Sunday, March 13, 2011

Katherine H. - Oxford, England - Spring 2011

Hello future study-abroaders!

I’m here in Oxford, England, and I apologize if my post is basically identical to Jessica’s a few posts down. I am also studying through the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies program. I’ve been here since January, and I can scarcely believe that I have a little over a month left. Listen to Alice! Everything she says is true! Initially, you will feel some intense culture shock and be terribly homesick (well, maybe you won’t, but I was) and then you will realize that time is running out and you will realize that you never want to leave.

This experience has been one of the most rewarding of my life. I have studied harder than I ever have before, pushed myself to new limits, discovered new qualities about myself as a person, and expanded beyond my comfort zone. I am sooooo happy that I decided to do this. I have definitely been bit by the travel bug, and I can’t imagine going home and living a perfectly normal, stationary lifestyle. I want to keep going!

When I first got here, it was certainly an adjustment. The time change, the money, the accents, the lingo… the meat pies that they serve at dinner… Like it has already been stated below, I’m here with 25 other American students in dorm-style living arrangements, but the lecture hall and tutorial rooms are in the building as well. CMRS is affiliated with St. Peter’s College of Oxford University. We eat in their dining hall with them (which strongly resembles a less elaborate version of the Hogwarts great hall), use their libraries, participate in their sports (if we so choose), and are able to attend their biweekly dances (called “bops”). You can make plenty of British friends if you try! Initially I was disappointed that my courses would not be with Oxford students, but there are many opportunities to get to know them.
To summarize my academic experience (as CMRS is more academic-oriented than some of the other programs where people actually have plenty of time to travel!!!): The first nine weeks I had two tutorials – Romanticism and Shakespeare, where I read and wrote two papers a week. It wasn’t bad, you just have to learn time management… a quality that I am still working towards… the tutorial experience is very different than what I am used to. There is no where to hide when you haven’t done the work! So do your work. In addition to the tutorials, I had a seminar twice a week (most seminars only meet once a week) which was Drawing in the Museums. This was a very involved seminar… our final project is pretty intense, but I loved going to all of the Oxford museums and exploring that cultural aspect. Next week we begin the Integral course, when everything else has ended. Integral is five days a week (I enjoyed having my Fridays and Mondays off with tutorials and seminar, but not everyone is that lucky) with lectures twice a day in the mornings. But enough of the academic stuff.

Oxford is a GORGEOUS city and I wish I could live here forever. Living in England is different. Here is a compilation of things that I have observed:

1. There are two separate faucets with the two taps for hot and cold... As they are both on opposite sides of the sink, it is impossible to have warm water. You can either scald yourself, or freeze. This makes no sense to me even after living here for two months.

2. There is no organization to the way pedestrians walk on the streets or side walks. One would assume that the designated walking pattern would mimic the driving pattern, and that one would not collide with passersby if one simply adopted this pattern... but no.

3. Eggs are not refrigerated in the grocery store

4. It is rare to see paper towels and kleenex. For the first few weeks, I noticed that most of the lecturers at CMRS carried only handkerchiefs, and used glasses and pitchers of water instead of plastic water bottles. Also, the bathrooms have hand towels instead of paper towels. Luckily, this does not apply to public restrooms (or toilets, as they are called here), which are equipped with hand driers.
5. Pigeons are just cuter versions of rats

6. Everyone bikes here. It makes me so happy to see 80 year-old men dressed in their suits biking around the city.

7. A line is called a "queue", fries are "chips", cookies are "biscuits", and REAL skim milk does not exist

8. Men here dress far better/have way better shoes compared to men back home. This is the truth.

9. You need to get used to military time. Who would have thought math skills would ever be needed in real life? Also, you will most likely refer to the six hour difference back home as what time it is in "real life" for at least the first month.

10. There is no such thing as free Wifi

11. Don't walk around in slippers.

12. Girls have to pay cover charges, too (?!)... and pay for their own drinks unless they are very fortunate.

13. The music played in clubs here is at least a year old from what is played on the radio in the States.

14. The residents of Oxford do not seem to be affected by the cold weather, and therefore do not feel the need to dress in anything but shorts and a sweater when it is 35 degrees and raining.

15. There is no censored television.

16. The perceptions about Americans are different wherever you go (as is true with any country). Some people love us, some people are indifferent, and some people find us obnoxious. I find that the television programs that are played may be partially to blame for this inconsistency... Generally speaking, all that I've seen are reruns of Gilmore Girls, Scrubs, Friends, and tacky reality shows like WifeSwap. I'm guessing that this leads to the belief that Americans talk too fast, have hospitals where doctors have a mass amount of free time to do absolutely nothing, and are the most moronic and ignorant people in the world. I don’t think the latter is true, though. At least no one has accused me of being moronic yet.

17. The novelty of the British accent wears off very quickly. (On average after week 3) Then you just realize that this is how people talk.

18. The buses will crush you, and you should probably look both ways before running across the street.

19. CCTV is watching you.

20. Sheryl Crow and Cheryl Cole are two different people.

21. CRUMPETS are the BEST creation ever, and will most likely be the one food item that I will miss, aside from the delicious German yogurt that they serve in the dining hall.

22. Sweat pants are "joggies" or "trackies"

23. Mayonnaise goes on everything.

And thus ends my list of incredibly important facts. Let me know if you have any questions! I would be happy to help.


Blogger murphyl said...

Love the list at the end! This is a great way to remember/appreciate the little things that make all the difference in the end. :D

~Latasha Murphy (Tasha)

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Krystal Rhodes said...

It sounds like you're having the time of your life in Oxford! I'm planning on studying in England next year, so I really appreciated all of your little tips.

I was just wondering if you found it difficult to fit in with the locals or notice that they treated you, as an American, any differently either in a positive or negative way?

-Krystal Rhodes

12:28 AM  
Anonymous Matthew Murray said...

Thanks for providing the helpful list at the end of your entry. I'm studying through CMRS next Fall. Have you had the chance to visit any of the local bookstores yet? Thanks again for writing about your personal experience in Oxford so far.

12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


What are your tips for selecting classes in another country?

Kim S.

2:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds like you're having a good time! That list is really helpful. I'll be studying at Oxford through CMRS next fall, so I'll be sure to keep those things in mind.

How did you deal with the culture shock? Did it take you very long to adjust to the different culture, even though you were still in an English speaking country?

Claire D.

10:05 AM  
Anonymous Rocco Catrone said...

Wow! Life is really different where you are. Hello, my name is Rocco and I will be studying abroad in Italy this coming fall. Looking at your post and all the changes I wanted to know, how were you able to deal with all these changes? did you get sick from the food? how long did it take you to get used to Oxford both socially and academically?
I apologize for the barrage of questions, but you seem to be having excellent experiences!

2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds amazing, I can't wait to go. How did you choose your classes?

-Diana F.

2:48 PM  

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