Back at Salve Regina, I made the decision, two years ago, to apply to the Oxford program, with the intention of fulfilling some of my core requirements abroad. However, I am so grateful that the program was postponed to this year. Thinking back, I cannot remember exactly why I decided to apply for Oxford specifically, but I’m so glad I did!
Now that I’m here, though, I know precisely why I was drawn to it. I have such respect for the English people, their simple, quiet ways and the unique, unparalleled history of the country. Although there are cultural differences and strange linguistic discrepancies, the English are very similar to Americans. However, the differences are mostly caused by the age gap, in my opinion. Although the native Americans inhabited the colonies prior to the 15th century, the modern-day United States was not independent until the 1780s. Therefore, British history expands far beyond what we can comprehend in America.
Experiencing that history here in Oxford, in person, is incredible. Especially as a history major, the experience has been effective in widening my perception of history and age. At Salve Regina, I am surrounded by reminders of the Gilded Age, whether it’s Ochre Court or the mansions on Bellevue. However, after being exposed to the extraordinary display of age in Oxford and London, my perception of American history has changed. I knew the United States was young compared to Europe, but I didn’t realize how much younger American culture and society is. However, that is partially due to the fact that my history teachers in the past have emphasized the birth of the United States and often neglected to mention that the Western world existed far before the colonial era. As simple and obvious as that may sound, leaving the United States and North America has allowed me to see the United States in a humbler, more objective light. Both of my courses have provided me the opportunity to supplement my American perspective with an international approach to literature and history.
My English course, which I’m taking to fulfill a Salve core curriculum credit requirement, discusses the impact of setting on the plot and characters of literature. Specifically, we have explored the implications of Oxford and Victorian period events on authors in England. We are reading Alice in Wonderland, Jude, Persuasion and Brideshead Revisited. So far, we have made connections between Alice in Wonderland and Oxford University and Jude the Obscure and the Sheldonian Theater, a theater used by Oxford students in the city center. My History course, which I’m taking to fulfill a Salve Pell Honor’s Program credit requirement, discusses the relationship between the U.S. and Britain. We have talked about the deterioration of the Anglo-American friendship during the American Revolution, the impact of the British on the Civil War and will now be exploring how Franklin Roosevelt’s friendship with Winston Churchill evolved. This course is particularly interesting to me as a history major with a concentration in American history. However, taking the course in England, incorporating the perspective of the English has been incredibly beneficial to my overall understanding of how America evolved and how we are perceived internationally.
Oxford truly offers such a beautiful, unique setting to study literature and history in. After spending significant time this past week in both the rural and urban parts of Oxford, experiencing historical churches, restaurants and buildings, I feel incredibly lucky to be here. I love the city center, but also have enjoyed exploring the small town we live in within Oxfordshire. Although our day trip to London was fascinating, I am grateful to have chosen to study in an area that is more sheltered and easier to navigate.
So why Oxford?
As I said, I don’t quite remember my original reasons for wanting to come, but now I can say after only a week that I have a definite list of reasons why I won’t forget it-
-the smell of the abundant flowers blooming in late spring
-the double-decker buses racing through the streets
-the phone booths that refuse to be forgotten or removed
-the grocery store employee’ sigh as the Sunday night rush begins
-the unpredictable weather that tops even New England
-the sun’s failure to set until 9pm
-the tea that comes in a pot with a biscuit regardless of where you buy it
-the reserved yet dignified appearance of the English people (they bike regardless of whether they’re wearing a suit or just a button down)
My experiences in Oxford are something I’ll never forget, personally or professionally!