Wanting to take advantage of the tremendous places within arm’s reach of Bristol, six of us MA students left Temple Meads Station on a bright and sunny Saturday to explore the haunts of Oxford, the city home to the second oldest and arguably best university in the world. The distinctive atmosphere of Oxford was palpable within minutes after stepping off the train. As we left platform two and and walked into the city, the air tasted different. In the words of Miss Genevieve Gardiner, a Canadian beauty and fellow Romantics student, “I can just feel my IQ going up!” Anyone could increase their intelligence in this place, whether from the pristine beauty of the lecture halls or the pressure of living up to Oxford’s expectations.
Of course, the city was lovely not only due to the immaculate architecture and cathedrals, but the green, green grass and beautiful gardens seemingly waiting behind every small corner. Of Oxford’s thirty-eight colleges, we toured just two; Balliol College, the University’s oldest college, and Worcester College. We also enjoyed visiting Christ Church and the University’s Ashmolean Museum, Britain’s oldest public museum.
I enjoyed the train ride as much as anything. Life feels purposeful on a train, which probably explains why I enjoy traveling as much as I do. For once, I can put away the books and to-do lists, tell my mind to be quiet, and just look out the window and know I’m moving forward. Better than even the train ride and exploring Oxford was getting to know my classmates better. I’ll be the first to admit I’m a bookish individual who can easily withdraw from large groups of people, and coming to Bristol, I feared my classmates might also be introverts. Not just anyone endeavors to earn a masters in English, particularly when the practicalities of finding a job with an arts degree are not so hopeful. I should have known not to worry as it was He who brought me here, and of course, the individuals I’ve been meeting from my program are wonderful.
Genevieve is a gorgeous girl from Toronto who wanted not just a masters, but an international adventure. So she came to Bristol. We instantly bonded when we learned we both left boys at home.
Me: “Yes, I felt really bad leaving. It’s always harder being the one who stays…and Brady’s a little needy.”
Gen: “Jon is too! He won’t let my sign off Skype.”
Then there’s Caroline, or ‘Caro,’ a proper British girl with the loveliest red hair and freckles (and green eyes!) I’ve ever seen. She is also frequently hilarious and wears the most darling outfits, because of course, in the words of Caro, “The worst thing a lady can do is let herself go!” While in Oxford, I took the opportunity to record some ‘Caro-isms.’ Here are a few of my favorites (please read in your best British accent:
“I quite like poodles.”
“I want to live in an old estate and wear period dress. I was born in the wrong century! But, I’d want modern technology and plumping and make-up, so I guess I just want to live in a renovated old estate and wear period dress.”
“Daddy is taking Mummy to a hotel in the country for the weekend, and Mummy will be so happy!”
It’s quite helpful having a British friend to help navigate the many cultural differences here, and Caro is quite the expert. We also miss our terriers very much, who happen to be cousins, or so we’ve decided. Caro has a Westie named Soda (in honor of cream soda) and of course, I have little Audrey who may or may not live up to Ms. Hepburn’s reputation.
I met Ashley by chance during my second day in Bristol when she heard my familiar American accent. We couldn’t believe our luck when we realized we were in the same program, and celebrated by going shopping. It’s been a luxury to bemoan the small cultural problems I’ve encountered with a fellow American (yes, we miss our cars), and to excite each other about studying overseas. Ashley is here with her husband Brian who took his only year off from working in the military to study archaeology. I love that they’re experiencing Bristol together and, though it makes me miss Brady, Ashley and Brian are quickly becoming one of my favorite couples.
I’ve also enjoyed getting to know Hikari, a self-deprecating and brilliant character also studying romanticism. Boasting dual citizenship (from the UK and Japan) it’s very interesting to talk about his ‘dual-upbringing’ of sorts and his many life experiences. He has every right to be snobby, but isn’t in the least.
Being in Brisol, an ocean away from the Gotta Hotel (home to my large family), has also reminded me of how much I enjoy doing things by myself. This has probably been the greatest luxury of being in England. I only have to look after me; get to buy whatever groceries I like, which lately has been loads of Brie, clementines, dark chocolate, noodles and curry); and have complete freedom over how I structure my time. When I first arrived I was set on finding a job, but the pleasure of having everyday to do just what I like is becoming a bit too hard to give up. Even if the majority of my time is spent in the library reading Keats, Wordsworth and Coleridge, I get to spend most of my time in the library reading Keats, Wordsworth and Coleridge!
Now to make some dinner and brace the rain,