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English Weather: Shockingly Pleasant?

Week One

Well, I’m 1/8 of the way done with my time here in studying in England. I participated in my first Oxford tutorial this week, and though it was challenging, the hour flew by far too quickly. We barely had time to address the portion of my paper about Brutus. The conversation between my tutor, Lizzie, and I was fantastic. We talked about criticism and lectures and ways for me to inform myself about current research on William. After this, Lizzie drew out the weak points in the 9 page paper that I composed during freshers week. It was a little embarrassing to have her tease out everything in my paper that was ill-concieved or non-specific. She challenged me on vague constructions and labels, and there were a few times when I had to stop and seriously think about what I wrote. I think my inability to focus was due partially to an existential crisis attributable to living my dream of going to Oxford. Fortunately, she offered me a cup of coffee at the beginning of the session, and that got the juices flowing like oil out of a pump.

Aside from the coursework, I have also participated in a few freshers/novice rowing sessions. On Thursday evening we had an ERG session on the rowing machines in the boathouse by the Thames. The focus was on technique and rhythm. This was good for me, because I am almost clueless about what the proper technique should look like. To my dismay, I found that my technique was far below what I had hoped it might be: my arms are still sore on Saturday.

One of the things that I really enjoy about collegiate level sports here at Oxford is their casual nature. The point of the sport isn’t so much to be the best in the world, but mostly just to have a good time and take a break from studying. Well that’s not entirely true. I think they do aspire to be good, but they have a more realistic perception of sport: it cannot be the sole occupier of a student’s consciousness. There must be time for studying and social things too. Walking-on, which seems kind of impossible with most collegiate level sport in America, is derigor. All of this is perfect for me, a fellow who hasn’t really done any sport regularly save swimming in high school, indoor pick-up soccer through the last two summers, and jogging when he thinks of it.

This week I also began preparing for my modern British drama tutorial, which is now fast approaching on Monday afternoon. This week will focus largely on Samuel Beckett. After the intense focus of Thursday’s tutorial, I ended up spending most of the afternoon trying to “relax” by reading primary texts and watching performances of Samuel Beckett’s minimalist and absurdist drama. It wasn’t exactly relaxing. In fact, I felt quite on edge at the end of Endgame, Not I, and  Play. Waiting for Godot wasn’t really much of a walk in the park either. Beckett throws around some serious imagery. The mother and father figures in Endgame deliver all of their lines from inside rubbish cans inside a barren room. Not I is just a mouth on an otherwise dimly lit stage speaking in phrases about a girl adrift in a meaningless, unanchored life. Play featured two women and a man standing in body sized urns for the entire script, delivering their lines, which are all about the man having an affair and the women finding out, in triple time. Like I said, not exactly relaxing, but a definite break from the Shakespeare.

The weather during the study abroad England program has been shockingly un-English. Friday was so beautiful that I actually took the long way home from the post-office and took pictures the whole way. The fruit of that labor will be online at some point in the near future.

Thanks for reading.

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