Thursday, 31 May 2012

May 31

Well y'all, its happened. I went to my tutorial.

Today I had my first tutorial where I had actually written an essay. Some teachers do it differently, but mine is sent in the day before so he has time to read it and mark it up. Also, as a side note, this is not a paperless campus like Mississippi State. They love printing things here. Like 10 page paper? Both you and the teacher print it out and bring it. But anyways that's just a little fact for everyone. So some teachers have you bring your essay that day and you present it to them, but not mine.

My professor let me know today that he really only teaches grad law students and third year students. And I let him know that I could've read constantly for the past two weeks and not been ready for today. So he had my essay and he led me through it. The thing is he was super nice, like they said British people definitely aren't direct in telling you that you suck. But I think by the end I got the jist. He led me through all the things that I had gotten wrong, and I just felt two inches tall. Then I finally got my essay back and it was completely filled with red, along with the whole back of the paper filled in notes. So he wanted a real law paper, and I wrote a political science paper. Oh well! But here, essays are only for practice for your final exam. There's no grading really until the final. Good thing Jure told me that mine today was for practice and he will just grade the other ones after this. The point is that you're supposed to learn in your tutorial after you've prepared an essay. I must say I feel like this style of learning would really prepare you. There's no where to hide, its you and a teacher. And next time we meet he's going to make me read my essay out loud to him. I probably can't think of anything worse. There's nothing like being in a city where my college is actually older than the U.S. to inspire you to learn something.

Also, it really is like Harry Potter right now. Everyone is finishing finals, so they have to wear black tie and robes to take their finals. The girls wear black skirts white tops and ties, and boys black suits. Then the robes have pink carnations on the collar. It is really cool to walk around the 500 year old buildings with all these smart kids.

Last night we went out to this club called Lava. I have so many issues with British sense of whats fun. Number one, they love techo/Euro music. Its terrible really. Then if they're playing music its most likely at least 5-10 years behind whats new at home. But what was fun is when we met Alex, a British student. He proceeded to do an American accent, then I asked him to do a southern accent. He said, "Hey yall, lets go down to the farm on some tractors and ride cows." How stereotypical. But it was still very funny. Brilliant!

 My classroom

New College lawn

 Trinity lawn

After my tutorial today I finally went shopping. Zara and Topshop are my two new favorites. Everything here is just too cute. If not a little expensive. But I for sure looked like a local student because had to go to the grocery. So I was walking home with all my groceries and finally an old English  woman stopped and asked me for directions! I was like now I'm official. Even though I still didn't know how to tell her where to go. Oh well! Class tomorrow in the Ashmolean museum, thats going to be great. Cheers! (cheers is like saying thank you, just so much easier)

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

May 29

May 29

Sunday started the real studying. I haven't blogged because there's not a ton to say. Now the work has started and I sit at my desk long hours every day. They weren't kidding when they said Oxford was hard. I think I could read for 2 weeks and not know enough to write this paper. My tutorial is in English Common Law and this week I have to write a 6 page paper on international vs. domestic law in Britain. This is actually really interesting, but it's very overwhelming because I'm not familiar with it. Instead of reading a law text and it referring to things like the Bill of Rights or The Constitution, it refers to EU laws or British Common Law. So I read for that all day on Sunday, then we went to Evensong at Trinity. That was an experience. There was the choir, the President, and two other people, then us. Embarrassing, we stuck out like sore thumbs. The preacher, or whatever they call it was a woman. I assume this church was an Episcopal church. It is a gorgeous church, and the choir was wonderful. The lady prayed for the Queen during service which I find so cute. She also prayed for "female bishops" so I was just a little confused. After church we went to the quad where the chapel provides sherry for everyone in service. Really, alcohol is served everywhere and for everything, even church. After that we all went to dinner at a really good Thai place right down the street from my apartment. Then back to studying for me.

Monday, we had class cancelled. I should've been working harder on my paper but it's hard to get started. Anyways we layed outside in the quad for awhile and watched the boys from Michigan play soccer. Then I decided to go on a run. The trail right behind my house leads up and down the waterways of the Thames. Right down the trail it opens into this big meadow called Port Meadow. Its a beautiful meadow with horses and cows just roaming around, and some paths going through it. I ran back the other way and found Abbey Road. Not the original of course, but if all else fails I can just pretend like thats the real thing.

