Valpo Voyager

Student Stories from Around the World

Category: Cambridge (page 2 of 26)

All posts from students studying abroad in Cambridge, England

Welcome to My World!

Author: Emily Neuharth

Location: Cambridge, England

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

My mom, my sister Eva, and I posing in front of one of the countless old doors which my family consistently wanted to stop and take a picture in front of.

During the month of March, I was very lucky to have some of my family and friends visit me where I got to show them around my little world of Cambridge. My friends Hayley, Sarah, and Alexis were in London during Spring Break because of Valpo’s “The London Stage” course, Maddie came over France where she has been studying abroad this semester, and my parents and younger sister Eva came for a long weekend during her spring break.

Maddie, Hayley, and I near the City Center of Cambridge

The following are some of the place that either had become important to me over the past two months, and/or was something that had always made me think of them.

Castle Mound

This is a little hill where an Ancient Roman watchtower once stood, you can see most of Cambridge from the top (but only when it’s not overcast). I am not really sure when or how, but Castle Mound has become one of Cambridge’s most important places to me. If I have time, I always try to walk up it and look around for a bit whenever I pass by (which is pretty often because it is in between the City Center and the Valpo Dorm).


Punting on the river Cam is the most quintessentially “Cambridge” thing there is! The Cam runs through the city (get it?? Cam-bridge?) and the Punt guides point out many of the famous colleges which surround it.

My dad and Eva punting on the Cam

The Market Place

There is a wonderful open-air market every day in the City Center with many stalls full of food (so much food), vintage clothes, records, souvenirs, bikes, books, you name it! Cambridge’s famous Crepe Cart is also near the Market, and I definitely took everybody there.

The Pickerel Inn

This is a pub I walk by almost daily and one of it’s claims to fame is that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien used to hang out there (it’s very near Magdalene College).

The Pickerel Inn

Cream Tea at Arundel House

The “stereotype” of British people and their tea, is really not that much of a stereotype— it’s a fact. I took my friends and family to Arundel House for Cream Tea which is where Dr. Brough took our cohort at the beginning of the semester. Cream Tea is the classic British tea served with a variety of finger sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, and fresh jam.

Pinkies up!

Some of the Cambridge Colleges

“Cambridge University” is actually made up of 31 separate colleges—there’s no main building or campus—which each have their own history, coat of arms, extensive list of impressive alumna, and buildings, libraries, courtyards, chapels, residence halls, etc. The students at Cambridge University take a lot of pride in which college they belong to (sometimes almost to the point of elitism and rivalry), but it is a rich source of community, camaraderie, and tradition.

We visited into Magdalene College which is where C.S. Lewis used to teach, and I really love wandering into their small Chapel dedicated to Mary. And I made sure to bring Hayley and Maddie into the Christ College courtyard since we all met through Valpo’s CC (even though ours is technically based off of the Christ College in Oxford).

We visited Trinity College’s Wren Library, which has an unfathomable amount of history and artifacts. Some of the highlights were original, hand-written lecture notes and journals of Sir Isaac Newton and Ludwig Wittgenstein, one of the first published anthologies of Shakespeare’s plays and poetry, and an original draft of Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne and his son, Christopher Robin, both went to Trinity College).

King’s College Chapel

Hayley and Maddie inside King’s Chapel

I walk through King’s College courtyard at least twice a week on the way back from my lectures, and its beauty never fails to give me a few goose bumps; it was really special to experience those kinds of moments with my family and friends because they can never truly be communicated via a Face-Time call or text message.

My mom and Eva outside of King’s Chapel (Unfortunately, when I first took my family to King’s they were not open for visitors because they were rehearsing for an upcoming choir concert but we ended up going to the concert later that evening so it all worked out wonderfully!)

Warner Brother’s Harry Potter Studio Tour in London

Way back in December, once Hayley, Sarah, and I had all solidified our plans to travel abroad this semester, we bought tickets to go to the Warner Brother’s Harry Potter Studio Tour in London. A couple months later, our dreams came true. There is no other way to describe the experience but magical.

Hayley and I, or Hagrid and Ron?? You tell me.

The opportunity to bring the people I care about so much into this new part of my life was incredibly affirming to my process of settling into Cambridge. Watching my friends and family experience England, allowed me to reflect on how quickly I had become so used to the things that had once amazed me as well. It was a good reminder to not take anything for granted, but it also felt good to realize that familiarity had become present too.

