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Brianne Steffensmeier Blogs on the Nebraska at Oxford Program

Jul 15 2014 9:00 AM
We are deeply saddened by the death of Keaton Klein of Lincoln, a senior accounting major, who traveled in advance of the Nebraska at Oxford program. The entire university community extends its sympathy to Keaton’s family, as well as his many friends and classmates.

Brianne Steffensmeier - Nebraska at Oxford profile picture
Brianne Steffensmeier is a senior marketing and business administration major from Bellevue, Nebraska. She will be one of 71 students participating in the 26th annual Nebraska at Oxford Program July 20-Aug. 16 at the University of Oxford in England, the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Steffensmeier will be blogging about her Oxford experience for the CBA community. 

Punting: Rowing Your Boat Perpendicular to the Stream

Trying to get to Ireland

Appreciation for punting

Punting. No, not just a term used to describe a play on Husker game day. No. Not just something that Gondola drivers use. I’ll be honest: I have a new and heartfelt appreciation for this term.

Punting is going up and down the streams of Oxford in a boat that is only steered by a large metal pole, a child’s sized oar and the power of your own will to move the punt forward. At first we were all, “Pshhh. This can’t be THAT hard. We’re all avid outdoorsmen. We’ve canoed a time or two. Can’t be that difficult to move a boat forward with a giant pole.” Incorrect statement. It was hard. Real hard. The only movement that we perfected was getting stuck in branches along the stream, going sideways down the river and lightly sweeping our legs against the one patch of nettles found on this side of the country. It was, without a doubt, a horrifying, difficult and hilarious experience.

You start off with four people to a boat (which is the punt, by the by) a 7 foot metal pole, a small oar and full of hope that you will make it back in the hour allotment of time that you have to go a little under a mile around the river. The punt is NOT, in fact, the act of rowing the boat along. Don’t make the same mistake I did and tell the crew people that you’re punting correctly. They’ll look at you with disdain as the idiot in front of them.

Our journey started off pretty strong. Ali was rowing us down the river as if she was an Italian gondola driver in her past life, flying past other punts in the water who were struggling to move in a straight line. Our triumph and smugness soon came to an end, however, when we ran into our first tree. In our defense, these trees were practically growing out of the water and littered each bank of the river. It was, without a doubt, impossible not to run into such an obstacle. Marisa and I both decided to also give the metal pole a go before we realized that we were more than doomed.

Trying to get to Ireland

Only 40 minutes late

I would like to say it is nearly impossible to move a very long and large boat down a narrow river, in a straight line when you lack both athletic punting ability and balance. The oar, which must have been originally developed to be used as a child’s toy, is absolutely no help, is counter productive and is basically used to either wave around to signal an oncoming punt for help or to use as an extension of your wingspan to fend off the branches of a low hanging tree (or to ward off some pesky ducks). So, what I am trying to say is, we kind of floated perpendicularly down the river and waited each time to be turned straight by colliding with another boat who was swiftly moving along.

As we were nearing the end of our excursion, about 30 minutes past our supposed time of arrival, one last disaster happened. The bottom of the lake is quite marshy and muddy. To my great and constant good luck, I managed to put the pole in just a little too forcefully, and got it stuck in the mud. With the snail pace I was originally moving the boat, I should have been able to move the pole swiftly out of the water with just a couple of tugs. But, as I was attempting to get it out, another kind boat rammed into us, launching us forward, and sending the pole straight behind me. Looking around in haste, frustration and a little amusement, I dramatically reached out for the pole (Jack and Rose style) and willed it to come back to me, which obviously was ineffective. Never to fear, however, because the suave tourists in the boat that rammed us pulled the pole out and rowed it right in our direction. Praise for them.

Alas, we made it back safely, semidry and with great humiliation only 40 minutes late. Not too shabby if I do say so myself. We may have been horrible at it and it may have been frustrating beyond belief trying to move the boat forward, but I’m so happy we were able to experience a true Oxford tradition. We may have failed at the punting, but it was the amusing experience we will be able to take away with us.

Lesson learned? We all have a new appreciation for crew and for those lovely gondola drivers who manage to steer, move, avoid other boats and obstacles and still sing to you. Now that, my friend, is a European talent we will never master.

Looking for a Four Leaf Clover: Planning Y’er Extended Weekend

Trying to get to Ireland

Trying to get to Ireland

While you have the constant joy of being in Oxford, you are also blessed with coming to England during the high time of their holiday season. During the bank holiday weekend you get Friday, Saturday and Sunday to travel at your own leisure. Though you are obviously free to go wherever you choose, I strongly recommend Dublin be your number one choice as that is where the majority of these students will go. It was marshy, green, refreshing and totally worth every form of Euro currency spent. 

While at pre-departure meetings at UNL, we were told by various alums of the program, repetitively, “DO NOT BOOK YOUR DUBLIN/EXTENDED WEEKEND UNTIL YOU GET TO OXFORD!” They were all quite adamant about this fact. Don’t worry about it they said. It’ll be easier to plan with everyone there and coordinating hostels and whatnot they said. Well, I’m about to go against what every single one of these travelers told us. The advice they gave us ended up putting us in unwanted and stressful predicaments with planning our Irish getaways. 

So what do you have to do? BOOK YOUR FLIGHTS AND HOSTELS BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME. We took the all faithful advice and waited until we got to Oxford to plan our trip, and we figured everyone else would take the same advice and opted out of planning their trips before departure. Come to find out there weren’t many of us that didn’t book before we left. We realized this on our first day of classes and came to the brisk conclusion we were, in fact, in a rat race to fill up acceptable hostels and flights before the rest of our comrades who were sprinting to get their itineraries intact. 

A couple groups paid $98 for their RyanAir flights to Dublin before they left the U.S. The cheapest flight we could find through RyanAir was $256. Yea, that sucks. Thank the lawd once again for our student staff as they were able to give us a link to another budget airline that we had never heard of to look for tickets and I suggest it now to you if you are flying throughout Europe: Aer Lingus. They proved to be the cheapest flights we could find two weeks prior and were able to get the round trip flight for around $175 (U.S.). Not the best, but the best we could get. (Disclaimer: we could have taken the ferry for cheaper, but you had to board a train, hop on a goat and swim the channel to get on it. It was much easier to do it this way.) 

I also suggest flying out of Birmingham airport – it’s the cheapest to fly out of and is only an hour-and-a-half away from Oxford. We took a seven person taxi which ended up being £16 per person. A definite steal and cheaper and faster than taking a bus or train – a win for the Oxford ladies! 

We also booked the last room in the last hostel available ranked higher than an 80 percent on hostelworld.com. (A website I highly recommend using if you are booking a hostel internationally. It’s user friendly, packed with information and hasn’t led us wrong.) Though it was a little more expensive than we wanted, it looked great, had a super accessible location and was the last one at that range of rank. There was NO way we were going below 80 percent (and neither should you)! I’m happy we booked the Generator Dublin. Please stay there if you’re in town – super clean, AWESOME AND HELPFUL staff, accommodating to all of your needs, breakfast included, free wifi and super serious about security. You also have the 747 bus stop outside, next to the Lucas Green Line (their metro system) and it’s next to the Jameson Whiskey Distillery – which is a great tour to go on if you’re interested in! Definitely worth the high number of £ spent! 

So what were the most important things we learned from booking this extended weekend? PLAN AHEAD AND DON’T LISTEN TO THE ALUMS OF THIS PROGRAM! (Okay, disregard the latter comment, but really book before you leave – then you’ll actually get a steal and allow the extended weekend to be a cheap weekend getaway.) Fly Aer Lingus, stay at the Generator hostel and, most importantly, keep the mood light while planning this excursion. If you’re serious about going, you’ll find a way to get there. We were traveling with a group of seven girls, so tension was high finding a room for that many and a flight with enough seats, but we were able to coast through planning without as much as one tear shed. So praise and pats on the backs to that victory.

This extended weekend is yours to do with as you choose, and I think you should choose Dublin, or anywhere in Ireland, because the land of the leprechauns is unmatched. And, when you get to spend it with 30 of your friends, it ends up being one of a kind. So, do like the Irish do, and get yourself to the Emerald Isle by any means necessary!

