Revolutionary Imaginations

From Shakespeare’s Globe to the Eiffel Tower, the “Genius of Study Abroad: Revolutionary Imaginations” program took me to many iconic sites on this unforgettable, international, and interdisciplinary journey. I saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, walked in Charles Dickens’ footsteps at his London home, and punted on The Isis at Oxford. Every day was a highlight in its own, a new experience coming to light with the each dawn. Yet one in particular that shines brightest out of all just so happens to be one of the earliest highlights on the trip: Oscar Wilde’s statue.

As with my trip, this statue and the life it memorializes started in Dublin, Ireland, where Oscar Wilde was born in 1854 and attended Trinity College. He then went to Oxford, and this trip enabled me to stay at both universities. Throughout his life, he adamantly fought with his pen, creating a defensive and offensive strategy of survival through comedy, seen in his internationally renowned play The Importance of Being Earnest. He was flamboyant, unashamed of who he was, and a famous playwright and author – during his time and ours. After a brutal trial that convicted him of homosexuality, he was imprisoned with hard labor.

Tragically, Oscar Wilde was released from jail a broken man: physically, mentally, and emotionally. He fled to Paris, where he died alone at the age of 46. He is buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery, in a tomb of white stone with an angel statue above and the epitaph inscribed on one side and his name on the

other. A glass wall now surrounds the tomb to protect it from the tradition of visitors kissing it with lipstick, although that hasn’t stopped the tradition. His grave was the last place I visited on this study abroad, completing my journey in his life’s path.

I first encountered Oscar Wilde in my junior year of high school. My AP English teacher gave us a book report assignment on any book of our choosing. I chose The Picture of Dorian Gray despite not knowing what it was about, but I recognized the author’s name from somewhere I couldn’t exactly pinpoint. To this day, The Picture of Dorian Gray remains my all-time favorite book. Wilde’s enrapturing writing style and beautiful diction captures the reader’s mind and imagination from the first page onward. His eloquently depicted scene of an afternoon with bees buzzing around is pure poetry. He juxtaposes comedy and horror perfectly while raising philosophical questions of sin, morality, youth vs. aged, physical beauty and the soul’s purity. Its ending leaves one pondering these questions with the knowledge of what happened to Dorian Gray, even though Wilde doesn’t explicitly tell us, but rather strongly implies.

Being a fan of his writing and knowing much of his background, his statue was the sight I was most excited for in Dublin. His statue is unlike traditional statues where the figure is sitting in a chair or reading a book. In fact, when we went to Marrion Square Park, we found Wilde lounging on a large rock. His black shoes are shiny, as though recently polished, and even the fold line on his gray pants are visible. The detail in his statue is extraordinary. He is wearing a green and pink jacket and holding a lily, the flower he was known to always carry with him. His expression is rather perplexing, with a mysterious half-smile and eyes looking to the side. I noticed that if you look at him from one side, he seems like he’s smiling. But from the other, he seems somber. I felt that his expression represents his life and his work, the tension and combination of comedy and tragedy. His statue is in the heart of Dublin and across the street from his home. This statue captures Wilde’s essence, as though he was truly there. Seeing my favorite author celebrated as he was in the city he loved made for a unique and memorable experience that wouldn’t have been possible without this study abroad program.

-Elmira Louie, Summer 2017 

Challenges in Lyon

Like most study abroad students will say, I experienced some of the most incredible and impactful months in my life while living in a foreign country for five months. From January 9, 2017 until May 31st I lived in Lyon, France. I lived with a host family while studying at a French Language school throughout my semester abroad. After five months, I can whole-heartedly say that I fell in love with a new city, culture, and language.


Despite the overall positive experience, I did have challenging moments that I expect most students to go through. Moving to any new place comes with a transition period. For me, the beginning was the most difficult part of my time in France. Adjusting to living with a host family with four children aging from twelve to eighteen was not easy after living on my own for three years prior. I ate dinner with my host family every night as well as lunch on weekends, which meant that I had to adhere to their eating schedule.

However, I was able to experience French meals, an integral part of French culture. I learned to appreciate this quality time, despite the occasional inconvenience.

Another difficulty was the language barrier. I had been studying French since high school yet I had never been very confident in my speaking ability. At first, I was constantly terrified of messing up or sounding like an American- I was even afraid to order a coffee. Slowly, I became more comfortable with making mistakes.

I realized that I will never, or at least not in the next five months, sound French so I might as well try to practice what I can. After I came to this realization, my speaking improved greatly because I was more confident and talkative.

One of the most valuable things I learned from my study abroad experience was discovering my own culture. Living in a new culture allowed me to learn about my own cultural values. Previous to this experience, it was difficult to understand my own values because I did not have many other values to contrast with my own. In France, I learned that my culture strongly values independence. Living in a family where they lived in close proximity with each other, ate most meals together, and did many activities together, I saw that community is a stronger value than it is in the United States. Although you cannot generalize every single French or American, I think there is a general trend that Americans value independence more than the French. Before my semester abroad, I expected to learn only about French culture, but in that process I learned about my own culture.

