As of today, I’ve officially been at Oxford in England for a whole month now. How strange!
Even if you don’t have any questions about what it’s been like, let’s pretend you do! 😉
“Was it difficult to adjust to living across the ocean? What’s it like being an American in Britain? What is day-to-day life like over there? What is the work load like? How are you feeling one month in?”
Oh boy, wow! What wonderful questions!! I’ll try and answer those as best as I can, hehe 🙂
Adjusting to life in England
I’m not going to pretend I overcame some monumentous obstacle while I’ve been here, adjusting to living here at Oxford has actually been easy-peasey. The six hour time difference did take a few days to adjust to, but we powered through and now things are going normally.
Although I feel as if this was to be expected, England is not that much different from America in terms of culture and facilities go. There’s a laundromat and a grocery store super near to my college, so I’ve never had to worry about that either.
Something I’ve had to adjust to are meals in the dining room. Everyone, even professors, sit at a long table together, which means meals are always very social. For a shyer person like me, it took a few days to get used to talking to others so early in the morning, but I think it’s been good for me and I’ve gotten to meet a lot of the people in my program while we’re all just sipping coffee and trying to wake up!
Another thing that surprised me was the way in which people greet each other on the street. In middle America (where I’m from), you have to smile and say hello to everyone you walk past, or the etiquette fairy flies down and shoots you with a laser beam. However, people from England may not respond, or if they do, they may not smile. It’s not a bad thing, its just a small cultural difference that I’ve gotten to learn about.
The biggest adjustment, by far, has actually been the coursework for my classes, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
Being American in England
Just to clear things up, I do not go out of my way to let people know that I’m American, especially because I’m the one visiting their country, and the most respectful thing to do is to try and assimilate.
But most people are able to figure it out pretty quickly because of my ‘midwestern twang’. Some people even ask me to say things in my accent, but they’ve always been polite about it, so I don’t mind!
For the most part, everyone I’ve met here has been wonderfully polite, and I’ve had some great conversations with smart, fascinating people here at Oxford.
But the funny thing is that nearly every British person I’ve encountered, without fail, has asked me what I think about President Trump upon finding out I’m from the U.S. This is fairly off-putting to me, seeing as I’m not keen on talking politics, so I usually just kind of laugh it off and change the subject.
A Typical Day at Oxford
My week generally goes like this: I have class from Monday to Thursday, and then Friday-Sunday are free weekends to travel if we don’t have a Friday field-trip scheduled.
A class day goes like this:
- 8am: Breakfast
- 9-10:15am: Class 1
- 10:15am: Tea and Biscuits break!
- 10:45am-12pm: Class 2
- 12-12:30pm: Break
- 12:30pm: Lunch and free time
- 2pm-3:15pm: Class 3
- 3:15-7pm: Free time
- 7pm: Dinner, or if it’s Thursday, then it’s fancy dinner 🙂
- 7pm-bedtime: Writing papers in the library or going to a nearby tavern for a pint of cider! Sometimes both if you’re feeling crazy 😉
It’s been amazing! Although, it also means I haven’t had much rest these past few weeks, and I think it’s starting to take its toll. I’ve gotten two separate colds in four weeks, but this weekend I’m taking it easy, which will be good because I can relax, sleep in, and finally catch up on posts like this one!
Schoolwork at Oxford
Again, I won’t lie. Our workload at Oxford has been really tough.
It’s not necessarily the amount of work we’re doing either, but the amount of reading assigned and the lack of guidance for our papers.
We’re taking three classes at the moment, and when reading is assigned for each class, there’s sometimes upwards of 300 pages of assigned reading per night between them. A lot of times, it’s an impossible amount of reading to get done in one day, and we’re left frantically trying to pick out the most important information while skimming the rest.
But we have to be keeping up, because most of our grade comes from our papers that we turn in, for which there is no rubric. I’m starting to believe that this is just how it’s done here, so I know I can’t complain. However, it’s still been an adjustment and a source of stress as I like to know exactly what the professor is looking for and leaving nothing to chance.
One of my classmates asked our History professor if we could have his email to send him questions about the paper, to which he refused.
Again, I’m trying to remain positive, even though it’s something I’m not used to. And still, I’ve been able to finish the papers and turn them in, so all’s well that ends well I suppose. We’ll just see how things go by the next update, and to anyone who goes to Oxford full time, you’re amazing! I really have no idea how you do it, but keep being cool and smart!
So, how are you feeling one month in?
Well I just got back from seeing a Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe Theater, so right now I’m feeling sleepy but really happy.
This whole month has been like a dream. So much stress and so much fun all packed together, and I’ve found myself staring at my bedroom ceiling thinking: “I really can’t believe this is my life”.
So overall, I’ve learned that I need to give myself time to rest, but I’ve also gained a lot of confidence from learning how to successfully navigate taxis, trains, buses, and airports. Our traveling so far has done wonders for my directional and general life skills, and I’m hungry to get even better at these things!
So basically, study abroad is going better than great, it’s going amazingly!
It’s so thrilling to say that, especially after feeling like a bundle of nerves about it for so long. I also have a lot of people to thank for that. My two advisors have really gone the extra mile to help plan our independent travel, and to just make us feel at home. I also owe a big thank you to my classmates who are on the program with me, who have been so nice and inclusive. Without that, there’s no way I would have adjusted so easily.
So yeah, studying abroad at Oxford has been the best decision of my life to date, and I’m so grateful to whoever reads this and gets to come along with me.
Again, I hope to update more and more as I get more comfy on the workings of this site, and if things go according to plan, there should be a post about the lovely ~London~ very soon!
Peace & Love!