We got really hungry after all that, and all I wanted was something greasy and American to eat. Its like a whole new world over here. I haven't been eating anything fried or soaked in grease. So it was time for a pizza. Good thing theres a good ole American Pizza hut up the road. Well we get there but its not so American after all. The waiter seats us (sit down restaurant), and he loves our accent. We of course tell him that we love his. He said "Oh I thought that was 10 years ago! There's not many Hugh Grants left." Anyways we dressed as American as possible in Nike shorts and t-shirts just cause we can. This was the only place we've been that had free refills, so we devoured diet coke. After stuffing ourselves, it only took 2 hours to get the check. They don't work on tips here so service is sometimes really terrible. We've decided to make it a weekly outing to Pizza hut and wear our big tshirts, just for some America time every now and then. I can't always pretend to be fashionable and not sloppy every day!

We went out to this club called the Bridge last night. It was pretty fun, but British people, and I think Europeans in general love the techno club mixes. It's terrible really, just give me a regular song to dance to. So everyone is terrible dancers, and they just hop around to crazy techno music. It was still pretty fun though. We had a fiasco and I think one of our group's girls purse was stolen, with her passport. Then we came back and hung out with the Michigan boys. For some reason even though we had class today I decided to play soccer in the courtyard till 4:45 this morning. We finally went inside because the sun was coming up. At 4:45! It's light for sooo long here.

Anyways, back to more studying for the next 48 hours till my meeting with my tutor thursday!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

May 26

May 26: Fail

Today is the worst... I didn't charge my camera and it just was completely dead the whole day. The best day yet possibly. Today was the "Summer Eights." Better known to you American commoners as crew races. Today we took a little walk down to Christ' Church, where lots of Harry Potter was filmed, to the Christ Church meadow. The meadow beside the college even has cows, so cute. But their meadow goes all the way down to the Thames. We all bought our sandwiches from the covered market and then took a blanket to the meadow to eat. EVERYONE was there. Families, young people, old people. The Alums wore their very fabulous blazers from their colleges.

First we just sat under the trees with all the families in the perfect weather. It was probably 75 and not a cloud in the sky, but the shade was lovely. Then we walked on down to the boat houses. Each college has a boat house along the river and this is where the races take place. Its all very exciting and I think today was equivalent to a regular football Saturday in Starkville. It was like laid back tailgating for the affluent. I can just picture Prince William and all the Harvard boys doing all this. Anyways we went down and found the Trinity boathouse and just walked on up. But seriously, I only met Americans. Still have yet to meet Brits my age. We watched the race from the roof of the boathouse. Here's what I figured out about Summer 8's:

1. Everyone starts a boat's length and a half apart.
2. You try to "bump" the boat ahead of you.
3. After you bump you both drop out of the race.
4. This means that number 4 could bump number 1, if 3 bumped 2. That would be really big.
5. If you bump the boat ahead, the next race you start ahead of them.

So this was fun, and a very excited British guy told us about it. Its pretty fun, and if a boat bumps every race for 4 days, then they get a blade (oar) with their names on it.  Also, they get to throw their coxon(sp?) in the river. It is a little slow for my liking, maybe like a baseball game. Its really more leisurely. I tried my hardest to get a picture with our team, but they wouldnt come out of the boathouse. Also, during these races its customary to drink your Pimms! Pimms o'clock everyone! I also decided that British people are definitely more laid back about sports. These guys in these boats looked like just a regular guy, not like a steroid shouldered American boy would be. It seems like they will let anyone play, and its more just for the fun of it. I kinda like that, but then again competition at home is so American.

After we got tired of that, (more like this boy Cameron was not concerned about sun burning, but the literal science of the UV rays coming through the atmosphere that might harm his body--ugh) we went to sit back in the shade. Then again the boys started talking about -I kid you not- hard sci-fi vs. soft sci-fi, quantum physics, and Star Trek. I was tired of this so on behalf of all the girls, I said, "I refuse to be living in the Big Bang Theory on this trip, and please talk about something that we enjoy and can actually add intelligent conversation to." The girls appreciated this.