The Luck of the Irish

Visiting Guinness in Dublin

Visiting Guinness in Dublin

In a sequel to my previous post, I thought I may also give you a little taste of what we did for three days in this magical land of Guinness and Folk Music. 

I’ll be honest, when we first touched down in Dublin I was highly under whelmed. I had figured we would be touching down into some magical type of land where sheep roamed around like people, Irish music could be heard from the streets streaming from every nearby pub and it would be a small and picturesque city center. I’m not sure where these notions came from, I dare say blame it on “P.S. I Love You” and the unrealistic expectations it set, but those visions I had of this city were far from reality.

I would compare the city view of Dublin to that of a congested and more rustic portion of Boston. There wasn’t music, cars were everywhere and I really can’t say I saw any real patches of grass anywhere. I was, admittedly, disappointed. Coming from a 100 percent Irish background, I was looking forward to coming here most of all on this adventure and it was rapidly ruining my dreamy view I had of it. Though I do know it’s stupid to set such expectations of anyplace you travel to, this is one that I really prayed would be up to par. But, nonetheless, I kept my attitude positive and decided that we would find that beautiful place – it had to be there – I mean, how could there be so many beautiful pictures and movies of the land if it didn’t exist? We found it, don’t you fret!

Cliffs of Moher

At the Cliffs of Moher

Since all of us were in the same boat on the lack of awe at the city, we decided to go along with what everyone else was doing the next day and booked a day tour to the Cliffs of Moher. The only thing I knew about these cliffs was they were featured in “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” and my outrageously nerdy self was very gung-ho about participating in such an excursion that would take me in any sort of proximity to anything related to Harry Potter. We booked a $59 tour that lasted about 12 hours, through viator.com. It was the best $59 I think I have ever spent. 

We began our morning walking to a bus stop in the pouring rain. Which was miserable. (Bring a raincoat – don’t be me and rely on a sweatshirt to do all the protecting because it won’t and you’ll have a miserable three hour bus ride trying to will yourself dry.) Long story short, our bus driver and tour guide extraordinaire was Wayne, a self-proclaimed leprechaun, whose vast knowledge of Ireland’s history, land and best food and drink places was worth way more than the money we paid for the tour. He also took us to two national parks and dinner at a local Irish pub in Galway who had the best bread and fish and chips that have ever touched my lips. It was a perfect day trip. The cliffs and national parks are WORTH every pence and need to be seen by every person before they leave earth. Breathtaking and beautiful aren’t even the correct caliber of adjectives to describe the view. It’s something you really have to take delight in in person! Absolutely one of my favorite sights that I have ever had the privilege of witnessing.

We were also able to participate in the ever popular Guinness Factory Tour which was quite possibly the coolest beer tour any of us had done on this trip. It was seven floors of information, taste testing, smell testing and experiencing the entire process that this beer goes through to make it from picking barley to exporting it around the world. It was actually quite fascinating how their entire production process takes place (yes something as boring and business-y as that really fascinates me). At the top of the seventh floor they have a “gravity bar” that mimics the space needle in Seattle, with a glass top where you are able to catch the entire view of Dublin from the highest point in the city while enjoying a pint of your own, specially topped with a four leaf clover! Just part of the Irish experience that everyone should have!

We also did a ton of walking around and sightseeing on our own and went on a couple of shopping adventures, as every girl should, and just relaxed and tried to enjoy every bit of Dublin that we could in three days.

Though I wasn’t impressed at first, this city had a ton of culture and authenticity to offer its guests. Ireland is a place I will definitely be returning to in the future. Go to the local pubs, enjoy traditional Irish music and enjoy the countryside of this lush land! 
 
I’m Feelin’ Like Seabiscuit

Horseraces! 

Sandown Park

At Sandown Park

That’s right. Not only were we able to do some high tea and soccer tournaments this week, we were able to attend the infamous horse races! I know we have horse races in Nebraska, but they’re not to the same caliber or scale as these bad boys. Think Kentucky Derby on a weekly basis. It was magical. 

As avid gamblers on the horses of their choice, Holmes(y) and Horsewood invited us all to attend the races with them this past Wednesday. And it was quite the treat. We all dressed up in our Sunday best, put a couple extra pounds in our pockets and headed to Sandown Park (about an hour and a half outside of Oxford). The park was HUGE, the track was over a mile in its circular shape and they had the most succulent food and drink specials. I just can’t even. Yum. 

Horsewood did us the great justice of spending our morning international economics course on Wednesday discussing the economics of gambling at the racetrack and just how to use that knowledge to our advantage. Basically, he gave us a run down on what to expect, how to behave and where and how to place bets on horse races. I’m not a big gambler – I’d rather light my money on fire and let it blow out in the wind for the same amount of excitement – it’s the same effect and means the same thing: say goodbye to your money because it is floating away in the wind! Though it went against my better judgment, I decided  I might as well place a bet since I was there. Having no idea what I was doing, I put a pound down on the horse with the cutest name to place. I must have been doing something right recently with the karma gods because my horse placed second and I made a large return on my initial bet. Whoo hoo! I used my winnings wisely – to cover the cost of food and drink at the race track. Money well spent if I do say so myself. Would I ever be able to bet more than that one pound? NO WAY! But, hey, it was fun while it lasted. 

We were able to watch six races in about 3.5 hours and hear the legendary and aged Tom Jones afterwards. (Shame on you if you don’t know “What’s new pussy cat”!) Though it’s not specifically my music scene, it was enjoyable to listen to this legendary music with thousands of fans at dusk on the race track. Quite the picture-esque moment if I could ever explain one! 

We are so spoiled here – going to West End musicals, traveling around Europe and heading to the race equivalent of the Kentucky Derby. I’ve never had so much fun dressing to the “nines” and spending money in such a frivolous manner. A day at the races is a day well spent.  
 
We’re Late, We’re Late – For a Very Important Date!

High tea pastries

High tea pastries

We all know that the endless tales and configurations of the infamous Mad Hatter and the Looking Glass in Alice in Wonderland has lasted throughout the ages – heck, they’re still making movies and doing various interpretations of it. It is with this classic story that I tell you about our high tea time here in Oxford. 

Our normal Tuesday excursion took an excellent turn when we decided to join our activities leaders for a nice stroll across town to the Old Parsonage Hotel for an afternoon High Tea event. I was told once that high tea was created by one of the Queen Elizabeth’s because she got hungry in the afternoons and wanted to have snacks thus the tradition of high tea was born in the UK. Is there a ton of truth to this story? I don’t know, but I like it, so we shall declare it as truth! (Thanks Maggie – I hope your history holds some semblance or I’m blaming you for leading me down the wrong path!) Whether it’s true or not, I’m in love with the English person that decided to start celebrating afternoon tea and snacks for it was a glorious afternoon. 

The Old Parsonage Hotel is filled with history, beauty and love. As an old home for a priest to the nearby church, the home was transformed into a small and elegant hotel where tourists and residents of the city alike can enjoy a quaint and quiet stay. It was beautiful. 

You celebrate high tea in the following manner: each person at the table (we had 13 people our afternoon) orders one of nine teas. The teas come out in their own pots – you each get your own kettle, strainer and brown and white sugar cubes. You also get a tiered array of plates filled with pastries, scones, sweet treats and finger sandwiches to share between you and the person across from you. It’s a lot of tea and a lot of food – so go hungry! 

You sit and casually dine and sip your tea while making pleasant conversation and enjoy the surrounding elegance that is the city of Oxford. Once again, another example of how wonderful this program is and how blessed we are to be able to participate in it!
 
The Iron Ladies: A Tale of a European Futbol Tournament

The iron ladies of English futbol

The iron ladies of English futbol

As if I can’t boast about it enough, this program, for lack of a better term, ROCKS! Not only do they set up gaming and sightseeing activities, but they really like to play to all of our competitive sides and set up some “friendly” tournaments for all of us to participate in. This week’s sport of choice: Soccer. (Or, as they like to say here, some futbol!)