The British Education System

Author: Emily Neuharth

Location: Cambridge, England

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Westfield House

The academia of Cambridge was certainly one of the factors that drew me to its study abroad program, and as a lover of language, I knew that England would have much to offer. Valpo’s Cambridge program is unique in that we actually can take courses from up to five different colleges! I have been challenged by the British education system in ways that my prior academic experience has never been able to.

Essentially, the only grade I got for three out of my four courses relied solely upon a final paper. Fortunately, as a Creative Writing and Humanities student, this structure was fairly similar to classes I have taken at Valpo, but it was entirely foreign to some of my fellow Cohort members. That being said, I did not fully realize until now how structured my studies at Valpo really have been, and how much those smaller assignments throughout the semester can really take some of the pressure off of the final paper or exam.

Demi and I at the Jane Austen Center in Bath, England on one of our (many) 
British Life and Culture trips.

The best and worst aspect of my courses this semester has been the lack of structure. As someone who works best when under pressure, it would be an understatement to say that my procrastination has always been my downfall. While the lack of professor-enforced drafts and mini-deadlines meant a lot less busy work on my part, the tradeoff was my needing to manage my time well— which was honestly one of the most difficult parts of my semester abroad.

But on the other hand, there were many pros to this academic system. In addition to forcing me to grow in the time management area of my life, it also made it possible for me to travel mainland Europe, explore Cambridge deeper, and invest more time and energy into the new relationships I have formed while here. Furthermore, this lack of structure also gave me a great deal of freedom to choose the topics which I would research and write about for my final papers.

Nolan snapped this photo when we were working on our final British Life and Culture
papers at a favorite coffee shop (Benet’s) across from King’s Chapel.

Below are the courses that I took this semester, and the theses of my final papers to give a general idea of what I learned and wrote about.

Sociology: Modern Societies (Lectures at Cambridge University, Supervisions through Westfield House)

Thesis: Shaping gender and sexuality to be perceived as heteronormative is silent systemic oppression which has been (and still is) implemented to ensure that traditional forms of power remain uncontested; thus, deconstructing these concepts until they are separate, flexible entities can be the first step towards a mission for awareness, resistance, and liberation.

Liz and I pausing to enjoy the Spring sun on our regular 30 minute walk back from our
Sociology lecture at Mill Hall.

British Life and Culture (Valparaiso University)

Thesis: Both Ludwig Wittgenstein and Virginia Woolf were obsessed with language and its contradictions. It is the philosophical experience of exploring the incomprehensible that inspired the prolific and profound words of both Wittgenstein and Woolf, despite—or perhaps even because of—those indiscernible areas where logical language falls short.

New Testament Epistles (Cambridge Theological Federation)

Thesis: The Apostle Paul saw the Old Testament’s role in the Early Church as a foundation for Christian community, but he did not believe it to be the foundation  for salvation. In relation to today’s Church, Paul’s perspective of the Law ought  to remind Christian leaders to continually make certain that their teachings are in line with Jesus’ gospel (i.e., to bring salvation to all people), rather than in line with the Covenant (i.e., to bring salvation to select people).

Nolan casually reading a book before our Theo lecture at Ridley Hall.

British Science Fiction (Westfield House)

This was the only course that did not have a final paper but instead an in-class short essay exam as the main (pretty much only) grade. Unsurprisingly, we studied a lot of novels in this course. With only four students in the class we all collectively read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and then each proceeded to read four different novels that we would then present on to the class. I really, genuinely enjoyed almost all of the books I read: The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, Starmaker by Olaf Stapledon, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, and The Power by Naomi Alderman (the last two being my favorite by far, and which I highly recommend!).

Jasmine, Demi, Nolan, and I posing in our House Robes in front of Westfield House
before class and weekly House Chapel and Tea (Taken on our first day of British
Science Fiction!).

Meet Cambridge’s Cohort #102!

Author: Emily Neuharth

Location: Cambridge, England

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

VU C-102 in Bath, England (Get it??)

Out of the nine Valpo students living in Cambridge this Spring 2019 semester, only two people were close friends before we got here, and a few of us were acquaintances or had environment-specific relationships with each other.

