31 December 2008

The Final Post of 2008

WARNING: Please excuse my grammatical errors and poor writing skills. This post has taken me two days to write and is rather disjointed in its construction.

This is the final post of 2008 and what a year it has been! When I left the US, gas prices were hovering around the $4.00 mark (Indeed, when I saw that they had dropped down to $3.90 around August 1st, I almost crashed my car in my shocked haste to call my father at work and let him know), and when I returned they were at $1.45 per gallon. Obviously, this is a clear sign that the world is ending. When I was returning from spending the weekend at Elysa's house (a friend from CMRS who lives in St. Mary's), I paid $25 to the attendant, still thinking that it would fill up perhaps half of the tank of my Ford Focus as it would have back during the summer. However, it only took $15 to fill up my entire tank! Unfortunately, the drop in gas prices is also an indicator of our failing economy, so I suppose I shouldn't be too happy.

Before I write my traditional end-of-year summary, I realized that I never got around to writing about my last few days in Oxford, a situation that I shall remedy immediately.

Friday, Dec. 6: What a hellish day! My Chivalry & Courtly Love seminar paper of 3000 - 4000 paper was due at 5pm. My topic? 'The Role of Arthurian Legend in Early Tudor Propaganda'. A good idea, in theory. However, the more I researched, the more it seemed that there was not nearly enough evidence to support my thesis. Now, I am not one of those history majors who absolutely loves history. Granted, I am interested in it enough to major in it. Still...when I get into my 'historian mode', all hell breaks loose. I refuse to put forward a thesis supported by flimsy or misused evidence. And so I spent all of Thursday after my tutorial at the Bodleian reading over accounts of Henry VII and VIII's reigns, searching for anything that could back up my argument. Elysa had two friends from the States visit her that night, and so I joined my friends in taking them to St. Peter's College bar, the Cross Keys, and to the Turf Tavern. I suppose that time could have been better used in working on my paper, however, I was so worn-out by that point that the break was quite necessary.

At 12:30am, I joined Tony in the seminar room and started my paper. 3000-4000 words is roughly 15 pages. My goal was to have 2000 words written by 8am. The atmosphere in that room was quite tense the entire time that we were in there. At varying points throughout the night (morning?), Tony or I would decide that there was absolutely no way we could continue on. However, failure was not an option, and so we pressed on. At just before 8, I hit the 2000 word mark, meaning that I had earned the right to go to breakfast. Tony and I packed up our belongings and headed over to St. Peter's in a daze. Looking back, I have no idea how I even was managing to stand at that point given how tired I was. After breakfast, we walked over to the Lower Camera at the Bodleian's Radcliffe Camera, where I sat in the coldest corner possible (to keep myself awake) and managed to finish my paper. Overall, it turned out more decently than some papers I had spent days on, but I doubt that I will be pulling such a stunt in the near future.

That night, my purse was stolen while I was out with my friends, thus putting a damper on the entire weekend.

Sat., Dec. 7: I moped about for part of the morning since I was still quite upset over the fact that my purse was stolen and I had absolutely no money. My roommate treated me out for waffles at Convivos (a hip cafe in Gloucester Green) and I went for a run to clear my mind. That evening, we found out that as it was outside of the Oxford term, St. Peter's would not be providing meals, even though they had specifically stated that they would. I, of course, had no money, and my friends were not in that much better of a state. Somehow, we managed to pull together enough to buy a pizza and garlic bread from Sainsbury's. That night we went to the Eagle & Child and then hung out in the seminar room, reminiscing on the fact that the semester was almost over.

Mon., Dec. 9: Thankfully, Dad wired money to me, which allowed me to relax a bit. I was able to get a pair of keys into the building from the administration, which also caused me no small amount of relief that I wouldn't have to rely on others for help getting back inside. Still, there was no rest for the weary, as I had both a 10-page tutorial paper and an 8-page integral paper to finish by Wednesday night. In order to prevent myself from getting too stressed out, Tony and I went to the Turf Tavern.

Tues., Dec. 10: I spent all day working on my final tutorial paper (Tracing the change in the imperial theme through the reigns of Elizabeth and James I) and researching for my integral paper (Topic: Why the medieval church was the most integrated period of religious thought and practice) At 8pm, Brad, Elysa, Tony, Becky, and I went to my favorite pub, Far From the Madding Crowd, and grabbed a pint (or, in my case, a cider) for the last time. And then it was back to St. Peter's library to finish writing my tutorial paper.

Wednesday, Dec. 11: I had my final tutorial with Miranda from 10-12 and began my integral paper immediately afterwards. I finished by 2;30 (it was due at 3) and was quite pleased with my work. It could only be a maximum of 2000 words and I came out at 1960. The actual paper itself was not too bad, especially considering that I really do not care for religious history of any sort. Afterwards, I went for one of my last runs in Christ Church meadows. I can honestly say that this was one of my favorite places in all of Oxford. So much so, in fact, that I am very tempted to bring my running shoes with me when I visit Oxford at the end of January so that I can run along the Thames again.