The Iron Ladies were quite the team. Though we may have been at an initial disadvantage, we were able to really live up to the name of underdogs and prevail in this “fight to the death,” “blood, sweat and tears” and “no holds” tournament.

We were obviously overjoyed when we found out that Dr. Holmes had volunteered to be our goalie for the duration of our time in the tournament. We all collectively agreed he would be the best person on our team and, thus, a large asset. He really proved his worth. Don’t let anyone deceive you, kids - that man is an absolute terror on the field. Think Tim Howards: British edition. I don’t understand why he doesn’t play for the national team, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Dr. Holmes in the goal

Dr. Holmes in the goal

When you combined the amount of experience and time each of us had spent on the soccer field before this game, we collectively had about four months of experience – totally ready to take on the boys who played soccer their entire lives. I had plenty of confidence in our excellent ability to make light of any and all situations.

The first game against the other girls was fierce, competitive and we were able to pull out with a 4-0 lead! Cue our inner David Beckhams looking on with pride. The second match, however, we were outnumbered, out skilled and lacked the precise athletic ability to keep up with the team of boys who played soccer throughout their entire high school careers.
In the end, the soccer tournament turned out to be fun and educational. We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and the wonderful game. The biggest lessons we learned: judge a soccer player’s ability directly by the size of their calves and Dr. Holmes is an incredibly talented goalie (the biggest asset to the Iron Ladies and the amateur league).

Foggy London Town

Steffensmeier and classmates at Big Ben

Steffensmeier and classmates at Big Ben

I would like to dedicate a little blog post about the wonderful and beautiful city that is London, England, UK. Disclaimer: I don’t understand why UK has to be put at the end of that address, but apparently it’s super PC here, so might as well throw myself into that.

A Foggy Day (In London Town) is one of my favorite songs of all time – you have a beautifully written song sung with the chocolately velvety smooth voice of Michael Buble. What isn’t to love about that song? Anywho, I’ve always loved that song and I’ve always been fascinated with such a city. On our travels before Oxford, the biggest part of London was what we saw out the terminal glass of Heathrow airport. So, I jumped at the thought of spending a weekend there during our first week of classes. I would be able to walk on what Winston Churchill, Harry Potter and the Queen herself called their home “stomping grounds” and I couldn’t have been more excited.

That’s something that is so wonderful about this program. Not only do they allow us to study at one of the most prestigious university systems in the world, but they allot us time to travel throughout Europe and set up excursions and activities for us on a day-to-day basis. We travel all over Oxford and through the surrounding cities and they even set up day excursions for us to London. Not many people can say that their study abroad programs focus on group activities and excursions like ours does. It’s simply wonderful. 

On our first Saturday, Oxford allowed all 68 of us to head down to London in the morning, explore the city, see a West End musical and stay in London overnight if we so pleased. Seven other girls and myself decided to stay at a hostel overnight so we could get a day-and-a-half packed full of the “London experience.” It was the perfect opportunity to see all the sights we could hit in that short amount of time. We had prepaid transportation, got advice on which hostels and suburbs to stay in, discounts on tours and we were able to see the British equivalent of a Broadway musical. It was a trip that was simply magical! 

We saw Billy Elliot as our group musical. I personally found it fascinating. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE musicals and plays. I literally cannot get enough. When I grow up and get my big girl job, I am purchasing season tickets to whatever Orpheum equivalent is in the city I am in to get my fill of musicals. I also found the background of the musical fascinating as we are currently learning all about Thatcher and the miner’s strike in Dr. Holmes class. How exciting to mix learning and pleasure so harmoniously! The musical was, in short, wonderful. The young cast was SO incredibly talented (Billy Elliot – that kid is GOING PLACES). If any of you get the chance, PLEASE GO! 

The London Eye Catches Students Eye

The London Eye Catches Students Eye

In the afternoon we enjoyed all the English favorites: fish and chips, hit the London Eye, Big Ben (which was underwhelmingly small), Buckingham Palace, the Royal Palace Gardens and Westminster Abbey, among other sights along the way. We did the London Eye at dusk – which was AMAZING! I would suggest doing it then or at night -that is when you get the absolutely most breathtaking view of the city. London is so much larger than you think it is and, as I stated in all of my previous posts about our travels, it gives you the bird’s eye view we love to witness. It is a must see. (Totally worth the 21 pounds!) 

Since I was recovering from the flu and a sinus infection, I wasn’t able to continue traveling on Sunday (which was a huge bummer for me). The last site I was able to take in before I caught my bus back to Oxford was Hyde Park, which was about a half-mile away from our hostel. It is here where the real Peter Pan statue is located. It is also home to the Princess Diana of Whales memorial fountain and to some ancient Greek fountains. The park is monstrous and worth every step you are able to travel through it. It is two times (I believe) the size of Central Park in NYC (yea it’s huge) and is filled with acres of pure and natural beauty. It was easy to see why there were so many spectators there. I wish I was able to spend more time there, but, alas, I had to get my sick self back to Oxford, to Boots and to bed as fast as the Oxford Tube could carry me. 
London was gorgeous and lived up to what I thought it would be. Though I am deeply saddened I couldn’t see everything I wanted to while we were there, I am excited to say Marisa and I will be spending four days there after the Nebraska at Oxford program comes to a close. We will be able to go on every Harry Potter, Jack the Ripper and Wimbledon tours our hearts desire and it will be wonderful. To any student who is planning on coming to Oxford next year, it is highly suggested you spend your first weekend in London – stay in the city overnight after the musical and let your wayward heart wander the city. It’s worth every step and every pence.

What Goes Around Comes Around

In the wise words of our generation’s IT boy with ramen hair, Justin Timberlake, “What goes around, goes around, goes around and comes way back around. Yea.” Though he may be speaking of some spiteful karma coming ’round to a lover’s dispute, I am talking about something so much worse it deserves its own post: The flu. The sickness.

The first experience we have in college of being sick is absolutely horrible. Our beds aren’t the same comfort as they are at home. There’s no one to bring you chicken noodle soup and Sudafed on the fly. And your mom DEFINITELY isn’t there to help with every little request. You know what’s worse than being sick at college? It’s being sick at college in a foreign country.

Let me preface: we walked into class Friday morning and noticed the sea of students had thinned. Initially we came to the same conclusion – a little TOO much fun was had at the Purple Turtle the night before and it was their own faults they weren’t in class. We realized later, however, four people had come down with food poisoning, or so they thought. One by one Nebraska at Oxford students were dropping like flies. Someone getting the flu here. Someone starting to get a sinus infection there. It was ghastly. And unstoppable.

Both my group of travelers and myself seemed to be immune to this sudden pandemic and we thought we would be just fine continuing on our journey to London the following day. We were wrong (insert dramatic pause here).

I woke up mid-Sunday morning with aches, shivers and the most horrible headache I have experienced in a while. The fact I was waking up in a hostel in the middle of London with no transportation, no doctor to call and a horrible fever - to say I was both miserable and panicky is an understatement. I was able to make it through the night just enough to make it to a bus stop back to Oxford in the morning.

I wasn’t the only person who came down with flu and sinus infection like symptoms during the week. I believe five or six people of the 68 of us didn’t feel the effects of this nasty bug that spread throughout our group (lucky lucky). From this experience we learned a bit about traveling abroad while sick. I’ll go ahead, in my traditional way, and give you the list of hardships I learned through this experience:

1. When you are traveling to countless places throughout Europe, you’re bound to come into contact with some germs and whatnot (I’m not a doctor I don’t know the correct terminology) that are NOT friendly or recognizable to your immune system. Be prepared to get sick. No matter how many shots you’ve gotten previously, you’re probably still going to have a day or two of your studies interrupted with fevers, aches and all the goodies that come with the flu. On the plus side: Prett has AMAZING chicken noodle and tomato soup – so at least there’s some comfort to help you weather the storm.  

