Monday, March 03, 2014

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.

XO Isabel 


Blogger Alex Matkovic said...

Hello Isabel!
I am a student looking into studying abroad next semester, and it's great to read posts like yours of people having so much fun while abroad! I was wondering though, would you say the transition from going to school in America to going to school in another country was a difficult one, and if so what was the hardest part about it?
Enjoy being abroad!
-Alex Matkovic

p.s I'll stop pretending I don't know you now! I'm so glad you're enjoying England! I can't wait to hear all about it!!

5:02 PM  
Blogger Sharon Chin said...

Hi Isabel.

I am waiting to get accepted to study abroad in England too. It is great reading your post and it's making me get excited too. I am not sure if you mentioned it, I was just curious, through which program did you go to London?

I loved reading your blog, I can feel the excitement through my screen. Thank you very much. I will be looking forward to reading more of your blogs.

Sharon Chin

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Jennifer Guenther said...

Hi Isabel!

I am actually applying to study at the CMRS program in the fall. I am super excited about study abroad and while I know it will be a good experience, I am also a bit nervous. I have heard of the enormous workload with the CMRS program and I'm a bit worried about how much work is involved. Besides adapting to the new work, any other life saving tips for this trip?

1:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sounds like you had a great time so far. I would like to hear about your experience in London, which is where I'll be going next semester.
Have Fun,
Elizabeth R.

1:39 PM  
Blogger Isabel J. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:25 PM  
Blogger Isabel J. said...

So... word on the street is some of you are in class RIGHT NOW... this might get awkward. Anyways!

Alex: Yes, you can stop pretending to not know me, silly goose. This one's rather pertinent to Oxford, but going from a traditional classroom setting to a tutorial was rather jarring for me. But I've learned to like it to the point that I actually prefer working one on one with a tutor than being in a class of 20 to 30 students!

Sharon: You're too sweet, and I'm so happy you're going to be in London. I only went to London on a day trip with some friends, but my program is CMRS in Oxford. Random, but if you need a quick and inexpensive ride from London to Oxford, take the x90 shuttle bus. Check out my city if you have a chance, it's bee-yo-ti-ful.

Jennifer: Don't let the workload scare you off. It is a demanding program, but it's completely doable if you stay organized. The tutors here are also very helpful, so don't be afraid to communicate any concerns you may have. I'll admit I was really intimidated by some of the other students here, but the whole point of the tutorial is that it is designed to accommodate your personal needs as a student, so everyone will be at a different place by the end of term. Just work hard, don't compare yourself to anyone else, and take time to enjoy yourself. You'll be fabulous, darling :)

Elizabeth: As of posting this comment, I've been to London three times now. It's an enormous and incredibly diverse city, so it's impossible for me to give you an accurate depiction of it, even after spending a fair bit of time there. For your first week, stick in zones 1 and 2 (where all the touristy things are) and then branch out from there. I went to a concert in Dalston (which is waaaay up north in the outskirts of the city) last weekend and that was scary. Don't go there your first week. XD

4:33 PM  
Blogger Juliette Ambrogi said...

Hey Isabel,

Your experience seems very cool so far. The work for preparing to study away is much more than I thought, but it seems like it is all worth it. How did you manage to handle culture shock? I didn't know it would be so common!


9:36 AM  
Blogger Alex Kelly said...


I've applied to the CMRS Program for Fall 2015, and I'm still waiting to her back. What is the grading system like? And how often do you get to travel (just to nearby places, such as London)? I've got lots of places I'd love to see, but the work load does seem intimidating and time-consuming. I hope you're enjoying your time there!

11:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Isabel,

I was wondering what was your biggest culture shock that you experienced while abroad?

-Joceline Roman

12:18 PM  
Blogger Katie Boals said...

Hi Isabel!

Sounds like you're having fun! I was just wondering if you have done any traveling to other countries while you or over there?


6:26 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Isabel. Lee here.

I'm interested in knowing what other places in England you've gotten around to seeing. I was presenting at a conference in Kentucky last weekend and I met some people from Manchester---we hit it off quite well. Obviously you've been to London… where else?

2:36 AM  
Blogger Brandon Westergaard said...

Hey Isabel,

I am studying in Dublin next semester with 10 other students in the nursing program here at Elmhurst. I am very excited to experience a different country. I was wondering if you could talk about any culture shock or adjustment you have faced during your time in England? We talk about it so much in our study abroad class but I personally don't foresee having too much difficulty adjusting to a culture that seems very similar to our own in the U.S. I would also like to know if you have any other suggestions on what to see or do in London, because I plan on making trips over to England from Ireland since they are so close. Thanks look forward to hearing from you.

Brandon Westergaard

12:22 PM  

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