Thursday, Dec. 12: Brad and I left for London bright and early on Thursday morning. Our main reason for going was that the Oxford versus Cambridge rugby game was being held at Twickenham stadium just outside of London. However, we left earlier than we needed because Brad had not been to London yet. Unfortunately, my decision to go to the rugby game meant that I didn't get to say goodbye to my friend Becky, which was a bit upsetting. Once in London, we saw Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Tower of London, St. Paul's Cathedral, and Westminster Cathedral (the Catholic one). Of course, because of the time crunch (and the fairly steep admission fees) we didn't get to go inside any of these places. It was then that we set off on the Tube for Twickenham. Unfortunately, this is where we ran into problems. Kick-off for the rugby game was set for 2pm. We didn't set off on the Tube until 1:50, had 15 stops until we hit Richmond, and then had to take a bus to the stadium.

As is the case when it comes to my luck, the train ended up being delayed multiple times. However, we did catch up with Amanda and Karen, two fellow CMRS-ers whom we had attempted (and failed) to meet up with at Victoria station. At Richmond we took a local bus to Twickenham and then set off for the direction of the stadium off in the distance. Rugby games are fairly short (only about 90 minutes) and it was already 2:45. At some point, we started to run towards the stadium in the hopes that we would catch at least a little of the game. We made it for the last 30 minutes, which is, of course, the best and most exciting part of the game. Oxford was winning, so I headed downstairs to get my pint of Strongbow. Now, I rarely get excited over sporting events, and never to the point where I jump up from my seat. However, I was so moved over this game that I ended up jumping up and 'accidentally' spilling some of my cider on the Cambridge supporters in front of me. (They, however, were too inebriated to notice, so I suppose it was not so bad.) Despite an aggressive last ditch effort by Cambridge, Oxford won the game for yet another year in a row. The four of us joined the crowd pouring from the stadium and walked through the streets of Twickenham, all the while cheering loudly for Oxford.

We boarded a local bus that would take us to the Kew Gardens Tube station, hoping to avoid the torrent of people at Richmond station. Unfortunately, our bus was diverted, got stuck in traffic, and we got off at the wrong stop. We boarded another bus, got on the Tube, and then were stuck on the train for an hour due to signal problems up by Tower Hill station. By the time we got on the bus back to Oxford, we were exhausted. However, the fun was not over yet. As it was one of our last nights in Oxford, we joined the large group of CMRS-ers at The Turf and then headed to the King's Arms to celebrate Oxford's win. By this point, however, I was so exhausted that I headed back to St. Michael's to crash.

Friday, Dec. 13: Friday was my last full day in Oxford and, therefore, a rather depressing one. The fact that it was raining didn't help matters at all. I woke early, mailed my stained glass at the post office on St. Aldate's, walked round the Bodleian one last time, went running in Christ Church, and then said goodbye to my roommate, Becca, who is traveling around Europe for a month before heading to do mission work in Zimbabwe. I then met with Tristan near the gigantic Christmas tree and menorah on Broad. He had actually left Oxford for London the previous weekend, but I had missed his departure due to my phone having been stolen. Saying goodbye to him was one of the hardest things I had to do in Oxford. Despite the fact that we got into huge rows every time we were together, our friendship was one of the most unexpected results of my study abroad experience. And I truly will miss him.

Later, Karen and I went to the Mitre for tea and scones. My most distinct memory from the day is sitting in the corner of the Mitre, wearing my paper crown from my Christmas cracker, watching out the window at the people passing by on the street. It was then that I knew that my life would never return to normal. I ate my last dinner at St. Peter's and then finished my last bits of packing.

Most of the people from the program went out on a last pub crawl and then went to the clubs. However, I was in absolutely no mood to do such a thing and so settled for sitting in my room feeling rather melancholy. Luckily, my friends pulled me out of my moping by taking me to Far From the Madding Crowd one last time. I drank my last Katy Cider and played a last game of Jenga. Afterwards, we went to the Gloucester Arms, ("Oxford's No. 1 Rock Pub") for the first time, before heading back to St. Michael's hall. By this time, most people had returned from the pub crawl and were in the midst of throwing an all-night party in the common room.

Sat, Dec. 14: The final day had come. I'd been unable to cry all semester, but I'll admit that a few tears leaked out when I was saying goodbye. It still hurts too much to talk about it.

Overall, going to Oxford was the best experience that I have ever had. For anyone thinking about studying abroad, I say that you should do it. I've grown tremendously, both academically and as a person. Looking back, it is strange to think that I hadn't even been looking forward to Oxford at the start of the summer. After all, I thought that my experience would be lessened by the fact that I would be studying with other Americans as opposed to actual British students. No, it was Edinburgh that I was looking forward to, as I would be completely alone; a visiting student at the University itself with no program to provide me with activities to 'pad' the experience. However, I can honestly say that my Oxford experience was not hindered in any way by studying with Americans. (Although I absolutely HATED it when certain people would break into loud renditions of the National Anthem.) Indeed, I made some of my closest friends at CMRS.

I can only hope that my time at Edinburgh proves to be as wonderful a experience.

I was going to post a year-end wrap up, but it is almost as if everything before Oxford is not even worth mentioning.

To everyone has read my blog, thank you for supporting me and putting up with my complete disregard for grammatical structure and usage. For those who (amazingly) have not been completely turned off by my misuse of the English language, I look forward to entertaining/boring you in 2009.

Happy New Year!

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