Riley Floyd ’13 – Greetings from Oxford!
I’ve just finished the fourth week of my study abroad experience at Oxford’s Lady Margaret Hall (LMH), and I can say without reservation that Oxford is one of my favorite places in the world! I’ve made some great friends here, and we’ve had a ton of fun — including the inevitable embarrassing moments as typical Americans abroad. What’s most captivating about the place is everyone’s story. Everyone I’ve met here has had some amazing life experiences, and the difference in their academic interests is fascinating too — from astrophysics to the Cold War — the options are endless.
LMH is a really friendly place. And it’s beautiful—complete with gardens and Georgian architecture. It’s a little removed from the City Centre, and it’s one of the newer colleges — founded in 1878. I say “new” because Oxford’s oldest building was constructed in 1049. It’s quite small too; there are only about 450 students here. But it gives you a great chance to get to know some of the British students — particularly if you take on a sport. And the tradition here is awesome. Formal, three-course dinners take place every Friday in the college’s dining hall — a wood-paneled hall with austere portraits of all of the College’s principals. And there’s quite a sense of hierarchy. The tutors and principal literally sit at a table on a higher plane than the students. But once you leave the hall, that hierarchy disappears; everyone here is really accessible.
And the town itself is great! There are so many pubs, restaurants, and historical sites that it will make your head spin. I’ve been here for four weeks, and I still haven’t seen everything. In fact, I only went into the Radcliffe Camera for the first time last weekend. The kebab carts are really good too — think of it like the Brit equivalent of late night Taco Bell runs in C-ville — which, by the way, the British are incredibly jealous that our fast food joints are open 24 hours. Everything here closes early; even pubs shut the doors at midnight.
Academically, Oxford provides a uniquely individualized setting. There are no “classes” — unless you’re a science student. Instead, there are tutorials. I meet once a week with my Modern Literature tutor and once every other week with my Jurisprudence tutor. For each meeting, I complete a reading list and write a 2500-3000 word essay on that week’s reading. And then we discuss the paper and the readings in tutorial. It’s tough. And the week is easily consumed with reading, writing, and preparing for tutorial. But the social aspects are great too.
I’ve started rowing crew, and it’s a ton of fun. It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite sports — and not just because of the crew dates (dinners and club nights where guys’ VIIIs pair with women’s VIIIs from other Oxford colleges). We’re gearing up for the Christ Church Regatta in 7th Week — a race for novices only. With weekly outings and gym sessions there’s plenty to keep me busy. And it gives me a needed break from all the reading.
I’ve heard people talk about their study abroad experience — the nervousness associated with being in a new place, the new people they met, the traveling they did, and the amazing memories they had. And I thought it was just hype.
But they were on to something. There’s something to be said for leaving everything you know and everything with which you are familiar behind and starting entirely from scratch. That’s exactly what studying abroad forces you to do — particularly at a place like Oxford. And I’m having the time of my life. I can’t explain why, really. I think it’s mainly due to the incredible variety of experiences you can have here. It forces you to look back on everything that brought you here and everything that’s yet to come. And that’s vastly rewarding. I’m exceptionally grateful to be able to have the experience. As great as Oxford is, I’ve also come to appreciate Wabash even more by being here. And I have to say thanks to everyone at the College and to my family for preparing me for this experience. I can’t believe it’s nearly over.