Get ready. This post is about to get super real.
The past three weeks has been the most overwhelming of my life. I knew this Oxford experience would be academically rigorous, but I completely underestimated the intensity. I’m embarassed to admit that I let stress get the best of me and I haven’t been making the best choices. (Eating an entire jar of peanut butter at 3am? Maybe not my most shining moment.) So, maybe I’ve been pulling too many all-nighters and binge eating entire trays of brownies, but in my defense, I have been working my brain hard.
Look at this 1,000 page book I read in two days. Or in other words, the Oxford work load is ridiculous.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving the academics here. I feel like I’ve learned more in the last three weeks than I have in a long time. And with four essays (10,000 words) already completed for this term, I feel like I’ve done more work than I have in a long time too. And now for an update on how tutorials are actually going:
My major tutorial with Kalika at Wolfson (click here for pictures!) is definitely going. We’ve met three times and so far I’ve read and written an essay on Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Tennyson’s In Memoriam, and Dickens’s Bleak House. I’m currently reading Browning’s Men and Women. While I’m not so big on the poetry, I’ve really enjoyed all of the reading so far. Now if only I could have longer than a couple of days to read each book, I’d have it made.
My minor tutorial with Olivia at Magdalen (click here for pictures!) is less demanding. We only meet on even weeks, so we’ve only met once. I read the introductions to Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience and now I’m working my way through the rest of the collection. Our first tutorial was really relaxed; we ate cookies and talked about poetry and who doesn’t like that?
My goal for the rest of the semester, besides finishing my work, is to have a better balance. Although I do spend a lot of time wandering around beautiful places (as evidenced by my photos of Magdalen and Wolfson), I want to see more outside of the library. Life is happening and I don’t want to miss it. Wish me luck!
I met my tutor, Olivia, inside of Magdalen college. Upon telling the porter my intentions he said, “Oh, so you’re a romanticist?” Something about being referred to as a student of something was thrilling. I would never by any means consider myself a student of Romanticism, but still, the thought was appreciated.
I intentionally arrived at Magdalen with plenty of time to spare, so I could look around the college, and boy did I look around. The campus goes on for miles and it is quite the beauty.
The front quad and side of the chapel
The marvelous Anna Rose
Impeccaple gardening, Intimidating architecture
Steeples, gates, and a river. Magdalen’s got it all.
The fields, which went on for miles and I didn’t have time to fully explore, were home to the largest herd of deer I’ve ever seen. Imagine 40 deer all frolicking in a meadow that stretches as far as the eye can see with a castle in the background. It may sound like a fairy tale, but it’s very much a reality at Magdalen.
Every Wednesday morning of my term here in Oxford has begun with a brisk three mile walk to Wolfson college to meet my tutor. In pictures, I’d like to share it with you.
First, my walk takes me through the Oxford University parks. It’s full of indigineous plants as well as plants from all over the world. I’m currently obsessed with the changing leaves; autumn is here, folks!
Next, my walk takes me past a multitude of brick buildings. We’re definitely not in California anymore, Toto. No one’s worried about earthquakes here.
Then, I get to see a less touristy area of Oxford; there is a small residential neighborhood and several adorable elementary schools (which I felt creepy photographing, so I didn’t).
Finally, there is Wolfson, which for being a newer school is surprsingly beautiful. The meadows are gorgeous and I even saw people fishing in the lake today! Neat!
As I’ve mentioned before, some of the colleges are like little fortresses and unless you’re willing to shell out a couple of pounds to the porter, they aren’t letting you inside. However, there is one excpetion: let Jesus take the wheel. I may kid, but church is a really great way to see the inside of the schools, the chapel, and hear the choir! So, even if church isn’t your thing, consider checking Evensong out. Evensong is an evening prayer service (usually set to song) in the Anglican church. And for any Roman Catholics out there, it’s basically vespers.
I recently had the priviledge of attending Evensong in Christ Church and let me tell you, the chapel is gorgeous.
Photo courtesy of Emily Maples
The service itself was also really beautiful. The choir was great and they were reading their chorale books to the light of actual wax candles. Imagine that in this day and age! “Beautiful” is really the only word I have to describe Evensong at Christ Church.
