Elizabeth Masi '13

I’m not sure how the time slipped away from me this semester. People always say time flies when you’re a senior but you never realize just how fast it goes until you’re experiencing it yourself. All of a sudden, I find myself with my last semester at Holy Cross coming to a close and I’m feeling a total hodgepodge of emotions. I didn’t think graduating would hit me for some time– it’s still about 3 weeks away. But then my last day of classes came this past Thursday and I found myself at tears at 11 in the morning. I really do feel so incredibly blessed to be in an institution that has invested so much in me, shaping me into the student I am today. I have been challenged, encouraged, and my horizons have been broadened these last 4 years– and realizing that that was my last time I was going to be sitting in a classroom at HC being taught hit me in a way I didn’t expect.

I’m thrilled at the prospect of being done with work given the fact that my brain has been fried lately… but that’s not say I wasn’t totally overwhelmed at the prospect of my academic career coming to a close. Thank God for Cape Week and Senior Week and all that time with my friends that is to come– I won’t be taking that for granted by any means.

This past weekend marked my last spring weekend at Holy Cross. Luckily, I haven’t found myself in tears just yet, but it was an odd feeling– to walk through the Easy Street Fair and know that it was going to be my last time getting cotton candy, petting the animals in the petting zoo, or watching people fall in the dunk tank (hey Chris Tota!). It’s such a difficult feeling to live in the present but also know its finality– how do you live it more to the fullest? How do you act with more consciousness? How does this awareness translate into action that you will appreciate when you look back on your final weeks of college? I think the best thing I can do is to not over-think it and let myself be.

As plans become more clear for Teach For America (dates and information are trickling in about Summer Institute where I will be trained in Philadelphia for my teaching position in Newark), I feel relieved that I am blessed to know my plans for the future. Many of my classmates are not in the know– but knowing exactly what I am doing (the challenges I know I will have to face, the rigorous schedule I will be adhering to, etc) scares me. I have grown increasingly nervous at what I am to be going through in the upcoming months. Knowing I have a community of Holy Cross friends that extend far beyond the Hill encourages me along my way. Especially considering I get to live with my current roomie, Marjorie, in Newark. I’d say I’m pretty lucky.

Love to all,


I can’t believe three weeks of second semester have passed already. I wish I could pump the brakes. But lots of exciting stuff is happening! Blizzard Nemo came through and dumped 28 inches of snow on our lovely campus. On Friday the 8th– the night that the seniors were supposed to be dancing away at 100 Days Ball, we were locked inside while heaps of snow locked us in. It was a great night for baking, drinking wine, watching chick flicks, and talking for hours. But we were all a little depressed that our beloved ball (notorious for quite the fun time…) got postponed. But it got moved to this Friday, the 15th, and we’re super pumped. Any opportunity to get dressed up and be with all my friends is a perfect night for me. Can’t wait.

I’m taking Modern Dance, Cancer Biology, a Joseph Conrad & Graham Greene seminar, and continuing to write my thesis this semester. My classes have been really awesome so far. I’m particularly pleasantly surprised by my cancer bio class. I’ve been putting off my natural science requirement for quite some time (as you can tell) because it is absolutely not my forte. But Prof. Bellin’s class has been really interesting and easier to understand than I thought. My biology pre-med roommate is definitely proud 🙂 Modern Dance has also been so much fun. I went into just wanting to try something different and fun for my final semester at Holy Cross– not to mention, I’ve always regretted quitting my jazz class after only two weeks in the 7th grade. The class has been such a delight– de-stressing and fascinating. And simply put, I just really enjoy dancing. Not just at bars in Worcester with my senior class, I’ve now discovered, but choreographed and in an academic setting. Having an eclectic class selection makes for a really vibrant final semester. And, as always, my thesis is providing me with challenging and incredibly rewarding work that I’m starting to see come together holistically with my advisor, Prof. Cording.

Next weekend, I’ll be going on Manresa for my final retreat at Holy Cross and I’m feeling bittersweet about it. I can’t believe it’ll be my last one but I can’t wait to be at Toah Nipi for a full weekend again– to reflect on myself, my spirituality, and my Holy Cross experience as it, unfortunately, starts to come to a close. My two good friends, Lauren Spurr and Liz Mahoney, are leaders and I can’t wait to see them in their element. 🙂 The weekend after will mark the beginning of Spring Break… unbelievable how fast time flies. I’ll be going to Punta Cana with over 100 kids from the Class of 2013 and I’m so looking forward to some R&R and sun. And more class bonding, of course.

Today marks exactly 100 days till I graduate. As I reflect upon this day–which is terrifying but so exciting–I want to make sure I keep these things in mind this semester: to remain genuine and loyal to my friends; to keep up my work ethic in the academic environment that has fostered me into the best student I can be; to continually take risks and put myself outside of my comfort zone to challenge myself; to keep my priorities in order and balanced; and lastly, to be conscious of every last second I have on this incredible campus.

I end this post with a piece of exciting news that touches upon my life after Holy Cross– about a month ago, I officially accepted an offer to teach secondary special education in Newark, NJ through Teach for America. Words cannot describe how lucky and excited I am to embark on this journey. I can’t wait to take on the challenge of educational inequity in our country and try to implement real change. While I will struggle daily, I can’t wait to connect with my students and make a real impact on social justice in this country before I begin a career– a career, which may in fact, including teaching. The best part: I get to go through this journey with my roommate, Marjorie, who also got placed in Newark. We’ve already begun planning our apartment and are so thrilled to start the next chapter of our lives. So although I remind myself daily to enjoy everything my HC experience has to offer before I graduate, I feel so blessed to be able to say that I have something so special I get to look forward to.

One of my New Years Resolutions this year is to get back into the swing of blogging! So here I am. My apologies for being so MIA last semester. It was a packed one. I underestimated the chaos of Holy Cross life—not to mention being a senior and applying to real-life things. And now I can’t believe half of my senior year is over. Entering second semester is terrifying. I still have a solid two weeks before I have to go back to school (speaking of which, I have to really crack down on my thesis in that time!) but I’m already getting totally overwhelmed at the prospect of being a second-semester senior.

First semester of senior year was definitely the best so far of my HC career. Living in Williams (not to mention, having the very first room when you walk in) has been the best thing since sliced bread. Getting to live with 3 of your best friends, cook for yourself, have a family room, and have all your favorite people in the same building? It doesn’t get much better.

