Not Just Visiting: Exploring Oxford as an International Student
For the vast majority of us our time in Oxford is limited. For some it may be only a term or a year, for others three or more. But most of us will eventually have to leave the University and city behind as we explore our careers and the journey that life has in store. This does not mean, however, that we should treat our time here as being in any way transient. Every day that I walk outside my door quite literally feels like an adventure as I experience the city, its people, and it’s rather quirky cars that drive on the wrong side of the road. This is a year of my life which I plan on making the most of!
The moment that I was standing in Gloucester Green next to my luggage I knew I was in trouble. I was alone in a city I had never been to, with a pile of bags that literally weighed more than I did, and only an address to guide me. Do remember that I was packing for a year.
After about five minutes in which I calmly stood there with my bags taking in the situation, I’m sure looking very awkward based on the amount of stares, a group of people sprung into the square and immediately took notice of me. In less than three minutes they had informed me that they were part of an OU committee to greet international students and had shouldered the vast majority of my bags. They proceeded to walk me to the door of my town house where they carried those bags up not one, not two, but three flights of stairs to my room. This was my very first experience of what Oxford has to offer.
If you’re anything like myself the first question you’re going to ask in a new place is where you can find a good bite to eat. The Oxford Covered Market is a fantastic place to get mounds of food for a cheap price. But if you’re looking for a restaurant I’ve found that if you can find your way to Little Clarendon St. you can do no wrong.
My first experience was with Al-Andalus Tapas Bar for small plates and a glass of sangria. While the tapas were certainly on point, the sangria deserves its own special attention. What makes it unique is the slight aftertaste of cinnamon and the fresh fruit heaped at the bottom of the jug including lemon, lime, pear, grape, and apple. I highly recommend that after you finish off the sangria (because you will) you take a fork and pull out some of the red-stained, sangria soaked fruit for dessert!
Also on Little Clarendon are Café Rouge and G & D’s Café. Café Rouge is fantastic if you’re craving a French dish from duck to mussels or steak. On weekends after 11:30am they offer a select menu for a two course meal for only thirteen pounds. G&D’s, for those of you who have not yet had the pleasure, is Oxford’s own ice cream café. I find myself strolling their way more often than I would like to admit for a “Mad Cow”, which is essentially a coffee ice cream float. Also available are bagel sandwiches or pizza for those of you with less of a sweet tooth.
There are plenty of differences between life here in Oxford and my life in the States. There the bulk of academic work is assigned in class or lectures while here the tutorial system seems to be the sun that I revolve around each week. I could also go on and on about the differences between British and American Netflix, but that’s another article.
These differences, however, are a far cry from a bad thing. In this past week I’ve shook hands and sipped wine at a History Society social and taken my first ballroom dancing lesson. There’s a good chance I’ll be going to trials for the beginner’s competitive team! My point here is that my year here at Oxford means so much more to me than “just visiting”, the longer I stay the more it seems like home.