Holly Perkins ('11) | Study Abroad
Biochemistry major from
Colorado Springs, Colo.
A weekly gathering of Study Abroad students became the highlight of Holly Perkins’ Oxford experience.
Nine at Nine has become a tradition for Oxford Study Abroad groups. It's the one time a week when everyone from the group has a chance to see each other, catch up on what’s happening in each other's lives, and share worship and fellowship as well as community. At most meetings, students and professors sing, pray, share communion, and discuss a particular Bible reading or devotional thought.
For Holly, it was the cornerstone of her week. Living in a strange country where she had to adapt to the combined pressures of study, volunteer work and travel, Nine at Nine became a place to let go of her worries and simply enjoy the presence of God.
"I loved Nine at Nine, especially the singing," she said.
Message of music
Even though Holly says she has no particular musical talent, she does feel that music speaks to her in a special way, one that has fingerprints of the divine.
"God has always used music to communicate to me," she said. "It's powerful. It's beautiful."
Singing with her friends and fellow students, Holly discovered that she loved the camaraderie of the group and the sense of unity and oneness.
"It was bonding," she said. "No matter how tired everyone was, they still came. And it was good."
Although she found strength in the weekly ritual, Holly enjoyed the sense of adventure Study Abroad offered as well. She came to relish arriving in a strange city and having to figure out how to get around, how to talk to people, where to eat and where to find lodging. And she discovered that some of the best memories of the semester happened almost randomly during her travels.
God has always used music to communicate to me. It's powerful. It's beautiful.
One of her favorite travel stories involves her trip to Dublin, Ireland, and Edinborough, Scotland. She and three other students spent a long weekend exploring the two cities on their own.
Holly remembers getting to Edinborough in the early morning hours and hiking through the hilly streets to visit one of the main tourist attractions - the castle. After an extensive tour, the group was famished enough to eat at the tourist café outside, which she says was surprisingly good. Unfortunately, the group couldn’t find their hostel on the map of the city, but finally located the hostel’s shuttle station and waited for half an hour for it to come pick them up.
Their hostel was in the suburbs of Edinborough, a relatively far distance from the city's center, so finding dinner that night was an adventure that Holly still remembers vividly. At first, the group walked to a local restaurant close by, but discovered that its prices were too high and decided to keep walking. After a while, they realized they were lost in a strange part of the city and that darkness was falling quickly. However, no one was allowed to become downhearted. As Holly tells it, the group developed a little saying to keep their spirits up.
The way home
"We kept telling each other, 'We are only lost if we can’t get back to where we were,' " she said.
Holly's group finally found a kebab-stand and also found their way home, but she will never forget that night or that adventure. Her experiences resonate with the advice she gives to future Study Abroad participants.
"Invest in being there," she said. Whether it’s volunteer work with a local church, going on travel breaks with friends in the group, or just being open to adventure, Holly believes that most of the fun of Study Abroad is the kind you create yourself.
"Get connected. Do something and stay with it the entire time you're there," she said.
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