18 Days to Go

17 Nov

As I am finishing up my 6th week of the term, I have started to realize that my time at Oxford is coming to a close. It is strange to think that I am leaving in a few weeks, since I finally feel comfortable and settled here.

You know that you are starting to feel at home in Oxford when:

1) You look Right-Left-Right when crossing the street without even thinking about it any more
2) You do not blink an eye when someone walks past in a Harry Potter robe-I mean, academic gown 🙂
3) You are not surprised to find out that yet another famous person lives in the same town as you
4) It is no longer a big deal to be able to hop on a bus or train and visit another country in a matter of hours
5) You can whip up a coherent, thoroughly-analyzed essay in no time at all
6) At least one of your meals is some form of a meat pie (cornish pasties are the best!)
7) You pass by the most gorgeous buildings without a second glance (though I try not to take them for granted)
8 ) You realize you’re in the best town ever!

While I do feel increasingly comfortable here, I definitely can’t wait to go back. I am realizing so much more than friends and family really make a place home. I miss Atlanta terribly, and I’m not really sure if it’s the city itself or the fact that Atlanta=the people I love. Between camp and studying abroad, I haven’t been home for an extended period of time in a few months now. I never thought I would miss being home as much as I am now. I am counting down the days, but I know I will be sad to leave. Oxford will always have a special place in my heart.

Two Week Update

12 Oct

Since I have now been in Oxford for over 2 weeks, I figured I should probably post about it!

When I first arrived, a slight sense of doom set in upon me. It finally hit me that I was in a foreign country where I really didn’t know anyone and that this would be my life for the next 3 months. Luckily, I was able to assuage my fears by telling myself that no matter how this turns out, I can at least speak the language and the situation is only temporary. And even though everything is so much more expensive, at least I am in a developed country where I can get anything I need.

After spending a few days walking around, buying food, and decorating my room, I began to feel a little more at home. At this point, I felt like I had a home base and at least knew my way to the essential places. The first few days were also filled with orientation on important things we should know, such as Anti-American thought, British politics, and how to interact in British culture!

I think there is this idea that British people aren’t that different from us and that they just speak differently. However, I have heard that the culture shock tends to be even more shocking to Americans because they don’t expect it! I don’t think I have been terribly shocked since I have been here, partly due to the fact that I learned a bit about British culture by working with British people all summer. Despite this, there are some things that surprised me:

1) Even though we all technically speak the same language, there are more speech differences than I ever thought, and it’s not just the spelling. They will often use the same words but have completely different connotations, such as “scheme.” In American English, a scheme is usually something negative or sneaky. But the British use it to mean any sort of plan or program, such as a “government scheme” or an “insurance scheme,” which are 2 of my favorite uses of that word. 🙂
They also have a different grammar structure that just sounds wrong to my ears. They treat collective nouns (any word describing a group of people, such as “family” or even a company like “the BBC”) as plural, while we treat them as singular. For example, we would say that “My family has come to visit me” while they would say “My family HAVE come to visit me.” It’s very strange to hear.

2) They really live up to their reputation of being polite. However, this often translates to being very indirect. As someone who is direct and honest even by American standards, I find this a bit frustrating, but I am getting used to it.

3) I thought that people would hate me for being American, but that has proven to be entirely untrue. When people hear my accent, they always ask where I’m from in the States and try to relate by saying they have a cousin living in New York or something like that. Also, someone told me that she actually finds American accents “quite lovely!”

4) British people know a lot more about us than we know about them. It seems like the news everywhere else in the world is a lot more internationally focused than American news. For example, it seems like EVERYONE in Britain knows at least a little bit about American politics, but how many Americans can name Britain’s current prime minister?!

