Feels Like Home

Now that I’ve been home in Oxford for  a few days, I am ready to tell you all about my travel break and other recent events.  I usually try not to make this blog sound like a journal or diary but this story is just way too long to focus on just a few things.

Italy was very beautiful.  I am so enthralled that I had the opportunity to see four of its major cities in 7 days.  Before going onto all of the good things about the trip, let me just list a few things not to do that our group learned from:

don’t sprain your ankle on the first night

don’t stay in a hostel in Florence run by a man who goes by “Mike Tyson”

don’t forget to buy leather in Florence and carnival masks in Venice

don’t lose your passport or other important documents

don’t fill out a police report for your crippled and passportless friend

don’t get frustrated with the language barrier – you are the ones in the foreign country, study up

don’t forget to give yourself plenty of time at the airport (especially if someone needs a wheelchair)

don’t buy a train ticket for the wrong day

don’t forget to print out EVERYTHING beforehand

don’t have the same flavor gelato every day

Needless to say, there were some very stressful moments of our trip.  However, it was in these hours of strife that the random girls I met 3 weeks beforehand became my good friends.  Struggle most often brings out the best in good people, and we are lucky to find ourselves surrounded by them at difficult times.

After landing in Pisa we by chance hopped on a “free” bus and hopped off unexpectedly at the Leaning Tower.  Later that day we took a train over to Florence.  In Florence our good luck turned on us and one of my friends spained her ankle at 5am the first night by falling down the stairs of our hostel.  The next day we walked around quite a bit and saw a lot of beautiful things.  There was an open market and tons of merchants.  On Sunday morning we went to mass in the Doumo, a beautifully decorated Italian Catholic church, before heading to Venice.  When we arrived in Venice that afternoon we took a water taxi over to our hostel across the canal, which gave us the chance to see the beauty of Venice from the water.  The second day in Venice we explored everywhere, took tons of photos, ate pizza and chocolate during a rainstorm at dusk, and ran into some other Americans that we had met in Florence.  That night we sprung for a hotel across the street from the train station.  This made it much easier on my crippled friend to catch our 545 am train (which we nearly missed anyways and 2 of them didn’t have tickets for) the next morning.  We needed that hotel.  And we deserved it at that point after so many things had gone wrong.  It was wonderful.

The rest of the trip was spent in Rome and it was incredible.  Even with the first day being dedicated solely to sorting out my friend’s passport problem, we saw almost everything you can see in Rome as a tourist.  Simply by walking around we were surprised around each corner by another breathtaking landmark.  We saw the Colosseum, the ruins, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, various other buildings, churches, and fountains, and spent an afternoon at the Vatican.  My injured friend was actually able to go out and see most of Rome with us, which was really nice since she stayed behind most of the time in Venice.  The last night we were there, we decided to go out dancing.  Since we didn’t know where to go, we asked the handsome Italian waiter from the restaurant across the street from our hostel.  He gave  us directions to an American Irish Karaoke place (he said Italians wouldn’t be out on a Wednesday night).  We felt very much at home to hear American music and voices even though we had made a pact to avoid exactly that for the sake of cultural immersion.

Our trip home to Oxford was relatively easy compared to the rest of our travels.  We easily got ahold of a wheel chair (which was nearly impossible at the train station in Venice) and were able to cut to the front of the border control line.  Our flight was delayed (originally 8pm) an hour which made us worry about missing our airline bus back from the airport to Oxford.  When we got off the plane and arrived at border control, there was a massive amount of people rushing to the line.  Lucky for us, that line was for UK passports and our passport line was literally empty.  We danced and sang our way obnoxiously through the airport.  To bring us back to reality, fate decided to continue the bipolarity of our trip to its very end.  We missed our bus by 5 minutes and had to wait until 1 am for the next one.

