It’s not exactly a secret that to get into the Oxford program, you have to exhibit a certain level of intelligence. I wouldn’t ever compare myself to the native Oxford students here or even some of the UC friends I have at home, but a 3.4 GPA to meet APU’s program requirements isn’t too much to ask. What they don’t tell you is that it’s crucial to have some street smarts as well, what with all the instructions and self-navigation that you have to do to get from point A to point B in a new country.
For example, on the day of our arrival into Oxfordshire (which was not a collective travel, most of us came groups of two or three, or occasionally just one), we were instructed to first take a train from London to Oxfordshire, and a bus to the “Westgate Center,” where we would find our flat assignments. Turns out, this second step wasn’t even necessary. A program representative stood at the bus station, handing out said flat assignments. We were then to take a taxi to our new respective homes. Long gone are the field trip days, where teacher leads all her little ones to the right direction.
I should probably point out that I was able to nix both the train and bus steps, since my travel companion’s aunt was able to drive us a little into Oxfordshire.
So after towing our luggage in the manner of lost tourists around the city, we finally got our assignments from the bus station, and split a cab. As we were in different flats, we parted ways as the cab driver dropped her off at her place.
“107 Botley Road,” I said to the driver, ready to unpack my things and kick back for the remainder of the day.
“Street’s flooded, I can only take you so far, love” he replied back in his Middle Eastern accent.
If you’ve been keeping up with the news at least somewhat, you’ll probably know that parts of the U.K. have been flooded. I knew this going in, but didn’t really think to put more thought into which exact areas I might be swimming through. It’s been by no means a Noah’s Ark scenario, but a few of the main roads near and leading to my flat were closed off due to the flooding.
The fare ended up being a little over four pounds, a bit ridiculous to me since I now regularly walk the distance he drove me. Was I supposed to tip?
He dropped me off at the sidewalk; I took out my suitcases (with no assistance from Cabbie Man, surprisingly), and I paid my dues with the instructions to keep on the same road.
I treaded my first block, until I came to a small lake – a.k.a., a flooded intersection. The police keeping watch told me that my best shot was to go around, snaking through some neighborhoods as I did so.
I went on my less than merry way, asking an older lady if I was indeed headed the right way. Her instructions were opposite to that of the police. I ultimately went with the police’s advice, after she had left.
Before she did though, she said to me – bless her soul – “Are you alright? You seem…anxious.”
“Well, I’m new here, but you could probably tell that,” I replied, trying to maintain amiable despite my sour mood.
So I went around, strolling my luggage through wet pavement and alleyways. Unfortunately, some areas here were rather flooded too, leaving me marooned. I sort of stood at the water’s edge as some local mother-type folks crossed my path, then asking if they could be of any help.
“I’m so sorry, I don’t mean to be a burden,” I said, accepting their help.
“No, it’s no trouble! In times like this, we need to help each other in this world!”
With their assistance, I was able to get my bulky items across the water. One of the moms informed that some of the blocks on the way to my flat were still flooded yet.
“If you come with me, I’m going to Eggs and Eggcetera (local grocer); I know a man who works there and he can watch your suitcases while you look at your flat.”
And so we headed out to her friend and grocer, making some small talk along the way. I was able to leave my stuff behind while I came to yet another “lake” that was in between me and the flat. A couple walking alongside me observed that a) I looked relatively new in town, and b) I didn’t have on a pair of “wellies,” or rainboots.
“I can piggyback you across,” the wife offered.
After some initial “Oh no, I can manage” and “I’m not sure how you’d appreciate being under my weight” excuses, I finally relented.
Fortunately my flat was a lot better than I had thought it would be, so that almost compensated for the less than ideal trek through the English Channel – er, floods. UNfortunately, I didn’t have piggyback ride back to Eggs and Eggcetera, so I trudged on through the water on my way back.
As I collected my bags, I contemplated solutions as to how I would reach my flat as dry as possible.
Noticing how pensive I probably looked, the grocer inquired of me, “How do you plan on going back with those big suitcases?”
“I suppose I’ll improvise,” I mused.
“If you wait ten minutes, I can take you in my truck,” he offered.
And so I did. I found out his name is Steve, as he made friendly conversation about how the members of the small community in Oxfordshire are indeed a community. And I couldn’t have agreed more as I thanked him while deboarding the truck and finally, FINALLY closing my flat door behind me.