Excited, Tired, Thrilled, and Confused: A Memoir of Homesickness and Adventure
After having spent two, almost three, weeks here in Oxford I have a number of things to reflect on from my adventures.
First, I would like to talk to you about my classes. They are so exciting and interesting and totally out of my normal realm. I really enjoy European history in regards to the World Wars and American history of the Revolutionary era, but here I am taking a class on the Tudor dynasty and one on the history of science with focuses on Darwin and Jack the Ripper. Learning about the Tudor dynasty has been completely foreign to me but I am enjoying (almost) every minute of it. My professor is actually a professor whose “regular” job is teaching at Oxford University! She has a completely different teaching style from the professors back at home. She is very blunt and has a certain acquired taste about her. She has a ton of reading required for each class and leads very lively discussion in class (when she can get more than three students to pipe up, anyways). I have had to do a lot of homework for this class and the assignments are all to be done in single space type, but the challenge of this class has made it really enjoyable for me. My History of Science class is also very interesting. We have taken a few field trips to museums around Oxford and it is crazy just how much of the things we regard as fact or normalcy came from this scientific era! We have very lively debates in that class as well which is often both enjoyable and terrible. But I never thought I would ever know as much about Charles Darwin as I do now, so it’s not all bad!
But, related to class work, my first chunk of time here has been spent really stressing over making sure I do every tiny little assigned reading and analyzing it with the utmost care. I have really struggled to find a balance in doing work and experiencing the amazing, new, and different world around me. The work isn’t really anymore difficult or long than work back in Tuscaloosa, there is just a more constraining time period in relation to the work. I don’t feel like I have been able to enjoy and experience as much of the Oxford life as my peers, but, I have been really fortunate to make some amazing new friends. They have really pushed me to come out of my room and find something exciting to do every single day for the rest of our trip. Because in 20 years, my children and future students won’t care about how much reading I did in Oxford, they’ll care that I climbed a church tower and stood in the library where Harry Potter was filmed (at least I hope they care about that). This aspect of the trip has really helped me learn more about myself and how I adapt to new experiences. Which, it turns out, I was pretty awful at towards the start of our adventure.
Homesickness (and actual illness) hit me really hard. I was frustrated because there isn’t a Dunkin Donuts 6 minutes from my house/dorm, there isn’t a WalMart or a Target, and the food is lacking in any form of sodium. I missed my friends and my boyfriend; I missed my boyfriend’s dog. I really wanted to abort mission and get on a plane to come home. But, I wasn’t shocked by these reactions. I knew I would have a hard time at the start, but I rarely back down from a challenge so I wasn’t prepared to let it take over my whole existence in Oxford. I got a little relief when my fabulous and wonderful uncle came to London to be with me for my birthday! I got to spend time with family and have a seasoned guide in London. I went to see The Lion King in the West End on my birthday! Having this time with my uncle really helped me get a grip on my homesickness. This being said, spending the night in London in a fancy hotel room with air-con (air conditioning in British speak) made coming back to my stuffy dorm very hard. But I was excited to share my knew knowledge of the big city with my friends! We have plans to visit London this weekend, so we will see how much I can actually be of use. After getting some relief from my metaphorical sickness, I was struck with tonsilitis. Now, I just KNEW that if anyone was going to be sick on this trip it was going to be me. It always is. I am always the kid that gets the crud when out adventuring. But, I am on this trip with some AMAZING faculty who were so kind and helped make sure I got to the doctor so I could get well. My run in with the British health care system was actually wonderful. Went in got my antibiotics and got out! A week later and I am feeling much better, still have a cough but I don’t feel like death is creeping up behind me to claim me as his own.
I have basically slain tonsilitis (thanks Penicillin!), but homesickness is still causing me some grief. My cravings for a large order of cheese dip have become almost unbearable and what I would do for a good iced coffee is probably a little crazy. But I have started to look at the remainder of my trip in a different light than what I started with. I have spent mass amounts of time (think 10+ hours of one day) just doing homework and working myself to death over one class, and have tried to push my adventurous spirit down so I can be a real life Hermione Granger and top witch of my class. I haven’t allowed myself to say “screw it. I am going to do something amazing today” because I have worried myself so crazy over coursework. But! No more! My friends helped me make plans to go and do things that AREN’T coursework. They even put them in my planner, which technically makes them appointments that I cannot miss. I have learned that everything doesn’t have to read in scrupulous detail and I don’t need to care what this one professor thinks about my intelligence level. I have remembered that learning is just as much about seeing and doing as it is about reading and writing.
I’m going out and experiencing things this weekend and next week while also scheduling time to put some Hardwork into my final assignments for my courses. Scheduled for adventuring this weekend is a whirlwind tour of London complete with a visit to the London Zoo! I can’t wait to share pictures of that with you all.
PS: here is me climbing the St Mary’s Tower!!