Finding Serenity in Spain

Landing in the Madrid airport, it hit me that I was outside of the U.S. for the first time, that I had no idea where I was going, and that I did not know the Spanish language as well as I thought. It was the first time I had truly been pushed out of my comfort zone.

A few hours later, I found myself in the dorms in Oviedo with nine other UO students. At the time, I didn’t realize that they were about to become some of my closest friends. All I knew was how excited and grateful I felt to finally be exploring a country I had been studying and dreaming about for years.

Studying abroad, especially as a first-generation college student, I felt the need to see everything, try everything, and eat everything (even the scary-looking goose barnacles). While I loved filling my free time with must-see spots and excursions, I also learned the value of downtime.

On one of my favorite days of the program, we took a class trip to Covadonga. There, we were able to visit the Basílica de Santa María la Real, a breathtaking church that was built in the late 1700s and is surrounded by beautiful green, mountainous landscape. We also walked through the Santa Cueva (Holy Cave) de Covadonga. Inside the cave was a chapel and underneath flowed the bluest river I had ever seen. I even drank the water from the fountain by the river, which apparently promises me a life of happiness and marriage.

The excursion to Covadonga was memorable to me not just because it checked off a lot of tourist bucket list boxes, but because of the peaceful atmosphere it holds. As a place that is sacred to many, just being able to witness it firsthand was a moment that provoked much thought and reflection. Standing in front of the statue of Don Pelayo and learning about how he led the Asturians to victory in a battle against the Moors in this exact place was a moment I will never forget. I was standing in the birthplace of today’s Spain, a country I fell in love with.

It was experiences like these during my trip that taught me the value of living in the moment. I learned how to just be still, silently observing and experiencing these new amazing places I was lucky enough to visit. In doing so, I created lifelong, meaningful memories and developed a new appreciation for the beauty of the world and everyday life. I stopped feeling the pressure to fill my days abroad with packed agendas and began enjoying the simplicity of living in such a beautiful region.

As a group, we went on so many fun excursions and shared so many amazing memories. We walked through the dark and winding Tito Bustillo Cave, and eventually got to look at one of the world’s first cave paintings. As a group of journalism students, seeing such an ancient and meaningful form of communication was astounding.

Oviedo became such a special place to me. It is a small town, clean, pure and untouched by tourism. It was filled with colorful and unique buildings, quiet and beautiful parks, and a sense of community and hospitality unlike anything I had ever experienced. On a typical day, after class, my new best friends and I would walk through the peaceful streets and stop at whichever restaurant caught our eye first. Meals were long; they came with many different plates for us to share, many baskets of bread, and many cider refills. We would often sit at a meal for over an hour, engaged in meaningful conversation and becoming close with the incredibly friendly owners and employees of our favorite restaurants.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was conducting interviews for class. It gave me an opportunity to break out of my shell, learn about new perspectives, and gain insight from different kinds of people. I spoke to people with different demographics and political views about current and important global issues- mainly women’s reproductive rights.

The courses I took with Professor Laufer truly inspired and sparked my love for journalism.

Because of my experience studying in Spain, I will always fuel my work and education with passion and curiosity.

Falling in love with life in Oviedo and my program made it even more heartbreaking to know that my time there was only temporary. However, I am so thankful for all the life-changing experiences my trip gave me, as well as all of the people it allowed me to meet.

During my trip, I made so many genuine friendships with people from all over the world. I learned that there is something so gratifying about connecting with someone who has lived a life entirely different from my own. I learned and experienced how important it truly is for people to be open and seek understanding among one another- especially in a global context.

It was sad that my time abroad was only temporary, but I learned that I am capable of spending time in another country and growing comfortable enough to call it my home. And that my possibilities after graduation are endless…

-Miranda Davis, Cross Border Interviewing and Story Development in Spain and Portugal

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