Still, it was scary coming back to the Hill from abroad. I was worried about the people I left on campus—did they make new friends that replaced me? My abroad friends from other countries—did they only want to be with each other? Where did that leave me? While the first few days were intimidating, I quickly adjusted to meeting and becoming friends/ closer with some of the best people I have ever known. What makes senior year different from freshman year is that there aren’t any boundaries between friends anymore. Freshman year, we clung to the friends we made because it was all we knew. Fast forward three years later, and I feel that, simply, everyone wants to be friends. It’s awesome. It makes for really fun pub nights on Tuesdays, fun chats in Cool Beans, and a livelier social scene on the weekends. I have never had more fun at HC than I did this past semester.

I know second semester, in many ways, will be even more fun. It’s our last semester as college students…. Ever. So everyone will want to enjoy every second to its fullest. It will also arguably be more stressful with my thesis coming to a close in late April. People will start finding out their futures and panicking. Basically, life will overwhelm us. But I’m determined to take it one day at a time and to enjoy every second I have left on Mount St. James. Cheesy, I know. But trust  me—you don’t even realize how much something means to you until it starts slipping away from you far faster than you can manage.

Here are some highlights from first semester:

The time we went apple-picking at the gorgeous Berlin Orchards. Love you, Spurr!

The time that classes were cancelled because of Hurricane Sandy and we went crazy.

The time Marjorie and I won the Halloween costume contest at the pub. And therefore a HUGE bin of candy.

The time that it was Lauren’s fake birthday at Feng Hibachi

The time it was SENIOR BALL. AH!

Some more senior ball highlights:

The time Emma and I stuffed bears during the winter weekend carnival and named them Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby after our fave Christmas movie, White Christmas

The time  we all dressed in our Christmas best.

Oh and yeah, the time I fell asleep reading on the couch and my dear roommate, Katie, captured it. She calls this “Pretty in Pink.” Thanks, babe.

Okay. It’s been an unacceptable amount of time since I’ve last blogged. Let’s recap what’s been going on the past month as a senior. (Am I senior? Really? Let’s not say that word often…)

  1. I’ve discovered tailgating at HC. And it.is.awesome. I’ve never been a huge fan of watching football (I’m a baseball gal) so I rarely made the effort to watch a football at HC (oopsie). But I love having everyone in one place to socialize during the daytime that’s not always in Cool Beans or in hushed whispers in Dinand. Plus, people provide really good food. Like, really good food. It’s Parents Weekend this weekend and I’m pumped to take my parents to their first tailgate!
  2. It’s the first time at HC that I only have three scheduled courses. I still meet with my thesis advisor once a week at a set time but it’s much more casual and relaxed and has taken on a completely different form than the rest of my regular classes. It’s tricky to balance the demands of a thesis– which is a tremendous amount of independent work. I feel like my thesis is my primary tutorial like I had at Oxford… except I also have three classes that demand a lot of work as well and meet way more often than my Oxford tutorials. Stillllll getting used to it.
  3. My mom came up for lunch a weekend in September and it was so nice. Getting back into school is always hectic and keeping in touch with my mama can be difficult. The amount of phone tag she and I play is ridiculous. So it was incredible to get her onto the hill and spend some quality time with her. Plus, she got to hang with my friends for awhile which is always fun. My friend, Lauren Spurr, told me after she wanted my mom to come out for drinks with us next time she visits. You hear that, mom? You’re a hit. Cheers.
  4. I’m in the process of figuring out my life/ future. Scary stuff. I’m taking it easy and definitely not letting myself get too overstressed, but I’m trying to remain in the present moment. That was the biggest piece of advice I got from alums I met with over the summer– senior year flies by so quickly, I need to savor every moment. For now, I’m thinking that going straight into the work force isn’t necessarily right for me. While it’s totally an option, right now I’m pursuing different things that could provide me either with opportunities to cultivate my character some more before I hope into a job. I’ll keep you posted!
  5. I’m on the Study Abroad Peer Advisor Steering Committee this year which has been absolutely awesome. Since, as I’m sure you all know, I’m basically obsessed with my experience abroad, I’m clutching at any and all straws to pay the experience forward… or let’s be honest, relive it in any way possible. I got to give a speech to prospective study abroaders about why they should go and worked at the study abroad fair basically coercing everyone into applying to Oxford. Aggressive, but necessary. To anyone still debating going abroad… There is nothing to debate. GO!
  6. Williams 201 hosted their very first BAMF on September 21! BAMF is a senior tradition and it stands for “Breakfast and Mimosa Fridays”. Marjorie made pancakes (with this special batter that her dad has shipped in from California or something cool like that!) and they were delicious. I made pumpkin pie french toast which was a lot of fun and has now made me into a pumpkin fiend. Since then I’ve made pumpkin bread and have pinned maybe 7 more pumpkin-themed desserts/ goodies on Pinterest. Exhibit A: bought 3 cams of pumpkin puree at Stop & Shop today. Excessive, maybe, but yummy. But anyways, it was great to have a bunch of seniors roaming in and out of our room for a few hours, munching on our homemade treats, and enjoying each other’s company. 🙂
  7. Something that sucked about not turning 21 on campus was that I couldn’t go to the pub in Hogan. Now that I’m back, I’m obsessed. Every Tuesday night is pub night and a bunch of seniors go to share a few drinks and chat. It’s a ton of fun and the pub environment reminds me a lot of England which I always love. I’m determined to have the guys recognize me. Soon, I won’t need my passport to get in. Maybe.
  8. A few of us went apple-picking this past Sunday and it was WONDERFUL. We went to Berlin Orchards in Berlin, MA which were beautiful. A tractor drove us to the orchards, we picked 20 pounds of apples, and got ice cream after. I love Fall. Love love love! And now there are a lot of apples to go around in Williams 201!

FEWF, I think I’m finally settled into the swing of things on campus. Well, that’s not true considering I’m still running around a hundred miles a minute and still completely frenzied, BUT I’m settled enough to make a post 🙂

Coming back to Holy Cross has been incredible but difficult at the same time. Just as adjusting to the educational system was hard coming to Oxford, it’s equally as difficult adjusting back. Being in a classroom setting with fourteen other students? Definitely a small class- especially compared to other universities across the states- but when you’re used to one-on-one, it’s overwhelming. All of a sudden I care about what my peers think of me again. I care about sounding smart or worry about being wrong. Which is weird considering how nerve-wracking it was to answer every question thrown my way in an Oxford tutorial. But for some reason, I felt comfortable one-on-one with tutors– and I’ve always felt comfortable with my HC professors as well. I feel like they’re trained for you to make dumb comments every once in awhile. But when my professor asks a question in class and someone else’s hand shoots up… I don’t even know what to do with myself. The whole thing has been bizarre. Taking four classes again instead of two is another adjustment as well. I’m used to delving really deeply into one discipline each week through a huge amount of reading and then writing a paper. Now I’m back to scattered assignments, reading, etc. across multiple disciplines. AH!

