Attending a British University – Acclimating to a New Vocabulary and Class Structure

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Having returned to the United States for winter break, I miss the beautiful architecture of the University of Oxford and the city’s eclectic coffee shops. Much of the Oxford campus dates back to a thousand years ago, and the entire area is decidedly pedestrian-friendly. During my first term at Oxford, I was surprised by the enormous differences in the vocabulary in the United Kingdom, as not even the greetings are the same as in North America: informal salutations feature “hiya,” and “heya.” People in the …

Theatre and Street Performing in the United Kingdom and the United States

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At the University of Oxford, I took a course on Modern British drama, which focused on plays written from the 1960s to the 2010s. I learned how straight theatre (which contains no singing or dancing) in the United Kingdom is often thematically darker than in the United States. The 1990s in Britain also witnessed the birth of “in-yer-face” theatre, an intentionally disturbing experimental genre which introduced themes designed to shock the audience. Sarah Kane’s 1995 premiere of Blasted in London caused one of the …

Being a Visiting Student at the University of Oxford

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  Being an international student feels very different, and I believe that my United States identity shapes much of my existence in the United Kingdom. Many Oxford students have travelled to the United States and are familiar with at least one North American city. British students typically inquire about United States politics and the country’s university system. Occasionally, I find it difficult to adjust to British culture, where people often speak more directly than in North America. From my experience, visiting students also …

Lack of Racial Diversity and its Implications at the University of Oxford

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Because there is no affirmative action (or the like) at the University of Oxford, and the fact that the majority of the undergraduate students must be British citizens (the United Kingdom is 87.2% white), the student population is overwhelming white and largely comes from privileged backgrounds. In contrast, approximately sixty percent of University of Oxford graduate students are from outside of Britain, and yet this group consists of mostly students of European descent. For instance, within the nearly 10,200 graduate students at Oxford in …

Studying in the United Kingdom – A Different Approach to Schoolwork

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At Oxford, I have enjoyed learning how to conduct better research and write more quickly. I love having less class time because it encourages me to explore more of campus and study in various places, including the magnificent Bodleian Library, which contains several buildings and was used in the first Harry Potter movie and the film The Golden Compass. Like all of the other colleges at Oxford, the Radcliffe Camera (one the buildings of the Bodleian) employs a strict whispering-only policy that allows little room for distraction. While Oxford is filled with …

My Life in the United Kingdom – A New Perspective on College

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While great pressure lies upon most United States college students to join extracurricular activities (and seek leadership roles in these organizations), the expectation for students at Oxford to participate in clubs and societies does not exist to nearly the same extent. Because of this difference, people seem to genuinely enjoy the activities that they pursue outside of academics at Oxford. This detail appears to promote a healthy balance of work and fun. Sports are also much less “serious” at British universities than …

Fish and Chips, Blood Sausages, and Shepard’s Pie – The Cuisine of the United Kingdom

Though British food has not always been held in the highest esteem, I have not found this reputation to bear much truth. As a vegetarian, I have found it relatively easy to eat in restaurants and at the Oxford dining hall and shop at grocery stores. In 2012, two percent of Britons were vegetarian and less than one percent was vegan (which are slighter lower than the percentages of non-meat-eaters in the United States). Every morning, the dining hall of St. Catherine’s …

Diversity and Culture Shock in the United Kingdom

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While I expected to experience many cultural differences in the United Kingdom, Britain’s distinctive culture has continued to shock me since flying over the Atlantic. During my first night in London, I witnessed several inebriated friends wrestling on the street as well as a group of men gleefully cursing at one another right outside an upscale hotel. While these people might have been non-British tourists, there seems to exist a higher tolerance for drunken behavior and public profanity in the United Kingdom. The enormous …