The next day, I had an academic advising meeting at which I found out what my two Oxford tutorials will be for Michaelmas term.  I will be taking 6 sessions on WWII history with Dr. Martin Holmes and 6 sessions with Dr. Sebastian Stein on the Philosophy of Law.  As both tutors are very highly esteemed in their fields, I am very nervous and excited to work with them.

Yesterday we were given a tour of the Oxford Union Society, into which I will be inducted next week.  It is home to a debating society and social center of the whole University.    Famous people are invited to come and be subject to both a formal debate and social gathering afterwards.  Today I received my Bodleian Library membership card and signed an oath promising not to burn it down or harm it in any other way.  Tomorrow I will be formally introduced to Jesus College (my affiliation with the University) and attend a special black tie dinner with other OPUS students, Deepak, and the presidents of various colleges.  We are all very excited.

Lastly, today some friends and I started to write down some of our Oxford Problems.  We thought about making a Twitter page, but discovered that many already exist.  My friend Gabby wrote about them in her blog.  She also has a much better and more detailed description of our Italy trip.



Taco Tuesday

Today was a busy day.  I had my third and final meeting with my British Politics tutor, Dr. Jones.  I think that the class went fairly well overall.  He told us that he would be writing good things about all of us and was happy to hear that I requested a History class for Michaelmas term.  He is going to email my adviser to see, but there is a possibility that he will be my World War II (from the British perspective) tutor.  

My flatmates an I just finished up a fantastic Taco Tuesday meal together.  We miss the pryz so we decided to celebrate every week while we are absent from it.  Tonight we had hard shell tacos with chips, salsa, guac, rice, and an assortment of mexican beverages.  We have two more days in our flat until we go on our travel break, after which we will move to the building next door.  Its sad to think that we are already done with about a third of our time here.  I am definitely going to miss this place.  

For Good!!

Yesterday was an incredible, spontaneous day.  My friend Gabby and I decided to go to London for the day with a few other friends from CUA who were going to a concert last night.  We spent the whole day walking around sightseeing.  We saw Buckingham Palace, Downing Street, Westminster, Tower Bridge, and Big Ben.  We also went on the London Eye (humongous ferris wheel where each car is a huge glass bubble from which you can see the whole city) and ate at this amazing restaurant/pub called the Clarence on Whitehall.  While we were walking around, we had these amazing ice cream cones with a chocolate stick in them.  They also had double cones that had two cone tops next to each other instead of two scoops on one cone head.  Since most of my friends are taking a CS Lewis tutorial right now, they talked about Aslan every time we saw a lion.  Eventually we decided to climb on top of one.  We weren’t the only ones, though, there was a line.  

After a long, amazing day, Gabby and I were about to head back for Oxford.  As if fate had meant for us to have an even more incredible day, we noticed a crowd of people lining up at the theater across from Victoria Station to see Wicked.  Fifteen minutes before the show started, we bought 2 of the last few seats available for under 30 pounds each.  They were seven rows back from the stage, dead center of the theater.  It was absolutely perfect and one of the best shows I have ever seen.  

When we got back to Oxford, the street we live on was packed with Oxonians!! I think real students are starting to move in because it has been fairly empty the past few weeks.  We’re really excited that we live in college housing, even though it is a huge trek from city center.  Regardless of how hungry we’ll be this week while we save money for Italia, everything yesterday was definitely FOR GOOD!! 

Cheers Mates!

I’M GOING TO ITALIA!!! At the end of the month, 5 other ladies and myself will be traveling through Italy.  We are SO excited and are frantically trying to plan everything while completing our first tutorials before we go.  Any suggestions?? We will be in Pisa, Florence, Venice, and Rome.

Life here is just so incredible.  There are street performers practically every day who are actually very talented and entertaining.  Cars don’t really drive through City Center, so its a lot of fun to just walk around and window shop.  The States seems to be a large influence on contemporary fashion here as well.  There’s a store called Republic that has American flag printed PANTS as well as tops, shoes, shorts, and accessories. Another store called Lexington has a lot of American flag printed things too, but is more of a beach house store/insanely priced clothing.  I WANT TO BUY THINGS!! But am not.