It’s getting easier, though, and I will say Oxford did prep me well in terms of independent work. None of my classes this Fall start before 2 o’clock. Freshman year that would’ve meant be sleeping in late, doing laundry, roaming around, eating a long lunch, etc. Now that means waking up at 9 and cranking through as much work as possible. That’s part in due to the fact that I have more work than I did freshman year and I really don’t have a choice with all the things on my schedule. But I’m definitely more disciplined. But let’s hope that lasts!

Also exciting about this year is the fact that I live in an APARTMENT! I live in Williams Hall on lower campus with my direct roomie, Marjorie, as well as Katie and Christine and we are having so much fun. Here’s us having a roomie bonding dinner at where else but Red Robbin. And yes, half the room is vegetarian.

Left to right: Marge, Katie, Christine, and me. Such hooligans.

Our room is the first one you see when you walk towards the front door of Williams so we happen to get a lot of banging and breathing on our window– this can be really fun when it’s your friend orrrr it can be really creepy when it’s a random drunk guy. We have a kitchen, bathroom, shower, family room area, and private double rooms. This is like the lap of luxury, people. When my parents moved me in, my dad actually said, “This is gonna be better than any of your first NY apartments out of college, so enjoy it, squirt.” And I have been enjoying it– especially using cooking as a new mode of procrastination. I’m officially obsessed with cooking which is only aided by my addiction to Pinterest. Like this recipe I got off Pinterest – it could feed a small army. And because I had an hour and a half before class yesterday I cooked the entire thing (instead of, oh I don’t know, catching up on other work) – check it out:

What am I doing with my life?! COOKING. I’ve been a cooking fiend but I might as well be because the semester’s only gonna get more stressful. And now I have enough Cajun Chicken Pasta to last me a lifetime. When I’m not cooking up a storm (people, come by and seriously eat my food. HELP ME) I’ll be writing for the newspaper, The Crusader; writing my thesis (more about that to come…);  writing articles for the awesome Lovelyish.com where I have a remote Fall internship (YAY!); volunteering through SPUD (Student Programs for Urban Development) at Elm Park Elementary School where I’ll be tutoring kids and at Girl’s Choice where I’ll be tutoring and mentoring underprivileged teenage girls; being an RPE (Relationship Peer Educator) on campus and putting on different programming for freshmen; and MORE. So it’ll be a crazy semester but I’m really looking forward to it.

It’s good to be a Crusader again. 🙂

Till next time.

Liz xx

With 7 days left until I’m back on Mount St. James, the anxiety has started to set in about being a senior. I now realize how blissful abroad was, as if I didn’t realize it before… but I can see now how I really had barely any worries. I wasn’t at Holy Cross, filled with stress over life-changing decisions and applications. I was 3,000 miles away in a different country and time zone, more worried about finishing my essay on time and rowing well for Summer VIIIs. Now I feel like I’ve been massively slapped in the face. SURPRISE. You are no longer in la-la land, my friend. This is the time to start figuring out what I want to do with my life. Granted, my dad always assures me he still doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. But I gotta think of something to do… something at all. Considering I can’t stay in college forever (maybe. maybe not. whatever.), I have really started evaluating life after college. Wait, what? College ends and I have to be… a real person? Breathe in, breathe out.

Albeit terrifying, I would be lying if I said thinking about it isn’t exciting. I think that’s because my internship this summer really solidified a potential career path for me. I had the lucky opportunity to intern at Town & Country Magazine at the Hearst Corporation in Manhattan. My boss graduated from HC in 2008 and I’ve really gotten a sense of how fantastic the alumni network is. Before I delve into details about my internship, let’s just sum up Liz’s career choices since her wee years.

Third Grade: Will be a third grade elementary school teacher in Rhode Island.

Fourth Grade: Will be a fourth grade elementary school teacher in Rhode Island. How fitting…

Fifth Grade: Will be a fifth grade elementary school teacher in Rhode Island. I’m sensing a trend.

Eigth Grade: Will be an 8th grade English teacher. Original, Liz. Realllll original.

Sophomore Year of High School: I. Love. Editing. Therefore, will be a book editor in a publishing house. Done.

Freshman Year of College: Wait… a graduate degree EXISTS for creative writing? SOLD. Will get an MFA and become a professor.

Sophomore Year of College: Not sure teaching is my calling. Back to book publishing.

Summer 2011: Completed a marketing internship at Time Warner Cable Media. More confused than ever.

Junior Year Abroad: What am I going to do with my life? WHO AM I? You know, all those deep existential questions.

My career goals have jumped between a few things but one thing remains pretty clear – I love the writing and editing process. Lovelovelove it. And I realized over time that it’s something I really missed from high school. I worked as editors of both my high school newspaper and literary magazine. I wrote, edited, designed, and more. It kept me busy. Very busy. So busy that I was sort of terrified to do it my first year of college. I really wanted to focus on my grades and didn’t want to spread myself too thin- something I definitely did in high school. Plus, I thought I was going to be a teacher. So I volunteered as a tutor through SPUD. I also debated getting an MFA, so I worked on declaring a Creative Writing Concentration and starting those courses. Over time, I’ve realized, however, how much I actually miss writing for a publication. And that was something that hit me full force when I started blogging last fall. Having the opportunity to intern for a magazine has shown me how awesome this industry is; it combines everything I want, including writing, editing, design, and digital media. While I haven’t closed the door to book publishing –or marketing or PR, for that matter!– there’s something about producing something of my own, both visually and content-wise, that really appeals to me.

Working at Town & Country has opened my eyes to what it’s like to produce a publication. I realized, by analyzing the magazine through archives and current issues, how fun it would be to cover features – topics that are both pertinent and fun. To discover things and share them with followers. T&C is an incredibly sophisticated, beautifully-designed, and well-written mag. The content it produces as well as its crisp and consistent style is something I’ll definitely want to model. I also think there are so many magazines out there that have blog-style voices with their writing and easily align with my own voice as well. I’m so excited at the prospect of working in the industry and for the first time, I really feel like I have a direction to pursue career-wise.

