friends. They’ve learned to deal without me, which may seem like a harsh thing to say, but it was one of the most important things I had to remember before I started my journey.

I was told this interesting consequence of studying abroad and immediately got a little upset. I never really thought of that aspect of being away. Your friends learn to move on with their lives without you around. However, I had to remind myself that I was doing the same thing. I honestly thought I was going to be a wreck without my friends around, but I learned to live life without them as well. It’s something you need to accept if you decide to study abroad. Your friends will inevitably change while you are away, but so will you.

While you’re studying abroad, things change – whether you like it or not. I’ve noticed  changes in me, all of them improving my outlook on myself and things around me. I couldn’t be happier with the person I grew into with my time in Cambridge. Ever since I arrived in Cambridge, I became aware that I was laughing, smiling, and appreciating more. This is the Caroline I was trying to look for with my time abroad. New and unknown little qualities inside you rise to the surface when you go somewhere new and unknown for a few months.

All in all, a brand new edition of Caroline got off that plane at O’Hare while it was 6 degrees, a temperature I didn’t necessarily miss. I gained so much out of my time abroad, and I plan to put all that I gained to good use. It’s a little sad coming back and leaving the life I created in Cambridge, but I have an endless amount of memories, whether they’re in my head or physical things like pictures of videos. Here’s some final advice. Never delete any Snapchat videos you take while you study abroad. On certain occasions, they may just brighten up your day.

Stay Fresh,




Write that Down. Write that Down!

Author: Caroline Dienes

Program: Cambridge Study Center

I know keeping up with a journal isn’t the easiest thing to do. It starts with one night where you forget to write in it. That one night turns into two nights. The next thing you know, you forgot an entire week’s worth of things you’ve done. And finally, you give up. If you plan to study abroad, or just travel in general, I highly suggest keeping some kind of journal. You won’t regret it.

I personally have had three ways of journaling with my time abroad. The first is video blogging, where I have been taking a 5 second video each day. The little videos range dramatically, from walking under the Eiffel Tower to trying to open frozen mac and cheese. You could also create a little video blog through Snapchat now, thanks to the option to save your memories. This has been a lifesaver.

dienes-fall2016-journal2A second, and more conventional way I have been journaling is with an actual journal. I received this journal as a gift from a good friend before I flew away in August, and it was intended to just be a book where I kept tickets, brochures, and receipts. However, this little book turned into quite the stuffed book, full of those three things, but along with descriptions of what happened each day I was abroad. Not a day went by where I didn’t jot down tidbits of what I did every single day.

The third way of journaling is probably the easiest way to journal ever. It is called a one line a day journal. However, you write in this diary for 5 years. You can write as little as you want each day, and the diary repeats itself for 5 years! So you’ll have 5 years worth of memories, and, in my case, one of those years will include my time abroad. I cannot wait to read all that I’ve done in the future.

Deciding to journal was a monumental decision. Flipping back to the earlier days dienes-fall2016-journalabroad makes me recall the little things that happened those days. Not only did I write down the major things that occurred each day, but I also scribbled down funny things my cohorts said or noted times where I felt truly content with what was happening. I know when I look at these different journals down the road, it will be as if I am reading a book. The story in the book will be my story. The characters will be me and the rest of the Cambridge cohort. The adventures outlined in the pages will be indescribable memories. Journal. When you really think about it, you are writing yourself a personal autobiography. That’s something I would love to read.

Stay Fresh,


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