In all the hustle and bustle of continual excursions and weekend trips, it was easy to forget how magical it was just to explore Oxford. Some of my most pleasant memories of the program are not from Stonehenge or studio tours but from local excursions and just walking around town. When the weather is nice (which isn’t always), Oxford has a safe, dreamy quality, making it more like a rural English town and less like the bustling tourist destination it usually is.
First visit to the Black Pine.
Our first taste of this came in an event mentioned earlier, when we walked through the Botanic Gardens on Alice’s Day in the first week of class. While the gardens were peaceful, this was not the full Oxford experience; dreary skies and crowds from the holiday celebrations dampened the pastoral charm of the gardens. However, the greenery was infectuously cheerful and helped brighten spirits even in the rain.
Yeah, we got a private tour of Stonehenge.
In one of the more unusual excursions of the program, our class got up on the crack of dawn and made our way to the brand-new Stonehenge museum, where we would receive an inner-circle access tour of the famous monument.
For thirty minutes we were allowed to step over the ropes and walk around the stones before the area opened up to tourists. A tour guide joined us to provide details on the order of construction of Stonehenge’s rings and creatively used a popup book to demonstrate what the completed structure looked like.
It’s been a while since I have updated the Oxford Blog. This is partly due to the program ramping up in intensity in the later weeks, but also because I did not have access to my laptop for some time.
Needless to say, I am committed to finishing the Oxford Blog even though trip has just ended. Blogging about the program after the fact seems to make the reporting lose some of its magic, but actually presents some unique advantages. I am no longer bound by chronology — instead of mechanically describing events as they happen, I will instead recount similar experiences from different days together. I can now also use a greater perspective to find the most memorable experiences of the program and highlight them. Most importantly, describing events in the context of the whole trip will allow me to identify overarching themes and lessons derived from my stay in Europe.
From a logistical perspective, being done with the rigors of the program allows me to keep a more rigid timetable and produce quality content with greater consistency. Expect a blog post every other day (and hopefully usually more frequently than that).
Thank you for your patience and support. I look forward to you joining me as Zqueaky.com becomes a living record of this life-changing adventure.
Tolkien’s old neighborhood.
As Week 2 opens, the Summer Abroad session is now in full swing and each day is punctuated by either an intense class section, a tour, or some new group bonding activity. Soon after this blog last left off, the UC Davis students were treated to a guided literary tour of Oxford that covered Exeter College (Phillip Pullman’s college and the unsubtle inspiration for Jordan College in his books), the former neighborhood of J.R.R. Tolkien, the Radcliffe Camera, and the corridors and dining hall of Christ Church College (which look very familiar to fans of the first Harry Potter film).
A lot has happened quickly in the last few days, but after a flurry of activity things have finally settled down, classes have started, and the realization has finally dawned on me that I’m in Oxford, England.
My journey actually began a few days ago, when almost half of the students in the program boarded the same flight from California direct to London. For many of us, it was our first time flying alone. For some, like me, it was the first time traveling internationally as well. After an uneventful trip, we were greeted in the most traditionally English way: with rain.
The group gets ready to depart.