Major shout-out to my boss Micaela who is a rock star at T&C. She has helped me out so so much! And  treated her interns to a mani and pedi… enough said. Another reason why my internship was so fun? My crazy, awesome co-intern, Tyler (whom I affectionately call cupake, muffin, shnookies, etc.) She is as rad as they came, everyone. She and I shared a desk every day so we naturally became close. She’s a year younger but she better be living with my in New York City one day. I know you’re reading this Tyler. I KNOW YOU ARE. <3

Anyways, so my senior year will be spent focusing on that and possibly looking for entry-level work upon graduation. But who knows? I also want to see what else is out there possibly before I go straight into the work force. Like, what about studying abroad again? I loved it so much last year, who says it has to end? While I hope there will be many opportunities to travel when I’m older (hello travel magazines!), I do think that the year after you graduate college is a rare time to do anything and everything. So I’m looking into all options. And I’ll keep you guys posted 🙂

‘Till next time.

Liz xx

Good. News. I got confirmation from Holy Cross that I can blog through my senior year. I’m so excited about this. I got to document my incredible year abroad and now I get to tackle something entirely different – my final year at Holy Cross. The other night I spent a good chunk of time flipping through all the posts I’d written at Oxford. This is why I wanted to blog in the first place – among many reasons – to be able to look back on an experience and get the unique opportuntiy live it again, through my own words. I’m scared to enter my senior year. I haven’t been at Holy Cross as a student since May of 2011; I am writing a senior year thesis (HELP!); I’m starting to plan my life outside college once I graduate (although I will live in denial for as long as I can); and I’m facing the very fact that this is my last year on Mount St. James. And I’ve spent this summer in a weird, time-is-moving-really-slow-but-also-moving-really-fast transitional period coming back from England, going straight into work, and prepping to be a senior. I feel like I’m in a daze sometimes. But I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to continue to blogging. I look forward to the end of my senior year, after I’m holding a college degree and facing the real world, to pause, read through my blog, and see just how much I’ve grown.

I return to The Hill on August 24th, a little early to complete RPE training and help move the freshmen in. I’ve never moved the freshmen in before seeing as I was never an Orientation Leader (unfortunately, a big regret of mine) but getting to start my last year at HC basically doing what I did at the start of my  first year – moving huge boxes out of cars with other freshmen to move in – will be a nice way to come full circle. I’m really excited, especially because one of my closest friends Felicia is gonna be an RPE with me which will make training that much more fun. In the meanwhile, I’ve got less than two weeks to sort out of my life. AH.

So what have I done this summer since returning from abroad? I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time watching the Olympics this summer and am beyond depressed watching the Closing Ceremony right now. I admit: I am 100% that cheeseball who cried when the Fab 5 nailed it and won Gold in gymnastics; my heart went into overdrive when Missy Franklin just out-touched an opponent in swimming; and- I kid you not- I actually began running in place with excitement in my family room watching the USA women win the 4×400 meter relay. I also watch the slow-mo montages of Olympian winning moments just like the viewer NBC wants – sappy, eyes glued to the television, dreaming of world peace (“Oh my God, it really is possible, isn’t it??” Sniff, sniff), and melting at the underdog stories that always give the Olympics its heart and soul. Not to mention, the Olympics were hosted in London this year which made me all the more sentimental considering I left England only a month-and-a-half before the games commenced. I was certifiably insane when I started crying watching the Opening Ceremony- I was, after all, only watching some industrial towers rising from the stadium and grass being rolled away by people dressed peasants. I should’ve been confused but, instead, I was reaching for the tissues.

But what was I really doing this summer? I’ve had the awesome opportunity to intern at Town & Country Magazine at the Hearst Corporation. My boss Micaela is a former Crusader which makes it that much more awesome; I really got a sense of how connected and powerful the alumni network is. That’ll be proved even further when I have lunch next week with another alum working at Conde Nast – I can’t wait. Stay tuned; in my next post I’ll go into detail about my internship this summer, LIFE PLANS (cue heart palpitations), and what I’m looking forward to about my senior year.

Enjoy the last weeks of summer!

Liz xx

Here it is. I’ve been home for a little less than a month now and I’m finally ready to put into words (as best as I can) my feelings on my year abroad. Firstly- I’d like to thank everyone that read my blog this year. I hope I’ve been informative and haven’t rambled too much. 🙂

Oxford- There aren’t enough words to justly describe the kind of experience you gave me. I arrived nervous, recovering from surgery, chickening out of joining football, all the while attempting to tackle an entirely new teaching style. I was excited and eager to arrive, but I was terrified. I wasn’t confident that I could teach myself material and write 1-2 essays a week. I wasn’t confident that I’d make friends and mingle with British kids. I wasn’t confident I’d even be happy.

I was so, so wrong. Mansfield, you welcomed me with open arms and encouraged me to try new things. Each and every one of you at Mansfield make the college what it is- the most incredibly special place on earth. I have never felt quite as accepted and loved in my life. I gained confidence in myself as an athlete, something I hadn’t felt since my first year of high school. I learned that I could (shockingly!) handle the academic system and persevere through challenges, even beginning my own novel, which has now become my senior thesis. I met and made some of the most amazing friends I know I will cherish for a lifetime.

My last few days at Oxford were painful. I broke into crying fits and found myself breaking down at the top floor of my final “Wahoo” that Friday night as I watched each Mansfielder dance and sing together. I realized how devastating it would be to leave such a special place. I know I can come back. I know Oxford will be there for years to come. But in this context, with these people… I won’t get that again. And that broke—and still breaks—my heart.

Being home has been a weird transition. I’ve absolutely loved seeing all my friends but I’ve realized I’m homesick—but in a different way; this time it’s for Oxford. And I know that’s something I will feel for awhile. But I am so grateful to have been able to take advantage of this unique and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I am a better, stronger, more open, and cultured person. I have new friendships and I have been apart of an irreplaceable community. I will take a piece of that with me everywhere I go, for the rest of my life. This year has made me excited for everything life has to offer.

Memory works in interesting ways. It sometimes glorifies things, sequencing together your favorite moments from certain experiences into a film of sorts. It rolls in slow-motion through your mind. Sometimes it deceives you. But my memory footage of Oxford is not deceptive. I know that the sequence of images, of tiny moments, of laughter, of events, of people— they are real, and will remain so forever.

Mansfield, I love you. I’ll never forget this year.