2. BRING SOME MEDICINE WITH YOU!!! I cannot stress how important this is. I am prone to constant sinus infections (and that is something that I had while I had the flu – YUCK!) and thus I made a plan with my doctor before I left. Your doctor wants you to be well and may prescribe you medicine BEFORE you are sick in order to aid you when you inevitably do contract something while you are abroad. I attribute my fast recovery to the Z-pack and medicated ear drops my doctor presribed before I left. Amen and praise all that is good for Dr. Keasling. You ‘da best, gurl!

3. DRINK LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS OF WATER. I’m going to get real, real fast here, people. The drinking age is 18. No one on this trip is under that age. Though you may not like it, about 98 percent of the young lads and lassies on this excursion across the big blue will go ahead and have a drink while they’re here, there’s no trouble to get into and that it’s legal! Because of that, sometimes they disregard drinking water. In the voice of Julia Roberts - BIG MISTAKE! HUGE! The less water you drink the more susceptible your body is to contracting something. You need to stay hydrated to stay healthy – and you must drink more of that good aqua if you’re partaking in nighttime festivities!

4. Last, but certainly not least, the medicine here is NOT the same as medicine in the states. I’m partial to Alka Seltzer cold and flu and Nyquil to get me through all my sickness (partnered with antibiotics). When I went to Booth’s Pharmacy to purchase them, they were not on the shelf. So you might want to throw some of those in your bag as well. If you are worried about weight and it’s a battle between bringing some Nyquil and bringing that cute party shirt, I’d ditch the shirt. You won’t regret it.

So, in essence of this long and dramatic post on everyone getting sick here in Oxford and in London, I will sum it up like this: You will get sick; you will need to bring some medicine; and you will survive without the comfort of your mother’s TLC.

Sherlock Holmes(y) and the mysterious Dr. Horsewood

Horsewood and Holmes pose with Oxford students

Drs. Horsewood and Holmes (middle) pose with Oxford students

When I was told that I would be participating in the Nebraska at Oxford program, the first item of discussion when talking to previous participants was, apart from the purple turtle, about our two professors of Economics: Dr. Holmes and Dr. Horsewood. I was constantly told of their intelligence, outrageous and wonderful stories and about how amazing they were as people and distinguished professors. I thought, “Sure, they’re probably cool, but I can’t imagine any professor being THAT great or enthusiastic.” I was so far off.

These professors are amazing. Not only are they distinguished economists, they are hilarious, full of crazy stories, always willing to take a crack at the other and willing to do just about anything to make each of us students feel welcome and ensure we are interested in learning the material they are preaching.

 Dr. Holmes has been the program director of the Nebraska at Oxford Program since its inception 26 years ago and is just as excited now as he has ever been (I would assume). He still gets riled up about all of the course material and opportunities available to us while we are here. His class is the first time that I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed a history based class and his stories about his youth and about Dr. Horsewood are what make 9 a.m. class worth it each and every day.

Dr. Horsewood has also been with the program over the past decades and has excelled in teaching international economics. He is able to do the impossible: Make economics of the international variety (full of graphs) interesting and fun. He is able to explain the concepts and terms of economics in ways each and every one of the students in front of him understands. His stories about his dear Holmes(y) are also off the wall. You can tell these two have been friends and colleagues for many years and still get the thrill and enjoyment of young professors jabbing at their colleagues for the enjoyment of their students.

I have only been here one week and I already don’t want this program to end – it’s going by way too fast! I have finally found myself interested in all things “economics” and I attribute it to these wonderful professors. They are indescribable; beyond words. They are the definition of people who love their jobs and are passionate about the subject matter that they are teaching. I find myself interested to learn more and more about British economics and the history behind these occurrences. Thank you, Sherlock and Watson for caring so much. I know I will be that alum who raves to all new members of this program about how amazing the professors are and how they make your trip at Oxford/Jesus College worthwhile!

Oxford. We are finally here!

Brianne Steffensmeier at tea with classmates

Steffensmeier (left) at tea with classmates

We are finally in Oxford and it feels so good! Though I am sad we are done, for now, with our European adventures, it is nice to have a consistent schedule, comfy bed to sleep in and a place to put all of your clothes (sans the backpack). Marisa and I have a double room within Jesus’ College walls while many of the other students, who are living in single units, are located on Ship Street just outside the college’s walls. Marisa and I have our own bathroom, each have our own room and a common area with desks, dressers and a seating area (Think Knoll, Oxford style). It is REALLY nice - we are beyond spoiled, I’ll be honest!

I am so extremely happy to finally be here and kick things off. Let the games begin!

 
“The first star to the right and straight on till morning!”
 
You know that’s how I feel when I think about our soon-coming European adventure. I grew up loving Peter Pan; what child wouldn’t want to fly through London and make their way to the stars onto a magnificent land of dreams and youth? As a child that sounded absolutely wonderful. (Now that I know a little more behind the meaning of that book and its metaphors, I’m not really sure I’d want to visit such a place, but, hey, it was the most wonderful fantasy a 6-year-old could dream up!) Apart from flying through the nigh sky to a mythical land of lost boys and giant alligators, we are about to set sail on our mighty jet to London to start both our European adventure and studies at one of the most historical schools in the world - the most wonderful fantasy a 21-year-old could dream up.
 
When I was asked to write a blog about our impending travels I thought, “how wonderful! I can share my biased opinions with the masses!” And it’s true: I am very excited and exhilarated to be sharing my experience with whoever’s eyes are reading this computer screen right now. I want to share what we have learned, the fun we are having and the inevitable mistakes that we will make along the way (whether that be “misplacing” a piece of luggage, forgetting about a flight or just simply ending up in the wrong country). This is going to be an amazing journey and I can’t wait to share it with all of you!
 
To start things off - PLANNING YOUR EUROPEAN GETAWAY (as told by four college women who have no idea what they are doing):

1.      Do yo’ research!

a.      I can’t begin to even explain to you how much research we did. I mean, I’m talking we looked at at least four websites/travel sites with ratings on every hotel and train that we decided to look into – we wanted to make sure these places were both real and reliable. (Are we sure these places will be right when we get there? No, but our research should hopefully back us up!)

2.      Hotel or Hostel?

a.      We were all about that hostel life going into it, but, traveling with four people, it made it quite difficult to perfectly plan a bed for everyone in a hostel. Also, many of these places had no breakfast included and community bathrooms (though they are wonderful our spoiled selves decided not to time-hop back to freshman year and sharing EVERYTHING with our floor mates). We opted to do hotels as we found many with wi-fi included and breakfast! HaZa! Joy all around. Also, the hotels we did find were only about $20 more per person/night, which we were okay with that upgrade to include food and a lockable door!

3.      Air or Rail travel?

a.      I will have to let you know as we conquer this conundrum – we decided to do a bit of both,  and, I’ll be honest, we will see how smoothly everything goes as we get there. (Prayers are appreciated!)

4.      “Brianne, I need to pack my Tory’s, my party heels, and an outfit for everyday!” I say to you, absolutely not!

a.      I have one suitcase packed and one backpack as in the hiking kind – I’m kind of adventurous that way! Wear layers, and pants that go with lots of different shirts (that translates into jeans and black slacks - just deal with repetitiveness!) and rewear your clothes. I know from many a backpacking trek that clothes are meant to be reworn and possibly have a slight stench – it lets people know you mean business! Do it! No one has time or money for that – as in carrying six suitcases and checking those bad boys onto the plane.

5.      Money!

a.      I’ve been saving up for this trip for a year and, I’ll be honest, my arse is poor! But, it’s totally worth it. “Travel is the only thing that you can buy that makes you richer” is what every travel article on Pinterest seems to say, and I’ll buy into it. TOTALLY WORTH IT! And I can’t wait to start my trek. Just maybe save a little more, that would be kind of practical and ideal – a little extra never hurt anyone! (Unless you’re applying that to luggage, then refer to number 4, because that did hurt everyone – the wallet and the spine!)
 
I can’t wait to embark on this wonderful adventure with three of my bestfriends and experience everything that Europe has to offer (even if we are powering through it faster than we can even imagine)! I also can’t wait to share everything with you! So, watch out for more stories, tips, tricks and pics. We’re looking to the first star to the right and we’re setting off. See you soon, London!

