Stonehenge challenges tourists’ perceptions

Sometimes study abroad takes you to places you never knew you wanted to go to.

For me, that was Stonehenge.

As my roommates and I boarded the filled-to-capacity bus for our day trip to Stonehenge, all I could think to myself was, I will be spending the next three hours looking at a conglomerate of rocks. I mean, Prehistoric rocks.

No one knows why Stonehenge was built. Historians estimate that Neolithic builders arranged the mighty stones about 5,000 years ago. The intricate process of arranging the stones took more than 1,500 years. Some guess that it was used as burial grounds. Others hypostasize that it was used for religious rituals. But either way, more than 1 million people visit Stonehenge each year. UNESCO World Heritage Site has named it on its list for the past 30 years.

As the bus pulled up to Stonehenge, I still couldn’t muster up the energy to see this world wonder. They were rocks at the end of the day. But I decided now probably wasn’t the time to vocalize these opinions.

Going to Stonehenge was literally a breath of fresh air. In my four weeks of studying abroad, Stonehenge was my first time being in the English countryside. London is too metropolitan to ever be considered a green pasture despite all its parks. As I trudged my way up to the massive stones, shuffling past the loads of tourists with their DSLR cameras and selfie sticks, I realized why I needed to be there.

On my bus ride, I had learned that the site was used as a training ground for British soldiers in World War I and before preservation laws took effect people carelessly carved their names into the rocks. I also discovered that Stonehenge is older than most world wonders, such as the Great Wall of China in Beijing. Its history was profound.

Even more so, its modern beauty was breathtaking. The sun was hitting the rocks at a celestial angle. It cast a blanket of light that created the perfect photo op. It illuminated a whole new outlook for me.

So, my day trip in Stonehenge proved itself to be a place that I never knew I wanted to go. But I’m so glad my study abroad experience placed me there.