Chapter Excerpt

Tasha

This is so not a good idea.
I'm barely five minutes into my first class of the semes¥ter when it hits me just how bad an idea this is. Sure, it's not "getting into the hot tub with Tyler Trask while the cameras are rolling" bad, but then what is? I would have to search the world for the people who decided Crocs were a cute shoe concept before I found an idea as bad as that, but taking my semester abroad placement at Oxford University when I barely scrape a 3.0 GPA? Way up there on the dumb-ass rankings.
". . . By now, you'll all be familiar with the basic texts on the reading list . . ."
I glance down at the dense two-page list they included in my exchange information pack, full of titles like Political Innovation and Conceptual Change, and have to remind myself to breathe. I only arrived in England a couple of days ago, but apparently hell waits for no girl, even if she's suffering killer jet lag.
". . . And we've got a new face with us. Natasha Collins, welcome."
My head jerks up, and I look around to find the group staring at me. Instead of the packed, anonymous lecture halls I'm used to back home, I'm sitting in a dim, wood-paneled room, one of a group of just ten students balanced on battered couches and overstuffed armchairs.
"Would you like to introduce yourself?" Professor Susanne Elliot asks, her salt-and-pepper hair falling around a face that, back home, would have been Botoxed into oblivion.
"Umm, sure," I begin. "I'm Tash - Natasha," I correct myself. I keep forgetting, Tasha is no more: the version of myself I left giggling and drunk in that hot tub. "I'm here from UCSB for the semester."
"UCSB?" Elliot repeats, frowning. Yep - definitely no Botox.
"University of California?" I explain hesitantly. "I go to school in Santa Barbara."
"Oh." Elliot seems surprised. She shuffles her papers, searching for something. "We don't usually exchange with that university."
"It was a kind of last-minute thing." I begin to pick the clear varnish on my thumb nail and ignore the amused looks my classmates are exchanging. I don't know why they have to be so snobby about it. I mean, sure, it's not Stanford, but the UC system is totally second tier!
"Santa Barbara," the professor repeats. "And what were you studying there?" She looks over her thin wire-rimmed glasses at me.
"I'm . . . undeclared." My discomfort grows. Technically that's not quite true, but if I'd told the Global Exchange crew what my classes were, they'd have put me on some kind of international blacklist and branded me unfit for study.
"Well." She pauses. "Welcome to Oxford. I'm sure you'll find Theory of Politics very . . . interesting." She moves on to talk about research-paper schedules, but I catch the slight smirk all the same.
Sinking back in my seat, I sneak a look at my classmates. Dressed in an assortment of preppy sweaters, Oxford shirts, and neat jeans, they look totally at ease: nodding along and exchanging familiar smiles, but then again - they would. They've all spent the past year and a half bonding over dusty library books and term papers while I was five thousand miles away, blowing off classes to hang at the beach and shop. I may have a great tan and awesome bargain-hunting skills, but somehow I don't think those will count for much here.
". . . So I suppose that's all. Any questions?" Professor Elliot looks at us expectantly.
I had plenty. "What the hell am I doing here?" for a start and "Why didn't I just go volunteer in Guatemala like my mom suggested?" I'd been so focused on getting out of California, I hadn't really thought about what would come next.
"I have one." The sporty blond girl beside me raises her hand a little. "Will we be starting with power

Excerpted from Sophomore Switch by Abby McDonald
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