The Way This Works

July 9, 2007

As my mom will attest I spent a large part of the five weeks before arriving here bumming around in bed, in front of the TV, or in front of the computer watching endless episodes of high quality pirated television shows. My boredom made me irritable and, since I could not imagine that anything would ever be fun again, nervous about coming to Oxford. I should have saved myself the worry.

After spending a week here, I am really surprised at how well-run and well-established the program is. SMU-in-Oxford is twenty-something years old. The same professors have been running it the whole time, which means that they have all sorts of great “connegshuns”. Everything is thought of way ahead of time.

Monday through Thursday I wake up around 6:30 and get ready for the day. This includes packing a raincoat and umbrella even on the clearest of mornings. It had rained almost everyday here, though when it isn’t raining it is beautiful, crisp, and cool outside. What you wear is important because classes are indoors and there is no air conditioning anywhere in the college (and in the majority of stores and restaurants in Oxford). Layers are key.

Coffee is key, too, and it is served at both dinner and breakfast. There are many, many coffee shops in Oxford, with varying degrees of goodness. The coffee here is super strong- every drink is made with 2 shots of espresso no matter what. Oxford also has the oldest coffee shop in the world, Queen’s Lane Coffee. I went there yesterday for tea. I had “Cream Tea” which is basically the house tea with two intensely delicious and warm scones, butter, and jam. Oh man. Talk about melt in your mouth.

At 8:45, we all get up from breakfast in the Harry-Potter like dining hall (picture to come soon) and wander off in an attempt to find our classrooms. There are no straight hallways at Univ and all the separate “buildings” are connected by multiple doors and staircases. To get to my first class from the main quad I have to walk up no less than three flights of stairs and open six doors.

At 10, we all go to the common room for afternoon tea, an Oxford tradition. Everyone gathers around for thirty minutes or so and drinks more coffee or tea and eats lots of great “biscuits”. Avoid the “digestive biscuits”- I am not convinced they have any digestive value and they taste just like you’d expect something with such an appetizing name to taste. After tea we return to our first class. These classes are taught by SMU professors who came with us. They are super involved and committed.

Our Oxford tutorial is next. Mondays everyone in the class meets together in a 300 year old room and we can ask our tutor anything about England that we like. Everyone competes to think of the most intelligent question. Sometime I win. On Tuesdays, my small class meets. This is where a group of five students meets with the tutor to read their papers out loud and discuss the topic if the week. So we only have tutorial twice a week. But believe me, there is enough reading to last the whole week in between!

After tutorial time, lunch, again served in the Great Hall. Then we usually have the day to do with as we like. Some days we have something called “OxfordCORE”. This is one the day before we take a program trip. This past Friday we went to London, so on Thursday afternoon our professors each lectured about the sights we would be seeing. This is super valuable, and a very good idea. You never know what kind of tour guide you’ll get and most people don’t read all the plaques anyway. Plus our professors are geniuses and really know quite a lot.

Dinner is served on weekday nights, and afterwards once again we have the night to ourselves. For me this usually means checking email and reading, which I still am not on track with. Bedtime is usually around midnight. I am still constantly tired, but thankfully I usually don’t realize this until I am laying down. I take naps when I can…the walking, learning, and reading can really get to you!

The days are full and busy, but I wouldn’t want anything else- I have to see as much of this great place as I can!

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2 Responses to “The Way This Works”

  1. 3antar said

    Nice F. Scott reference. Let me know if you ever get your hands on the matching jewelry.

  2. LG said

    “Afternoon tea” at 10:00 A.M. ? Thought the Brits had the custom of having a real afternoon tea around 4:00 or so.

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