Anyways.  Our whole group is having a fantastic time and are becoming really close even though it has only been about 10 days since we arrived.  A friend and I have begun experimenting with cooking…. and I have discovered some weird candies here that we lack at home.  I keep meaning to write about impressive academic things, but I’ll save that for next time I guess.

On a final note, I’d like to share that I locked myself out of my room while I was in the shower yesterday.  I’m not sure how it happened, but luckily my flatmates were there and helped me find clothes, call our caretaker, use a bus pass, and get to the college to get a new “fob”  (magnetic door key thing). After I got back into my room we had a big family dinner at another house and had the best ice cream EVER from George and Davids.  CHEERS mates!!

Fit for a King (or Queen!)

The Ashmolean Museum yesterday was incredible.  There were countless paintings, sculptures, and other artifacts that were so fun to see.  Today we went to Hampton Court Palace.  We were lent green and scarlet robes to wear to place ourselves in medieval times.  Exhibits were set up displaying hundreds of beautiful portraits and tapestries within the elaborately decorated rooms once occupied by King Henry VIII, William III, Mary II, and other monarchs.  A live enactment of a dispute between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn was mediated by a third character.  We took a tea break (as always!!) and a walk in the gardens before heading back to the bus for Oxford.

On an academic note… My first small group tutorial met yesterday for the first time.  My worries vanished when we were able to find our meeting place and meet our very kind and prestigious tutor.  Our first paper is due at our next session on Tuesday.

Looking Forward

The past few days have been filled with a lot of wandering around town, window shopping, and making plans.  St. GIlles Fair took over an entire half of town, filling it with all kinds of tourists and carnival rides.  My first meeting with my British Politics tutor is tomorrow.  I am really nervous but excited.  Our group also has plans to see the Ashmolean Museum and Hampton Court Palace this week.  Aside from all of this exciting news, what I am most happy to share is that my wonderful boyfriend decided to visit for Thanksgiving.  I will be so happy to share this journey with him and am so thankful for the incredible person he is and that I can call him my best friend.

“The Toilet Doesn’t Flush”

Moments after the caretaker at my flat left, I managed to break the bathroom.  After hours of travel including a 5 hour layover, hour bus ride, and an expensive cab (because my friend and I kept changing our minds about which residence to go to first), I wanted nothing more than to relax and settle in. I used the toilet, and to my horror nothing happened when I tried to flush it.  Being an American, I thought this meant that I should hold the flusher down longer.  Several failed tries later, I took a step back and bumped my wooden boot into the bathtub.  the side panel covering crashed to the floor.  I couldn’t decide which was going to be more embarrassing to explain when the caretaker brought my 3 flatmates in.  Luckily he was very kind and understanding, and he only chuckled a little when he demonstrated how to flush properly.  

The rest of the afternoon was fabulous and today was even better!! There’s so much to see here.  And so many winding streets to get lost in on purpose.  The rest of the students in my close (neighborhood) will move in and I will gain full access to Jesus College and the Oxford Union at the end of September for the start of term.  Meanwhile, we will have a shorter small group tutorial to introduce us to the style.  Hopefully I won’t take it too personally when my tutor tears my paper to shreds!! 

Awaiting Departure, Packing My Life in A Suitcase

Nine days from now I will find myself flying over the Atlantic for the very first time.  I have never ventured outside my beloved homeland before, and am anxiously awaiting my arrival in England.  I plan to keep this blog for the sake of documenting my journey and sharing it with all my fans and friends.  The uncertainty of where I will be living or what I’ll be studying mixed with the limitations I am being forced to put on my wardrobe due to packing space are making me somewhat nervous, but I am anticipating the experience of a lifetime over the next four months.  Wish me luck!

The title of this blog is a play on my last name.

Because I am a Gotlund in London 😉