Isabel J - Oxford, England - Spring 2014
Greetings all! If you’re reading this then either A. Congratulations! You’re thinking about studying abroad in Oxford/England, or B. You’re my mother who’s managed to find yet another way of keeping tabs on me while I’m abroad. Hi, Mom. Yes, I’m eating well. No, I’m not coming home with a British fiancé. Yes, we can Skype later.
It’s only been about three weeks since I’ve arrived at the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (CMRS, which is associated with Keble College), but I’m already quite familiar with the streets of Oxford and I’ve even gotten a chance to explore London for a weekend! But more on that later—let’s go back to day one.
I was the second person to arrive in my dorm, so I was able to unpack and start exploring early in the day. The first thing I noticed was the wildlife. In other words, PIGEONS. PIGEONS EVERYWHERE. They’re such a problem that we have to have spikes on all of the windowsills after a particularly adventurous birdbrain sauntered right through an open window into the kitchen in search of a snack. They’re not as devious as the Elmhurst squirrels, but they definitely have them beat as far as their ability to organize an aerial attack. I really wish I was joking, but let’s just say, after arriving in England your first order of business should be investing in a quality umbrella… and not just because of the rain…
Speaking of which, we’ve been quite lucky here. It’s been sunny the past couple of weeks which is unusual for Oxford. It has been raining on and off but nothing more than a light sun shower here and there. But remember, your umbrella will be your best friend while you’re here. That, and your Bod card.
The Bod card is your way of access to the Bodleian Library, which is perhaps the biggest and most beautiful library in the world. They receive something like a thousand new books every single day, so if you’re a bookworm like me, a trip to the Bod is like reaching Nerd Nirvana. Unfortunately they don’t allow pictures inside, but if you’ve seen that one scene in Harry Potter where Harry’s sneaking through the library in the middle of the night, then you’ve seen the Bod.
Another connection to Harry Potter—my head tutor, Dr. Bernard Gowers, worked on the set while they were filming in Oxford! He was the official owl sitter. He’s also a delightfully quirky person who really goes out of his way to make sure everyone is adjusting smoothly to life in Oxford. In fact, that’s been consistent with all of my tutors here. They genuinely care for their students’ mental health just as much as they do for their academic success, if not even more so. It’s definitely a change from the states, where everyone lives to work. Here, people work to live. They take the time to actually relax during meal times, and finding a balance between work and pleasure is highly valued in British culture. Don’t get me wrong, the tutors here expect a lot from you (they ARE Oxford professors, after all), but they also don’t want you to be so work-oriented that you miss out on exploring the incredibly beautiful city.
Of course, you cannot go to England without visiting London. I could easily write five more blog posts about my weekend there, but I’ll keep it short and sweet: don’t miss out! Take a bus and just adventure for the day! Exploring the city was like living inside a postcard; everywhere you turned there was another historic landmark, another fascinating discovery, and another prime photo op.
Whew, I would love to go on, but I’ll stop here. If you have any specific questions, don’t be afraid to ask! Good luck on your pre-study abroad journey. It can be stressful, but believe me, it’ll all be worth it.