Four months later, and I think it’s safe to say that our closeness has exceeded the magical, inevitable bond that forms between people placed outside of their comfort zones and natural environments; we’ve really become a family.

Our first picture taken together in front of Westfield House (it feels like this photo was
taken years ago).

We’ve celebrated our highs together— like 21st birthdays, finishing final papers, making British friends, attending each other’s Ultimate Frisbee games and choir concerts, cheers-ing to getting jobs and leadership positions for next year, and Wordfest awards. We’ve supported and leaned on one another during the lows too— from homesickness, to physical sickness, break-ups and broken phones (multiple phones), procrastinated deadlines and everything that falls in between.

We’ve also learned how to survive with each other— it’s no small feat to go from not knowing each other to spending literally all of your time with 8 other people. Perhaps needless to say, we’ve all grown in communicating our needs and feelings, how to forgive, and how to practice empathy.

Nolan, Cami, and Eric in front of our house

As the semester is drawing to a close, our cohort has become an inextricable part of our study abroad experience. The thought of going home and not being able to accurately share with others the depth of these memories and relationships that we’ve so quickly formed is a stressful idea…The quirkiness and inside jokes, the way we’ve so naturally picked up each other’s mannerisms, and so much more. So, in an attempt to capture just a glimpse into our silly, creative, loving family, I’ve asked each cohort member a couple of questions.

Without further ado, it is my pleasure to introduce to the world Cambridge’s 102nd Cohort (in order of our favorite colors on the ROYGBIV spectrum):

Emily Neuharth

Emily in Keukenhof, Netherlands

Favorite color: Pink
Nickname(s): Em, Maurice, Groovy Cat
Enneagram Type: 4w3
Astrology: Libra Sun, Pisces Moon, Leo Rising
Advice: A suggestion I’d give to future cohort members would be to remember that the advice, “Make the most out of your time,” is going to look different for each person— try not to compare your study abroad experience to others (whether that be your peers at other programs, past Cambridge students, or your fellow cohort).
Memory: All of our natural, silly, family-moments that we’ve so luckily grown used to…like binge-watching Hell’s Kitchen and Queer Eye, having dance parties in the kitchen, Face-Timing each other to get them to come downstairs and hang out, forcing each other to watch each other’s favorite movies, having photo shoots, working on procrastinated papers and presentations together, roasting each other, and adopting each other’s phrases and habits.
Growth: I’ve become more comfortable in spending my time alone and can better see the value in it. I’ve realized that I have a lot farther to go in my
growth as a person— and have learned that I was definitely in denial and hiding some things from myself. I think that in some ways I’ve become less sure of my identity after this semester, but I think it’s a step in the right direction. If I hadn’t had this experience than I might never have been forced to reckon with these hard things, and push myself deeper to understand who I am and who I want to become.

Elizabeth Palmer

Liz at Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland

Favorite color: Peach
Nickname(s): Liz, Lilibet, King Julian
Enneagram Type: 3w2
Astrology: Leo Sun and Moon, Virgo Rising
Advice: MAKE QUALITY TIME FOR YOURSELF! You deserve the same effort you give when you’re with other people. Go for runs, explore, paint your nails, make a yummy healthy meal, read, etc. Don’t be afraid to reach out to one another and love on each other. You’re going to become a family, and looking out for each other makes the experience better for everyone!
Memory: Playing True American with everyone in the living room, taking myself on a weekend date to Nice, France (see, treat yourself like you’d treat others!!), and walking by the colleges in springtime.
Growth: BOUNDARIES!! You can’t get mad at anyone for overstepping your boundaries if they don’t even know about them. Learn to communicate and be honest, and you’ll have the best experience possible. Also, I’m finally not scared of public transportation!! 🙂

Dr. Lorraine Brugh

Dr. Brugh and Gary (her husband) at Anglesey Abbey in Cambridge, England

Favorite color: Orange
Nickname(s): Our Queen, Mom (including British version, Mum, on Mother’s Day).
Astrology: Pisces Sun
Advice: Practice solitude before you get here. There’s a lot of it here, and it takes some getting used to.
Memory: Watching you all from the bridge and see you flow under me (punting) on the Cam.
Growth: Improved toilet paper and paper towel management, though still a work in progress.

