Surrounded by Inspiration in a Foreign Land

Inspiring is the word that keeps popping up every time rising junior Grace Beal, a journalism major, talks about her time studying abroad in England. Oxford is one of three Faculty-in-Residence programs, in which a faculty member accompanies the students to teach, counsel and ensure the best possible cultural experience. From walking in the footsteps of some of the world’s most celebrated authors, to meeting people from all over the world, Beal made sure she didn’t waste a moment of her time overseas.

Alexis Gerson and Grace Elizabeth Beal had tea with a local couple just outside of Oxford’s City Center.

Alexis Gerson and Grace Elizabeth Beal had tea with a local couple just outside of Oxford’s City Center.

Q: One of the goals of the Study Abroad Program is to give students a new cultural experience. Would you say the program met that goal?

A: Absolutely. I met so many people from all over the world.

When we were in Ireland, we actually met a Curling Olympian. Being able to sit and talk with him was a really interesting experience. He said it was amazing we took the time to get to know the world, and told us to keep doing that because it is how you always stay young and open minded.

In Bulgaria, we traveled to a monastery in the mountains, and saw artwork that was absolutely phenomenal. There were people from all over Europe on the tour, and we got to know all of them by traveling on the bus all day.

But what I’ll never forget is meeting a couple in Oxford. The first time we met them, we talked for about an hour. They invited us over for tea the next day, and we continued to visit with them throughout the rest of the semester abroad. We were able to see what a typical Oxford home would look like and they gave us homemade ornaments for Christmas. They gave us the inside view of Oxford, not just the tourist view. We’re trying to get them to visit us now.

Q: How did your study abroad experience affect you as a person?

A: Today, I see myself differently than when I left. I have become a more mature, understanding, culturally experienced individual who has found interest in international relations and the history which lies beyond the Atlantic Ocean.

Alexis Gerson and Grace Elizabeth Beal outside of Christ Church.

Alexis Gerson and Grace Elizabeth Beal outside of Christ Church, where Lewis Carroll wrote “Alice in Wonderland.”

Q: As a journalism major, what would you say you took away from this experience?

A: Seeing the places where famous writers got their inspiration from was really humbling.

I was extremely blessed to visit wonderful sites such as Christ Church, where Lewis Carroll wrote “Alice in Wonderland”; the Eagle and Child Pub, were C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien would meet to discuss their writing; the harbor that inspired “The Little Mermaid”; and The Elephant House where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter novel. We actually had breakfast in the table next to where Rowling sat, and I could see what inspired her.

These are some of the authors I aspire to be like, and it was very humbling to be in their shoes. While I was there, I kept a journal so I wouldn’t forget any of these experiences.

Q: You also visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.

A: It literally took my breath away. When we turned the corner and reached the actual bookshelf that hid the family, the whole tour went silent. It took the words right out of my mouth. We went up into the room that they actually lived in. It was striking. They had markings on the wall and the space where Anne Frank had old newspaper clippings. It was interesting to see who her inspirations were as well. It was like going back in time.

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