Oxford abroad: time to grow up

The iconic bridge of sighs in Oxford, England (Wiki Commons)

The iconic bridge of sighs in Oxford, England (Wiki Commons)

It was spring 2013, the beginning of a new semester, yet at 18, I was still green in the ways of the world. I was leaving home so I could study abroad in Oxford, England. This wasn’t my first time leaving the country, in fact it wasn’t even my first time to England or Oxford. But, it was my first time living anywhere other than in my beautiful San Clemente, the beautiful “Spanish Village by the Sea.”

I had spent almost all of my life in San Clemente. The time I spent outside of my hometown, I would be traveling, sometimes to Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and anywhere else I was fortunate enough to go. Never did I fear leaving because I would always return home in a matter of weeks.

This time was different. I was leaving home to live in another country. I knew I had to grow to do this and if wanted to show the world my colors, I had to bloom.

Saddleback College provides several Study Abroad programs to countries such as Spain, England and now Cuba.

In preperation for England, I read books that covered the basics of English culture and mannerisms. I highly recommend picking up books about culture if you’re about to live in another country.

Know that, reading about culture is much different than living in it, is like watching a sport for the first time and then trying to play it after watching it. Learning is easier than applying new knowledge.

On my trip I was accompanied by 20 other students. The peers I traveled with became my friends and at times seemed like family because they kept getting on my nerves. Perhaps it was because we spent almost everyday together.

“Before living in England I was a shy and a reserved person,” said Erica Florimonte. “I had become much more outgoing and confident living in England.”

By the time spring break came around I had the confidence to head over to Europe. But, I wasn’t going alone. On my trip I had the company of three fellow students, Florimonte, Sarah Reyes and Juliana Sobrero. I was the only man on this adventure and I felt the female tension. I felt the pressure to keep them from fighting, the pressure to keep them sheltered and the pressure to keep them safe.

During spring break my group faced a few difficulties. Our first big problem we encountered was early morning in Brussels, Belgium.

We were at a bus stop. We were all tired. Our bags weighed us down. A strange man approached, he was yelling. He began to touch the women. He grabbed one of the women. I began to contemplate, do I fight? Does he have a weapon? Will I go to jail?

I acted quickly, I shoved the man. He came back pulling at me. We wrestled until I had his back to a flight of stairs. He stopped his harassment and left. My hands continued to shake all day.

Another issue was our relationship with each other, including a hotel room sink breaking, sleeping at a train station, getting separated without a phone and missing our ride back home.

“I wouldn’t change anything. I learned plenty of lessons in Europe,” Reyes said.

Once my stay in England was over and I was back in my beach town of San Clemente, my family and friends saw me as a different person. I have the confidence and experience I otherwise wouldn’t have if I never left for England. Everyone should get out of the states and live a life elsewhere if given the opportunity.