My semester in Lyon was a transformative experience. I became more confident in my French abilities. I became comfortable traveling all over Europe. I learned to live well with a French family. I learned about my own culture through learning about French culture. I will forever remember my five months living in Lyon, France. I cannot recommend living in a new country enough. It allows you to learn about yourself as much as another country.


-Aleda McMonagle, Spring 2017

Panama City & Primates

Since freshman year of college I had dreamed of studying primates in the wild. Sadly, many species of primates are becoming scarcer every day. Panama is no exception. Fortunately, I was able to see monkeys and many other types of wildlife at different points during the trip. It was the first time I had been around so many students that also felt exhilarated by the natural world. Granted, we all have different passions and goals. What matters is that all of us left knowing 20 more people invested in protecting the environment.

In Panama City, we settled into our Spanish classes and new homestays. The city allowed me to practice my Spanish and make new friends that challenged my perspective of the world. However, it was our time spent outside of the city that changed my perspective and even my future goals. We studied tropical ecology by practicing research methods “in the field.” Disconnected from the Internet made me feel more connected to the places and communities we visited. Sometimes we were without cell service.  I tried to take a mental picture of every moment. The 7am walks along the hilly road nestled between the emerald green mountains veiled by the morning mist. Bananas that tasted like crisp apples. Planting tiny broccoli seedlings beneath the relentless midday sun. Walking barefoot through rivers and on sandy island soil. Nighttime star walks and celebrating my birthday with my homestay family. There are so many more memories I could list here. I picture every study abroad student carrying these precious moments with them wherever they go next in life. I now know that I want to dedicate my life to conservation and preserving the natural world.

One experience in particular stands apart from the rest. Each student is required to conduct independent research for three weeks at the end of the semester. Prior to leaving the country I had planned to conduct a study related to primates. I changed my proposed project mid-semester. In the community of Cerro Punta I had stayed with an environmental activist and her family. She informed us that people in the area had lost access to resources after the construction of hydropower facilities. I left Cerro Punta knowing I would someday return. I chose to conduct research on community perspectives of hydroelectric development with the intention of working with the same environmental activist. In three weeks, I became far more invested in local water politics than I would have ever imagined.

Once again, I left Cerro Punta with the intention of returning in the future. I came to Panama aspiring to become a primatologist. I left knowing that I have a home in Panama and a commitment to studying the conflict over water that is taking place throughout the country. At the moment I am preparing to apply for grants to support future research in Cerro Punta. I hope to return after graduating next spring. Sometimes plans change.

-Nora Sawyer, Spring 2017

Overcoming Difficulties in Australia

The five months I spent studying at the Australian National University are among the
most prominent months of my life thus far. From making friends, experiencing a new culture, and learning about myself, I can conclude that deciding to study abroad was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Australia is a beautiful country, and the people are wonderful. However, there were many difficult parts of my journey as well. Moving overseas to a foreign country was a little scary, and making friends and feeling comfortable took time.
When I arrived in Canberra, I was very concerned about what my experience would be
like. I left sunny summer in Oregon and entered the middle of a rainy cold winter, students were not back from their winter holidays yet, and Canberra just seemed empty which only made me feel instantly lonely. Not to mention, the jet-lag hit me hard and I was tired at all the wrong times. Within a week or so, I became friends with the residents on my floor, and a few of them were more welcoming than I could’ve hoped for. They went out of their way to invite me to go grocery shopping with them and just hang out with me in my room. I am so grateful for the friends I made, particularly my friend Claire, who helped me feel much more comfortable in a new place.
School wise, the system was very different. Campus was emptier than it is at U of O because lectures are not compulsory; they’re all recorded and available online to be viewed in various speeds. Mid semester exams were made into a more serious deal at ANU as well; all students had to show their ID to enter the testing room and sit in their assigned seat, leaving their backpacks in a separate room. I took two psychology courses and two sociology courses! One of the highlights of my experience was flying over to New Zealand with one of my friends during our mid-semester break. The trip was spontaneous; the only part we had planned was a one-way flight to Auckland! Once we got there, we figured out where to stay, rented a car, and ended up working our way down the north island and flying to the south island, and then driving across to Queenstown. New Zealand showed me the most incredible sights I have ever seen in my life, and I don’t think many other views can top the glacial waters and ginormous icecapped mountains. I spent almost three weeks aimlessly working my way around New Zealand, and I have to say it was one of the best times of my life.
Overall, my time abroad was life changing. I didn’t realize how independent I was until I
had to be, and learning that is priceless. I feel more confident, experienced, and cultured. Five months away from home was hard, but frequent FaceTime calls to best friends and family really helped. Despite any difficulties I faced, I am so glad I was able to spend five months of my life in the land down under.