Finally: a post about my third term here at Ox. It’s already seventh week and things are feeling pretty real- I fly home to America next Sunday. NEXT.SUNDAY. Holy God, I’m going to be an emotional wreck. But anyways- don’t want to dwell on the utterly depressing fact that I’m leaving in 11 days. Let’s recap the AWESOMENESS that has been the past seven weeks. Except for the atrocious weather (I’m talkin’ freezing rain. Like full-blown heat is necessary. Also raining so hard that my clothes need to be wrung out after a bike ride), it’s been lovely.

1. The term started off in 0th week with a Bop (themed dance in the JCR) – this time it was ’80s themed. YES. I so secretly wish I was born in the ’80s. The Bop called my name. Side ponytail, bright blue eye make-up, neon pink lightening bolt earrings, leopard tank, a skirt with patterned tights, fish net gloves… the whole she-bang (as you can see pictured on the right- there I am with second-year, Imy. Her outfit shows some pretty good ’80s dedication). I can’t believe it was my last Bop of the year. Alas- a Bop well spent.

2. So May Day happened. I’m an idiot and when I first heard about May Day I thought it was England’s way of celebrating some sort of war event… you know… “MAYDAYMAYDAYMAYDAY!” Wrong. It actually falls on the first of May every year and marks the beginning of the spring/ summer season! Most Oxford kids go clubbing the entire night until they watch carolers sing from the top of Magdalen Tower at 6 AM. Me raging all night long was not going to happen. I was a sleepy girl so I opted for the early morning wake-up call instead. We all piled out of Dale at around 5:30 in the morning and despite the pouring rain and clutter of umbrellas (oh and all the very drunk people in bedraggled outfits holding beers), we got to listen to some beautiful caroling! And I felt like I got to be a part of a cool tradition.

3. On May 6th me and a bunch of Mansfielders got to partake in OxHoli which was AMAZING. Oxford does their own rendition of the Indian tradition- it’s basically a massive, outdoor paint-throwing party. You wear all white, buy paint powder mix for a pound each, mix it with water, and DUMP it on people. You run around the grass, chase each other, and smear paint everywhere. It is every child’s fantasy. I haven’t had that much unabandoned fun in a really long time. I had paint everywhere. Not only was it soaked through to my underwear but I legitimately q-tipped paint out of my ears after my shower. Speaking of which- I had to wash my hair vigorously twice to get it all out. And it’s kind of concerning when you step under the shower and red water goes down the drain, not gonna lie. I then had to literally scrub my body with a bar of soap to get it off my skin. And even after my 45 minute shower, there was some left. But it was SO worth it. It also chose not to rain that day so I was a very happy camper. Enjoy the pics!

Ashley, me, Kelly, Sheila and Sophia after the paint madness!

Candid of Sophia dumping some paint on me!

4. May 12th was the day I went to a real Oxford Ball. So amazing. The tix were about 85 pounds a pop but SO unbelievably worth it. A bunch of us decided to go but tickets sold out fast for St. Hugh’s Ball. Originally, Kelly and Sophia didn’t get a ticket so it was going to be me with a bunch of Mansfield Brits- which I would’ve loved but I felt bad that my JYA gals wouldn’t get a chance to go. A Mansfielder sold her ticket to Kelly so then it was up to Sophia to scrounge three tickets for herself, her boyfriend, and Kelly’s boyfriend. Luckily, I stalked the St. Hugh’s Ball Facebook page and spotted a guy trying to sell tix. PROBLEM SOLVED. Everyone got to go and it was absolutely wonderful. We all got into our floor-length dresses and showed up at Mansfield to take pictures on the quad. I gotta tell ya- sometimes I really feel like someone up there is listening to me. The weather, as I mentioned before, has been truly miserable this term. Each day it rained, I told myself it would be fine if it meant that we could get sun for the ball. And we did. Great weather for a great night; we showed up at the ball and it was an absolute spectacle. Dozens of tents covered St. Hugh’s expansive lawn (check out the inside of a tent in the pic just above!) We were greeted with champagne and hors d’oeurves. There were a bunch of food tents, including fajitas, bangers and mash, ice cream, roasted pork, cotton candy, sushi, chocolate fountain… I could keep going. The food was endless. There were open bars too but the lines were outrageous for all of them so food quickly became the priority. YUM. There was also a crazy amount to do… there was a silent disco in one tent (you’re given a set of headphones with two channels and you can pick your own taste. So cool), a live band in another, a massive DJ set in the biggest one, a carousel (an actual carousel, people. A CAROUSEL… check out Sophie and me mid-Carousel ride to the right), and a shisha tent. I’m probably forgetting it all because there was so much to do! I never made it to the bumper cars (or “Dodge-’ems” as the Brits call them)… unfortunate, but the line really was too miserable. I spent most of the night dancing and hanging out with some of the best kids in Oxford. Most of us were troopers and made it to the survivor’s breakfast and coffee too- I was there until 3:45 in the morning. Such a success. I will never forget St. Hugh’s Ball… what an absolutely amazing experience. Something you hear about but never think you’ll get to do yourself. Is this real life? But really?

Here are our fancy pics! 🙂

Leah, a second-year, and me pre- ball 🙂

Me, Sophia, and Kelly in front of the gorgeous Mansfield… love that lighting, ahhh.

Lotty, a second year, and me!

Dapper men and women!!

Girls in their dresses 🙂 Left to right: Leah, Kate, Sophie, Lotty, Rachel, Sophia, me, & Kelly!

5. Fifth week was maybe the best week I’ve had at Oxford yet. Firstly, the weather was actual summer weather. It was super sunny and in the ’70s-’80s every day. Glorious. But the best part of fifth week was that I got to row in Summer VIIIs. The Friday prior, the Mansfield Women’s Second Boat (W2, also affectionately called “Woooo-Two”) raced the length of the river in hopes of qualifying for the four-day racing championship Wednesday to Saturday of fifth week. Out of 33 crews, we placed 11th! Not shabby! We were so pumped going into Summer VIIIs- we were the first W2 boat to qualify for Mansfield since 2009. Raquel, a fourth year veteran rower, made us all the most amazing t-shirts–in coordinating neon, our shirts said in black, spray-painted, block letters “LOVE ROWING. HATE ERGS” with our name and seat number on the back. These shirts were perfect. We alternated blue/yellow/pink down the boat. We were neon glory. Exhibit A:

Wootwo ladies in neon! Left to right: Sophie, Lotty, Ashley, me, Ellie, Sophie, Celia, Raquel, and Lucy.

