FAQ, Oxford Edition

FAQ pic

I’m not so narcissistic to think that EVERYONE that comes across my Facebook account actually asks themselves, “Gee, I have so many burning questions about what Caitlin’s up to in Oxford!” To be honest, I probably would have more of a general, polite curiosity than a series of “burning inquiries” for any acquaintances of mine who were encountering a similar milestone.

That being said, I have neither the funds nor attention span to sit down and write and send 10+ handwritten letters overseas to the closer of my friends who HAVE expressed similar inquiries – it would be quite a thing to write essentially the same message over and again, and costly to send them all overseas (fear not though, my handwritten sentiment junkie friends reading this, postcards WILL be coming!).

So here are some of the basics – questions that I’ve been asked multiple times, and am more than happy to answer:

How long you there for?

I flew down on January 7, lost most of the 8th while crossing the Atlantic, and my return flight is scheduled for April 12. I originally wanted to stay in England through the whole of April, but sticking to the schedule just gives me more reason to come back again! School-wise, the Hilary term (winter/spring term) started last week, and officially ends for me on March 26 – about a month sooner than my home uni!

Rooming situation?

I live in a three-story flat with three other girls; all from schools in Virginia. The house is rather roomy, but comes at the cost of being a mile or so away from the city center. So I average about 2 miles a day by walking, sometimes more, sometimes less.

University of Oxford is so big, comprised of 50+ individual colleges. Where are you studying?

Ok, so I took a little liberty coming up with that question. I am an *associate student* of New College (built in the 1300’s, so I say “New” with caution), although my academic advisor is placed in Christchurch College, my primary tutorial is at St. John’s College, and my secondary tutorial is at my tutor’s flat, just down the road. Basically, the only time I spend in my actual college is when I need the library – but there are plenty of those all around Oxfordshire. Churches and libraries are like burger joints in the US – they’re everywhere.

What classes are you taking?

I used the word “tutorial” in the above paragraph, so rather than “classes,” I would say that I’m taking tutorials, which are one-on-one sessions with a tutor, usually about an hour. My primary tutorial is once-weekly, and is on Jane Austen and the Brontes. My secondary tutorial is called Creative Writing Prose, which I have every other week. As per APU requirements, I’m taking a one-unit “Faith Colloquium” class, and after these first seven weeks are up I’ll have a rather brief group tutorial on British history as well.

Wait, so you only spend about two hours in class every week? Not fair!

Yes…but for my Austen-Bronte tutorial, I have to read a novel each week and write a solid paper on it to be critiqued and discussed with the tutor during our weekly sessions, and for Creative Writing Prose, while I don’t necessarily have to write term papers, I have to turn in “something brilliant” every two weeks. Which – I think – makes the latter tutorial in some ways more challenging. But, I often feel that the workload is so much more than bearable, since I’m taking courses I actually like. In that sense, my time seems more freed up.

So what do you do in your spare time?

Sleep. Haha. I explore Oxford a bit – go to the cafes and pubs, libraries, and the colleges themselves – parts of New College were used as the setting for some Harry Potter scenes! Or on weekends, it’s relatively cheap to fly out to neighboring countries, though I have yet to do that.

How’s the weather up there?

Colder than the usual temps at home, but not really much colder than the coldest California’s been. It’s raining on and off at the moment – let’s just say that for this particular season, I don’t leave the house without a coat and collapsible umbrella.

Strangest cultural differences?

I haven’t actually been much in contact with Oxford students (that’s the nature of the tutorials, and the fact that I haven’t joined any clubs or societies yet), but the fact that most everything closes early (except the pubs, of course), and there’s some slightly different terminology (elevator = “lift”, rainboots = “wellies”).

Miss the US yet?

Well, there’s the slightly lower cost of living, the popcorn (which I have not seen sold in stores), nearby fitness facility, driving, and being able to stream Big Bang Theory via Hulu (which does not work outside the US). Oh yeah, and some of my dear friends and family 🙂


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