The Travels and Reality of Griff
Virginia Program at Oxford
What is your commute like from home to class? What do you hear/see/smell
on the way?
Well, fortunately for me, both my lectures and my tutorials (meetings with my professors where we discuss our essays and arguments) are inside the college I am staying in. Some people have to walk into city-center Oxford (about 10 minutes) to get to their tutorials. Every single day, I get to walk out of the courtyard behind our “bevs” (the street our dorms are on is Bevington Road) and smell the morning dew and sweet flowers that are growing there. The next immediate smell is the “bacon” – the Ham really – that they cook for breakfast. I always hear the delightful sound of bees on the flowers and cars passing by in the early morning.
What’s your living space like? Who do you live with? How is your home
abroad different from your home in the US?
Again, I am fortunate. My room is one of the largest rooms with three large windows and a beautiful view of Bevington Road. I live without a roommate, but I share a bathroom with the people on my side of our apartment style living complex. My home here is wildly different than in the US mainly because it is a dorm room! Otherwise, I’m living in England, so many things are different – all the way down to the way you flush the toilet.
What did you pack that you wish you’d left behind? What do you wish you’d
I packed 4 pairs of jeans, lots of sleep shirts, 2 floral pattern shirts that everyone loves, some sweatpants, some workout clothes, my tennis shoes, my loafers, my white converse, and a pair of Sperrys. All of which are essential to the fiber of my being here in England, as I rely daily on every single item I brought. I wish I packed more shoes because my shoe game can always be better. I brought nearly everything I needed and I probably should have packed just a little less, so that I had more room to bring things back.
How do people dress in your study abroad location? How did you expect
people to dress? Have you changed the way you dress?
People dress similarly to the United States with a few differences and influences from Europe. On the whole, everyone looks just as you would expect – except with more sweaters. Ken Fincham rocks a mean sweater game (our UK Director). The influences from Europe usually include very tight clothing, but tight clothing that looks stylish and great on youthful people. I’m pretty fluid with my style – often on the forefront of stylish opportunity – and have indeed adapted some of my styles to match a more European look. I absolutely love it. I like to think that I look extremely good rocking the blond European (Handsome) youth look.
Does your host culture have a different concept of time or space than you’re
The time is right about the same, the only difference is their use of “half past the hour, quarter past the hour and so on.” Space use is a little bit different, almost everywhere space is a little bit more valuable than in the US. Since the Island is much smaller than the US, the space they use has to be used more efficiently. One of the biggest differences is their use of little plots of land and their caring for small gardens. It is a part of the culture here to keep small plots of land, but it takes years to get one!
What’s your favorite food you’ve tried so far?
Classic, Scotland made, beer-breaded fish and chips. Best choice I made for dinner, had with my friend Dalton (also an H-SC junior-rising senior), and a wonderful recommended Scottish ale to enhance the flavor of the fish.
The academic situation has been steady and work-heavy as one might expect. As I get a hang of everything, my studies become much easier and more natural. I was yelled at for whispering in the Bodleian Library, so that was great too! The history is incredible and the literature we are reading is beautiful. All in all, I think (hope) my tutors like discussing with me and enjoy my arguments. I am doing well, and overjoyed to be studying at Oxford.
I love the UK. My favorite part about this place is that it’s always temperate, always lovely, and the sights to see are always incredible. Scotland is now my favorite place on earth and the accents are wonderful. I have rediscovered my passion for bagpipes while visiting Scotland and now plan to buy some bagpipes sometime in my near future. There is a wonderful amount of time that we have when we do not actually have to do work and it’s a perfect balance between being completely free while keeping ourselves busy. I met an extremely nice and wholesome English man who is homeless and paints every single day right outside of the college I am staying at. A few days ago, I commissioned a painting of his for my one year anniversary with my wonderful girlfriend! The painting was spectacular and Henry was awesome about how he made it and kept it nice and safe until I could get it from him. Henry is BBC famous after a small short they did on him, and is generally known around Oxford as a pleasant man with a passion to paint. My feet are extremely sore. Sounds a bit odd, but I am certain I’ve walked around 100 miles in the last few weeks (maybe slightly exaggerated) and my feet are dying. I continue to learn small life lessons everyday, and one of my most recent lessons taught me about how darn expensive it is to travel – importantly the traveling itself is not expensive but everything while you’re traveling costs money. I have continued to find within myself an ever-growing love for my incredible parents. It feels as if I am maturing every day, and as each day passes I receive a small but significant perspective from the traveling I have done, the people I have met, and the lessons I learn daily. I love my school. I have been able to take a fine look at how other schools and universities operate and I can definitively say that I love my school more and more each day. H-SC is undoubtedly a unique place and I am thankful I made the choice to go there, and to stay there.