Brianne Steffensmeier Blogs on the Nebraska at Oxford Program

Jul 15 2014 9:00 AM
We are deeply saddened by the death of Keaton Klein of Lincoln, a senior accounting major, who traveled in advance of the Nebraska at Oxford program. The entire university community extends its sympathy to Keaton’s family, as well as his many friends and classmates.

Brianne Steffensmeier - Nebraska at Oxford profile picture
Brianne Steffensmeier is a senior marketing and business administration major from Bellevue, Nebraska. She will be one of 71 students participating in the 26th annual Nebraska at Oxford Program July 20-Aug. 16 at the University of Oxford in England, the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Steffensmeier will be blogging about her Oxford experience for the CBA community. 

Punting: Rowing Your Boat Perpendicular to the Stream

Trying to get to Ireland

Appreciation for punting

Punting. No, not just a term used to describe a play on Husker game day. No. Not just something that Gondola drivers use. I’ll be honest: I have a new and heartfelt appreciation for this term.

Punting is going up and down the streams of Oxford in a boat that is only steered by a large metal pole, a child’s sized oar and the power of your own will to move the punt forward. At first we were all, “Pshhh. This can’t be THAT hard. We’re all avid outdoorsmen. We’ve canoed a time or two. Can’t be that difficult to move a boat forward with a giant pole.” Incorrect statement. It was hard. Real hard. The only movement that we perfected was getting stuck in branches along the stream, going sideways down the river and lightly sweeping our legs against the one patch of nettles found on this side of the country. It was, without a doubt, a horrifying, difficult and hilarious experience.

You start off with four people to a boat (which is the punt, by the by) a 7 foot metal pole, a small oar and full of hope that you will make it back in the hour allotment of time that you have to go a little under a mile around the river. The punt is NOT, in fact, the act of rowing the boat along. Don’t make the same mistake I did and tell the crew people that you’re punting correctly. They’ll look at you with disdain as the idiot in front of them.

Our journey started off pretty strong. Ali was rowing us down the river as if she was an Italian gondola driver in her past life, flying past other punts in the water who were struggling to move in a straight line. Our triumph and smugness soon came to an end, however, when we ran into our first tree. In our defense, these trees were practically growing out of the water and littered each bank of the river. It was, without a doubt, impossible not to run into such an obstacle. Marisa and I both decided to also give the metal pole a go before we realized that we were more than doomed.

Trying to get to Ireland

Only 40 minutes late

I would like to say it is nearly impossible to move a very long and large boat down a narrow river, in a straight line when you lack both athletic punting ability and balance. The oar, which must have been originally developed to be used as a child’s toy, is absolutely no help, is counter productive and is basically used to either wave around to signal an oncoming punt for help or to use as an extension of your wingspan to fend off the branches of a low hanging tree (or to ward off some pesky ducks). So, what I am trying to say is, we kind of floated perpendicularly down the river and waited each time to be turned straight by colliding with another boat who was swiftly moving along.

As we were nearing the end of our excursion, about 30 minutes past our supposed time of arrival, one last disaster happened. The bottom of the lake is quite marshy and muddy. To my great and constant good luck, I managed to put the pole in just a little too forcefully, and got it stuck in the mud. With the snail pace I was originally moving the boat, I should have been able to move the pole swiftly out of the water with just a couple of tugs. But, as I was attempting to get it out, another kind boat rammed into us, launching us forward, and sending the pole straight behind me. Looking around in haste, frustration and a little amusement, I dramatically reached out for the pole (Jack and Rose style) and willed it to come back to me, which obviously was ineffective. Never to fear, however, because the suave tourists in the boat that rammed us pulled the pole out and rowed it right in our direction. Praise for them.

Alas, we made it back safely, semidry and with great humiliation only 40 minutes late. Not too shabby if I do say so myself. We may have been horrible at it and it may have been frustrating beyond belief trying to move the boat forward, but I’m so happy we were able to experience a true Oxford tradition. We may have failed at the punting, but it was the amusing experience we will be able to take away with us.

Lesson learned? We all have a new appreciation for crew and for those lovely gondola drivers who manage to steer, move, avoid other boats and obstacles and still sing to you. Now that, my friend, is a European talent we will never master.

Looking for a Four Leaf Clover: Planning Y’er Extended Weekend

Trying to get to Ireland

Trying to get to Ireland

While you have the constant joy of being in Oxford, you are also blessed with coming to England during the high time of their holiday season. During the bank holiday weekend you get Friday, Saturday and Sunday to travel at your own leisure. Though you are obviously free to go wherever you choose, I strongly recommend Dublin be your number one choice as that is where the majority of these students will go. It was marshy, green, refreshing and totally worth every form of Euro currency spent. 

While at pre-departure meetings at UNL, we were told by various alums of the program, repetitively, “DO NOT BOOK YOUR DUBLIN/EXTENDED WEEKEND UNTIL YOU GET TO OXFORD!” They were all quite adamant about this fact. Don’t worry about it they said. It’ll be easier to plan with everyone there and coordinating hostels and whatnot they said. Well, I’m about to go against what every single one of these travelers told us. The advice they gave us ended up putting us in unwanted and stressful predicaments with planning our Irish getaways. 

So what do you have to do? BOOK YOUR FLIGHTS AND HOSTELS BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME. We took the all faithful advice and waited until we got to Oxford to plan our trip, and we figured everyone else would take the same advice and opted out of planning their trips before departure. Come to find out there weren’t many of us that didn’t book before we left. We realized this on our first day of classes and came to the brisk conclusion we were, in fact, in a rat race to fill up acceptable hostels and flights before the rest of our comrades who were sprinting to get their itineraries intact. 

A couple groups paid $98 for their RyanAir flights to Dublin before they left the U.S. The cheapest flight we could find through RyanAir was $256. Yea, that sucks. Thank the lawd once again for our student staff as they were able to give us a link to another budget airline that we had never heard of to look for tickets and I suggest it now to you if you are flying throughout Europe: Aer Lingus. They proved to be the cheapest flights we could find two weeks prior and were able to get the round trip flight for around $175 (U.S.). Not the best, but the best we could get. (Disclaimer: we could have taken the ferry for cheaper, but you had to board a train, hop on a goat and swim the channel to get on it. It was much easier to do it this way.) 

I also suggest flying out of Birmingham airport – it’s the cheapest to fly out of and is only an hour-and-a-half away from Oxford. We took a seven person taxi which ended up being £16 per person. A definite steal and cheaper and faster than taking a bus or train – a win for the Oxford ladies! 

We also booked the last room in the last hostel available ranked higher than an 80 percent on hostelworld.com. (A website I highly recommend using if you are booking a hostel internationally. It’s user friendly, packed with information and hasn’t led us wrong.) Though it was a little more expensive than we wanted, it looked great, had a super accessible location and was the last one at that range of rank. There was NO way we were going below 80 percent (and neither should you)! I’m happy we booked the Generator Dublin. Please stay there if you’re in town – super clean, AWESOME AND HELPFUL staff, accommodating to all of your needs, breakfast included, free wifi and super serious about security. You also have the 747 bus stop outside, next to the Lucas Green Line (their metro system) and it’s next to the Jameson Whiskey Distillery – which is a great tour to go on if you’re interested in! Definitely worth the high number of £ spent! 

So what were the most important things we learned from booking this extended weekend? PLAN AHEAD AND DON’T LISTEN TO THE ALUMS OF THIS PROGRAM! (Okay, disregard the latter comment, but really book before you leave – then you’ll actually get a steal and allow the extended weekend to be a cheap weekend getaway.) Fly Aer Lingus, stay at the Generator hostel and, most importantly, keep the mood light while planning this excursion. If you’re serious about going, you’ll find a way to get there. We were traveling with a group of seven girls, so tension was high finding a room for that many and a flight with enough seats, but we were able to coast through planning without as much as one tear shed. So praise and pats on the backs to that victory.

This extended weekend is yours to do with as you choose, and I think you should choose Dublin, or anywhere in Ireland, because the land of the leprechauns is unmatched. And, when you get to spend it with 30 of your friends, it ends up being one of a kind. So, do like the Irish do, and get yourself to the Emerald Isle by any means necessary!

