‘allo from across the pond!
I’ve now been in England for nearly a week, and what a week it has been!
I’ll be posting to this blog at least once a week for the duration of my stay at Oxford. For those who don’t know, I am a Liberal Arts major, and as such I am required to study abroad for at least six weeks. The Michaelmas term at Oxford will be fulfilling this requirement, and the Liberal Arts program committee has requested that I post weekly updates about my experience here. I’ve been so blessed to hear from so many people that they would like to hear about my time here, and I hope that this blog is informative without being excessively academic and enjoyable without being hard to follow. This is my first time out of the country, and thus my first time documenting anything like this, so if my topics end up all over the place, please bear with me – hopefully I’ll get the hang of it soon!
My first week began with my first overseas flight! I’m so glad I don’t have to fly again for a few months; the sleepless night before my departure and the red-eye flight that I took combined to make me very sleep-deprived for the first couple days here. After a bus ride from London to Oxford, some wandering around the middle of town, a house-key issue, and the subsequent meeting of my new neighbor, I established myself in my new home. I live with two other international students with whom I get along well, and who are just as excited to be here as I.
The first night featured a welcome party where all the Oxford Study Abroad Program (OSAP) students were able to meet each other and familiarize ourselves with the office and the area. It was also the first time that I went shopping in a British store, which was definitely an adventure. My housemates and I learned the hard way not to get too many groceries at once, since we live a twenty-minute walk from the grocery store. While I planned to rent a bike for the term, the traffic customs are a bit intimidating (i.e., I’m afraid I’ll get run over but a bus), so I’ll be relying on my legs to transport me around town.
The following day we were given helpful and informative lectures, and again had the chance to get to know each other better. There are so many of us that even now, a week later, I still don’t know everyone.
On Thursday we were given a tour around Oxford, including many of the beautiful colleges. Oxford University does not have a main campus; rather, it is spread throughout the town in multiple buildings and is made up of 38 colleges. Each student belongs to a specific college and it is that college that provides the library, dining hall, etc. for the student to make use of during their time there. (If that’s not really making sense, think of it like Hogwarts houses: One school, separated).
On Thursday evening I went to an Evensong service at Christ Church College, which is well known for its Evensong services. It was my first time at an Anglican (Episcopalian in the US) service and it was a very refreshing and worshipful experience. We were told in lecture that Gothic architecture, used in most of the colleges, cathedrals, etc. is designed to point the eye upward, toward the heavens, and in the case of Evensong it was amazing to see how the architecture contributed to the God-centeredness of the service.
Friday we took a tour of London and were able to see Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, St. James’ Park, and the Winston Churchill Memorial and War Rooms. It was a lot to take in (and a LOT of walking) but we had unusually beautiful weather and it was awe-inspiring to see such ancient and significant sights. During some of our free time a group of us stumbled upon the Sherlock Holmes Restaurant, which was an exciting and unexpected adventure. We also spent some time in Trafalgar Square and were able to wander for a while in the National Gallery where we saw works by such renowned artists as Monet and Van Gogh. I’m excited to go back to London to explore more of the museums and parks (and hopefully see some plays!)
In between all the lectures and sightseeing I’ve been able to spend time with other students in the program. The students in general are very friendly and I’m looking forward to getting to know them better over the next few months! There are quite a few Christians I’ve gotten to know, and I’ve been so blessed by them already.
Sunday morning I attended a church called St. Ebbe’s with some friends. It was a very welcoming and Christ-centered service, and I’m so excited to get involved there! I will attend a student group meeting later this week – more on that in my next post!
Today, Monday, we were given a couple more lectures, as well as being introduced to the library system. Oxford University’s main library is the Bodleian Library – it’s amazing and beautiful and the second largest library in the UK. If you know me well, you know I’m incredibly excited to explore “the Bod.” I will also have access to my college library, so I will have no shortage of material.
I was also informed today that I have been accepted as a member of New College! Since the Oxford tour I’ve loved the look and feel of New College, just from the outside, and I can’t wait to see what experiences my membership will entail.
Having never been in any other culture before, I’m not sure how to gauge how much culture shock I’ve actually been experiencing. Obviously the food and customs are very different, but so far I’ve felt fairly comfortable and I think the local people are used to tourists because everyone I’ve talked to has been helpful and understanding.
(So far the most recurring struggle is counting out change. Oi.)
(So far the most recurring struggle is counting out change. Oi.)
This next week will feature more lectures and getting all my classes (called “tutorials”) figured out, meeting my tutors, being inducted into my college, and more.
I appreciate the prayers that I know have been lifted up on my behalf more than I can express. The Lord’s grace has been so evident through every step of this past week and I’m so excited to see how He continues to provide above what I could ask.
I think I’ll tack on a few prayer requests at the end of each post, so here’s the first batch:
*That my sleep pattern would regulate, so that I am well rested.
*That I would be intentional in how I relate to others, particularly in times of stress, so that Christ’s love would be evident through my words and actions.
*That I would remain focused on the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord in my first real non-Christian environment.
*Homesickness hit me for the first time on Sunday. Everything has felt so surreal that it hasn’t fully sunk in that I’ll be here for so long; however, the time difference is proving to be the most homesickness-inducing factor, since I can’t always get in touch with my family when I want to because they’re sleeping or at work/school. So prayers that I would run to the Lord when I feel lonesome for loved ones would be so appreciated.
If you’ve made it all the way through, thank you for reading! If there’s any aspect of my experience so far that I didn’t touch on, leave me a comment or shoot me some sort of message (aside from texting) and I’d love to fill you in!