I can’t believe it is almost December! Time is flying by here at Oxford. I am enjoying the whole experience. Studying British history here is intense and I am often reminded to stop thinking from an American perspective, something that is not easy to do. Pembroke College is such a friendly place to study and it is right in the heart of Oxford. I have met many visiting students from colleges in the U.S. but we are all mixed in with the students at Pembroke. I still enjoy formal dinners three nights a week in the dining hall as it is a great way to share experiences with those who are studying other subjects. Also, my dorm has mostly upper classmen so whenever I need advice, I just ask. I find the British take a little more time with meals to enjoy the company. Even when running for a cup of tea or coffee, they set aside enough time for a short chat. It makes ever encounter personal and allows you to get to know each other a little better. I like it actually, although when I am on my rushed American timetable, I feel like I am missing things. Cultural Lesson: Slow Down a bit!
This past weekend we went into London for a dinner with Cornell alumni and visiting students from Cornell, Brown and University of Pennsylvania who are studying at several Universities across the United Kingdom. Some were not staying the full year and were sad they were leaving. The dinner was lovely and helped us celebrate Thanksgiving as a family far from home. I also got to go to London’s Winterfest celebration! I really love and appreciate London taxi drivers. Unlike home, they have to learn everything about the city and its sights before being allowed to drive a taxi. Most own their taxis and have tremendous pride in both the history of London taxis and in their jobs. Little things matter. For instance, they do not wear seatbelts because they are supposed to be ready to jump out and assist whenever necessary. From experience, they most often do! As a positive side note, every black cab in London—every single one—is easily accessible even for a motorized wheelchair! This means I am able to go anywhere in the city, at anytime, without feeling that I may be stranded!! Just like home?? NOT!!
It is so different to live in Oxford as a city, rather than just visit it. As I travel back and forth to London by train (it is about an hour long ride), I feel like a commuter rather than a visitor. Oxford started out feeling very large, but now so much of it is familiar to me. I bump into people I know often as I go about the day. Many are friends, but some are just people I see daily. I have learned to ask for assistance if I need it, for directions, to change trains, or to buy tickets to a show. I have found people to be friendly and helpful, even strangers I have just met. It makes me appreciate kindness and helpfulness on a human level much more than before. I will forever remember my experiences here and keep them in mind when I return home to represent our city to visitors. It takes so little to help someone out who may feel adrift in a new place. It is a kindness connection– a circle I hope I have become part of.