Demi Marshall

Demi at Stonehenge in Amesbury, England

Favorite color: Yellow
Nickname(s): Dem-Demz, Dung Beetle #1
Enneagram Type: 3w4
Astrology: Aquarius Sun
Advice: Keep an open mind and take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. Make the most of your time here because it will go by SO much faster than you think.
Memory: All my favorite memories are spontaneous plans with my housemates that I didn’t anticipate happening that day. They are always the most fun. I’ve found saying yes more than staying in really beneficial.”

Growth: I think I have become a much more independent and somehow calm person. I thought I would suffer a lot with anxiety and depression while abroad, but this has really been one of the clearest points in my life. I have learned to blend with new people and also do things for myself that I never thought possible.

Jasmine Delara

Jasmine in Tuscany, Italy

Tuscany, Italy
Favorite color: Yellow
Nickname(s): Mort, Jazz Hands, Jay-Z, Dung Beetle #2
Enneagram Type: 2w3
Astrology: Sagittarius Sun and Moon, Aquarius Rising
Advice: The advice I would give to the next cohort or to anyone reading this, is to connect and create the community you want early in the semester and remember that relationships that you want to work will take continuous work. You get out what you put in and by building a community on understanding, forgiveness, compromise, and laughter you are working towards a really strong future.
Memory: My favorite memory here in Cambridge has to be the weekly Common Meal dinners. Right from the beginning all of us in the house wanted to create a family-community feeling here in the house and a big setting for those bonds to be made was at Common Meal. I loved getting excited about what people were going to make that week or making others excited about what I was going to make that week. And then sitting down as a big family and sharing conversation to me really can’t be beat. It was always fun and it was always something I looked forward to and I will definitely miss it once I leave.
Growth: I’ve grown in a multitude of ways, many of them being hard to describe. Most importantly I have grown in my faith, but not in the ways I was expecting to grow in my time here. I thought I was going to spend a lot of time in my Bible and grow in my one-on-one time with God in that way, but I found myself spending more time with him in nature on walks or while playing guitar. I have also found a new love for solitude and understanding its importance in reflection, growth, and understanding. Before this semester I would do almost anything to spend as little time as possible alone, and although I will still spend most of my time in community I will appreciate the time I have by myself.

Eric Wolfrum

Eric in Cambridge, England

Favorite color: Green
Nickname(s): Mellie
Enneagram Type: 9w8
Astrology: Leo Sun
Advice: You might have more free time than you are used to, but there is so much that’s going on in Cambridge— it’s just up to you to put yourself out there.

Memory: Sitting by the canal in Amsterdam while reflecting on my past three months of being in Europe. Also, going on lots of hikes and long walks, and American Mondays!!
Growth: I have learned that things usually work out in the end and that risks are worth taking. In addition, I learned how to be more comfortable with myself and learned that people are (generally) nice and welcoming wherever you go.

Nolan Filbert

Nolan at the Notre-Dame de la Garde in Marseilles, France

Favorite color: Green
Nickname(s): Sweet Wedge, Shmehh, Noly-Bear
Enneagram Type: 2w1
Astrology: Taurus Sun, Pisces Moon
Advice: Through all the entrances and exits in life, this program will be one of the best. My advice would be to come with no expectation of what it will be like but prepare to be amazed at the beautiful place that Cambridge is and the beautiful people you’ll live with. Take time to explore and find the green spaces to relax and the coffee shops to study in. Try to soak up the amount of history, culture, and music that is literally on every street and you won’t come close to being disappointed (hopefully). Lastly, your cohort will become your family, full of love and fun-filled memories that will last a lifetime.

Memory: One hundred and fifty percent would be all the little places in Cambridge that we went to throughout the year to learn more about Cambridge with the greatest tour guide, Dr. Brugh. Of course seeing “As You Like It” in person and in the birthplace of Shakespeare was a favorite memory too. The games we played as a group are definitely up there too.
Growth: The biggest thing I have learned while being here in Cambridge is that art is cool and I absolutely fell in love with it (Check out David Hockney for my favorite artist). (Go to the Prado Museum in Madrid and you won’t regret a millisecond of it) 🙂

Ellie Hackbath

Ellie in Stratford upon Avon, England

Favorite color: Blue
Nicknames: Eleanor, Queen of the Night
Enneagram Type: 9w1
Astrology: Capricorn Sun, Libra Moon and Rising
Advice: First: Don’t be afraid to travel because it’s easier than you think it is, and if you’re smart about it, it’s always a good experience— I haven’t had a bad one yet. Secondly: Don’t be worried to spend time at home because Cambridge is beautiful and everyone needs time to recuperate.