There are also a lot of things that surprised me about Oxford specifically:

1)  One of the first things I noticed about Oxford is the city’s homeless population. Oxford definitely has a homelessness problem, but they are all SO NICE. I have had a few nice conversations with them, including one about politics! A lot of them have dogs, and I always have fun petting them while I’m talking to someone. The homeless here also have their own industry, which is pretty cool. There is a magazine called “The Big Issue” that homeless people buy for a pound and then sell it on the streets for 2 pounds. It’s actually a good magazine too!

2) The city is completely owned by pedestrians and cyclists. Not only is the city extremely walkable, but you would actually be impeding your movement by driving in a car. A lot of streets suddenly turn into pedestrian-only zones, and you can’t get into all of the numerous nooks and crannies and alley-ways that Oxford has.

3) Related to all of the nooks and crannies, half of Oxford seems like it is hidden. Because a lot of the buildings are so old, sometimes your directions to places actually involve things such as “go through the underground tunnel” or “go through the secret door.” I understand why they chose to film Harry Potter at Oxford; it really is just like Hogwarts.

4) The university system itself is simply ridiculous. There isn’t actually a campus, it is simply comprised of something like 30 colleges in a general area. You would also think that you would have a classroom. However, because you are just taught individually by a tutor, you can really meet anywhere. I have seen tutorials being conducted in coffee shops, of all places! Also, your tutor is very unlikely to actually be from your college. For example, I am a “member” of New College, but one of my tutors is from Nuffield, and we have our tutorial at St. Cross. It makes absolutely no sense.

5) Continuing on the ridiculous theme, everything is so exclusive. For example, I tried to go with some friends to my college’s “bop” (which is basically a themed party that people take REALLY SERIOUSLY), but since they weren’t members of my specific college, the “porter” didn’t let them in. In other words, I couldn’t bring my friends to a college party where everyone was dressed in animal costumes (it was a Night at the Zoo theme, which meant people were dressed in animal onesies!) because they weren’t “members.” We all technically go to the same university though! I am also not allowed to check books out of any libraries except the New College library, since that’s where my “membership” is located.

6) The library system deserves its own bullet point. There are a million libraries that basically have any book you would ever want, but you can’t really check anything out. So it’s quite possible that you could need one specific book but have to walk 30 minutes to the other end of Oxford just to have the privilege of looking at it.

Because I have both a lecture at 11 in the morning and my first tutorial in the evening tomorrow, I should probably wrap this up. Despite my frustrations, I find Oxford to be a truly lovely place. It’s lovely for the nice people, the beautiful Gothic architecture, the sheer number of students, the kebab vans that are on every corner and are open late into the night, the access to great books and famous lecturers and the pioneers and geniuses of every academic field, all the ducks in the river that runs through, the weekly farmers market with the cheapest and freshest produce and much hustle and bustle, the talented buskers, the pubs with all sorts of nooks and crannies and history and famous patrons, and the fact that no task involving the university is as simple as it should be.

I feel like I have the world at my fingertips here. I have access to all the information I could ever want, and a plane ride to anywhere in Europe is just a hop, skip, and a jump away. It does get a bit lonely here, but I am optimistic that I will make friends once I get involved with all the clubs that Oxford has to offer.  Here’s hoping for a good rest of the semester!

Nearly Halfway

17 Jul

Hello everyone!

I have officially completed my third week here at camp, and I must say, this is the hardest job I have ever had to do.

I have new sympathy for the parents of children with special needs. If I think it is tough to work with these kids 24/7 for a few weeks, I can’t imagine how tough it is for a parent who is with their child for the rest of their life. However, I’m sure they have learned the survival skills that I have learned:

1) You have to take it a day at a time. It can be overwhelming to think of the sheer amount of effort and time that is necessary to help a child be successful. However, it is less mentally trying to keep your focus on the day at hand-since that’s all you really have control over anyway!

2) Talking about control, you have to focus on what you do and do not have control over. As much as I wish I could change the backgrounds and life situations of some of these kids, there is nothing I or anyone else can do about it except what we are doing now-trying our best with what we have!

