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Michaelmas Term: A One Way Ticket to Pound Town

Greetings from Madrid! I know what you are thinking. Yes, I was just in Oxford, but now I have left and am at my first of 12 stops, visiting my best friend Jason and exploring the city. Let the fact that I am just now blogging be a testament to the fact that I absolutely adore Oxford and am constantly busy working (or playing). From the moment I arrived, I felt more at home than I ever had before. Oxford is a sort of enchanted city, and each day I wake up I have to remind myself that it is, in fact, real life. Oxford University is made up of various member colleges of different sizes that are known for different things. To describe Worcester, the college where I am studying and living, I will recount one of my worst experiences in my eight-week term. On one Friday night, I went to the Purple Turtle, an odd bar-club-sometimes-we-play-charades(CHA-RAH-DES not cha-ray-des)-here type of place. On the bar menu, each college is listed in terms of different shots that represent that college. Some sounded really quite lovely (I am essentially proficient with this ish), and some sounded absolutely terrible. The Worcester shot contains kraken and tabasco sauce. Being the brash girl I sometimes am, I said that I could probably take it and that it would not even be bad. Cole, Darden, and Jackie (second appearance WOOO see previous post), American friends of mine, all told me to “back myself.” In Oxford, if you state something you could or would do (someone once said he would jump out of a high window and he broke his leg because someone said “back yourself” so he did it) and you don’t say “safety” before someone says “back yourself,” you essentially have to do it. Do not take the obligatory nature of “have to” lightly. If you don’t, bad things happen. One of my best friends from Hamilton, Scott, was visiting from Rome, so I had to demonstrate the seriousness of this tradition. It was the worst shot of my life, and I slammed the shot down so hard out of fear, hate, and anger, that it broke! Long introduction of Worcester, but basically I’d call it saucy. In all ways.

This post will be long, so I’ll break it up.
Worcester College: I will start with our grounds. To be honest, all of Oxford is stunning, and the most famous colleges like Christ Church and Magdalen are very pretty, but Worcester takes the cake for me. Our main quad is breathtaking, so much so that in first week, we all received a stern email from the dean about people walking, putting chairs, and throwing up on his precious grass. I think there are more people working on taking care of the grounds than as Worcester tutors (actually). Anyways, Worcester also has a beautiful lake and playing fields. It is gorgeous to walk through. Our gym is essentially an irrelevant part of my time abroad, but I will get to this later. The next best thing about Worcester is, without a doubt, all the amazing people. I have never had a problem adjusting to places, am quite independent, and usually figure things out pretty quickly. While all that was true my first few weeks at Oxford, having such a supportive, welcoming, hospitable, and friendly network of people definitely didn’t hurt. The first night, we (when I say we, I usually mean the JYAs, Worcester´s term of junior year abroad students) had a champagne reception where we all met members of the JCR-the Junior Common Room. This is the equivalent of the American “Student Government.” They are all great people who have helped me loads. We then went to a extravagant meal in the Lindbury building, a fancy room in college. All the important people of college were present, and it is where I scored my babysitting job for the Provost! He and his wife (who I will talk of later) have three children, and as I love kids so much, I´will be hanging out with them. Or babysitting, as some call it. Anyway, that night I made some good friends and consider it one of my best nights at Worcester. I also randomly met my college mumma, Anna, who I ADORE. At Worcester during first year, two students get college married (usually a boy proposes to a girl in some adorable or some terrible manner) and are assigned first-year students to guide for the next year. I am special and have two college mums, Anna and Emily. Anna is studying Theology and somehow manages to get her deadlines extended or write essays RIGHT before deadline all the time. Absolute hero in my eyes. Another thing I love about Worcester is the library. It is the top of a spiral staircase and is divided between the lower reading room, which has many old books and is for reading and writing only (no laptops, etc.) and the upper reading room, where laptops are permitted and some books are found. Although I usually study elsewhere, it is open 24 hours and I did have one minor crisis this term and was there to see the sunrise!. My favorite thing is definitely formal dining hall. For a mere 3 pounds, we enjoy a three course meal. When I say a three course meal, I don’t mean some leaves, dry chicken, and an M&M. No. I mean something like this: potato gnocci with pumpkin and leek, lemon and garlic chicken with roasted potatoes and mixed vegetables, apple crumble. It is so yummy and fun to dress up and sip wine with friends. We wear our scholar gowns, so it is one of the times when I feel the most official and scholarly.The quad:

Lake:
First lunch:
College bar:
College mum:
Before formal: Take note of the gowns.