Memory: My favorite memory in Cambridge was to see a play with Nolan at the Cambridge Arts Theater. And outside of Cambridge was when Demi, Bethany, and I went to Paris. We all sat on the floor of our Air BnB, ate baguettes and brie and drank wine— it was really fun.
Growth: I’ve become more independent, self-assured, and less willing to take other people’s BS.

Eric Ruzanski

Eric at the British Museum in London, England

Favorite color: Blue
Nickname(s): Easy E, Weatherman, RaEric
Astrology: Aries Sun
Advice: Find a British topic, that be it science, literature, history, or whatever, and independently research that topic while you’re here. Go out of your way to visit places or do things related to the topic. If you love to learn, it’s a great way to enjoy and appreciate the time allotted in the United Kingdom. For me, this was Margaret Thatcher and BREXIT! I also visited a few places in Cambridge where big-name mathematical contributions came from. This town has so much to offer!
Memory: Hanging out with the Valpo group at Castle St. Pub after our first British Life and Culture trip to London. Also, writing, researching, and equity trading at various pubs and coffee shops.
Growth: I have grown to be patient with slow-er European Wi-Fi… 😉

Camden Heinisch

Cami in Windermere in the Lake District, England

Favorite color: Purple
Nickname(s): Cami
Astrology: Cancer Sun
Advice: Your time here is what you make of it, and there are ways to get involved in Cambridge. Personally, I did this through sports and Christianity. And experiment! I experimented with my fashion here (partly out of necessity because I didn’t bring a lot of things), and it will definitely come back to the States. Own the fact that you’re American. People won’t look down on you just because of your accent. They may grossly impersonate your accent and stereotype you (my personal favorite was being called a ‘yee-haw’ and seeing the accompanying handshake) but it’s all in good fun, trust me 🙂 The Brits that I have met here have an amazing sense of humor, and they can dish it as well as take it.
Memory: Going to a local pub after Bible study one Tuesday night. It had been a really rough week, but everyone that I went with was just so amazing and fun to be around… It was hard not to feel the same as they did walking out of there.

Growth: Fashion, emotion, faith, (but mostly faith). The Brits I’ve surrounded myself with here are exemplary Christians in a way I’ve never seen masses of people being, and it really pushed me to take a hard look at myself and how I was acting and going along in my faith. Time will only tell if the changes I experienced here carry over to the States.

Cohort #102 at the Jane Austen Center in Bath, England

Setting Goals vs. the Reality of Studying Abroad

Author: Emily Neuharth

Location: Cambridge, England

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Going into my study abroad semester, I knew that Cambridge was going to entail a change of pace compared to my constantly over-packed Valpo schedule; it was even part of what drew me to this program. As I was mentally preparing for this experience, I was making an ever-growing list of new habits that I wanted to implement while abroad, envisioning myself coming back from Cambridge as a well-balanced and just in general “better” person.

A candid of me in front of Kings College Chapel (sniped by my visiting friend Hayley).

Much of what made up my “New and Improved Emily” to-do list were things that I have been wanting to implement into my life for years. I always reasoned with myself that it’s not necessarily my fault that I had yet to make these changes— I’ve never had the time or margin; my academic, extracurricular, and social commitments at Valpo have always kept me me running straight from one thing to the next. This kind of lifestyle has always created the environment for me to best succeed, even though I always ended every semester completely burnt out. I kept functioning that way partly because it’s what I’ve always known but also because I truly believed that the impressive list of accomplishments that I’d have to show for my hard work would always make it worth it.

The semester before I went abroad marked my halfway-point in college, and I had started reflecting on my time at Valpo and what I wanted for my second half. That previous summer and second semester of sophomore year I had made significant strides in the academic and professional spheres of my life, but at what cost? I had been motivated during all of those late-late-nights and too-early mornings by the fulfillment that these achievements would bring me. While they did make me happy, helped me better discern what I wanted for my future career-wise, and the affirmation it brought from others fueled my self-confidence greatly, it was hard to truly enjoy everything when my mental and physical health were so depleted. I’d also somewhat subconsciously traded in a lot of what had been socially-fulfilling for more of those material accomplishments (like choosing to pour my energy into winning contests and getting good grades instead of relaxing or catching up with my friends). But at some point along the way I had stopped asking for help and leaning on others, so I realized too late that those victories are not very special anymore if I couldn’t celebrate them with my support team.