Summer VIIIs consists of ‘bumps’ racing. Basically 14 crews start along the bank of a river in a vertical line, equidistant from each other. When the gun shot fires, you all start. The goal is to ‘bump’ the boat in front of you- basically you want to catch up with them. If you do (and sometimes this involves the actual bumping of boats) then their cox concedes by putting their hands in the air and you’re placed higher the next day. If your crew bumps all four days you get a huge honor called ‘blades’. If you get bumped every day… well you get something called ‘spoons’. Yeah, you don’t want spoons. We didn’t get either but I’m thrilled with how we did. The first day we ‘rowed over’ – basically, we went the entire length of the river because we didn’t bump anyone and nobody bumped us either. The second day we got bumped but it was SUPER tight. At one point it was a three boat sandwich; we were in the middle and we were probably only two or three strokes from bumping the other boat when the boat behind us nabbed us first. The third day, we were just up against the odds from the start and got bumped relatively early on but it was to be expected- and we made a valiant effort anyways. But the last day– which is the most exciting and well-attended day in Summer VIIIs– we rowed over again which was a great way to finish. We all felt so accomplished and proud after.

Saturday was one of the best days I’ve spent at Oxford- I got to take part in one of Oxford’s most long-standing traditions by rowing for Mansfield in Summer VIIIs; the weather was perfect so we all went and sat by the river and watched the rest of the races for hours; and we drank Pimms and ate ice cream and enjoyed each other’s company (and celebrated Kelly’s 21st birthday! 🙂 I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday. The day was topped off that night with the fancy, traditional Summer VIIIs dinner held in Mansfield Chapel. Everyone gets dressed up, enjoys an outdoor champagne reception, and then sits down in their assigned tables to a four-course meal. I got to sit at the front of the chapel with the girls in my boat and I had a surreal moment where I looked around and realized I was truly apart of this place. Choosing to row for Mansfield was one of the best decisions I ever made in my experience abroad. Words can’t describe it.

W2 ladies during the champagne reception at Summer VIIIs dinner.

Wootwoo pride during the dinner 🙂

6. I WENT PUNTING! Life goal complete. With the horrendous weather this term I thought it would never happen. But on Sunday of fifth week, me, Ashely, Kar, Sophia, and Kelly tried our first hand at punting. And it is way harder than it looks. You basically have to act as a gondola man and it is TRICKY. I now have a new-found respect for those lovely gents over in Venice. It takes a lot of arm strength because you are using a metal pole to shift direction of the boat, propel it forward, and- on the way back- fight the current. I broke a sweat. And Kelly at one point got caught in a masterful web of the weeping willow tree branches– check out that beaut to the left hahaha. Poor Kel. But it was so cool and something really unique to Oxford. Also, the river is stunning… we got to go under bridges, past quaint houses, through weeping willows, and along the sprawling Christ Church Meadows… Sigh. Slice of heaven.

Ashley and Kar chilling out in the boat while I take a turn at punting!

7. When I was just two days beyond fifteen-years-old, I saw Coldplay play in New York with my friend Tara from high school. Coldplay completely changed my life and my relationship with music. Before I started listening to Coldplay at around thirteen, I hadn’t really developed a taste for music. Most of my childhood was dominated by Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys. As I got older all I ever really purchased were the Now That’s What I Call Music CD’s (embarrassing, but true) … So I basically only listened to the pop top 40 and didn’t really have a conception of what it was like to fall in love with real music. Until I listened to Coldplay. So there I was, a freshman in high school, whose birthday present was getting to go see Coldplay live. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life and I remember tearing up during ‘Fix You’, a Coldplay’s masterpiece. Now, fast forward six years. On Saturday June 2nd, I got to see Coldplay in their home country. I went to the Emirates Stadium (which houses Arsenal football team… 58,000 people fit in it) in London and saw Coldplay perform live. I didn’t think it was possible but the show actually topped the 2006 concert I went to. We were all given neon, light-up wristbands at the beginning of the concert that lit up during the songs and flashed in beat with the music. The entire stadium flashed bright colors. It was absolutely epic and this time, I lost it during ‘Fix You’ and cried my eyes out. I hesitate to say this in fear of the cliche, but its true: it was magical. I’ve truly never experienced anything like it. Chris Martin, the leader singer, said at one point, “We’ve traveled the world, but I tell ya, nothing beats coming home.” The crowd went wild and I did too- because I felt home as well.

Pics below: on the left, big, bouncy balloons were passed throughout the crowd and when popped, showered us with confetti. On the right, you can get a sense of all the neon wristbands lit up in the stadium. So amazing.

Had to blow up this pic and show you guys the magic of this concert. 🙂

Part three of my eurotravels! After Amsterdam, I got to return to Oxford for a week for some serious R & R. I’m talkin’ sleep, gym, food, shop, TV, read, Skype. Every day. It was glorious. I got to catch up with people from home and I got to see my fourth year friends, Raquel and Simon, since they were in town as well. After 19 days of straight euro-tripping, you’d be surprised how shattered you are afterward.

On the morning of April 3rd, I flew to Pisa from London Luton Airport. The National Express buses to Luton are few and far between so I got there at 8 AM for a noon flight. And then I found out my flight got moved to 2:40 PM. AWESOME. Nothing will teach you patience and the art of doing something out of nothing like waiting in an airport. I had also forsaken my Blackberry for a rinky-dinky flip-phone for traveling so I couldn’t even have internet (God, that made me sound like a diva). All in all: important lesson in learning how to pass time!  I bought a Dawn French book (a light-hearted, comedic read) at the W H Smith in the airport and just read! After my flight, getting to Florence out of Pisa airport wasn’t too bad. A really lovely British family actually took me under their wing when I asked for their help in getting on the right train so that was a comfort.

I met Ashely in our hotel, Hotel de Lanzi, at around 8 at night after a full day of traveling. We hit up an outdoor cafe near the Duomo (our hotel was only a thirty-second walk from it. SCORE) and then got Grom gelato. This place is famous for their organic, super well-made gelato. It was absolutely delicious- and basically right at the doorstep of our hotel. The next day we went to the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella and Piazza del Meracto Centrale (a market strip where I got a pink winter scarf… not my brightest choice considering I had no room to pack it, and therefore, had to wear it to the warm country of Spain later that week. Good goin’, Liz). I then met up with the wonderful Liz Mahoney from HC who’s been studying in Firenze for the year for lunch. We went to an incredible, authentic restaurant. We sat outside and I got to hear her speak in really impressive Italian to the waiter! Later that afternoon, Ashley and I went to one of the most memorable places I’ve been in all of Europe- the Piazzale Michaelangelo. After you cross the Arno River through the Ponte Vecchio (a famous bridge that is filled with jewelry shops- right up my alley!), you go down the road a bit and climb up steps for a little while. Once you do, you reach a piazza with a fake statue of David and sweeping views of not only Florence, but of the Tuscan countryside right next to it. Words can’t describe how awesome the whole experience was. My favorite was getting to see the Duomo from such a cool angle. Ashley and I attempted to climb the Duomo the next day to get some other cool aerial views but it was closed in preparation for Easter (forgot how religious Italy is!) so I’m glad we took advantage of the Piazzale Michaelangelo when we did.