Oxford (the city):

The photos speak for themselves, but I will highlight some of my favorites.

Radcliffe Camera-This is a very famous building in Oxford that is not open to tourists. I would be lying if I said I don’t really enjoy walking past people to show my bod card (Oxford University library card) to the man at the entrance. Anyways, I study here very often. The first floor has big open tables with lighting meant for long study sessions. The upstairs is an open dome with reading spaces and is a great place to go when my mind needs to contemplate expansive issues (I am at Oxford…apparently I am supposed to be doing this). Without jest though, this building is probably the one I frequent the most often.

Bodleian Library-The place I visit the second most, another library! Do not fret, I play plenty. This is the huge, famous library in Oxford. Like the camera, you can’t just walk in, although there are tours. I prefer the radcam, but most of my books are either here or in the gladstone link. The link is underneath the bod, and there are tunnels that connect the bod, the link, and the radcam (abbreviations not mine). I usually grab all my books from the bod and the link and head to the cam. Since you can’t take the books out, or write in them obviously, I find myself taking very detailed notes. Whenever I am in this building, I feel that I MUST be studying because I am an academic. Its something about the walls, I swear. It is also a feeling that seems to miraculously disappear when I am in the college bar.
River Thames/Christ Church College (Where our boathouse is)-I have joined the Worcester Boat Club, known to those in the states as the crew team. Since the weather has been so terrible, we haven’t been out on the river much, however I do run here often. On the way to the river, you enter through the gate to Christ Church college, where this photo is taken. You also pass a few cow pastures on the way.

Walk down to the river:

Worcester boat house:
Taylors-My favorite sandwich place. The woman in there loves me because I am so friendly, so she makes my sandwiches perfectly.Cafe Nero in Blackwell’s-Blackwell’s is a famous bookshop located across from the library. I really love the Cafe Nero in there and meet friends there often.

Eagle and Child/King’s Arms: Famous pubs!

Studying:One of the reasons I am just blogging this excessively long post now is because I have had so.much.work. I cannot stress enough how much work Oxford packs into eight short weeks. For my primary tutorial, I studied literary criticism with Alex Pryce, an Irish woman who inspired me and improved my work habits. The reading list was manageable  but I found myself using things I had read before, just adding more reading to my list. At any point in the day, for a total of eight weeks, I had reading to do. It never, ever ended. I really enjoyed this tutorial though and I did quite well. Philosophy of Mind, my secondary, may have been another story. The director of visiting students at Worcester did recommend I take something…easier? Being the person I am, I thought I could tackle it. I was wrong. It was far and away the most challenging thing I have ever done, and while I definitely will not miss ripping my hair out over not knowing what was going on, or sitting through a tutorial where I could barely understand my tutor (partially because of his Italian accent, mostly because of the terminology). However, I did appreciate it as a grounding and humbling study. The students at Worcester have told me that I work far more than any other past JYAs, but this is probably because my grades do matter! I typically work about 25-30 hours total a week.

Daytime activities:

Getting coffee-I NEVER do this at Hamilton. If I am not in class during the weekdays, I am studying, in meetings, working out, eating or sleeping. However, when in England, I take study breaks fairly regularly. There is just so much to talk about!

Rowing-Like I said, I joined the boat club. WOO! I cannot wait to get on the water, but for now I have been stuck in the erg shed with Miranda, one of my best friends at Worcester.

Boxing-Since I was so sick, have not done much. Next term it is on.Random stuff-There is so much of this in Oxford.

