Where to start?? I guess I left off the night that I got here. It’s incredible to me to think that that was only nine nights ago, and that a mere week and a half ago I was still at the farm. Freshers’ Week is simple to explain because it’s basically the same as freshman orientation in America. The freshers (freshmen) arrived the day after my Butler group, and we all went to college (meaning the Mansfield college campus specifically) to meet our Oxford “parents”. My dad was in London for rowing, but I met my mom, Anna, and we walked to the famous Turf Tavern together. The Turf is a really cool pub hidden away through alleys and very close to Mansfield, and it’s EXTREMELY old. At the pub Anna and I talked a little and I met some of her friends. I also talked to some other people I’d met the night before. After dinner I went back home in exhaustion, which was a state I was to experience almost constantly in the coming week.
I think the next day was when I met and befriended a fresher named Priya. Priya and I ended up going to Mansfield’s pub quiz together that night. Pub quizzes are competitions that involve completely random facts and some drinking, basically. It was a lot of fun. Then I met up with some second years that I’d met before going to a club. Clubs aren’t my thing, but I also felt like it was important to at least attempt the quintessential Freshers’ Week experience. Also, I think people have either exaggerated the English drinking culture or I have exaggerated it in my head. So far the only major difference I see between young Americans and young English people is that the English go to pubs. Yes, this is a big part of their culture, but it seems like it’s more about socializing than drinking. I’ve also met quite a few people who don’t drink at all. Anyway, I didn’t love clubbing, but I’m glad I did it.
The next day I went to a “sports afternoon” with Priya and a bunch of other freshers, which turned out to be capture the flag and a bunch of junk food. I spent most of that day with Priya and then went over to the second years’ house to watch Downton Abbey, a BBC Masterpiece Classic show that we all love. They made a really British meal and we drank a TON of tea and we talked for hours before I went home.
The next day was the Mansfield freshers’ fair, which ended up being very small. That evening was a little more exciting – it was freshers’ dinner! It was a very fun experience. It took place in the Mansfield chapel which is an insanely impressive place, and all we needed were long tables to make it just like Hogwarts. There were speeches, brief vocal performances, etc., and the food was INCREDIBLE. Seriously, it was maybe the best food I have ever eaten. The whole thing was very formal – we were told that we “may be seated” and there were three sets of silverware. I also was seated next to my English tutor, and I enjoyed talking to him throughout the meal. Apparently he lives really close to Willowbrook and likes the footpaths too, and I’ve basically walked into his town on them.
The next day was the university’s freshers’ fair, which was huge and very overwhelming. It took place in the exam buildings, which all of the actual students were terrified of because they are extremely imposing. Things like the freshers’ fair just make me really uncomfortable because I always feel like everyone is out to snatch me away into their clubs, and I hate the pressure. It was still cool to see all the clubs, though. I signed up for soccer, a bunch of creative writing things, psychology experiments (you get paid!), and even caving, just in case. That night I had a good time at a pub with the second years, and afterwards we went to their house and talked for a little while before I went to bed.
The next day I had a bunch of academic meetings. One of them was wish my English tutor, which was when my summer vacation was ended very abruptly. He assigned me a 7-10 page research paper on a 285 page book (which took me 3 minutes a page to read critically – I calculated it) for THREE DAYS FROM THEN. Ouch.
Saturday was the day that I really started to get a feel for what I think my year will actually be like. I decided not to go to trials for the university soccer team. They were supposed to be five hours long and I had SO MUCH WORK to do and I’ve been a bit sick. I went to my college team’s practice instead, but the coach (who is a Merton College student) told me that he thinks I’m good enough to play for the university team. I went home and e-mailed the coach, and last night was our first practice.
For the rest of that day I read my book. This is when I discovered that it would take me MUCH longer than I anticipated to read, so I decided not to go to the grand finale of Freshers’ Week – the BOP party. I read until a DECENT HOUR (! I’m trying to have better sleeping habits this year since there aren’t really early classes at Oxford) and then went to sleep.
And that was my Freshers’ Week.
So, as of now things are going pretty well. I am absolutely LOVING living in Oxford. I love that I buy my own breakfast food every morning or have a nice bowl of cereal in the dorm’s kitchen. I love that I have to walk to places. I love being in OXFORD because it STILL astounds me how beautiful it is. I’ve learned that Oxford is even more beautiful at night, when it looks extra Hogwarts-like. I am also loving what I am doing, because despite the fact that that English essay was a lot of work it was also a lot of fun, and I know I’m getting an incredible educational opportunity. I think the same will be true of my French Revolution assignments, which I plan to start tomorrow. Football/soccer is really fun, rowing was fun (there will be more about this in the next post), and the prospect of a trip to Rome and maybe Paris and Barcelona over Christmas break is very exciting. Oh, and the Mansfield food is DELICIOUS and traditionally English and CHEAP. My main goal for the next few weeks is to really make sure I’m integrating myself into typical university life and making friends with actual Oxford students. Hopefully that will go well!
I’m not sure when I’ll write again – maybe after my friend Lauren visits me from Rome next week. Bye for now!