Me jumping in front of the panoramic views of Florence from Piazzale Michaelangelo.

We happened to run into John and Courtney- both HC and Mansfield kids- on a random street. What are the odds?! I swear I ran into more people I know while euro-tripping than I have in the past few years of my life! We hit up the Galleria dell’Accademia where the real statue of David is which was super cool and WAY bigger than I ever imagined it to be. But I’m not gonna lie… what I’ll most likely remember far more than the statue of David is the unbelievable pizza I had later that night. We went to Gusta Pizza- definitely a tourist hot-spot and filled with an alarming number of American college kids (who didn’t even try to speak in Italian even though it was obvious they were studying there. Tsk tsk.) but the pizza was literally out of this world (pictured to the right). I have never had anything like it and probably never will. Mmmmmmm.

The next day we explored a bunch of other piazzas and markets, one of which being the famous raised leather market. Ashley got an incredible leather jacket– and after deciding it was a good and memorable investment, I got a two-toned beautiful leather bag. Of course, I proceeded to get blue denim stains on it not long after. How lovely. But I’m in love with it so it’ll do. We went inside the Duomo which was MASSIVE and then I got a wonderfully fresh ham and mozzarella sandwich at Fratellini’s. Yumyum. One of the best surprises in Florence? When Ashley and I went to a random restaurant for dinner off the beaten path and bumped into my longtime high school friend Gina on the street as we walked out. Gina (who was spending her semester abroad in Florence) and I had tried to coordinate a time to meet and it didn’t seem in the cards for us- until by sheer luck I ran into her. And low and behold, the street we were on was the same street where she lived. I got to see her apartment and catch up with her. Funny how life works out like that. 🙂

Ponte Vecchio bridge.

Duomo lit up at night.

After Florence, I flew to Barcelona to meet up with Sophia for our tour-de-force of Spain. We were in love with it from the get-go– probably because I discovered it had a Dunkin Donuts (I literally almost lost it when I saw it on the Rambla- you can see this in the photographic proof provided to the left). Well, it’s kind of a fake Dunkin as it’s really called Dunkin Coffee. LIARS. They didn’t make my iced latte like they do in the states. But was I still there every morning? Yes. Anyways, Barcelona is amazing- much bigger than most of the other European cities we saw actually. On our first night, we roamed most of the Rambla- a huge, busy strip in the center of town. It’s so unbelievably lively and leads straight down to this gorgeous fountain/ statue near a port. If you ignore the people trying to sell you toys and begging you to go to their bars, then it’s perfection.

The following morning we started our day off by going to Dunkin (of course) on the Rambla and exploring the famous strip more carefully in the sunlight. We stopped at La Boqueria, an incredible covered market with rows and rows of fresh fruit, meat, smoothies, candy, and every kind of food you could imagine. It was so colorful and, not to mention, delicious. I got a wonderful banana smoothie and a savory crepe. Mmmm.

Look at those fresh strawberries. AHHH.

We continued down the Rambla to a bunch of tents set up selling different kinds of jewelry– so perfect for me. We probably spent a solid hour milling through everything. After, we made our way to Catedral de la Santa Creu, a GORGEOUS church. To get there you pass by a ton of adorable streets and shops too. Necessary pit-stop after was of course churros in melted thick chocolate at Cafe de l’Opera back on the Rambla- SO yummy (you can see me, ecstatic with my churro, to the right). And we got to witness some stellar street performances while we were sitting outside. Next up was Museo d’art Contemporani; luckily Soph shares a similar affection for modern art so it was a really cool experience. Of course I managed to buy a pair of earrings in one of the tents set up outside the museum. God help me.

Catedral de la Santa Creu.

Later that night was kind of hilarious– me and Soph really do have bad luck, so together it’s disastrous. We picked out a place that was supposed to have the best paella in Barcelona. We walked for AGES- a legitimate 50 minute walk to get there, basically because we’re cheapos and didn’t want to pay for a cab. Gotta love traveling on a student budget. After we finally get to the address, we found that the place simply did not exist. Nope. Nowhere. We were STARVING. We sat down at the next closest thing but with a chain smoker sitting within two inches of me and her boyfriend staring at us creepily, we opted out. Down the way we spotted a crepe stand. At that point we would have eaten anything. Just as we pull up though, they’re closing. Of course. So we head across the street to a gelatoria but the line takes 20 minutes. Once again, OF COURSE. We did finally get fed and it tied us over for the 30 minute walk back to the Rambla where we sat down to eat shitty, street-style paella. But we laughed the entire time and shared a pitcher of Sangria so I’d say it was one of my favorite memories 🙂

The next day was mostly spent exploring the Parc de la Ciutadella:

It has views of the entire city and gorgeous architecture. Later, we tried to see the Picasso Museum but it was Easter Sunday and the line was outrageous. We consoled ourselves by grabbing coffee and more churros, naturally. We checked out some of the Gaudi architecture and the Sagrada Familia, their most famous Gaudi monument. It’s a gorgeous church and we actually got to sneak into an Easter service. Such an incredible experience. I’m not super religious, but seeing how Catholicism feels the same and a lot like home, even thousands of miles away, was really touching. Later that night we said “screw it” to the crappy street paella we’d been having and walked straight into a dirt-cheap hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant and LOVED it. We ended the night at the Torre de Agua, a huge lit-up building. All in all: Barcelona is beautiful and there’s so much to explore. I’m not sure the people enjoyed our presence as much and the Catalonians definitely don’t value customer service (I was told no when I asked for a sugar for my cappuccino because it “was already sweet enough”. Cool.)  But it really is stunning and I want to go back, especially to explore Park Guell (CAN’T believe I didn’t go!)

La Sagrada Familia- by 2025 all that reconstruction will be finished! I guess I’ll just have to back then 🙂

Torre de Agua- SUCH a unique building.

