Looking Back – Final Thoughts from Oxford
Having read other students’ reflections as they prepare to close out their semesters abroad and make jubilant returns to Amherst, I have to say that I feel a bit jealous. As much fun as I have had in Michaelmas, it’s strange to think that I still have two more (exciting! incredible! inspiring!) terms at New College. My situation is a bit different, as I have chosen to leave the class of 2022 behind in order to go abroad after a gap year, but choosing to spend a quarter of your time away from your home college during those four short years of higher education is always going to feel strange. All of that said, I have loved my first term and eagerly anticipate my return next month. Classes end in the beginning of December at Oxford and start back up in the middle of January, so I’ve been out for quite a while now. However, one of my tutorial partners made a joke that really it’s ninth week through fourteenth week (Oxford terms are eight weeks, and each week has its own persona – fifth week blues can be very real): it’s not merely a vacation, it’s time to prep for next term. Right now, I’m translating the Battle of Muldon, which is due to my Old English tutor the week before term begins, and reading Ulysses and a few other Modernist texts. There’s no exam week, so, and you will hear this no matter your major, as long as you really enjoy what you study, you will enjoy yourself. I personally didn’t feel that any week during term was more stressful than another, as I basically had a constant workload, but not everyone feels the same way. The last weeks of Michaelmas term are magical: glamorous parties, mince pie socials, and concerts at every college (though I can’t believe that “he abhors not the virgin’s womb” is an actual line of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” here). I’m worried I sound a bit like Elle Woods when she asked for the social schedule in her first week at Harvard Law, but there’s no real shame in dancing on the edge of the world, is there? There’s a constant sense of celebration and joy, something surely heightened by the pandemic, but Christmas-time in England is famously magical. Whether you spend most of your time at Oxford, bouncing between Victorian Christmas markets and carol services, or take the bus down to London to see the gloriously dressed Bond Street, where glowing angels light up the night’s sky and Christmas trees look down on you from awnings, you can’t top an English Christmas. In conclusion, this fall at Oxford has been one of the best experiences of my life – often stressful, sometimes lonely – but full of friends and fun times.
On to my fears for next term. Oxford is sort of like New York in the fall. Red leaves everywhere, sometimes warm, sometimes cool, and constant a golden light blanketing the city. I would say that it’s like Amherst, and probably could, but the architecture and busy streets mean that Oxford never really feels like Western Massachusetts. However, I am concerned that when the cold grey sets in, all slate skies and a couple of inches of slush, I might feel gloomy. Oxford is in a valley – the city’s topography is a topic of general conversation – which means that we don’t get heavy snow, so don’t expect any of the magnificent snow days we get at Amherst. I do, however, look forward to cozy nights in pubs and long nights of ping pong, billiards (well if the pool table stops being cheated), and wine from the college’s wine cellar (apparently a large portion of the college’s wealth comes from its wine collection, which is purchasable for all students – though obviously drink responsibly). One thing I’m not looking forward to is not having control over my food, though other study abroad students have kitchens, I don’t for some reason, and combined with the generally limited access to mealtimes, I find myself buying more meals than I would like. So I suppose my new term’s resolution is to figure out my food situation?
My other goal, like always, is to procrastinate less and get involved more. I’ve loved being the Cherwell fashion editor and felt welcomed with open arms, but you don’t tend to have the same position two terms in a row on the Cherwell, so I will be the theater editor in Hilary (a daunting task given my little theatrical experience, but also an exciting one given that there are multiple shows staged throughout the university each week). I think I might try out for a sport’s team, though don’t we all sort of think we might try out for a team? Anyway, I’ve loved Oxford and look forward to continuing to love Oxford. Even though I won’t be writing for “Beyond the Bubble” next term, please be in touch if you have any questions about being abroad. You can email my Amherst email (email@example.com or message me on Instagram @dorothyscarboro). Best wishes for a happy holiday and a wonderful new year (though who are we kidding, it will probably be mostly just terrifying).