The Luck of the Irish

Visiting Guinness in Dublin

Visiting Guinness in Dublin

In a sequel to my previous post, I thought I may also give you a little taste of what we did for three days in this magical land of Guinness and Folk Music. 

I’ll be honest, when we first touched down in Dublin I was highly under whelmed. I had figured we would be touching down into some magical type of land where sheep roamed around like people, Irish music could be heard from the streets streaming from every nearby pub and it would be a small and picturesque city center. I’m not sure where these notions came from, I dare say blame it on “P.S. I Love You” and the unrealistic expectations it set, but those visions I had of this city were far from reality.

I would compare the city view of Dublin to that of a congested and more rustic portion of Boston. There wasn’t music, cars were everywhere and I really can’t say I saw any real patches of grass anywhere. I was, admittedly, disappointed. Coming from a 100 percent Irish background, I was looking forward to coming here most of all on this adventure and it was rapidly ruining my dreamy view I had of it. Though I do know it’s stupid to set such expectations of anyplace you travel to, this is one that I really prayed would be up to par. But, nonetheless, I kept my attitude positive and decided that we would find that beautiful place – it had to be there – I mean, how could there be so many beautiful pictures and movies of the land if it didn’t exist? We found it, don’t you fret!

Cliffs of Moher

At the Cliffs of Moher

Since all of us were in the same boat on the lack of awe at the city, we decided to go along with what everyone else was doing the next day and booked a day tour to the Cliffs of Moher. The only thing I knew about these cliffs was they were featured in “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” and my outrageously nerdy self was very gung-ho about participating in such an excursion that would take me in any sort of proximity to anything related to Harry Potter. We booked a $59 tour that lasted about 12 hours, through viator.com. It was the best $59 I think I have ever spent. 

We began our morning walking to a bus stop in the pouring rain. Which was miserable. (Bring a raincoat – don’t be me and rely on a sweatshirt to do all the protecting because it won’t and you’ll have a miserable three hour bus ride trying to will yourself dry.) Long story short, our bus driver and tour guide extraordinaire was Wayne, a self-proclaimed leprechaun, whose vast knowledge of Ireland’s history, land and best food and drink places was worth way more than the money we paid for the tour. He also took us to two national parks and dinner at a local Irish pub in Galway who had the best bread and fish and chips that have ever touched my lips. It was a perfect day trip. The cliffs and national parks are WORTH every pence and need to be seen by every person before they leave earth. Breathtaking and beautiful aren’t even the correct caliber of adjectives to describe the view. It’s something you really have to take delight in in person! Absolutely one of my favorite sights that I have ever had the privilege of witnessing.

We were also able to participate in the ever popular Guinness Factory Tour which was quite possibly the coolest beer tour any of us had done on this trip. It was seven floors of information, taste testing, smell testing and experiencing the entire process that this beer goes through to make it from picking barley to exporting it around the world. It was actually quite fascinating how their entire production process takes place (yes something as boring and business-y as that really fascinates me). At the top of the seventh floor they have a “gravity bar” that mimics the space needle in Seattle, with a glass top where you are able to catch the entire view of Dublin from the highest point in the city while enjoying a pint of your own, specially topped with a four leaf clover! Just part of the Irish experience that everyone should have!

We also did a ton of walking around and sightseeing on our own and went on a couple of shopping adventures, as every girl should, and just relaxed and tried to enjoy every bit of Dublin that we could in three days.

Though I wasn’t impressed at first, this city had a ton of culture and authenticity to offer its guests. Ireland is a place I will definitely be returning to in the future. Go to the local pubs, enjoy traditional Irish music and enjoy the countryside of this lush land! 
 
I’m Feelin’ Like Seabiscuit

Horseraces! 

Sandown Park

At Sandown Park

That’s right. Not only were we able to do some high tea and soccer tournaments this week, we were able to attend the infamous horse races! I know we have horse races in Nebraska, but they’re not to the same caliber or scale as these bad boys. Think Kentucky Derby on a weekly basis. It was magical. 

As avid gamblers on the horses of their choice, Holmes(y) and Horsewood invited us all to attend the races with them this past Wednesday. And it was quite the treat. We all dressed up in our Sunday best, put a couple extra pounds in our pockets and headed to Sandown Park (about an hour and a half outside of Oxford). The park was HUGE, the track was over a mile in its circular shape and they had the most succulent food and drink specials. I just can’t even. Yum. 

Horsewood did us the great justice of spending our morning international economics course on Wednesday discussing the economics of gambling at the racetrack and just how to use that knowledge to our advantage. Basically, he gave us a run down on what to expect, how to behave and where and how to place bets on horse races. I’m not a big gambler – I’d rather light my money on fire and let it blow out in the wind for the same amount of excitement – it’s the same effect and means the same thing: say goodbye to your money because it is floating away in the wind! Though it went against my better judgment, I decided  I might as well place a bet since I was there. Having no idea what I was doing, I put a pound down on the horse with the cutest name to place. I must have been doing something right recently with the karma gods because my horse placed second and I made a large return on my initial bet. Whoo hoo! I used my winnings wisely – to cover the cost of food and drink at the race track. Money well spent if I do say so myself. Would I ever be able to bet more than that one pound? NO WAY! But, hey, it was fun while it lasted. 

We were able to watch six races in about 3.5 hours and hear the legendary and aged Tom Jones afterwards. (Shame on you if you don’t know “What’s new pussy cat”!) Though it’s not specifically my music scene, it was enjoyable to listen to this legendary music with thousands of fans at dusk on the race track. Quite the picture-esque moment if I could ever explain one! 

We are so spoiled here – going to West End musicals, traveling around Europe and heading to the race equivalent of the Kentucky Derby. I’ve never had so much fun dressing to the “nines” and spending money in such a frivolous manner. A day at the races is a day well spent.  
 
We’re Late, We’re Late – For a Very Important Date!

High tea pastries

High tea pastries

We all know that the endless tales and configurations of the infamous Mad Hatter and the Looking Glass in Alice in Wonderland has lasted throughout the ages – heck, they’re still making movies and doing various interpretations of it. It is with this classic story that I tell you about our high tea time here in Oxford. 

Our normal Tuesday excursion took an excellent turn when we decided to join our activities leaders for a nice stroll across town to the Old Parsonage Hotel for an afternoon High Tea event. I was told once that high tea was created by one of the Queen Elizabeth’s because she got hungry in the afternoons and wanted to have snacks thus the tradition of high tea was born in the UK. Is there a ton of truth to this story? I don’t know, but I like it, so we shall declare it as truth! (Thanks Maggie – I hope your history holds some semblance or I’m blaming you for leading me down the wrong path!) Whether it’s true or not, I’m in love with the English person that decided to start celebrating afternoon tea and snacks for it was a glorious afternoon. 

The Old Parsonage Hotel is filled with history, beauty and love. As an old home for a priest to the nearby church, the home was transformed into a small and elegant hotel where tourists and residents of the city alike can enjoy a quaint and quiet stay. It was beautiful. 

You celebrate high tea in the following manner: each person at the table (we had 13 people our afternoon) orders one of nine teas. The teas come out in their own pots – you each get your own kettle, strainer and brown and white sugar cubes. You also get a tiered array of plates filled with pastries, scones, sweet treats and finger sandwiches to share between you and the person across from you. It’s a lot of tea and a lot of food – so go hungry! 

You sit and casually dine and sip your tea while making pleasant conversation and enjoy the surrounding elegance that is the city of Oxford. Once again, another example of how wonderful this program is and how blessed we are to be able to participate in it!
 
The Iron Ladies: A Tale of a European Futbol Tournament

The iron ladies of English futbol

The iron ladies of English futbol

As if I can’t boast about it enough, this program, for lack of a better term, ROCKS! Not only do they set up gaming and sightseeing activities, but they really like to play to all of our competitive sides and set up some “friendly” tournaments for all of us to participate in. This week’s sport of choice: Soccer. (Or, as they like to say here, some futbol!)

