Abroad in Oxford: Getting Caught Up

Hi again!

It’s been a bit since I last posted, but we’ve been kept pretty busy. I’ll lay out just about everything we’ve done over the past few days.

Last Wednesday, we visited Blenheim Palace, which everyone said is England’s most grand palace (I have no frame of reference to confirm or deny this, but in my opinion, it was pretty grand), and was Winston Churchill’s place of birth and sort of his childhood home. It was a gigantic and lavish building, and it’s hundreds of years old. There were plenty of giant paintings, ornate decorations, things we definitely could not touch–basically everything you’d expect Britain’s best palace to be. After our tour, we wandered the gardens and grounds of the palace and then headed home. Once back at our college, most of our days have been spent working on our research papers. This assignment consumed all of our non-leisure time until it was due on Sunday at midnight, but it’s done now, and I’m not going to worry about it again.

Thursday was our uneventful recharge day. We didn’t go anywhere and mostly wrote and researched. We had a class with a retired English literature professor, who was exceedingly nice and could read aloud unlike anyone I have ever heard. Afterwards, more writing, more researching. I got hungry late at night and decided to test out some food trucks. While walking around, midnight hit, Independence Day began, and I got myself a lamb kebab pita.

Independence Day celebrations were the day’s main concerns, and a lot of us spent the day decked out in patriotic gear. We had a couple more classes, meals in the dining hall, and more writing, more research. But once our scheduled activities were done for the day, we set off to celebrate. We went to a few pubs and encountered plenty of other Americans. And while the English didn’t mind our excitement, they didn’t exactly join in with us. We went to Turf Tavern, the Eagle and the Child (where Tolkien conceived of The Hobbit), and a couple other places whose names I didn’t catch. The best part was that all of the students on the trip stuck together, and we were able celebrate as a group. It was definitely the best Independence Day I’ve ever experienced.

After the late night, it was an early morning (started at 7 a.m.), and we headed off to London. Initially, Dr. Quentin Kidd, of CNU’s Department of Government, showed us around (he knows the city well) and got us to Buckingham Palace, through some of downtown, to the parliament building and Big Ben, and then to Trafalgar Square, where he left us. We were all pretty nervous cause we had no idea what we were doing. I ended up sticking with four other students for the day. The first thing we did was get some free T-shirts with a picture of us on them. It was a pretty cool souvenir, and of course, free. We ended up in Picadilly Circus, a big market area with lots of shops and restaurants, and we ate pizza in this really cool underground bar. Our next destination was Wimbledon. None of us were big tennis fans, but we’re near Wimbledon, during Wimbledon, so we had to go. Getting there was an adventure–a lot of walking, a half-hour subway ride, bus passes, more walking, not being sure if we were getting in, waiting in the queue (the line for people with unreserved tickets, thankfully it was short for us), and rain–but we got in. Our tickets weren’t to see the women’s final or anything; they were general tickets that got us into any match with unreserved seating. There are courts throughout the complex, and we got to sit courtside at two matches. It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. We watched a junior men’s match and a junior doubles men’s match, and these guys were awesome. All of the players we saw were 16 or 17, ranked well, played well, and have legitimate chances to be tennis greats. We became devoted fans to a pair, Kozlov and Rublev (the top junior doubles team and individually ranked 6th and 1st in the world for juniors), and even got a picture with them. Unfortunately, they lost in the finals, but I’ll be rooting for them at their future tournaments. After their match, we got a glimpse of center court (amazing) and took some pictures and began the long journey home.

Sunday, besides our professors treating us to dinner, was spent writing and researching for the papers due at midnight.

Monday began our real work; our individual projects for bettering the world. We have an annotated bibliography and project proposal to write. Basically, we have free rein to do research on any topic, using this immense, intimidating and ancient library of seemingly infinite resources. I’m focusing on education, coming up with a supplemental program to enrich learning for people of all ages utilizing local educators and resources to foster a more literate, well-read, informed and engaged citizenry. It’s one of the simpler ideas here, but I think it would be impactful. It’s definitely a work in progress, but I’m excited to progress.

Now, besides the project, we have some classes, some sights to see and people to meet. In our free time, we’re all hanging out, trying to catch the World Cup at the pubs (we don’t have TVs), playing croquet and getting good at it (some of us can compete pretty well with Leadership and American Studies Professor Dr. Redekop, practicing our accents and living it up. We only have a few more days here and then some time on our own in either Dublin or Paris (oh yes, there’s more!), but we have a lot to cram in. Two weeks is too short a time, but there hasn’t been a moment wasted.

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