Monthly Archives: September 2011

Oxford Study Abroad Chapter 3

On our third day, in preparation for classes, we went to the Bodleian Library, which was a nice 7 or so walk from Magdalen and is one of the most famous libraries in the world (there was also more Harry Potter-related filming here). I didn’t really need to use the libraries for my Shakespeare class, but I did end up coming here one more time; camera use was restricted in most rooms. The one where we got our library cards, which was modeled after Parliament’s interior, was one of the places where pictures were allowed.

This little table is where the officials, who took their roles very, very seriously, signed us up and handed us our cards after we took a spoken oath. There was also a game of attempting to fit into that chair on the far left; there was a little trick to lowering the piece in front of it before it was possible to squeeze in and sit.

Afterwards,  we took a tour of another library and found where the research material for our respected classes could be found. This library was at St. Peter’s, the college that sponsored our program but that we were not housed at (apparently, Magdalen is much nicer in terms of rooms and the exterior is as well, so I think we had a good exchange).

Around  5 that day, we had our first official formal dinner. These always were on Monday nights (except for the week following the 4-day excursion; then we had it on Tuesday) and consisted of reception, a lecture, and a sit-down dinner. The lectures were kind of like symposiums: a speaker, usually a professor, would come and talk for about an hour and fifteen minutes on a particular subject. This week’s was on ‘The Macbeths at Home’, a look on Shakespearean works as portrayed in film. The same professor would be a guest lecturer at our first lecture tomorrow morning, and he showed us clips from Kurosawa’s adaptation of Macbeth, a variation of the play with mobsters instead of kings, and an interesting independent movie featuring Christopher Walken as Macduff and the Macbeths as conquerers of a restaurant.
The dinner itself lasted for over an hour and a half and had randomly-selected individuals sitting at the ‘high table’ and the others in one of maybe four long tables farther down the hall (rather Potter-esque again). We started with grace and then sat down to conversations and a five-course menu consisting of bread, an appetizer, dinner, dessert, and coffee/chocolates, which was served to us by staff, along with wines.
I unfortunately never had my camera on me at these times, and so I can’t hope to render the same effect as being present had on me. It was a wonderful experience, though, and gave the feel of olden days where folks enjoyed performances and very social dinners followed afterwards. The opening night of Harry Potter, we had a wonderfully good time with a random professor who asked to join our group conversation at the pub, also a part of Magdalen, which is right next to the dining hall. It may not be as elaborate as the woodwork inside, but it has a lovely view of the water.

Day 3: Looking Back

Wow, it’s been terribly long since my first post! I actually am back in the States now, but because I had camera problems and couldn’t upload pictures on my phone until I returned back home, I figured that it would be difficult to do updates without having the pictures available when I post. I’m thinking to finish the blog in hindsight, which does shave off some of the initial emotions and anticipation, but it will allow it to be more like a story and prevent me from ranting for 2 paragraphs on such unimportant issues such as my hair straightener.

So the next day was rather hectic because there were items I needed to purchase and events I should have gone to. I desperately needed to buy a hair straightener because, well, girls would understand, so I went to this pharmacy called Boots and got one there. It’s a really nice pharmacy; they have many things there that were useful, like contact cases, bandages, and this energy drink my friend recommended, although they strangely didn’t have laundry detergent.

This is Cornmarket Street, where Boots and many other shops are located; it’s always a busy walk! The movie theater is not far from here either.

The thing with the straightener is is that I’m not going to be able to use it at home and will most likely leave it here, so I didn’t want to spend much on it. A normal-sized straightener was 60 pounds, so about 90-100 dollars, and if I’m only going to leave it here there was no sense in buying it. There were ones for 15-20 pounds of a smaller size and obviously not as good, but I got that instead.

 

Sorry, ‘cheap’ product, but you’re kind of a piece of junk. Barely gets the job done, but I got what I paid for, I suppose.

Anyway, after the straightener episode, I realized that I didn’t have a contact case and my knee, which had been hurting me for the past week or so, was hurting again, so I went back to buy the case and one of those long bandages you use for sprains. Unfortunately, I missed the ‘Getting to Know You’ event because I came too late to meet with the group and then didn’t know where it was—and apparently didn’t know that it said so right on the schedule I had; whatever—and this early in the program it would have been a good idea to have gone, since the pressure is kind of on for getting acquainted. However, I did make the tour of the city.

