Meetings, or “Consistency in a Time of Change”
As the title suggests, my life during the past week has been over-run with tight schedules, informational meetings, and mandatory sight-seeing (no complaints there). Those who know me already understand that I thrive on this type of busy-ness. At Whitman, my days were filled to the brim with obligations. So having places to be has been comforting in these first few days.
And comfort has been greatly appreciated. Remember in my last post when I said that my transition to living in the UK would be challenging? Well, not to brag, but I’ve already been proven correct! My main three difficulties:
- FOOD. I knew this would be a slight problem when moving to a new country, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t having a hard time eating here. For over two years, I have followed a vegan diet (for ethical reasons). It has become a huge part of my life, and a non-negotiable one. I mean, I’m at Oxford to study ethics, so I’m not going to compromise my moral beliefs to do so. Eating as a vegan is not difficult in England in general (the term ‘vegan’ was coined here, after all). But eating with others is a challenge, because many restaurants have very few options for me, and I don’t want to be the one forcing my own restaurant choices on people I’ve just met. The college dining hall has been a mixed bag. I can always cook, but I am realizing that small things get in the way. Different units of measure, for example (Celsius?! Gah!). Unfamiliar grocery stores (Sainsbury’s, Tesco) and brand names (Walker’s crisps instead of Lay’s chips, etc). Plus there’s the fact that I do want to eat with others, because food always helps in making friends. Which brings me to my next point…
- FRIENDS. Making friends is not quite my strong suit. I am extremely introverted, so long periods of social interaction wear me out. Honestly, the past week has been exhausting for me, because so many of our activities have been geared towards bonding between visiting students. I appreciate this, particularly because my biggest fear is that when these activities end I will hole myself up in my room and never again see the light of day (until my one hour of scheduled class, of course). But at the same time, between jet lag, sleep deprivation, less food than I’m used to, and much, much more walking than I’m used to, meeting people has been even more taxing than it normally is for me. Luckily, the people around me are wonderful, and I am excited to spend more time getting to know them. I have already had some awesome conversations with people from all over the US, and soon I hope to meet some great people from England as well. Just maybe after some alone time to rest.
- FREE TIME. Now this is a big one. At Oxford, the educational system is highly independent. Starting next week, I will have my first tutorial — a weekly one hour meeting with a professor. In preparation, I have plenty of reading and an essay to turn in. But without my usual list of extracurricular commitments and the many hours spent in class that I’m used to, I will have some serious free time on my hands. As I mentioned earlier, packed schedules, while hectic, are comforting to me. As my orientation schedule thins, however, I will need to cope with filling this time meaningfully. Okay, so this isn’t a huge problem necessarily, but it will take getting used to. One thing I can say is that the more free time I have, the easier it is to miss my mom, my home university, my friends in both California and in Washington, and (not to be dramatic or anything) everything I know and love. So filling up free time? Yeah, I need to figure that out soon, or this is going to get depressing.
But enough about the challenges. As I mentioned before leaving, I have experience adjusting to new places, and I’m going to use what I’ve learned to my advantage. Once I’ve really gotten settled, once the serious studying has begun and I have rested up enough to do some more exploring in Oxford, I know things will go smoothly.
Before finishing up this post, here are a few highlights and photos* from the trip so far. I want to stress how incredibly wonderful the adventure has already been — all this talk of challenges may give off the impression that I am not enjoying myself, but that’s not the case at all. I am so lucky to have had several beautiful days in London with IFSA-Butler before coming to Oxford, where I walked along the Thames, toured the British Museum and the Tate Modern, and viewed all the landmark sights of the city. I heard some pretty great stories about my mother’s teen years from a high school friend of hers who lives in London. I made friends with a vegan professor, who I was able to grab dinner and chat with. And I was even stopped by a BBC reporter for a video interview (which I unfortunately turned down, as I simply do not have the political expertise to comment on British goings-on).
*the pigeon is just one example of many chunky city pigeons — seriously, they must eat so many scraps.
I’m sure I will have even more to say after classes start (oh, and photos of my breath-taking college!). Speaking of which…I should probably get back to studying.