Taken at the Glasgow Necropolis, Scotland

Because I’d been fairly successful ahead-of-the-curve, if you will, I had always been prompted to keep going by comparing myself to others and by this voice in the back of my head always telling me that “it can only go up from here, you still have so much time left at college” etc. And it was effective. At least, it was effective in piling up external affirmations, but when I finally gave myself a little bit of time to reflect, I began to understand that those kind of achievements were not truly fulfilling me in the long-run. However, I do feel very grateful that slaving away for those past two years had given me a enough wiggle-room to pause and take a breath so that I could make those kind of observations when I did.

With all of this context in mind, I confirmed my application to study abroad in Cambridge. Remember that idealized dream I mentioned earlier? …Living independently in a small European city where I would wake up early without prompting and magically resolve all of my issues? My (unrealistic) list of goals went something like this:

  • Stop procrastinating all of my assignments
  • Write creatively on my own everyday
  • Learn how to cook and eat healthily everyday
  • Do yoga or workout everyday
  • Go to church every week, maybe join a Bible study
  • Get into a regular sleep pattern (i.e. stop staying up and waking up so late)
  • “Make the most” of my time abroad

While all of those goals are good ones, most of them have this “all or nothing” mindset. One of the first topics we covered in my British Life & Culture class were some of the differences between American and British lifestyles (shocking, I know). The difference that’s been the most relevant and difficult for me to adjust to has been in realizing that America encourages extremely competitive atmospheres where we have been trained to believe that “failure is never an option.”

Taken at one of my favorite places I’ve been to yet…A beautiful Medieval town: Lavenham, England.

Now, I’ll agree that achieving all of these goals in a few months would be unrealistic for anyone (and I’ll agree that I’ve also had an issue in the past with romanticizing new situations and the magical affect that it could have on me). However, I do have one caveat: there is definitely something about the idea of “studying abroad” that promotes this kind of mindset. At least in my case, everyone I talked to who were either promoting it or who had been abroad themselves, shared different stories with similar themes of unprecedented self-growth and that was what truly made me want to go abroad.

Perhaps needless to say, I am 3⁄4 of the way done with my time abroad and I have not fully accomplished any of those goals. I have certainly been working on a lot of those goals but I have also failed, repeatedly, at a lot of them. Almost everyday I have to resist the urge to just cancel all of the goals completely and wallow in self-criticism. But, I am slowly learning how to both function and make mistakes.

This kind of reflection has directed me towards a lot of self-exploration and questioning: Why do I struggle so much to find internal motivation? Have I been using over-packed schedules as a crutch my whole life? Why is “trying my best” or even “trying at all” not enough for me to feel proud of what I have accomplished?

Taken at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridge— in SPRING weather!!

3 Things I’ve Learned Over the Past 3 Months:

  1. Failure is OK, half-way-done is OK, procrastination is OK (i.e. everything does not have to always be perfect).
  1. I was blaming my unwillingness to take control of my life on having a super busy schedule.
  1. There is no universally agreed-upon standard of “making the most” of my time abroad that I should be trying to meet. Everybody’s “most” will look different.

But I don’t want to come away from this experience with self-frustration and regret being the predominant themes just because I didn’t meet all of the unrealistic goals that I had set for myself. If my original intentions for these goals and for studying abroad in general was to grow, then I should challenge myself to work towards something that does not have an obvious, external destination or end-product.

I think I am learning that if I can set goals that will help me make “being present” my new habit, then I will certainly return home as someone who has grown and will continue to do so even once I’m back at Valpo.

3 (Realistic) Goals for My Last Month:

  1. Try not to compare my experience to those around me or to others who have studied abroad.
  1. Try to do one thing everyday that grounds me (e.g. going for a walk, journaling, Facetiming a friend or family from home).
  1. Try not to get too caught up in final papers and exams or future plans. Instead, focus on making memories and spending time with my new family of friends— I am sure I’ll be missing them all so much this summer.

Eric and Nolan posing in front of a sign we stumbled upon in Glasgow, Scotland. We thought it was fitting for our Valpo family.

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.

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