Living abroad reminds me of when I first moved out of state to come to Gonzaga.  Once I left, I realized how many things I’d taken for granted or failed to notice about my native Colorado. 

When you live in a new context, it puts the one you left in perspective. 

I adore living in Oxford and I’m trying to make the most of the time I have left, but — at the start of my sixth month away from Gonzaga — I’ve found myself thinking more about my home away from home.

I think about friends the most. They’re the reason GU feels like home in the first place. Keeping in touch isn’t impossible, but the nine-hour time difference and the density of days here makes phone calls difficult. My U.S. number is currently disconnected, so regular updates on WhatsApp and Snapchat are my main connections to the people I am unbelievably excited to see when I come back. 

When I visited Florence over Christmas, it felt like home away from Spokane. I encountered familiar faces throughout the city and it reminded me of walks through Bulldog Alley or Hemmingson (with the added benefit of the sfogliatella that changed my life).

After being away from campus since last May, I understand more than ever that the little things make GU special. 

People in Oxford don’t hold doors open unless you’re so close behind them you’re practically touching. When I first came to Oxford, I interpreted doors slammed in my face as an open act of hostility. Plot twist: not holding the door is the normal thing to do virtually everywhere else in the world. This is a small but significant indicator of GU’s unique brand of hospitality. 

There’s a cookie shop in the Oxford Covered Market called Ben’s Cookies where you can get one cookie for £1.65. Don’t get me wrong — it’s a really good cookie. But every Ben’s cookie, chewy but cold, makes me think of Cookie Night and the 12 molten cookies I bought for $5 to share with friends in Foley. You can’t eat in the libraries here, so an essay deadline accompanied by cookies is out of the question.

I’ve also found myself thinking about Spokane. It turns out that Spokane does not, in fact, suck.

Hear me out. 

Spokane has an incredible food and coffee scene: its institutions can hold their own. The other day I genuinely fantasized about a pumpkin waffle from Boots. The closest I’ve come is a trip to the Boots pharmacy down the street. 

It’s not the same. 

I’m devastated that I can’t order one last spaghetti squash from the Blackbird before it closes. There’s a famous ice cream shop in Oxford called George and Danvers, but no flavor at G&D’s can satisfy my craving for a scoop of Brain Freeze’s Palouse Crunch. It’s hard to beat the coffee culture of the American Northwest, and I’m ready to get back on the Spokane coffee circuit.

My six months apart from GU make me appreciate the little things about my second home, but it doesn’t make me look at it with rose-colored glasses. 

I hadn’t considered just how isolated GU is until I came to a university where the colleges and the city are intertwined. I’ve enjoyed a reprieve from the feeling of being caught in the “Gonzaga bubble.” Whenever I walk to a library or to New College, I am guaranteed full exposure to all aspects of Oxford, its history and international population bubbling with dozens of languages as well as the persistence of poverty on almost every street corner. At GU, it’s easier to forget the non student population or the magnitude of problems like homelessness.

The exposure to people and lifestyles so unlike mine has been one of the highlights of my time at Oxford. Since Oxford is an international institution, there’s incredible geographic diversity in the student body. I have friends and classmates who call everywhere from Afghanistan to the Philippines home. Anyone who’s met me once knows that I get unnecessarily excited when I meet someone else from Colorado, but it’s been a positive change to ask people where they’re from and not expect an answer from a single region in a single country.

I have also come to realize that every educational institution faces challenges in its efforts toward greater diversity in the student body. GU isn’t alone in this respect. There are continuous debates in Oxford about expanding access, encouraging socioeconomic diversity and trying to minimize assumptions about the North/South regional divide in England.

I think it goes without saying that it’s strange to be away from the iconic parts of campus life at GU, to go a year without sprinting for a number in tent city or going on a UMin retreat or being part of our rowdy Zombie Nation. 

I miss being in the newsroom where I’ve worked since the first week of my freshman year. Pizza night isn’t the same when it’s not accompanied by a Tuesday night production deadline. These are the things I knew I would miss, the notable things that, to me, make GU… GU. 

It’s the little things that I didn’t expect to miss. 

Emily Klein is a staff writer. 

 

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