Letters from Oxford

by Kelly Grenfell '09

So, you want to come to Oxford for a semester do you? Let’s go over the checklist: Intense but achievable workload. (I can handle that.) Slightly colder weather. (I’ve got a jacket). Walking everywhere. (I’ll start getting in shape this summer.) Discovering things about yourself you never knew before. (WHAT?)

Now, I know it sounds like one of those cliché lines: Take a trip across the globe, and you’ll find yourself, come to Paris and you’ll fall in love, play the lottery and you’ll eventually win; but really, this is one promise I would be willing to bet on, and almost none of the brochures will warn you about it.

In fact, of all the experiences I have had here, (and believe me there were a lot to choose from) my favorite by far has got to be the growth I’ve made in learning new things about myself. There’s just something about being separated from all of the familiarity in your life (APU, family, certain friends, and a predictable routine) that makes every day another opportunity for independence and self-exploration here in Oxford. And for me, that lesson was learning how to be flexible.

I’ll never forget the day that my roommate Allyson and I went into London for 12 hours. We had our whole day planned. We wanted to see a walking tour of Beatlemania highlights, we wanted to explore the British History Museum, and we wanted to take candid photos on the famous Abbey Road. But did we accomplish any of this? No. Our entire schedule was changed by circumstances out of our control, but what we saw instead was an even greater adventure then we could have ever organized by ourselves.

We saw a completely different Beatles tour that took us to places like Paul McCartney’s London office, Trident Studios where “Hey Jude” was recorded, Buckingham Palace at night, and a boat cruise on the city’s Thames River! It was a perfect day. In fact, I wrote in my journal that night, “We had wanted a day with as few mishaps as possible, and God had surely secured it. His hands couldn’t have been more obviously surrounding and protecting us today. Thank you for giving me patience and adaptability.”

And while I know this may not be the type of article you were hoping to read, one that gave you insight on all the great things to do and explore around Oxford, like the Eagle and Child pub, the vast amount of places you could city hop on travel week, or how to choose the perfect hostel tips, but you’ll see and learn that stuff when you get here.

It’s the unexpected that I need to prepare you for, and that means telling you the truth about studying abroad. You’ll come back a changed person. The tutorials are great, the weather is decent, (seriously bring a warm coat though), the exploration is fun, and the accents are endearing, but it’s the self-discovery that comes with culture-shock, that is going to make this trip unforgettable in your memory.