My last day in Oxford, I took a walk. I saw the same sights as always—the stately spire of Christ Church, the hurried bustle of Corn Market Street, a haggard man, with his mangled dog, selling Big Issue magazines, an old guy with a bandaged nose, a child covered in pink, pushed in a stroller, a tragically troubled Oxford scholar stooping over in his cloak. I treaded slowly as I finished my dramatic goodbye, lingering to take one last look at the amazing view of the Dreaming Spires that make Oxford famous.
But that wasn’t my last day in Oxford. In fact, I’m still here and it’s Wednesday; I’m among one of the hundreds of thousands of stranded travelers who are stuck in Europe or unable to get here because of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano. I know, it sounds like a huge joke. Ash from an Icelandic volcano is keeping me in Oxford; something with that crazy of a name interfered with my life, ruined my plans.
At first I thought hey, this is just making my life a more exciting adventure. This will make an excellent chapter in the memoir of my life. But I think if this was really a story-worthy adventure, the plot would move in way more directions than in the up-and-down whiplash I’m experiencing. There really isn’t anything that tale-worthy about saying, “then my flight got cancelled again, then I got a new one, then it got cancelled, and now I don’t know.”
I would much rather tell a story that involves one flight cancellation and then an action-packed exodus to the south of Europe, the north of Africa, the tip of South America, then back to the US. But this is my story. I’m stuck here, and the adventure part is in the subtle irks in my consciousness, the desperate hold on the fizzling hope of clear skies, and the nagging lengths of patience my soul is trying to learn.
After hating my life for about 50 hours, I finally woke up, ate a long breakfast, watched a couple of movies with my fellow refugees, and realized that I am in a great situation—thousands of people are stranded in various airports, barely able to take a shower, and I’m stuck in this beautiful city I just finished falling in love with. I think if I would have left on Saturday I would have rushed away from this experience, happy to be done with the challenge of studying abroad.
Now I’m stuck here and I have to think about things—particularly how I’ve grown and changed this semester. My time in Oxford didn’t have to end with me getting yanked out of the country; in fact, as I sit on my bum reading all day, waiting for the stupid ash to go away, I get to finish this experience with a deep sigh of relief and a calm period of processing and reflection. I haven’t come to any conclusions yet, but guess what? You can ask me next week, because I’m finally at the “back again” part of this tale.
Editor’s Note: Emily safely returned to the United States on April 22. Welcome home, Emily!