When Can I Go Back to Oxford?

Blog Topics: 

 

This post is actually an article I wrote for the English Department newsletter about my experience in the Oxford Summer Seminar last summer.  It was an amazing experience, and in case my feelings are not clear, I strongly encourage everyone to apply.  More logistical information is available on the seminar website, and information about the scholarship offered by Commonwealth Honors College can be found here

 

I could pretend that when I got off the bus at Gloucester Green in Oxford that I was full of the open-minded, articulate insights of an eloquent world traveler, but that would be a lie.  When I got off the bus, I was sweaty, tired, and overwhelmed.  I had hoped before the trip that I could be the kind of person that set her feet on new soil and immediately began making astute observations about culture. 

 

I was not that person.  I was a first time international traveler, and I was bewildered beyond belief.  This is a direct quote from my travel blog, almost immediately after I arrived at Trinity College: “Is it bad that even though I know that England is a place where real people live, I feel like I’m in Disney World? Probably.”  That was it, all I could muster as far as eloquent insight.

 

 

 

Oxford was both everything and nothing like I expected.  On the one hand, everything is so old and stately and beautiful.  The architecture is medieval, gothic, neo-classical – the city is the mismatched record of all of its history.  The lawns are masterpieces of landscaping, perfectly manicured, upon which lesser mortals like students are not allowed to walk.  There are museums and gardens and bookshops; there are pubs on every corner.  Pubs and colleges alike boast the attendance of big names in literature and history.  Everything is steeped in ceremony; all the walls are carved with symbolism; all the colleges are walled.    On the other hand, there was so much that I did not expect.  We found one of the only surviving three story wooden frame buildings from the fourteenth century, and it housed a pizza place; we stumbled upon a plaque marking the location of one of the original thirteenth century gates to the city on the wall of an L.A. Fitness.  There was a food truck immediately outside of Trinity College that sold the best lamb kebabs and fries (or chips, if we’re being authentic) with anything you could want on them for cheap.  We stumbled onto the set of a television show set in Oxford not once but three different times all over the city.  Magdalen College houses a herd of deer in the middle of their college.

 

 

 

Out on the streets of Oxford was not the only place I was delighted and surprised.  That wonderful melding of feelings happened perhaps nowhere more often than inside the gates of our own Trinity College.  The painted blue iron gates of Trinity are unique in Oxford; where the other colleges have wooden doors to keep out wondering eyes, Trinity’s gates invite the world to gaze on the splendor of its grounds.  I had the unique pleasure of brushing by curious tourists to unlock the small side door and hear, as it closed behind me, “oh, she has a key-!”  We lived in rooms off the landings of staircases instead of on hallways; we studied in the cozy corners of a quintessential Oxford college library; we dressed up once a week for a three course formal dinner and had drinks on the lawn with our tutors.  In our tiny classes we were encouraged to share our ideas by our tutors, unbelievably knowledgeable academics who treated us like intellectual equals and delighted in our triumphs.  We befriended the college cat and discovered there were tortoises living in one of the gardens. 

 

 

 

I returned home at the end of the summer with an invaluable bank of memories.  Perusing them now, I find that the moments that I valued the most in my experience were the little things – afternoon tea in the dining hall, brief words of affirmation from my tutors, spontaneous walks with new friends through the covered market.  For me, Oxford was a city that could never be boring.  It offered endless opportunities to learn and explore and laugh.  I was wrong when I arrived – Oxford is not Disney World.  Yes, around every corner there is a new opportunity to be surprised and delighted, but it is not a place of empty joviality.  Instead, it is somewhere to learn about history, about literature, about architecture, and – for me – a place to learn about myself.  I would choose Oxford over Florida any day. 

Comments

Submitted by Thamy Almeida (not verified) on
Comment: 
This post literally brought tears to my eyes. That was the best summer of my life and I look forward to someday sitting at the steps of the Claredon, eating chips with beans, with you!

Submitted by Lizzie Moll (not verified) on
Comment: 
Such a true post. This program was more than I could have ever imagined. I went on it sort of as a whim, not being part of either the history or english department, just wanting to fulfill some gen eds and soak up British culture. But, I left with lifelong friends, irreplaceable memories, and a yearning love for a city that I hope to return to some day.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Comment: 
You're an amazing photographer! :)

Submitted by Alex Sherman (not verified) on
Comment: 
I'd echo the last three posts by Lizzie, Robin & Thamy. Miss you guys.

Submitted by Kerry (not verified) on
Comment: 
MICHELLE YOU MADE ME EXTRA ULTRA EXCITED TO GO TO OXFORD THIS SUMMER! Can't wait for you to visit :)

Submitted by Adam Worth (not verified) on
Comment: 

Oxford is great...and your description more than does it justice. Keep writing, you're really got talent.

Submitted by bismillah (not verified) on
Comment: 

Interesting thoughts here, thanks a lot for exposing your ideas. Will be following your blog with a greatest interest. Thank you so much!

Submitted by teena mary rajan (not verified) on
Comment: 

Oxford is one of the most prestigious places to finish our studies. The system of education and the standard they maintain is simple awesome. I really like the details you have given through your article. Thanks a lot for sharing this page.

Add new comment

CAPTCHA
This feature helps the college prevent spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.