The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Across the Pond

A glimpse of the lovely memories I’ve made in Winchester, Dublin and Edinburgh
Photo by Maggie O’Brien
Across the Pond visual made by Maggie O’Brien.

Editors note: “Across the Pond” is an ongoing column in which freelance writers Ella Freeman, Kyra Price and Maggie O’Brien will be writing about their study abroad experiences in Winchester, England and across Europe.

After over a month of living in the lovely old city that is Winchester, my life has undergone a bit of a paradigm shift. 

The most notable difference in my day-to-day life is the way time passes. Days stretch by with a sweet slowness that my busy schedule in Eau Claire could never afford. 

I often find myself lingering in cafes with a book or a journal, rather than racing from work to class to my internship. One of my favorite coffee shops I’ve encountered so far is Mulberry & Thyme, which sits just behind a garden center.

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Mulberry & Thyme cafe is the perfect little haven on a rainy day in Winchester. (Photo by Maggie O’Brien)

It’s commonplace for my Mondays and Wednesdays to be spent reading a novel cover to cover as I don’t have any lectures on these days. 

In fact, I only have a total of eight hours of lectures per week — at The University of Winchester, a full schedule consists of four modules (classes) that meet for lecture and seminar once a week, usually for two hours. 

That’s not to say my modules at Winchester aren’t academically challenging — the reading load here is immense — but my responsibilities outside of school are far fewer. 

Last semester, I juggled two jobs, six classes and an internship. Here in Winchester, my schedule is a lot freer, which allows me to indulge in exploring this magnificent, historic city while spending time with old and new friends. 

This hiatus from the ever-productive schedule I endured in Eau Claire has been wonderful and quite revealing of American attitudes about work-life balance. 

However, being so steeped in productivity culture, I sometimes find it difficult to embrace this more relaxed lifestyle while I have the chance. 

Luckily, I have two of my best friends from UW-Eau Claire here with me, so we can discuss our occasional struggles together and help each other through them. 

An additional difference I’ve encountered in England is the ease of travel. Located in the South of England, the whole of Europe is just a quick flight, train or ferry away from me. The world is quite literally at my fingertips for the first time in my life.

After three weeks of normal timetables, a reading week took place — a week free of lectures that’s set aside to be used to catch up on any assigned reading and school work. 

Most students head home for reading week, but my friends and I were eager to begin our travels. I embarked on a journey to Ireland and Scotland with my fellow freelance writer, Ella, and our friend Ellen.

Our first destination was Dublin. We stayed in a quaint Airbnb in Portmarnock, which was about a twenty minute DART ride from Dublin city center. 

During our time in Ireland, we hiked the Howth cliffs and Bray Head, and, of course, explored darling Dublin. 

The cliffs of Howth were set alight with tiny yellow gorse flowers. (Photo by Maggie O’Brien)

After four wonderful days in Ireland, we hopped on a tiny plane to Edinburgh. There, we stayed in a slightly-sketchy hotel. The horrors of a windowless hotel room were more than worth it to experience the ancient beauty of the city. 

In Edinburgh, we wandered through The National Gallery of Scotland, The Writer’s Museum, gazed at the Scott Monument and so on. The city was reminiscent of so many beloved childhood films, and I could happily walk each street and turn for days on end. 

After seven days of incredible fun, we took a train from Edinburgh to London, which boasted breathtaking views of the ocean, sheep, and the Scottish countryside at sunset. The train served as a perfect wrap to our brief trip, and I’m beyond glad we decided to travel via rail on our way back “home.”

Though the many differences about life in Winchester can sometimes be a source of emotional turbulence, they are more often than not exciting and challenging in the best way. 

Every day offers potential to try or see something that I’ve never done or seen before, and I can never emphasize enough how life-changing it is to study and experience life in a new country. 

O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

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