This will be the last post in Oxford InSpires… I can hardly believe that six months are already over, and that I have been home for almost a month already. Sometimes I still wake up in the morning and expect to see my window seat and the view overlooking the cricket pavilion, the football fields, and the canal. I guess it is one of those times when you don’t realize how comfortable you have become somewhere until you aren’t there anymore. It was an adjustment, but Oxford really did feel like home. I loved so much about the city, and I feel incredibly blessed to have had such a wonderful experience there.
I choose Oxford InSpires for my blog title because it was a pun on Oxford being referred to as the City of the Dreaming Spires, but being in Oxford has truly inspired me as well. I don’t know what I expected before I came, but in many ways being there far surpassed any expectations I could have had. Since I have returned home, many people have asked me about my favourite, or most influential, or life changing, or most integral experience while I was abroad. Surprisingly, I don’t really have an answer to that question. I definitely have some favourite moments from my travels, but there really isn’t one particular memory from my time in Oxford that I find myself going back to. Rather, it is more of the overall experience that was so incredible. It was the process of learning how to really live the student life at Oxford, a skill that I’m not sure one can actually master in just six short months.
Studying abroad definitely helped me to broaden my horizons culturally, and attending a school like Oxford exposed me to all sorts of new things academically as well. I don’t think anyone really questions the merit of their own education system as compared to others. After all, the American education system is really the only one that I have ever known. It was very interesting to be able to fully immerse myself in the British system, and the longer I was there the more I realized the advantages and disadvantages to both. British university students really are experts in their own field by the time they reach second or third year of University, so my own meagre philosophy knowledge didn’t come close to measuring up. However, it was also really obvious that I had studied a much wider range of academic subjects at a much higher level. Americans don’t start to specialize at 15. Then there is the tutorial system which is unique to Oxford and Cambridge. Most of the learning occurs in one on one meetings with a tutor. It can seem daunting at first, especially because there is nowhere to hide if you don’t know something. However, as soon as I started to relax, I realized just how much I was learning from each meeting, definitely more than I have ever learned in a lecture. I’m not sure which system is better, but I think that I have really benefited from being exposed to both.
Just living in Oxford was also an amazing experience. I really like the British culture, and it was a lot of fun to actually live in another culture instead of just visiting it. It does give you an entirely new appreciation and understanding. One of the things that I really enjoyed about Oxford was how international it is. I had friends from all parts of the UK, the States, France, Italy, German, Canada, South Africa, and many other countries, and I had tutors from the UK, Greece, and Argentina. I will always treasure all of the friendships I made while I was there. Each person introduced me to a new and different perspective, and I hope that I am able to keep up with as many people as possible.
Being abroad also gave me a new appreciation for enjoying all aspects of life. Since I was abroad and it was a once in a life time chance, I tried to do everything that I could. At home I tend to spend a lot of time in the library studying, and I often turn down something fun, especially on a week night. The British students are much better at relaxing during their evenings. There was something new and exciting going on almost every day of the week, and I never wanted to miss out on it. I found that my semester was far more enjoyable for all of the fun things that I did. Work tends to expand to as much time as you give it, and sometimes the solution is simply to give it less time. I learned that it is possible to work really hard and do your best without giving up going to dinner or the pub with friends. Occasionally, that meant writing a ten page paper between 10 pm and 3 am (not something I would recommend, but it is possible). I am excited to see if I can implement these new skills back at TU.
Leaving Oxford was a little bit rough. It was hard to say good bye to all of my friends and a place that I have really grown to love. Megan and I stayed with the Rowlands for the weekend after term finished, and it was nice to have free time to just wander through Oxford without anything to do. I definitely don’t want to admit to myself that I will probably never live there again, and it might be quite a while before I get to go visit. Mostly, however, I am incredibly grateful for the wonderful opportunity that I had to live here for six months. It is wonderful to be home again, but I already miss Oxford.
P.S. If you made it reading all of this way, thank you! I hope that you enjoyed seeing a bit of my life at Oxford!