David Henry ('11) | Study Abroad
Elementary education major
from Eagle River, Alaska
David Henry loves a lot of things about his Study Abroad experience in Oxford.
His favorite place was Port Meadow, an expanse of green commonwealth populated by cows and casual sightseers out for a walk. He took long walks, watched the sunset and admired the spires of Oxford from the distance of the countryside.
His favorite activity was working out at the pool in a nearby sports center. He went with a fellow student on the trip, and while they spent some time talking to each other, one of the highlights of their week was discovering a new face from a new country and making friends.
The people made the experience. I was learning to love people I had never known before.
His favorite volunteer experience was working at the Rainbow House, a daycare center at Wesley Memorial Church. He was in charge of selling snacks and beverages to the kids and the parents who came with them. It was a good way to meet the local citizens - and see the smiles on children's faces.
He even liked going grocery shopping, though lugging all the bags back home was a painful, if necessary, chore. But the one thing David loved above anything else in Oxford was the bond he formed with the other students and professors on the trip.
"The people made the experience," he said. "I was learning to love people I had never known before."
Challenges of independence
It wasn't always perfect, though. At first it was a little hard to get used to other people's mannerisms and quirks - especially in such close quarters. But gradually, fellow students became friends, and then became lifelines when he faced unexpected challenges.
One of those challenges was being truly independent for the first time in his life. David is from Eagle River, Alaska, so being far from home for long periods of time was nothing new for him. But it was daunting to realize that everything - organizing and planning trips, cooking meals, finding his way around - was entirely up to him.
"Everything's on your own," he said. "I got to be an individual, but it was really tough."
Sometimes accepting the responsibility of independence turned out well, however - as in the case of his two favorite trips out of England. David says it's too hard to pick just one trip as his best experience, so Italy and Spain have to share top billing. He doesn't want anyone to think that he didn't love the other travel opportunities, though.
"All of the trips were amazing," he clarified.
One of his favorite memories from his trip to Italy was sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner in a little trattoria with about 10 other students, all from his Study Abroad group. He and his travel companions happened to meet up with another group traveling in Italy at the same time, and they decided to celebrate the holiday together, forming their own family in lieu of the relatives they were missing back home.
Another favorite memory from Italy is of Cinqueterra, a small town on the Italian coast. David loved the coastline, the sea, even the cats that haunted the rocks where he and his friends sat to watch the sunsets.
"That was just beautiful for me," he said. "I really felt like that was my place."
Spain holds a host of good memories too. When he thinks of Spain, David remembers swimming in the ocean in Barcelona, watching a bullfight in Avila, shopping for swords in Toledo, seeing the Parade of the Nations in Madrid, and watching fútbol in Barcelona. And, of course, doing it all in the company of friends.
All in it together
If asked what he misses most about Oxford, David's reply is prompt.
"That feeling that you're all in it together," he'll say. Close on the heels of that reply is another thought. "I felt like I was so much closer to God in Oxford. There was so much focus on God."
He doesn't want future Study Abroad participants to miss out on those opportunities to find God and bond with fellow students. So his advice to future students is twofold: Form relationships with the people around you, because those relationships will be amazing; and start planning trips, volunteering, making friends and trying new things.
Or he can put it a little more concisely.
"Get out of your room, get out of the house and do stuff!"
It doesn't come much simpler than that.
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About 25% of a graduating class will have had the adventure of a lifetime through an ACU study abroad program.
ACU in Oxford resident director Dr. Ron Morgan documents a faith-based study abroad experience in his new book. Learn more >>