Tonight, Tonight

August 4, 2007

Tonight was our farewell convocation and banquet. Awards were presented, toasts made, talents displayed, and general warm-fuzziness was had. It was very bittersweet. I don’t think I felt very sad until today, at least I didn’t really think about leaving and the end of the program.

I feel very, very sad. Sadder than I really know why, actually. I just don’t like the finality of it all- the sense that “This is it, old chaps”. Oh, I am not at ease with this parting at all. I can’t wait to get home to my bed and hug my mom and see my house. But I cannot imagine not returning here, to Univ and to Oxford- to England. That is the real sadness I think: that what is truly wonderful cannot be repeated, at least not in the same manner that it was.

Last Day in Oxford

August 3, 2007

So, I got out of my first exam this morning an hour and a half early and decided to run and try to sell some of my books back at Blackwell’s, the awesome 150-year-old bookstore on Broad Street. They only took back two of my books, for only 5L! I gave the rest to Oxfam on my way back to Univ. Then I stepped into the covered market to get a milkshake at Moomoo’s, this great smoothie place with over 200 combinations. I bought a banana-Dime bar-peanut butter milkshake and walked back to school to study for my second final.

The weather was perfect- surely one of the best days since we have been here. As I was walking I passed an elderly couple walking very slowly in the opposite direction, down the sidewalk towards St. Mary’s Cathedral.  They stopped and turned their faces up to see the very top of the huge steeple, and tilted their heads all the way back. They had huge smiles on their faces and you could tell they thought the whole sight was just beautiful. And then the old man reached for his wife’s hand, and she took it without looking and they stood there looking at the beautiful and ancient church against the bright blue sky.

Spending and Studying

August 2, 2007

It’s Thursday, which means I only have one and a half days left here in Oxford. Tomorrow will be spent doing…well, a lot of stuff. We have our two final exams, each three hours long. We also have our convocation and “going-down” banquet, which I gather is a sort of mini graduation from the program. There is an hour for lunch in there somewhere, too. Unfortunately it looks like I will be using that hour to sell back my books at Blackwell’s. They only buy books back before 1pm.

I am really going to miss this place. Life seems to move more slowly here. And there are endless amounts of things to see in Oxford. You could shop all day if you wanted to- and I have never seen so many great sales in one place. You can read, sleep, or picnic on Christ Church Meadow on every sunny day. Or you can tour any of Oxford University’s 32 colleges, or one of the old churches around here. You an go punting on the river, rent a bike and ride a few miles into the English countryside, or climb to the top of the mot at Oxford Castle. And a short bus ride will take you to any number of great places: London, Blenheim Palace, Windsor Castle, the Cotswolds, Klemscot Manor.

I don’t know. I feel very unprepared for the busy semester ahead. On one hand I feel very motivated. I had a great chat with Prof. Bonnie Wheeler (affectionately known as “Bon-bon”) and she gave me some good insight into grad school and what kinds of classes I should be taking. She also reminded me that these four years of college (now just two!) are one of the only times in my life that I will be able to focus entirely on me. I should be expanding my mind, figuring out who I am and what I want, and all of that rather gown-up sounding stuff. Good point, though.

On the other hand, I will be working in the mornings before class for the first time and I will be the ARA for an all first-year hall. Among other things. And, let’s face it, I like to sit around and do nothing.

I have to study King Arthur and the 18th century for tomorrow, so I’m going to go get started. I finally finished all my souvenir and gift shopping and am hoping to escape without spending any more money at all. That would be so amazing! Budget-wise this whole trip (with it’s little side-trips) has been a great learning experience. I created a really cool Excel document to keep track of my spending. Before I even left I budgeted out how much I would spend on food, the Paris trip, the France, Belgium trip, and other stuff.

One of the things I am most proud of is my Paris budget. Christina and I did a lot of research and made a lot of phone calls to figure out how to get good deals on everything. We got a great, cheap hostel and did a lot of research to find good deals on the Eurostar. We finally settled on buying a package deal from an STATravel agent. We agreed to set a $500 budget for the whole weekend, including spending money- and my total for the weekend was $499.80. CRAZY!

Right now the coffers are getting kind of low, so I need to be careful. But fortunately (and I recommend this), I kept some U.S. money and didn’t exchange it. That way I know that I will have money for the trip home whether or not my bank account is empty (not that I am expecting that…). And if I don’t spend it I can just redeposit it. The plus side is that whatever is in my bank account stays there once I leave Oxford…I don’t have to make any more withdrawals. Which is nice since it gives the illusion of not spending any money. It would be great if I could amend my budget with a plus sign once I get home!

One other thing- did you know that you can’t exchange coins?? It makes me so angry, especially since there are no one or two pound bills or one or two Euro bills- only coins. Right now I have about 8 Euros in coins that I can’t exchange anywhere. So, word of advice: before you leave for the States convert as many of your coins into bills as you possibly can. Or spend them! Just don’t let them sit around making you feel all bitter.