Nightlife:

I won’t go too in depth here for the sake of my parents, older relatives, and other professionals who may stumble upon this. Drinking is a huge aspect of British culture, more so than in America. This is something I have had trouble getting used to, because I have never been a big drinker. I can do one or two days in a row, but more than that and I can’t handle the heat. In Oxford, there is no concept of the weekends. People say that because the work is so intense, drinking and dancing is the only way to unwind. We have a college bar at Worcester that serves cheap beer and drinks (the famous “sting” has five shots and is only 4 quid). I frequent here, and most people go out to clubs after. There are also loads of pubs around the city to go out for a more relaxed time and to meet people. This is one of my favorite things to do. I LOVE meeting new people and every time I get a chance I take advantage of that.

Main differences between Brits and Americans:

Drinking-They do it more.
Humor-We do it better.
Studying-They talk about it less.

Illness: I was very sick for about three weeks. It was terrible. I had the flu, bronchitis, and some interesting other diseases. I wanted my mommy.
Random but important things that have happened that I feel I should blog about because they were fun:
London to see Parliament-IFSA has different events that we are welcome to go on, so I went to London for a daytime trip to tour the Houses of Parliament. The tour itself was alright; the houses were beautiful but the history was pretty much covered by my AP Euro class (shoutout to Mrs. Smith). I walked around the city by myself for a few hours (this is one of my favorite things to do), then I took the bus back to Oxford. On the bus back, a baby sat across from me. Obviously, she was with her parents, but this baby and I immediately fell in love. She had the most curious eyes I had ever seen, was so serious, and SO interested in me reading my book. I took my headphones out and started talking to the couple, whose names are Elad and Orit. They are from Israel and Elad is studying in Oxford on a scholarship for this year. The baby´s name is Ela, and she is absolutely adorable. Everywhere I go, I find a baby, I swear. Orit and I have met up a lot for coffee, and I went to Shabbat dinner with them one night (shh I’m not Jewish). Also, we went to see Beauty and the Beast at the Oxford playhouse this week! I LOVED IT. One of my favorites.
Windsor Castle: We went for a tour here with IFSA. I am getting sick of writing so here are photos!

Boat club dinner: At the end of term, we have a boat club dinner. I have been on various crew dates before, and this is like a big one with everyone you know. A crew date is where two groups of people who have no relation go out to dinner at a restaurant that is willing to host a group of insanity. There is fining, pennying, and various shenanigans. Fining is when you stand up and say, “I fine anyone who has (insert something horrifying).” These can get bad. Pennying is where you toss or place a penny in someone’s drink and they have to down it. There are different rules, some are followed. At BCD, you sit with your boat in formal hall and listen to all the ridiculous things about other members of the boat club.

Tea Party-first week

There is a tradition at Worcester that college parents and their relatives throw their sons and daughters a “tea party.” Technically, there is no alcohol allowed, and I think that rule is actually enforced, but it is fair game after a certain time. After, we all head to the bar for the “bop,” an Oxford term for “college-wide party.” The theme is pink and black, so I naturally wore a pink wig.


RANDOM PHOTOS BECAUSE THEY ARE FUN:

To the college bar!:
One time we were meant to go to a birthday party and ended up here:
Windsor Castle:
An American Halloween:
In London:
Adventure weekend (didn’t blog about this but should have; such an amazing trip):
And to end, Miranda and Daisy. Homies for life.
Michaelmas term has ended, and now I am off to spend the next five weeks travelling. Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Rome, Venice, Budapest, Krakow, Prague, Vienna, Geneva, Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris. So far, I’ve been in Hostel One Malasana and have met some pretty dope homies. Tim is from California and is a child actor so I’m about to stalk that.Danny is from outside of London and is on his gap year. Jack is from Australia and is also on gap year. I met their other homie but I forget his name; he is Irish. They gave me some good travel tips and told me how not to get robbed. We ate some free food and played cards, an all around good night. NEXT TERM, I promise I will  blog more. Wish me luck! I will tell you how my travels are.

 

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