Moving on to Palma de Mallorca- possibly the funniest experience of my entire life. Firstly, the Ryanair flight there was the flight from hell. On my way to a tropical island, I had to wear three shirts, a sweater, and a winter scarf (I knew the scarf from Florence would haunt me!), in addition to sneakers and jeans. I. Was. Sweltering. Then Ryanair informed me my bag was too heavy. So I took out my massive professional Canon camera and wore it around my neck. Then, when I got in line, I was told I had to put it back in my suitcase. I actually told the attendant I had a fear someone would steal it and that’s why I wanted it on me and not in my suitcase. LIES. And it didn’t work– she made me do put it in my suitcase anyway. Then I had to stick my bag in the metal frame to make sure it fit. Torture. I was dripping in sweat by this point. Oh, did I mention this was an 8 AM flight? Icing on the cake.

The flight included wailing babies, turbulence, and then a 30-minute wait for a bus to collect us. Then an additional 40-minute wait to get into town. Once we did, we took a cab to our hotel (where the entrance was near impossible to find), and HOLY HELL, we were in for a treat. We booked a room at the Palma Bay Resort Club- sounds nice, right? Wrong. So, so wrong. It was disgusting. I’m talkin’ blood on the lobby floor and a room with a view overlooking feral cats, a dirt road, and rubble. Not to mention, there was an old-people convention so I was constantly almost-tripping over oxygen tanks. I swear you can’t make this stuff up. To put it simply- when Sophia and I saw a McDonald’s after we walked into town (if you can even call it a town), we finally felt safe. That is how rough this part of town was. While El Arenal, the beach itself, had pretty blue waters and soft, white sand, the area surrounding it was pretty crummy- and included women barking at me to corn-row my hair and random people begging me to go into their restaurants. Very overwhelming. But Sophia and I had an absolutely hilarious time. We found a British bar later that day and felt like we were home back in England again, enjoying conversation with the British bartender and sharing a few cheap drinks. We even brought a few of them by the water and had a ton of fun. So even though we could rarely get a seat by the pool, were denied entry to the Jacuzzi at our ‘resort’, got rejected by two bus drivers when we we asked to go into the city of Palma the next day, and also endured an entire day of cold rain, we truly made the best of it (anddd the fact that drinks were all-included). Plus, we got henna tattoos. So overall? I refuse to go back until I have the money to pay to stay in a decent part of the island with a real resort experience. But getting to watch old people jazzercise at 11 in the morning and dancing on a tiny dance floor to bad music with 50-year-old women (with their midriffs showing and tramp stamps on their backs) — I wouldn’t pass that up any day. P.S. Shout out to my girl Soph for going through this with me. Survivors. When in Mallorca, babe.

Sophia displaying the stellar views from our room, of course.

Me in our ‘resort’ lobby.  Gotta love the expressions of the old people behind me– pure misery! Too funny.

Gotta give credit where credit is due- check out that beautiful beach! Mallorca’s saving grace.

My last leg of the trip was meeting up with my parents in London and Lisbon. I was so excited to see them, especially my dad who I hadn’t seen since December. We stayed in my parent’s friend’s flat in London which was so nice. And getting to travel with my parents was  awesome; FINALLY– amazing food, hotels, the whole she-bang. I felt like I was in the lap of luxury compared to all of my student traveling. In London, we relaxed a lot. Traveling with parents is so much more low-key and definitely a nice change of pace after all my euro-tripping. We explored Oxford Circus, ate at the unbelievable La Petite Maison (which I HIGHLY recommend!) and saw a West End show called One Man, Two Guvnors. Actually side-splitting, laugh-out-loud hilarious. I am a slapstick humor kind of girl so I was crying laughing. Absolutely loved it. We spent the next day in Oxford- even though I had already taken my mom on a tour of it, I was excited to show my dad everything. We explored so much, including Christ Church (Mom and Dad are standing in front of it in the pic above), Radcliffe Camera, the Randolph (where we had cream tea!), Mansfield, and ended our day with a delicious trip to Al-Andulas with Sophia- a tapas bar with far better paella than we ever had in Spain.

Then we were off to Lisbon. Lisbon was wonderful and quintessential Europe, but run-down and in need of cleaning and paint-work. We decided to take a hop-on, hop-off bus tour of the city– I don’t know why I had never thought of that beforehand. It’s pure genius. You get to relax while exploring all the areas of the city that would have most likely gone unexplored otherwise. It took us everywhere, starting at the Marques de Pombal, going through the Torre de Belem, and Baixa (the lower town area with lots of cute streets and shopping). My favorite was going up Alfama – the hilly, mountain part of the lower town- and getting to see the most incredible views of the sea and city. It had cobble-stone streets, trolleys, and shops- so wonderful. My favorite experience in Lisboa (as the Portuguese say) was going to a restaurant called Faia (my mom and I are there in the pic to the right!) to experience authentic Portuguese Fado– it can best be described as an operatic singing combined with a mandolin. It’s usually pretty mournful but also stunning. It was declared a World Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO so getting to witness it firsthand (the singers we saw were supposedly really famous as well!) made me feel like I got to truly be apart of something important to Portuguese history. I never would’ve been able to do it without my parents because it is on the expensive side so I’m super grateful.

My dad and I on a terrace in Alfama- so beautiful!

More views of Alfama!

We also spent a day exploring Sintra, a village about 40 minutes away, and Cascais, a gorgeous beach town. Sintra was one of my favorite villages in Europe. It had winding roads up a mountain and a quaint village center with cute cafes. It also has a tropical climate so the greenery is unbelievably gorgeous. The trees there are used to make cork for wine bottles too. We went up the Palácio Nacional da Pena which is a beautiful palace/ castle built upon one of the highest points of Sintra by the Moors. Then we drove around Cascais and got to see some of the most gorgeous beaches (even if it was raining!) One of the coolest parts was the Boca de Inferno (Mouth of Hell); I didn’t get a picture but it looks like this. Amazing, right?!

Palácio Nacional da Pena.

Portugal is very beautiful (the language sounded like Russian to me, even though it looked Spanish. So confusing!) It makes me sad that they’re suffering high unemployment rates and that Lisbon looks so run-down and graffitied. I hoping in the next few years it can be resorted to its potential.

That about wraps up my European travels! Definitely the most incredible six weeks of my life. The next few posts will be about my last term at Oxford. Officially 20 days till home. WHERE DID THE TIME GO?!? I’m freaking out. But savoring every last second. 🙂 More to come!