-Anna Graham, Fall 2016


This past fall semester I had to opportunity to study abroad in Mexico City. There I attended the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), which is the largest university in Latin America. Moving from Eugene, Oregon to Mexico City was quite the experience. I remember getting on the plane to go to Mexico City on July 30th, my eyes were red from tears falling down my cheeks. I was scared and sad to be so far away from home in a big city where I did not know anyone. I remember praying that the five months I would spend in Mexico City would go by fast so that I could return to Oregon and be surrounded by the familiar things I grew up with.

Back to where it all began → Mexico

In the year 2000 my family immigrated to the United States from a small town in the state of Michoacan called Patamban. At the time I was barely 5 years old, therefore my memories of living there had faded over time. I chose to go to Mexico because I wanted to experience first hand what it was like to live in Mexico, especially in a big city. While in the United States I have only lived in Newberg, Oregon which has a population of nearly 23,000 people and Eugene which is significantly bigger than Newberg but nowhere near the almost 20 million people that make up Mexico City.

Mexico City Spanish

Spanish is my first language but because I had to juggle with learning English as well at an early age I tend to be more comfortable with speaking Spanglish. Therefore when I arrived in Mexico City I felt intimidated by all the other spanish speakers. First of all they spoke a lot faster than I was used to hearing. Throughout the spanish courses I have taken at the UO my peers and professors have repeatedly mentioned that I speak very fast in spanish, but it was nothing compared to people in Mexico City. Secondly, my family comes from a more rural area in Mexico, therefore I grew up hearing different slang than the one they use in Mexico City. It amazed me how the Mexicans in the city had several different expressions for one word. For example the word “aguas” which translates to “waters” can mean to “duck down” or to be careful. Being in Mexico City I got to learn a lot of the slang and although it was difficult to understand at first, I can now comfortably use them. My speaking Spanish language consistency definitely improved while studying abroad, however I also learned to be proud of my Spanglish, because at the end of the day it demonstrates the influence both the Mexican and Northwest have had on my life.

Pan De Muerto and Day of the Dead

One aspect about studying abroad that I was excited for was getting to eat all sorts of Mexican food.  As a vegetarian, at first it was challenging to find places that would accommodate to my dietary needs but then I discovered vegetarian tacos and other kinds of foods that did not have meat in them. One of my favorite traditional foods was “Pan de Muerto”. Pan de Muerto is round wheat or flour bread that is made around the Dia de Los Muertos holiday. This holiday is also known as Day of the Dead and it happens November 1st and 2nd and it is a way for people to celebrate their loved ones as well as the afterlife. For the Day of the Dead I went to a small town called Mixcoac which is on the edge of Mexico City. I was amazed when I arrived to this small town because there was all kinds of foods and people dressed up in traditional dresses and painted faces. Previously I had already tried the Pan de Muerto but it did not compare to the hot, sweet freshly baked bread that I ate in Mixcoac. While in Mixcoac I also got to visit the graveyards where people visited their loved ones. The people had chairs by the graves as they sang, ate food, drank tequila and just overall had a good time. There were also several mariachi groups which was great to see and hear. My favorite part of this holiday was seeing people coming together to honor their ancestors in such a celebratory way, which is not common in the United States.

Dancing → Bachata, Salsa and Cumbia

I can not write about my experience abroad without talking about dancing. While studying at the UNAM I decided to take bachata classes. Bachata is a partner dance that originated in Dominican Republic. It is very popular amongst the Latino community, but I had never had the opportunity to take any classes while in Oregon. Additionally I wanted to meet new people so I signed up for the class at the UNAM campus. Without a doubt that was the best decision I made while at the UNAM. Before I knew it I found myself surrounded by an amazing group of friends who encouraged me to sign up for salsa and cumbia classes. What started out as an extracurricular activity soon became my favorite part of the day. I was taking dance classes five days a week and some days up to three hours a day. Slowly my dancing skills improved and I was able to go out to the clubs and local dance gatherings in Mexico City. Dancing is such an important part of Mexico City’s culture and this enabled me to connect to other cultural aspects. As I mentioned previously I made a lot of Mexican friends through these dance classes and this was important to me because I wanted to interact with students who grew up Mexico City.


On December 24th I got on a plane in Mexico City and headed back to Oregon. This time around, I couldn’t help but cry. I cried because I had fallen in love with Mexico as a whole and especially Mexico City. I realize it sounds so repetitive to say “Studying abroad changed my life” but it is true. I believe that Mexico City was the ideal place for me because it helped me be more independent, improved my Spanish and opened my eyes to career opportunities I had not considered in the past. I am thankful for all those who supported me on my journey to study abroad, I can honestly say I couldn’t have done it without you all. If you have are considering studying abroad take the next step and talk to an advisor. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

 Jules Martinez-Plancarte, Fall 2016