One week and roughly 6000 miles later, I find myself a world away from the sweaty wanderings in Asia. I am now in Oxford, England about to begin a rigorous but rewarding semester of study in the subjects of ethnomusicology and immigration. Term doesn’t begin for another week or so, so at the moment I am bound only by the obligation to attend orientation meetings hosted by OSAP (the Oxford Study Abroad Programme). Otherwise I am pretty much free to spend my time as I wish.
What better way than to start with today? First and foremost: I am now a proud member of the Oxford bike ballet. Bicycles are a popular form of transport, and watching them weave through intersections can look very much like a dance, an art form where the rider’s safety rests on their skill (and the caution of the automobile drivers sharing the streets). I took a leap and bought a bike from a fellow on gumtree (England’s craigslist) and am thus far pleased with my purchase. The bike itself was 55 pounds, and the seller threw in the front and back lights for an extra three quid. (Quid = Pound.) Tomorrow I will invest in a bike lock and then will be good as gold. The bike will make exploring the town easier, plus my accommodation, though very nice, is a little ways outside of town. Getting to city center takes about twenty-five minutes if I walk fast. But now I have a bike, so that time will be greatly decreased. Hurrah!
In the past week, I have been making the walk into town once or twice a day. That totals a couple hours of walking per day, which is pleasant though I must say that Britons walk entirely too fast. One impression I have being here is that I am constantly in the way. Whether in line at Tesco or rounding a corner, I always feel like I am mumbling an apology to someone whom I seem to have just inconvenienced by the placement of my person. I have had people tut, sigh, and even once a cantankerous old fellow exclaimed “My God!” when I found myself in his way on a sidewalk. It is not uncommon to see people running down the street, so great is their hurry. What’s the rush? To this I say: leave sooner.
Besides the feeling of being an obstacle, I have been enjoying my time here quite a bit. Every weekday all of the students on this program have been meeting in town for meetings on topics ranging from health care while we are here to watching BBC documentaries about Margaret Thatcher to listening to a lecture about “Why the world hates Americans.” It is an interesting time, to say the least. The other students are a pretty mixed bag, though everyone is attending school in the States. University of Tampa has the usual three representatives (UT has a partnership with OSAP, so we send three students every semester) while Eastern University in Pennsylvania and Oglethorpe University in Atlanta have a good number of delegates as well. Everyone seems to be studying something different, from Shakespeare to modern business practices to osteology. Thus far, I am the only person I have met in the fields of ethnomusicology or immigration. But the “real” Oxford students will be arriving next week so who knows who I may meet?