So the girls left the boys to their physics and we went down to Topshop and Boots for a little shopping. Then to the grocery store, where I had to run down an aisle away from my tutor. He is super nice, but it's still weird seeing your teacher outside of class. We cooked some spaghetti, and thats about it! Tomorrow we've got Evensong at the chapel, and hardcore studying.

Friday, 25 May 2012

May 25: London

And y'all thought we had bad allergies in the south or at Mississippi State? I have never in my life been as allergy-ridden as I was today in London. The pollen was actually attacking people. Everyone around was sneezing. But other than that, LONDON WAS WONDERFUL! I'm telling you people I'm moving here and never coming back. It's amazing to me. We took the bus and drove to London. We drove all through Westminster the city, and Picadilly Circus, Whitehall, all the really nice shopping and then the really nice houses. Houses across from Hyde park cost approximately 75 million American Dollars, excuse me what? I need to be a royal. Today confirmed it. I understand why everyone is completely enthralled by Kate and William, and actually the Queen. It is all so beautiful, and I think that I wouldn't mind having a monarch. Who cares about democracy, give me the crown jewels!

Her Majesty's Grocery store

Big Ben and Parliament

 Changing of the guard

We took a walking tour around Parliament, and then down to Westminster Abbey. I just wish we had time to go in all those places. We walked through the Royal park to Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately you can't get that close easily, because of her Jubilee this saturday and then all the work that's going on. But we did get to see the band march out at the changing of the guard. That was worth it, all the soldiers in their bear hats. Then we made it over to Trafalgar Square. We met back with our cute little tour guide Brian Murray to go to the Churchill War Rooms. We passed Horse Guard, which is where they are holding the volleyball in the Olympics this summer. I got a picture with a soldier in his full uniform, and I must say he was quite nice. I told him thanks and I think he may have winked at me. They say some of them can get pretty mean, but he was almost smiling. Then I got to see 10 Downing Street, or what you can see from the blocked off street. They let little school kids in, but not really the public. So then we went through the Cabinet over to the War Rooms from WWII and where they held all their meetings. It was definitely cool, and the museum to Churchill was nice. I would say that if I only had an afternoon in London, that would not be my first choice to go see. Then we went back to the National Gallery, and saw some amazing art. Still looking for the Crown Jewels though.
The Olympics in 63 Days!

 Horse Guard, where volleyball will be played

Those boots gotta be hot

Well that's all for today, so ready to pass out. I have walked miles covered in pollen, and everyday here you just feel gross.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

May 24: Welcome to Trinity

Trinity college

 Our chapel at Trinity

Alex drinking port at the beer cellar in the college.

How many books have I read from here?!?

A list:                                                                                                                                                        
1. There are no ice cubes, or very small amounts used here.
2. Someone lied, it is so hot and there's no air conditioning.
3. Everyone will wear whatever they want regardless of weather, so at 90 degrees wool coats are acceptable.
4. No large drinks, as in those huge cups we get at a restaurant at home. Water comes in like basically a tiny shot glass, and no refills. But good news you can drink pints and pints of beer, starting at noon.
5. They really do wear Harry Potter robes here.
6. My camera is saying "catastrohpic failure" when I plug it in.

Today was hotter than the past two, the morning is alright but afternoons are too hot. I haven't been this hot all the time since I went to Mexico. Strange. Today we had more orientation, I won't bore you with details. Then we got to go to our colleges! I am a member of Trinity College, which is one of the best here at Oxford. There's only 300-400 students so it's pretty small and everyone knows one another. We learned how to go to the library today. It's our own personal library and it's definitely not what I was expecting but very pretty. People have actually moved in for exams. There are toothbrushes and clothes on desks. Picture Harry Potter without all the magic. Yes, they really do live in the college. Anyways, there's a large "lawn" which is like the British version of the drill field, except only croquet is allowed. We got to eat in the dining hall today too, which is only like 4 lbs. for a full meal. Every night at dinner is a three course meal and you're required to wear robes... we will see how that goes. I already was a good student and borrowed a book from the law library down in the library, so basically im an Oxford scholar now right?