The Iron Ladies were quite the team. Though we may have been at an initial disadvantage, we were able to really live up to the name of underdogs and prevail in this “fight to the death,” “blood, sweat and tears” and “no holds” tournament.

We were obviously overjoyed when we found out that Dr. Holmes had volunteered to be our goalie for the duration of our time in the tournament. We all collectively agreed he would be the best person on our team and, thus, a large asset. He really proved his worth. Don’t let anyone deceive you, kids - that man is an absolute terror on the field. Think Tim Howards: British edition. I don’t understand why he doesn’t play for the national team, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Dr. Holmes in the goal

Dr. Holmes in the goal

When you combined the amount of experience and time each of us had spent on the soccer field before this game, we collectively had about four months of experience – totally ready to take on the boys who played soccer their entire lives. I had plenty of confidence in our excellent ability to make light of any and all situations.

The first game against the other girls was fierce, competitive and we were able to pull out with a 4-0 lead! Cue our inner David Beckhams looking on with pride. The second match, however, we were outnumbered, out skilled and lacked the precise athletic ability to keep up with the team of boys who played soccer throughout their entire high school careers.
In the end, the soccer tournament turned out to be fun and educational. We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and the wonderful game. The biggest lessons we learned: judge a soccer player’s ability directly by the size of their calves and Dr. Holmes is an incredibly talented goalie (the biggest asset to the Iron Ladies and the amateur league).

Foggy London Town

Steffensmeier and classmates at Big Ben

Steffensmeier and classmates at Big Ben

I would like to dedicate a little blog post about the wonderful and beautiful city that is London, England, UK. Disclaimer: I don’t understand why UK has to be put at the end of that address, but apparently it’s super PC here, so might as well throw myself into that.

A Foggy Day (In London Town) is one of my favorite songs of all time – you have a beautifully written song sung with the chocolately velvety smooth voice of Michael Buble. What isn’t to love about that song? Anywho, I’ve always loved that song and I’ve always been fascinated with such a city. On our travels before Oxford, the biggest part of London was what we saw out the terminal glass of Heathrow airport. So, I jumped at the thought of spending a weekend there during our first week of classes. I would be able to walk on what Winston Churchill, Harry Potter and the Queen herself called their home “stomping grounds” and I couldn’t have been more excited.

That’s something that is so wonderful about this program. Not only do they allow us to study at one of the most prestigious university systems in the world, but they allot us time to travel throughout Europe and set up excursions and activities for us on a day-to-day basis. We travel all over Oxford and through the surrounding cities and they even set up day excursions for us to London. Not many people can say that their study abroad programs focus on group activities and excursions like ours does. It’s simply wonderful. 

On our first Saturday, Oxford allowed all 68 of us to head down to London in the morning, explore the city, see a West End musical and stay in London overnight if we so pleased. Seven other girls and myself decided to stay at a hostel overnight so we could get a day-and-a-half packed full of the “London experience.” It was the perfect opportunity to see all the sights we could hit in that short amount of time. We had prepaid transportation, got advice on which hostels and suburbs to stay in, discounts on tours and we were able to see the British equivalent of a Broadway musical. It was a trip that was simply magical! 

We saw Billy Elliot as our group musical. I personally found it fascinating. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE musicals and plays. I literally cannot get enough. When I grow up and get my big girl job, I am purchasing season tickets to whatever Orpheum equivalent is in the city I am in to get my fill of musicals. I also found the background of the musical fascinating as we are currently learning all about Thatcher and the miner’s strike in Dr. Holmes class. How exciting to mix learning and pleasure so harmoniously! The musical was, in short, wonderful. The young cast was SO incredibly talented (Billy Elliot – that kid is GOING PLACES). If any of you get the chance, PLEASE GO! 

The London Eye Catches Students Eye

The London Eye Catches Students Eye

In the afternoon we enjoyed all the English favorites: fish and chips, hit the London Eye, Big Ben (which was underwhelmingly small), Buckingham Palace, the Royal Palace Gardens and Westminster Abbey, among other sights along the way. We did the London Eye at dusk – which was AMAZING! I would suggest doing it then or at night -that is when you get the absolutely most breathtaking view of the city. London is so much larger than you think it is and, as I stated in all of my previous posts about our travels, it gives you the bird’s eye view we love to witness. It is a must see. (Totally worth the 21 pounds!) 

Since I was recovering from the flu and a sinus infection, I wasn’t able to continue traveling on Sunday (which was a huge bummer for me). The last site I was able to take in before I caught my bus back to Oxford was Hyde Park, which was about a half-mile away from our hostel. It is here where the real Peter Pan statue is located. It is also home to the Princess Diana of Whales memorial fountain and to some ancient Greek fountains. The park is monstrous and worth every step you are able to travel through it. It is two times (I believe) the size of Central Park in NYC (yea it’s huge) and is filled with acres of pure and natural beauty. It was easy to see why there were so many spectators there. I wish I was able to spend more time there, but, alas, I had to get my sick self back to Oxford, to Boots and to bed as fast as the Oxford Tube could carry me. 
London was gorgeous and lived up to what I thought it would be. Though I am deeply saddened I couldn’t see everything I wanted to while we were there, I am excited to say Marisa and I will be spending four days there after the Nebraska at Oxford program comes to a close. We will be able to go on every Harry Potter, Jack the Ripper and Wimbledon tours our hearts desire and it will be wonderful. To any student who is planning on coming to Oxford next year, it is highly suggested you spend your first weekend in London – stay in the city overnight after the musical and let your wayward heart wander the city. It’s worth every step and every pence.

What Goes Around Comes Around

In the wise words of our generation’s IT boy with ramen hair, Justin Timberlake, “What goes around, goes around, goes around and comes way back around. Yea.” Though he may be speaking of some spiteful karma coming ’round to a lover’s dispute, I am talking about something so much worse it deserves its own post: The flu. The sickness.

The first experience we have in college of being sick is absolutely horrible. Our beds aren’t the same comfort as they are at home. There’s no one to bring you chicken noodle soup and Sudafed on the fly. And your mom DEFINITELY isn’t there to help with every little request. You know what’s worse than being sick at college? It’s being sick at college in a foreign country.

Let me preface: we walked into class Friday morning and noticed the sea of students had thinned. Initially we came to the same conclusion – a little TOO much fun was had at the Purple Turtle the night before and it was their own faults they weren’t in class. We realized later, however, four people had come down with food poisoning, or so they thought. One by one Nebraska at Oxford students were dropping like flies. Someone getting the flu here. Someone starting to get a sinus infection there. It was ghastly. And unstoppable.

Both my group of travelers and myself seemed to be immune to this sudden pandemic and we thought we would be just fine continuing on our journey to London the following day. We were wrong (insert dramatic pause here).

I woke up mid-Sunday morning with aches, shivers and the most horrible headache I have experienced in a while. The fact I was waking up in a hostel in the middle of London with no transportation, no doctor to call and a horrible fever - to say I was both miserable and panicky is an understatement. I was able to make it through the night just enough to make it to a bus stop back to Oxford in the morning.

I wasn’t the only person who came down with flu and sinus infection like symptoms during the week. I believe five or six people of the 68 of us didn’t feel the effects of this nasty bug that spread throughout our group (lucky lucky). From this experience we learned a bit about traveling abroad while sick. I’ll go ahead, in my traditional way, and give you the list of hardships I learned through this experience:

1. When you are traveling to countless places throughout Europe, you’re bound to come into contact with some germs and whatnot (I’m not a doctor I don’t know the correct terminology) that are NOT friendly or recognizable to your immune system. Be prepared to get sick. No matter how many shots you’ve gotten previously, you’re probably still going to have a day or two of your studies interrupted with fevers, aches and all the goodies that come with the flu. On the plus side: Prett has AMAZING chicken noodle and tomato soup – so at least there’s some comfort to help you weather the storm.  