This is the detailed story of all my wonderful travels while here in the UK. By the time I finish my studies here in England I will have traveled to Bath, Glasgow, Edinburgh, London, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Oxfordshire (Oxford), Dover Priory (White Cliffs of Dover), and Cornwall. I’ll start off with my first couple of weeks here – my adventures exploring Oxford and my time in London and Stratford. Next blog I will detail Scotland and the glorious bagpipes that originate from that beautiful land.
Oxfordshire – A wonderful town an hour away from London and in the center of England. Oxford is where – you guessed it – the University of Oxford is located. To give a brief overview, the University of Oxford is composed of many different colleges that piece together to make it a university. The colleges generally have different areas of expertise and many have their own libraries separate from the main Oxford library – The Bodleian Library. Every one of these colleges are scattered throughout the city, while many remain concentrated in or around the city center, a good number require a good walk to get to. Every college has their own pub, and every college has a good number of pubs within a 10 minute walk. As I said before, many of the colleges have their own libraries, while the colleges that used to be women’s colleges have the best libraries (this is because of their dependence on a separate library as many other libraries would not allow entry to women). The University town is entirely dependent on the university itself, as it has become a sort of tourist center due to the history, prestige and beautiful architecture housed within the city limits. Many of the buildings in Oxford are over 500 years old, with some being a millennia old and integrated into the college itself. Some structures still stand from before Norman conquest (that is pre- 1066 AD) and act as a reminder of the fort that once stood as a foundation for the now remarkable university. I would give the Radcliffe Camera the floor for the most memorable sight, simply because it is a beautiful artwork that is a part of the Bodleian library. The library itself is only accessible to students and the public is not allowed to see the absolute wonders that are the ceilings, books, and atmosphere of the inside of the library. Also notable are the gorgeous fields and rivers that surround Oxford and give it that English feeling. There are many more sights to describe, but for right now I will tell you readers that the best part of Oxford and maybe England is the difference you feel from the US. As I look into the partly cloudy and beautiful Azure sky, I reminisce on the feeling of the culture in Oxford. Everything added together is what makes this place inviting and lovely – as I sit on my computer I can feel the study abroad experience enveloping my thoughts, and becoming an integral part of who I am. Not only is Oxford a place to see, but it is also a place to grow. The real sight to see in Oxford is the growth in oneself while here – and I am beginning to take on a different sense of who I am while here. The feeling is much more a cultural revelation, than it is a tourist sight-seeing extravaganza. I hope by now you can understand how, when I describe Oxford, and I hope you can read this as I am in my mind. More on Oxford coming soon!
London – London is a beast of its own. I will be able to describe more about it in my last and all-encompassing blogpost – post number four – but for now, I can tell you that it is worth at least going to. I didn’t stay long, but the time there was nice and memorable. While in London my VPO group watched a reproduction of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” and it was interesting to say the most. Unfortunately, it was not the original version that Shakespeare had formed with his talented hands, but an adaption by a newly hired director at the original Globe Theater on the Thames river. My buddy, Sam Farley and I got to have a blast together, while separated from our group in the theater. The experience was something worth it, but one that I might not try recreating. Once was enough. The city itself is ginormagantous, and the bus we were on took about 45 minutes just to get from one end of the city to a third of the way through its diameter. The food was expensive and the people were not particularly inviting. All in all, London is something to see, but not my cup of tea.
In addition to the Globe Theater we visited the Hampton Court Palace that was built by a high-ranking church official under King Henry VIII (who it was later confiscated from). The palace itself is extravagant and an awesome place to begin understanding the Early Modern English development and royalty. There my trusty buddy, Sam Farley and I got to walk around and see bed chambers of the royals, tennis courts with current aristocrats, beautiful gardens, and the extraordinary wealth held by powerful people at the time. Sam and I had a blast. During the trip we talked about everything under the sun, then some, and then some more. The history we had learned in our lectures from wildly intelligent men and women prepared us for our visit. Overall, it was a worthwhile trip and something I look forward to telling my kids in the future!
Stratford-Upon-Avon – In Stratford we saw another Shakespeare play (and we will be seeing another soon as well). The entire group went to watch Antony and Cleopatra – a tragedy about the downfall of Marc Antony and his love affair with Cleopatra. I liked this production much more than the Globe Theater production as it stayed close to the original play by Shakespeare. The town itself is cute and cozy, not too big, and no lights later than 11pm. All in all, for my first trip there it was nice and I also ate one of the best burgers I have ever had, while relaxing in a pub waiting for the show to start.