“On Thursday at 4:30 walk to the first white house on Longwall street and knock on the window in between the front door and the entrance to the courtyard.” That was the message that my tutor sent me for the time and location of our first tutorial. In the previous week , visiting students had been warned that the cardinal sin of Oxford was being late for a tutorial. So I naturally decided to show up a little early for my first lesson and like every other day at Oxford, it was raining. When I arrived at the house, I knocked on the window in between the front door and the courtyard and there was no response. At exactly 4:30, a man came biking up to the house. He was fully equipped with all the essentials of biking in the rain. He had a neon raincoat, thick rain pants, a case for his backpack, and even goggles for his eyes. On that note, let me tell you that this is not that out of the ordinary. There are two guarantees at Oxford: It rains and everyone uses bikes as the main form of transportation. As he got off his bike he introduced himself as my tutor. He opened the front door and we went into the living room. On the outer edge of the room was a couch, a desk that faced the window, and a bookshelf containing many Human Evolutionary Genetics textbooks. In the middle was a table and at the table there were chairs. In those chairs we were to sit and talk for an hour about the genetic differences and variation among populations of humans and chimpanzees. The tutorial, a little daunting a first, turned out to be typical of the Oxford lifestyle. Academic life is not a job that you go to and then leave behind at the end of the day. As seen by my experience in a random house, it is something that is part of your everyday life. It is essential to who you are. My first week of tutorials made me realize that.
I will be completely honest with you, academic events have taken up every bit of my time here. No matter what I am doing, there is always some component of learning involved. Now that may seem a bit excessive, but I absolutely love it. Every day this week I would wake up and pick a random lecture that I wanted to go to. I sat in on biophysical chemistry lectures and went to seminars on various biological processes. Is this completely academic? Yes. Do I love it? Absolutely! I may not be travelling through Europe too much this semester, but I am gaining invaluable experience by working here.
I will admit that I did take a break last night. I went to the Turf Tavern with some other visiting students and got some very good advice from a woman who was reminiscing on old times with a long friend. She said, “One of the problems with people in Oxford is that they all look down. It rains all the time, so they naturally put their heads down. While you’re here, look up. You’re in a beautiful city, why not take it in and enjoy it.” With that in mind, I spent most of today just ‘looking up’ and I found a lot of different sites at Oxford. The first are the Heads at Bodleian library. I live about 30 seconds away from there and do not know the story behind the heads. When I find it out, I will let you know. The other two pictures I have included in this blog are from Christ Church. Christ Church is not only one of the 38 colleges that are part of the University of Oxford, but it is also the cathedral church of the diocese of Oxford. It is a very good representation of the beautiful architecture of this city.
“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.”- Ashley Smith