2. BRING SOME MEDICINE WITH YOU!!! I cannot stress how important this is. I am prone to constant sinus infections (and that is something that I had while I had the flu – YUCK!) and thus I made a plan with my doctor before I left. Your doctor wants you to be well and may prescribe you medicine BEFORE you are sick in order to aid you when you inevitably do contract something while you are abroad. I attribute my fast recovery to the Z-pack and medicated ear drops my doctor presribed before I left. Amen and praise all that is good for Dr. Keasling. You ‘da best, gurl!

3. DRINK LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS OF WATER. I’m going to get real, real fast here, people. The drinking age is 18. No one on this trip is under that age. Though you may not like it, about 98 percent of the young lads and lassies on this excursion across the big blue will go ahead and have a drink while they’re here, there’s no trouble to get into and that it’s legal! Because of that, sometimes they disregard drinking water. In the voice of Julia Roberts - BIG MISTAKE! HUGE! The less water you drink the more susceptible your body is to contracting something. You need to stay hydrated to stay healthy – and you must drink more of that good aqua if you’re partaking in nighttime festivities!

4. Last, but certainly not least, the medicine here is NOT the same as medicine in the states. I’m partial to Alka Seltzer cold and flu and Nyquil to get me through all my sickness (partnered with antibiotics). When I went to Booth’s Pharmacy to purchase them, they were not on the shelf. So you might want to throw some of those in your bag as well. If you are worried about weight and it’s a battle between bringing some Nyquil and bringing that cute party shirt, I’d ditch the shirt. You won’t regret it.

So, in essence of this long and dramatic post on everyone getting sick here in Oxford and in London, I will sum it up like this: You will get sick; you will need to bring some medicine; and you will survive without the comfort of your mother’s TLC.

Sherlock Holmes(y) and the mysterious Dr. Horsewood

Horsewood and Holmes pose with Oxford students

Drs. Horsewood and Holmes (middle) pose with Oxford students

When I was told that I would be participating in the Nebraska at Oxford program, the first item of discussion when talking to previous participants was, apart from the purple turtle, about our two professors of Economics: Dr. Holmes and Dr. Horsewood. I was constantly told of their intelligence, outrageous and wonderful stories and about how amazing they were as people and distinguished professors. I thought, “Sure, they’re probably cool, but I can’t imagine any professor being THAT great or enthusiastic.” I was so far off.

These professors are amazing. Not only are they distinguished economists, they are hilarious, full of crazy stories, always willing to take a crack at the other and willing to do just about anything to make each of us students feel welcome and ensure we are interested in learning the material they are preaching.

 Dr. Holmes has been the program director of the Nebraska at Oxford Program since its inception 26 years ago and is just as excited now as he has ever been (I would assume). He still gets riled up about all of the course material and opportunities available to us while we are here. His class is the first time that I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed a history based class and his stories about his youth and about Dr. Horsewood are what make 9 a.m. class worth it each and every day.

Dr. Horsewood has also been with the program over the past decades and has excelled in teaching international economics. He is able to do the impossible: Make economics of the international variety (full of graphs) interesting and fun. He is able to explain the concepts and terms of economics in ways each and every one of the students in front of him understands. His stories about his dear Holmes(y) are also off the wall. You can tell these two have been friends and colleagues for many years and still get the thrill and enjoyment of young professors jabbing at their colleagues for the enjoyment of their students.

I have only been here one week and I already don’t want this program to end – it’s going by way too fast! I have finally found myself interested in all things “economics” and I attribute it to these wonderful professors. They are indescribable; beyond words. They are the definition of people who love their jobs and are passionate about the subject matter that they are teaching. I find myself interested to learn more and more about British economics and the history behind these occurrences. Thank you, Sherlock and Watson for caring so much. I know I will be that alum who raves to all new members of this program about how amazing the professors are and how they make your trip at Oxford/Jesus College worthwhile!

Oxford. We are finally here!

Brianne Steffensmeier at tea with classmates

Steffensmeier (left) at tea with classmates

We are finally in Oxford and it feels so good! Though I am sad we are done, for now, with our European adventures, it is nice to have a consistent schedule, comfy bed to sleep in and a place to put all of your clothes (sans the backpack). Marisa and I have a double room within Jesus’ College walls while many of the other students, who are living in single units, are located on Ship Street just outside the college’s walls. Marisa and I have our own bathroom, each have our own room and a common area with desks, dressers and a seating area (Think Knoll, Oxford style). It is REALLY nice - we are beyond spoiled, I’ll be honest!

I am so extremely happy to finally be here and kick things off. Let the games begin!

 
“The first star to the right and straight on till morning!”
 
You know that’s how I feel when I think about our soon-coming European adventure. I grew up loving Peter Pan; what child wouldn’t want to fly through London and make their way to the stars onto a magnificent land of dreams and youth? As a child that sounded absolutely wonderful. (Now that I know a little more behind the meaning of that book and its metaphors, I’m not really sure I’d want to visit such a place, but, hey, it was the most wonderful fantasy a 6-year-old could dream up!) Apart from flying through the nigh sky to a mythical land of lost boys and giant alligators, we are about to set sail on our mighty jet to London to start both our European adventure and studies at one of the most historical schools in the world - the most wonderful fantasy a 21-year-old could dream up.
 
When I was asked to write a blog about our impending travels I thought, “how wonderful! I can share my biased opinions with the masses!” And it’s true: I am very excited and exhilarated to be sharing my experience with whoever’s eyes are reading this computer screen right now. I want to share what we have learned, the fun we are having and the inevitable mistakes that we will make along the way (whether that be “misplacing” a piece of luggage, forgetting about a flight or just simply ending up in the wrong country). This is going to be an amazing journey and I can’t wait to share it with all of you!
 
To start things off - PLANNING YOUR EUROPEAN GETAWAY (as told by four college women who have no idea what they are doing):

1.      Do yo’ research!

a.      I can’t begin to even explain to you how much research we did. I mean, I’m talking we looked at at least four websites/travel sites with ratings on every hotel and train that we decided to look into – we wanted to make sure these places were both real and reliable. (Are we sure these places will be right when we get there? No, but our research should hopefully back us up!)

2.      Hotel or Hostel?

a.      We were all about that hostel life going into it, but, traveling with four people, it made it quite difficult to perfectly plan a bed for everyone in a hostel. Also, many of these places had no breakfast included and community bathrooms (though they are wonderful our spoiled selves decided not to time-hop back to freshman year and sharing EVERYTHING with our floor mates). We opted to do hotels as we found many with wi-fi included and breakfast! HaZa! Joy all around. Also, the hotels we did find were only about $20 more per person/night, which we were okay with that upgrade to include food and a lockable door!

3.      Air or Rail travel?

a.      I will have to let you know as we conquer this conundrum – we decided to do a bit of both,  and, I’ll be honest, we will see how smoothly everything goes as we get there. (Prayers are appreciated!)

4.      “Brianne, I need to pack my Tory’s, my party heels, and an outfit for everyday!” I say to you, absolutely not!

a.      I have one suitcase packed and one backpack as in the hiking kind – I’m kind of adventurous that way! Wear layers, and pants that go with lots of different shirts (that translates into jeans and black slacks - just deal with repetitiveness!) and rewear your clothes. I know from many a backpacking trek that clothes are meant to be reworn and possibly have a slight stench – it lets people know you mean business! Do it! No one has time or money for that – as in carrying six suitcases and checking those bad boys onto the plane.

5.      Money!

a.      I’ve been saving up for this trip for a year and, I’ll be honest, my arse is poor! But, it’s totally worth it. “Travel is the only thing that you can buy that makes you richer” is what every travel article on Pinterest seems to say, and I’ll buy into it. TOTALLY WORTH IT! And I can’t wait to start my trek. Just maybe save a little more, that would be kind of practical and ideal – a little extra never hurt anyone! (Unless you’re applying that to luggage, then refer to number 4, because that did hurt everyone – the wallet and the spine!)
 
I can’t wait to embark on this wonderful adventure with three of my bestfriends and experience everything that Europe has to offer (even if we are powering through it faster than we can even imagine)! I also can’t wait to share everything with you! So, watch out for more stories, tips, tricks and pics. We’re looking to the first star to the right and we’re setting off. See you soon, London!