Here is the New Building, basically our dorms. It’s in front of the deer park that I can see from my room, where, of course, we have grazing deer.

Well, more like lounging around than grazing at the moment. They were nice to look at but they got moved to a nearby park in the gardens because some students  jumped inside the fence to chase them. My pretty view is gone : (

Here are the Cloisters, which are directly across from The New Building. Some people dorm in here but not that many, and our dining hall and recreation room are located here as well. There’s the Oscar Wilde room there too, which is where he lived when he was a student here; there’s a lovely poster/wall hanging in there of him lounging on a chair.

This picture includes most of the main buildings of Magdalen; my lecture room is on the central right (more on those in the next part). We later took a picture here before formal dinner and the guy moved me to the back because I wasn’t smiling enough while we stood there waiting. I’m sorry; I was cold!

Here is the Cloister’s lawn, which is where we hold reception before Monday night formal dinners. The little table is where they serve us beverages, mostly champagne and water.

We then went into Magdalen’s chapel; this is a really hard-to-see replica of The Last Supper that was hanging in the wall. Below it, we got these oddities that looked like folded wooden chairs but I think were used for prayer instead…unfortunately, I forgot the names—and more detailed background—but this happens a lot with me. Unless it’s quantum physics or theology; I can retain that information all too well.

Here’s another shot of the chapel; this stained glass window was lovely, and I wish the details could show more. It’s a speculation, but I think it’s a scene of Armageddon; you have St. Michael preparing to stab a/the devil in there on the bottom. I really like St. Michael; more on that another time.

So the guide was talking about the choir here and the services, and my mom called as he was doing so; I usually have my phone on silence, and I forgot to check; I was a bit embarrassed, but he took it well; heck, he told me to tell her how much of a wonderful time I was having. He also danced to my standard T-Mobile ringtone, and for a man of like 60-70, that was a sight.

Next, we walked down High Street and went towards Christ Church (another college, but it also has a chapel inside), which they used in making the model of the dining hall for Harry Potter. It was Sunday, and therefore, there were flocks of tourists (no seagulls, though), but the line outside for the viewing of the church was ridiculous; it costed four pounds to get in and you probably couldn’t even move when inside.

Still, it would have been wonderful to see; if you come here early enough,it’s definitely an ‘attraction’ to check out.

This building wasn’t mentioned to be anything of praised importance, but it was in the field by the church, and I think it’s a great setting for a story. I like to muse on what the ‘story’ behind random architecture is haha.

 

This is the garden where Lewis Carroll set what I believe was the croquet match in Alice in Wonderland. Unfortunately I didn’t get too great of a shot; my tour group liked to crowd haha.

 

Mass here is often held at about 6 PM, and this fellow guards the gates when it’s not time to enter. He was rather friendly, actually.

Our tour then took us by the museums, which I’ll have a separate post for. Nothing really happened there, except that I wasn’t hungry for lunch and wandered off on my own to get back but I got a little lost…thankfully, I had handy Magdalen maps on me and managed to find my way back without a problem. I bought some dark chocolate from a candy shop; it was with blackberries and ginger and had this nice aftertaste. It was akin to some rich teas. How very English.

Later in the day, we had an introduction and a nice welcome dinner with a reception in the lawn. They served us pimms, which is a gin-based drink that I believe has lemonade and tea in it. There were bits of fruits in it, and there was so little alcohol that you could barely taste it, which made it tolerable for me.

Afterwards, some other students and I explored the college a bit; we wanted to go on the top of the tower and take pictures, but apparently there’s an application that you need to fill out, get approved, and then get an escort in order to go, so we didn’t. The option became available later, but I unfortunately had paper-writing consuming my week at that time.

My Ethernet port didn’t work, so I had to wait a day and use the free wi-fi in the pub. It was quite the cozy place.

And the next entry will include my class schedule and breakdown, so I hope to have it posted by tomorrow! The first few days had, understandably, much detail but when classes started kicking in, I suppose I can expand most entries to a few days. And the four-day epic environmental field trip…THAT was quite the adventure!