Arrival in London was a little stressful: I actually missed my original train from Paris to London. I learned when I arrived at the station that check-in for the international trains to the UK requires about 30 minutes. Arriving at Gare de Nord 15 minutes before my departure was too late. Fortunately, trains on a Thursday afternoon are not overbooked (like some flights) and I was simply bumped to the next train.
Once in London, I found the orientation hotel without very much trouble. I only had to walk around the block the wrong way twice. It was amazing to begin meeting students. I found three Teddy Hall students sitting at my dinner table: Rory, Will, and Sarah. It was incredible to learn about the different backgrounds that we are bringing to Oxford. Will is a fifth year engineering student who is putting off grad school for a year in order to study physics at Oxford. Rory is from South Africa and will be studying Romantic literature (not too far from my own concentration). Sarah has worked for a summer program with students learning English, just like I have, except that her program was in the US.
Friday was the primary day for orientation. We had sessions on acclimating ourselves in English culture led by the London IFSA-Butler staff. These were very entertaining. Then we talked about academic details and the things that we could expect at Oxford in our different tutorials.
The highlight of the day was the third presentation by Lord Taverne of the House of Lords, who came to speak about English politics and how they differ from the US system. At the end of his talk, he allowed us to ask questions about his work for nearly 20 minutes. It was amazing to see Lord Taverne demonstrate what a Lord is supposed to do: offer advice on revision and moderation of legislation and resolutions. Is it possible that this was actually far more exciting in person than it looks in writing? Yes.
On Friday evening we went to a play called “Creditors” being performed in a small theater in Covent Garden. It was very interesting to see a very modern play performed after having so totally immersed myself in Shakespearean plays and history for the past month. I kept thinking about the differences and similarities like how Shakespeare seemed to average a cast of 12 significant characters, each representing different but necessary stereotypes to produce the drama. This play only had three performers and I kept seeing pieces of 12 Shakespearean stereotypes amalgamated into these characters. I think it was the writer’s ability to harness roles like the tragic hero and the jester into a single character that led to such an enjoyable and interesting play.
After a brief Saturday morning Q & A about life at Teddy Hall and a very nice lunch at a Greek restaurant, we have been set free on London to tour-ize and pick up last minute items before we leave for Oxford on Monday morning. A cell phone is at the top of my list.