After all that, we had our first class with Dr. Snyder this afternoon. We got to go to his flat where he is staying, because it was so hot. I think that we got cheated, his rooms are way too nice and the girls have decided to call parliamentary procedure and switch with him. We didn't know what we were missing. But he made up for it by taking us to an Indian restaurant, which was delicious. Lots and lots of Indian food here.

On to London tomorrow to find my Olympian!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

May 23: Tutorials

A list:
1. This place is super clean. Today I saw a man sweep the street and gutters. Another man was vacuuming outside his store. Strange
2. Yes, teeth are as bad as they say they are.
3. No one is fat here.
4. Bikers are more dangerous than cars.
5. The people are so so so nice and helpful.

Today we had to go to orientation in the Offices. It has been the most perfect weather, and its almost hot. Unfortunately, no one has air conditioning. You would think that being the founders of the Industrial Revolution these people could have thought of a ceiling fan, but no. So we sweltered and listened to the President of this program, who seems like a pretty cool guy. He spent time working for Reagan in the Defense Department, being an Oxford professor etc etc. My favorite thing he said is that the British are the best at "effortless superiority." You can go to Oxford but its totally middle class to act like you're actually trying hard. Gentlemanly C's is perfectly accpetable in this upper class playground. I think I need to adopt this attitude.Then a librarian came to talk to us, making it all even more daunting. The library is a serious deal here, and if you come here just tour but dont actually plan on studying there!

We got a little lunch at a pub. The best part is how everything is so proper. This was by no means a nice restaurant, but a man was told to take off his hat when he came in the door. The line they give is, "that isn't done here..." which makes you feel so stupid.

After all that, we got inducted into the Bodleian library. Actually I can go to my College library, in Trinity College, but everyone can go to the Bodleian Library. Trinity is older, but the Bod is gigantic, 11 million texts. Anyways we got to go to the Convocation hall, and had a ceremony. This place was like a mini parliament room, like you would see on BBC. We had to swear an oath to get our library cards. Now I'm a member, yay! So all that means is I am completely overwhelmed with how to actually get a book, because you can't borrow them only look at them. Lots of history with all that, kind of boring so I won't bore you.

Trinity College                                   
 Radcliff Camera at Bodleian Library- My new study place!

Then, while everyone else gets to go on a walking tour, I have to go find my tutor. Mind you, Oxford has 170,000 residents and I've only seen one little street prior to 5 pm. There are over 40 colleges and they are spread out all over the place. Also, this lovely town doesn't like to mark streets properly. There are street signs on buildings sometimes but they don't seem too concerned. Anyways so I know my guy is in St. Cross College. So I find that on the map, make it there 5 minutes early, and I'm in the wrong place... He is in the annex building like blocks and blocks away and I only have 5 minutes, no phone, and no idea where I am. So the porter gives me a sense of direction, and I run down the street because obviously I missed yesterday and can't miss again. The lovely gate guard at Trinity calls the college for me to check where he is, then tells me to keep heading in the direction I'm going in. On the way I have to start asking people, and finally after I'm profusely sweating I find this place. I go to the front desk, and the lady at "inquiries" doesn't know who this guy is. Finalllyyyy after more help, I find my tutor Jure Vidmar from Slovenia (google him--I did). He is literally down in a tiny hole in a maze of hallways in a building miles away. But he seems super nice, and a little quiet. Good thing, because I don't know if anyone else has ever had to just write papers, and then go before your teacher and read it out loud to him then discuss it... It isn't going to be fun. So I have to read 1/4 of a textbook and write a paper by next Thursday! But tutor meeting is finally over with and I can stop stressing about that, now to get the books...

After all that we went to Turf Tavern. One of the oldest taverns in all of Britain and Oxford. It is literally in tiny tiny alleys, and you have to know how to get there. It was good food again, and lots of fun people. More pictures to come, but my camera isn't uploading at this time (help!) That's most of the fun stuff from today!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Day 1: May 21-22, The Never Ending Day

Today, or yesterday, or whatever day it is now I left for London. Obviously my days are mixed up because my tutor (Jure Vidmar) just emailed me to tell me I missed our first meeting. Thats not the most important part, rather our long long journey is what you want to hear.

