Updates from Abroad: Winchester, England

Ashley Johnson will be studying abroad in Winchester, England, for all of fall term. (Photo Cred: The Siskiyou/Ashley Johnson)
Ashley Johnson will be studying abroad in Winchester, England, for all of fall term. (Photo Cred: The Siskiyou/Ashley Johnson)
Cheers from Winchester, England! What an amazingly fabulous and challenging adventure studying abroad has been thus far. When I first got accepted to the University of Winchester, it seemed like an eternity before my departure. I counted down the months, days, and hours. All of a sudden it was staring me in the face as I boarded the plane. The days prior to leaving were filled with tears of joy, sadness, excitement, and fear. While I have visited England several times in the past, I had absolutely no idea what to expect living and studying in another country for three months.
I must admit, I initially wanted to make the journey across the ocean alone. My mom offered to fly with me and go over a week early to spend time together. I am forever grateful that she was there. We boarded the plane in Medford’s little airport on Sept. 7 to Denver. As soon as I sat in my seat I began to cry. The reality that I was actually on my way to study in England, a dream I have had since I was a child, was setting in. The poor unfortunate man next to me listened to me sob as we took off, and was kind enough to strike up a lovely conversation that lasted the entire two hour flight.
We flew from Denver to Washington D.C. that night, arriving at a grueling 1 a.m. Thankfully, a comfortable suite at the local Marriott awaited me. Our flight to London would be that evening. London. The word rang in my head. Unbelievable. I spent the time prior to our departure running questions through my head and using my phone for last minute calls to close friends and family I knew I wouldn’t be talking to regularly anymore. Once we got to the airport we had quite a bit of time to kill, which I productively used to text message everyone I know.
I felt a sense of numbness, in body and mind, as I walked onto that plane. One reason for that was fatigue no doubt, but another the overwhelming amount of emotion that went along with this journey. It was more than just my dream to study abroad coming true. The struggles I’ve endured to get to this point and the work that I have done is significant. It was just a year ago that I returned to college after taking a six year break that included addictions, treatment, and life hardships. At age 31, this experience means everything to me.
The flight was boring, with terrible food, as usual. It went by relatively quick but I didn’t sleep. We landed in London at about 7 a.m. Tuesday. I was so exhausted at that point I could not feel anything. Once we got our bags (which went surprisingly smoothly and quick), we caught the hotel van to our accommodation for the next three nights. Then I slept all day. It felt like such a waste of a day in England, but I knew there would be many more to enjoy.
Since I had already been to many of the larger local attractions, we skipped Windsor Castle, Parliament, the Tower of London and such. Buckingham Palace (the residence of the Queen) is only open two months out of the year to the public, so we decided to go into London to go in and then see the musical Jersey Boys at Piccadilly Theatre. Public transportation in England is huge. The trains, buses, and “underground” are the way to travel. It was a nice day out (I had flip flops on of course) and rather warm. I had already begun to swoon at the English accents when we checked into the hotel, but now it was everywhere of course. All around us we heard “cheers”, “mate”, “brilliant”, and so many other words I have since become accustomed to in daily life.
The Palace was beautiful and lavish, which was to be expected. It was fascinating to hear some of the history of the Palace itself and the Royal family. Among the 775 rooms, gorgeous paintings of past ancestors, long gold decorated hallways, grand staircases, and unimaginable chandeliers filled the massive space. Just like you would see in the movies. We wandered around the cobblestone streets of London with its old buildings and double-decker buses flying by. I kept thinking to myself: “what an amazing thing. I’m in England. And I am staying here”. I was loving every minute, even when my mom got on my last nerve (which was happening more and more). Above all, I was grateful and excited for the entire adventure. There is definitely more adventures from England to tell! Stay tuned for a report on the Jersey Boys musical, driving on the wrong side of the road (yes, me!), and moving into the University. Until then, cheers!