This past summer, I was offered an incredible opportunity to join the Center for Catholic Studies and the G.K. Chesterton Institute for Faith and Culture on a study abroad trip to Oxford, England. I remember thinking to myself, as I boarded my first-ever international flight, “This is an experience I will never forget.” Upon my return, I was ready to admit to anyone that the Catholic Studies trip offered me the best experience of my life. For two weeks I, as well as eleven other students, were able to reside at St. Benet’s Hall of Oxford University, where we studied and discussed literature, history and philosophy with some of the best professors at Seton Hall. As a group, we visited museums, churches, Oxford colleges and palaces, learning the rich history of England.
In only two weeks, I knew I would not be able to see or learn all that Oxford and England as a whole had to offer. Yet, I knew there was an endless fount of historical significance to be seen, read and experienced there. I believe that an enormous historical site such as Oxford deserves, at the very least, respect and awe. The centuries-old churches and colleges beheld a quiet beauty, but there was something deeper. Within the very walls and streets of the bustling streets was the history of those that came before. Oxford was the place where the likes of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Blessed Cardinal Newman left their impressions. The great thoughts and movements of Oxford’s past are still alive and tangible in the city.
On our second day in Oxford, one of the professors, Dr. Quinn, gave our group a guided tour of Oxford’s many churches and colleges. We then decided to climb to the top of the bell tower of the church St. Mary the Virgin. At the top of the tower, we saw a panoramic view of Oxford. Right in front of me was a breathtaking view of dozens of historic colleges, as well as the Radcliffe Camera of Oxford University. It was a perfect introduction to the city.
On the trip, the group was fortunate enough to visit the Littlemore, the retreat center of Blessed Cardinal Newman, to celebrate liturgy with Msgr. Liddy and Fr. Boyd. We also visited the home of G.K. Chesterton, Jane Austen’s grave site and Blenheim Palace. Catholic Studies also organized a trip to London to visit Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square. Westminster Abbey embodied the very essence of British history. Just by walking around the abbey, I felt an overwhelming sense of reverence for the medieval church. Westminster Abbey has been the coronation site of every British monarch since the 11th century. Beneath its high ceilings rest many influential monarchs, writers and politicians of Britain, including Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scotts. I felt that within those walls was the life of an empire and nation.
It was experiences and moments such as my visit to Westminster Abbey that made up my time in England. It was more than a class or a trip the Center for Catholic Studies provided to me; it was a chance to experience history and literature. Through the experiences I had in Oxford and London, I learned in a way I never could have done in a classroom. It is a trip I will never forget.
Elizabeth is a Junior studying Elementary education with a specialization in Special Education, and History.
About the Center for Catholic Studies:
Seton Hall University’s Center for Catholic Studies is dedicated to fostering a dialogue between the Catholic intellectual tradition and all areas of study and contemporary culture. To that end, it sponsors an undergraduate degree program for students, focusing on interdisciplinary studies, with opportunities for community, service, scholarship and foreign study. The Center is the home of the G.K. Chesterton Institute, the Bernard J. Lonergan Institute, the Micah Institute for Business and Economics and their publications. The Center offers study and research, as well as an ongoing program on faith and culture, social justice, business and the economy, for audiences world-wide.
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