3) Last but not least, you HAVE to have a sense of humor. As tough as they can be, these kids crack me up on a regular basis. If you’re not able to laugh at all of the craziness, it will drive YOU crazy!

On an unrelated note, being here has made me think a lot about what we consider to be a medical “condition” or “problem” that needs to be “treated” or “cured.” Who are we to say that a child needs therapy and a diagnosis and medicine just because they think differently or act differently than other people? Sometimes I think it is not that the person has a problem, but society has a problem because we are not accepting the person for who they are.

Nerves

1 Jun

Today consisted of a lot of thinking about the future and therefore getting nervous.

The immediate future:

I finally got around to reading the Staff Welcome Guide for camp, and now I’m even more nervous than I was before. This will be a huge adjustment. I anticipate 2 factors being the hardest-lack of alone time and lack of communication/electronics.

Being an only child, I’m used to a lot of alone time, and I often need it to recharge. At camp, I will be spending both my days and nights with the campers-I will be in the same cabin as them! While I understand that the constant supervision is necessary, it will be tough. I’m sure I will quickly become used to it, though.

Probably the  hardest adjustment will be the lack of communication. Since the camp is located in a rural area, there’s no wi-fi. There will be 2 computers for staff use, but I have a feeling that they will often be crowded. In preparation for this, I have begun unsubscribing from all the emails that I possibly can, since I doubt I will be able to check often. I’m also a bit disappointed that I can’t update this blog while I’m there, but I will keep a word document or a hand-written account of my experiences so that I can remember them (and possibly post) later! We also can’t use cell phones in front of the campers, so I probably won’t be able to keep in contact with my friends as easily. I know it will be hard breaking both my computer and cell phone habit, but I have a feeling that being disconnected will be a bit of a relief! I know that I enjoyed it when I went camping for Alternative Spring Break. I’m also looking forward to both writing and receiving handwritten letters! No one ever takes the time out to do that sort of thing anymore, and I think the slower pace will be quite the novelty.

The more distant future:

On a less immediate note, I have been saying for a long time that I am going to graduate a semester early from college, since I came in with AP credits and I am able to do so. However, as I keep thinking about what I want to do,  I am starting to think that I might stay on for a full fourth year! Even though I will be done with all of my major requirements, there are still so many things that I want to do at Oglethorpe that I haven’t been able to do because of time restrictions or studying abroad. This would give me time to do an internship. I would love to get more involved with APO (Alpha Phi Omega) and do some sort of leadership position. I think it would also be cool to participate in one of the tutoring programs my school coordinates since I love working with kids anyway. As far as classes, I could pick up a minor (perhaps in Sociology?) or just take whatever catches my interest!

I think the biggest motivation for me to do all this is how badly I want to do Americorps after college. I know that I would be more likely to be accepted into the program if I have more service experience. Even though I will have to pay for one more semester than I was intending, I think it will all be worth it in the end!

First Post

28 May

Welcome to my blog! Here’s a little introduction about me and the purpose of my blog.

Me:

I’m currently a junior at Oglethorpe University, where I am majoring in psychology. I have some very exciting things lined up for this year, which is also why I decided to start this blog. This summer I will be working at a camp in the northeast! The camp is a therapeutic camp that aims to help kids with behavioral, social, and emotional issues learn social skills and coping skills. I am very excited to work there, as this will be a completely new experience for me.

In the fall, yet another adventure starts: I will be studying abroad at the University of Oxford! While I’m there I hope to travel around Europe, and then come back to finish up my last 2 semesters. After college, I want to take a break from school to do Americorps. Whenever I am ready, I will be going to graduate school to get my degree in either clinical or counseling psychology.

This Blog:

Because of all those adventures I mentioned above, I wanted to start a blog to chronicle everything that I will be experiencing. Not only will this be an easy way to keep in touch with all of my people back home, but I hope to gain some perspective on how these experiences will help me grow. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I anticipate I will enjoy writing this!