When I was eight years old I was in a production of The Comedy of Errors. I had one line in the play and it was my shining moment. The production took place outside and I got to run down a hill through some trees and on to the stage yelling, “Mistress, Oh Mistress” at the top of my lungs. The occasion marked one of my very first lines on stage and even more importantly, the first time I ever read a Shakespeare play. It was a really monumental moment for me, okay?
Anyway, the purpose of this little trip down memory lane is to share that I went to see a production of the very same play at the Globe Theater, a.k.a. the theater built by Shakespeare’s playing company. Ooh, the history! (We can just disregard the whole bit about the fire and the modern reconstruction.)
I decided to take part in the experience as a groundling. During Shakespeare’s time Groundlings would enter and spend the duration of the performance standing in the yard, the space closest to the stage on ground level. While it costs more than a penny now, my five pound admission cost was nothing to be disappointed with. I was really lucky in that it didn’t rain AND I got a spot right up by the stage!
Look how close I am to the stage!
The performance itself was fantastic; I had forgotten how funny the play was! Going to see a Shakespeare production that holds such a special place in my heart was such a dream come true. Also, the whole atmosphere felt so different from other production I’ve seen; the entire authentic experience, the enthusiasm of the audience, and of course the amazing performers made the entire outing such a delight. I may have been a groundling, but the whole event was so fantastic that I felt like Queen Elizabeth the first.
I have fond memories of taking “first day of school” photos with my teachers in elementary school. While meeting my tutors for the first time probably isn’t something I need to scrapbook, it nonetheless felt like a very momentous occasion.
I suppose now is as good time as ever to introduce both my tutors and what the heck I’m even studying here, but first things first, how does the tutorial system work? Basically, I’m taking one major tutorial and one minor tutorial. The major tutorial is the equivalent of 8 American credits and meets once a week. The minor tutorial is the equivalent of 4 credits and meets every other week.
Let’s break it down:
Major tutorial: Victorian Literature with Kalika Sands
First impression: We met in Blackwells, a bookstore, and Kalika was already there when I arrived 10 minutes early. She was drinking water. For some reason that scared me. Kalika is kind of scary intense even though she was really nice, so I don’t eve know what my problem is. She point blank told me that I would struggle if I couldn’t read quickly. I have a novel to read and a 2,500 word paper to write every week. Wish me luck.
Minor Tutorial: Blakean poetry with Olivia Reilly
First impression: We met at a tiny coffee shop. I downed a cappuchino out of nervousness before Olivia even arrived. When she did arrive, she was carrying the largest handbag I’d ever seen and spent a few minutes searching for a pen in a frazzled manner. Olivia asked me about my previous studies and, because I’m incompetent apparently, I was unable to name the title of a single thing I’ve read. Ever. I ended up stating some nonsense about turn of the century American literature (uhm, what?). Despite my clear anxiety, Olivia was maybe the cutest person I’ve ever met. We ended up walking quite a ways together because her office is right by my house (score!)
Anyway, I’m starting to feel slightly overwhelmed in that I chose possibly the most academically demanding study abroad program that exists. This post would be less disjointed, but I have two essays to edit, a novel to read, research to do, and another paper to write.
And now, enjoy my melancholy (and rather silly) selfie with Jane Eyre.
Lesser known fact about me: I’m obsessed with boats. As a kid I loved power boats more than anything. In venice you bet I wanted to ride in a gondola. Cruises are the best thing ever and you know I love some white water rafting. Basically, I’ll take every opportunity to jam out to The Lonely Island. Consequently, I wasted no time in offering to take part in a classic Oxford pastime: punting.
A punt is a flat boat used mainly in shallow water. At Oxford, punting along the river Cherwell is a widely enjoyed pastime. The actual act of punting is a bit of a process:
First, make sure everyone is in the boat. Sidenote: make sure the boat is weighted (somewhat) evenly.
Next, pick up a 16 foot metal pole that is heavy as all hell.
Next, Put said pole straight down in the water and propel the boat forward using brute strength.
Then, try not to hit the sides of the river. Steering is almost impossible, so good luck.
Here is a picture of the lovely boats all lined up at the dock.
Photo courtesy of Joowon Oh
And here is my attempt at punting.
Photo courtesy of Joowon Oh
All in all, punting was such a fun experience. There’s definitely a learning curve and between my inability to steer and one of my passenger’s paralyzing fear of birds, the entire journey was quite the ordeal. We left the dock a bit wetter, but the weather was perfect and the memories lasting.