Melissa and mine's flight left Memphis to ATL a little behind schedule, but we made it on time for our next flight. While Melissa ate a meal bar, I stuffed my face with Pei Wei, yummy. And I decided to  chase down a boy in the terminal that I was sure was Elijah Choy... its been that kind of day. Our flight took forever to take off and finally we left for our 7:54 hour flight to London Heathrow. I caught up on the classics on the plane, watched Casablanca and then Interview with the Vampire (and ate everything in sight). We finally start getting close and then were in a holding pattern above London. First thoughts are that "OMG were late were supposed to meet Dr. Snyder at 11!" It's already 12 when we land. So being the seasoned traveller that I am, with the help of the unhelpful and very nervous Melissa, we decided that instead of getting our baggage first, we would go straight to another terminal where we were to meet our group...

This is where it all goes downhill.... finally we make it through customs in a terminal that is not our own (idiot move, I should know better). Get out to arrivals and find all our friends, and they're like where's your luggage? Of course I said "Oh we were just so excited to come see yall we just left it there for awhile." Now we had to make the long journey back through the hell of Heathrow to terminal 4 which doesnt seem like a big deal, but it is. This time we take the trains... We finally get back. We find another girl in our group who was lost almost in Amsterdam. At this point we had to get accepted and rechecked through security. But not just any security... the sketchy worker's little behind the disney scenes security. So this typecast movie character working in this little room makes us sit on a bench and wait. Of course Melissa has to get a pat down cause she leaves her phone in her pocket, that's the first crying incident. We finally get through again, and all these people that seem to try to be helpful have no idea what theyre saying. Finally after walking all over the place we find our bags, and proceed to wait on our new friend Hannah's luggage to come in on a different flight. By this point we know our group is long gone, but the mission is simple. Get back to Terminal 5 and get on the bus to Oxford. No big deal, except the trains are weird, and you have to take connecting ones to get to terminals 4 or 5. Anyways theres the express  that goes straight from terminal 5 to Paddington Station. And thats right, we got on the wrong end and went right on to Paddington station in downtown London. I see this as a great adventure and we meet plenty of fun people. On the other hand Melissa has lost it and is crying again. I think its just a fun little adventure so I'm like "Whatevverrrr." Of course if you go further than the terminal you have to pay for the train. So when our good buddy Theo, the ticket taker, comes by I put on my best "I'm a helpless dumb blonde American" face. He is the perfect young British boy, strawberry blonde and cute accent. This helpless act seems to come in handy and everyone should learn this skill. Just be nice to people and make them help you, while having enough attitude to get what you need. So good ole Theo writes us a note on a piece of paper that says we get to go for free, while our friend who rode the back of the train had to pay 40 pounds.
Finally. Finally FINALLY, we make it on to the right terminal and out on to the bus to go to Oxford where I pass out. It is perfectly pastoral, with the real rolling hillsides with sheep on them. I love it.

We arrive late to the welcome party, and in my ratty t-shirt I have to meet a room full of people I was definitely not expecting. So embarrassing.
This is over quickly, and everyone leaves the three of us late travellers to go to the pub. Melissa and Hannah are helpless... so I somehow find us a cab. We finally make it to our tiny flat which is so cute. Theres a window in our room that opens to the back where theres a path to the Thames. The front is an ugly train station but whatever! Our flat mates are super nice from Michigan and Ohio and they are taking us to tea thursday.

Anyways, we later made it to dinner at the pub the Red Lion, which is not at all what youre thinking. Im thinking Lord of the Rings like pints of beer. This is the classiest and swankiest little place that every girl would love. So much for a "pub." Im proud to say I led the way there with my Elliott sense of direction while everyone else is like, "Wait, whaaat?" Needless to say it will be a long trip.

Thats all for today I've been up for 30 some hours and counting. More posts soon, and maybe even pictures if I can figure that out. xoxoxo