Abroad in Oxford: Getting to work

There were two central tenets to¬†our day: starting our research and the World Cup match between USA and Belgium. I decided to sleep in, and I woke about an hour¬†before we left to receive our library cards. We’re all officially allowed to visit and use Oxford’s library. We were inducted by a library admission officer (she was wearing academic robes) who gave us a brief history of the library before having us fill out a user card. Before we signed and received our cards, we recited this oath:

I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, nor to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library, or kindle therein, any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library.

They take their books pretty seriously here. Our admission officer explained that while there were plenty of books throughout the campus, most of them are held in an offsite warehouse about 20 miles out. The library isn’t in one location either; it’s spread throughout the city and divided by subject. The university itself is the same way. There isn’t really a campus, and all of the university is integrated with the city. The college of Oxford at which we are staying has everything it needs to be its own tiny university (it’s very small–I’d estimate it’s area is similar to that of the area of CNU’s Great Lawn and the buildings that surround it).

In the library area, we walked around a bit and saw the room that was used as the infirmary in the “Harry Potter” movies, and after lunch, everybody got to work. We have a research paper due on Sunday, and we’re all using the article database that we can access through Oxford. The libraries are not social spaces; we have to stay pretty quiet at all times. People are here to work, and that’s really it. Once we settle in more, everybody’s going to be pretty focused on this paper and our project.

I honestly don’t know too much about our big projects yet. Our advisers have been telling us to prepare for it ever since our first meeting. I have an idea of what I want to do, but I can’t quite dive into yet. At the most basic level, the project is to conceive of some sort of program or idea that can do good in the world or improve society in some way. It’s a very broad topic, but it leaves us the opportunity to pursue whatever we’re passionate about. I’m excited to hear about what everyone is doing, because all the ideas will be really cool and diverse. In the end, the person who has the best overall project will receive some help in implementing his or her idea. We’re not confined to two weeks to work on the project; the idea is to utilize this historic and immense research library to get a strong start on our project and finish writing the proposal after we return home.

After dinner, we discussed some readings as a group with our professors, and immediately after, we headed to a nearby pub for the soccer game. We ended up watching in a room of Americans, but the English people throughout the bar seemed to be rooting for the United States. As you know, the U.S. ended up losing (I’m still sad and don’t want to talk too much about it) and we shouted at every big play that happened, but it was still a great experience. We met other college students studying abroad (thus far, kids from Georgia Tech, Florida State and a small school in Tennessee), made some English friends, and sat with a group of Americans on vacation, who graciously gave us a bit of food and their seats once they were finished.

Overall, an exciting day, and tomorrow we’re touring a castle and, of course, continuing work. I think we’ve all adjusted pretty well to the new environment and are figuring out what we’re doing. I know it’s a class, but it doesn’t really feel like it. I’m thinking of the whole thing as an experience, a really great experience that’s thus far lived up to what I hoped it would be. Stoked for what’s to come!

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