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Meet Gabrielle Beacken, a senior Journalism major with a double minor in Computer Science and Politics, Law and Philosophy. She is on the board for Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honor Society, writer for the School of Engineering website and The Signal, and is a member of Theta Phi Alpha sorority. She spent her spring 2016 semester abroad in Europe, and says it was the most enlightening, wonderful, exciting, challenging and intriguing six months of her life. If you’re interested in studying abroad, keep reading for Gabrielle’s perspective on the life changing opportunity!
Gabrielle studied abroad at University of Oxford, UK from January 12th to June 27th 2016, but says that she wishes she could have stayed even longer. Oxford is actually made up of 30 different colleges, and she studied at one of the Oxford’s oldest and best-known colleges, New College- founded over 600 years ago in 1379.
Gabrielle in the New College cloisters- where they filmed a scene in the fourth Harry Potter movie!
Gabrielle has many amazing memories from studying abroad, including studying in the most notable and richly stocked libraries in the entire world, having meals in the extremely Harry Potter-esque dining hall and being a frequent participant in delicious High Tea. She says that one of the many things she misses most about England is scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam! Other memories she mentions include becoming friends with students from all over the world, as well as developing friendships with other Americans in her study abroad program- who are still her friends today! During her second term at Oxford, she decided to try a new sport, and joined the New College Boat Club. She had the opportunity to race in the Oriel Regatta, a rowing competition towards the end of term, and says she “had so much fun learning a new sport while simultaneously getting to know undergrad, masters and even PhD students from the team!” She even said that she is going to try to transfer her newfound Oxford rowing interest into the TCNJ rowing team!
As for classes, Oxford has a different system than we have in the U.S. They have a tutorial system, which consists of one-on-one classes with professors that involve writing a research paper each week based on assigned readings. Gabrielle says she loved each of her tutorials; Politics and the Media, Short Story Mysteries, International Law and Propaganda. She says she learned so much from each course, and was actually able to discuss with her professors the key points and questions she had with her subject one-on-one, “which was admittedly intimidating at first!” she adds.
Whenever she had free time from work, she wrote letters to her family back home, and it became one of her favorite hobbies, “Each week, when I finished my tutorials, I would choose one of my favorite cafes, order a coffee and slice of cake, and sit down to thoughtfully write out a detailed card about my goings on of the week. Reading them now, I realize it was a great way of documenting what I did each week in Oxford! It was honestly a nice coffee break from my trips to the Bodleian- an Oxford library, very beautiful, books on everything, and as most things in Oxford- very old!”
While she was pretty busy on the weekends and could not travel much, Gabrielle says she was actually very fortunate to have a month break between her first and second terms. During this month break, she packed a small suitcase and spent the entire time traveling Europe! She visited Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Denmark, Greece, France, Spain and Portugal, stating that “Every city I visited was so distinct from one another– that’s the amazing thing about Europe, there is so much history and each country has developed such unique cultures, traditions, architecture and overall environment.”
Gabrielle on a black-sanded beach in the beautiful Oia, Santorini, Greece. She says Santorini also had the best Greek yogurt and feta cheese!
When asked about her favorite place she visited, she could not pick just one. She says that she has a few favorite places, all for different reasons. One of her favorite places was Paris, “I know this sounds cliché,” she says, “but (Paris) was honestly magical. Standing on the lock bridge at night, watching the dark waves of the Seine, gazing at the beautiful Musee D’Orsay to my right, with the Eiffel Tower glittering behind me- an honestly breathtaking experience that I know I will always remember.”
Another favorite place was Florence, where she had the most amazing pasta she has ever had in her entire life. Nice and Paris has the best cheese, bread and pastries, and she says she now has a long list of ‘most delicious foods I’ve ever eaten’! Edinburgh, Scotland was also very special to Gabrielle because both nights she spent there she went to pubs with live Scottish music. She says that in one of the pubs, musicians from the city would simply gather round a large wooden rectangular table with their instrument and just start to harmonize with one another- all while drinking a pint in between sets!
Gabrielle loved Oxford so much that she hopes to be back there for graduate school! If you are thinking of studying abroad, Gabrielle says it is definitely worthwhile. It does take planning, and to make sure you graduate on time, she suggests researching what courses you can take abroad that will count towards credits back at TCNJ, “Head over to Global Programs in Green Hall and find out more information if you’re interested in traveling to beautiful, historical, interesting cities, meeting people from around the world, having the best food in your entire life and gaining memories that will last a lifetime.”