EF Stories: Cristina from Spain at EF Oxford
Are you thinking about traveling to Oxford this summer to study with us? Cristina had always liked it, and at just 15 years old, she embarked on her first solo trip. She tells us about her experience on that trip, and we hope it will be very helpful for you to know what you'll find if you're the next one to travel 🙂
How did the idea of traveling abroad at such a young age come about?
I'm the child of travelers. I took my first trip to Navarra when I was 3 years old. Since then, we haven't stopped exploring the world. When I was 15, they proposed my first solo trip, which I ended up taking with my cousin (guess who that was). At first, I hesitated a bit because three weeks seemed like a lot, especially to a place that was even across the sea. In the end, I had to cling to the meeting point post not to leave.
Among all the destinations, what drew you to Oxford? Why did you choose it?
As a good millennial, I can say that Harry Potter rules our lives by at least 20%, and at 15, that percentage goes up to 80%. Also, to buy the typical hoodie, but in the "original" version.
What do you remember most about your stay in the residence?
I stayed in a residence, Paul Kent Hall. It was one of the best experiences I remember so far because something new happened every day. I remember not having data and complaining about not being able to upload photos to Tuenti. We couldn't know anything about what was happening outside of Oxford, so we had to entertain ourselves as best we could.
One day, we all ended up in a huddle around an old TV watching the only channel that was in Spanish (a Christian channel that broadcasted Mass from Ecuador). We had classes at Brookes University, which had a cool lounge, by the way. They split us into groups, and I made friends with people from different nationalities. I'm still in touch with Philip and Melissa (both from Denmark).
How did you feel at school?
The school was prearranged in the package I chose. The staff was lovely, and the surroundings were beautiful. I hope they've fixed an emergency door that used to set off all the alarms every time you leaned on it and risked a heart attack.
Do you think one can learn and improve their English by taking a language course in a foreign country?
It depends a lot on the person you are. You can be exposed to learning English from a very young age (as was my case), but until you know why you're doing it, you don't learn. In my case, this motivation coming from Justin Bieber, as he gave many interviews , and I had to learn English to understand what he was saying.
This motivation was greatly reinforced by the fact that I liked a Danish guy in Oxford, and I had to find a way to communicate with him. But thinking about it, the time you learn the most is after you've left the course. You want to maintain the friendships you've probably made with foreign people, and you learn a lot of vocabulary with the help of a translator.
During those weeks, what was your daily life like? What was a typical weekday routine? And what about weekends?
I remember we used to wake up very early (or go to bed very late), and yet, the U2 bus always slipped away from us on our way to the university. The Russians were more disciplined than us and went to a stop earlier to catch it, and by the time it reached our stop, the bus was already "full." When we managed to catch the bus on time, we went straight to the "cantine" with our "meal tickets." It was the best part of the day for everyone, because breakfast was delicious, and the leaders smuggled Nutella.
Then we had classes for about 3 hours or so until lunchtime when we met up with everyone again. Some of us had an "intensive" in the afternoon and wouldn't see them until later, while the rest of us, if we had free time, went to the lounge. In the lounge, there were giant blue bean bags and plenty of games. If you ever meet someone who went to Oxford in 2012 with EF, ask them to show you the "Rasputin" choreography from Just Dance. Many days, we had afternoon activities. One of my favorite moments was when we got on boats that were supposed to operated with a giant pole. I still don't know how because another boat had to tow us as they knew how to do it.
And then came the night. EF's themed nights. How much fluorescent paint stained my clothes. How many fake mustaches the leaders wore just to make us laugh. The highlight of the night was always when they played the EF song (in my case, it was "Nothing Really Matters"), and we all did the EF dance together.
On weekends, there were special activities like scavenger hunts or visits to different places. I remember dancing the Macarena in Trafalgar Square or running into a celebrity (who I was the only one to recognize) on the streets of London. If you have the chance to attend the Summeranza, you'll have a blast.
How do you evaluate your experience?
10/10. It has undoubtedly been an experience that has shaped my life and made me see it from a different perspective from a very early age. This trip molded my university path, choosing tourism as my career and knowing that I want to design experiences as enriching as the one I had.
It helped me a lot in overcoming shyness and accepting myself. When you've been seeing the same people every day for 15 years, it becomes very challenging to evolve due to fear of change and rejection. It especially helped me get to know myself a bit better, because there were many people who brought out very positive aspects of me that I didn't know.
What will you never forget about this trip?
During my teenage years, everything felt like a big deal, sometimes even unrealistically so. Before Oxford, I used to care a lot about what others thought of me, more than what I thought of myself. But when you travel, you meet so many people with all sorts of opinions about you that it makes you rethink how you take things. It's not that I don't care now; it's that I've learned to care less. I'll never forget how I felt accepted among a bunch of strangers. It was such a freeing experience.
Why would you do it again?
Because it's a whole new ballgame from what you're used to. Those three weeks, four weeks... they're like a whole different vibe, all positive and groovy. Everyone's got some wisdom to drop, not about the language but also some life lessons. You'll look back on that summer as the best time ever, and trust me.
What would you say to someone who's on the fence about traveling abroad in the summer?
Well, if you're unsure about it, that's exactly why you should do it. Once you're there, things start making a whole lot more sense.
Here are some pictures so you can see how Cristina had a blast during her time in Oxford.