Oxford is a beautiful place to study, live and play. The opportunity to live in a place with such rich academic and literary history has been such a priviledge. I will never forget walking through Port Meadow and discussing how Lewis Carroll created Alice’s story. This place has a unique sense of history and wonder that I haven’t experienced in the States. However, throughout the trip, the sense of academia, wonder and imagination that Oxford exudes has been contrasted by the current political climate.
Our studies focus on the innocence, creativity and wonder of Alice in Wonderland, the romanticism of Jane Austen’s work and the rich educational background of Oxford portrayed in Thomas Hardy’s novels. However, during our month in England, the terrorist attacks (Manchester, London Bridge and the Mosque Incident) have all provided stark contrast to the rural bubble of Oxford. This contrast was a little bit hard to comprehend at first, but although it has reminded us all to be cautious, we have all also decided to live fully and enjoy our time here. However, it is still unsettling to realize that even in this place of innocence and education, that danger still exists. This really sank in when we were preparing for our day trips to London and our professors were instructed to provide us with guidance about what to do if a car was swerving into the crowd.
Although we were safe during our time in London, to hear the same professor that described Alice’s father’s wish for her never to grow up explain how to avoid being hit by a terrorist, was unsettling. Similarly, in our history course, we are discussing Anglo-American relations and had discussed the importance of the relationship between the Prime Minister and the President. However, in the short time we have been in England, the relationship between English leaders and our President seem to have declined. The manner in which President Trump has responded to England’s sorrow has been embarrassing and frustrating for me as a student representing America. We discussed past relationships between English and American leaders, including Winston Churchill, FDR, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, which all sharply contrast our current leaders.
This collective contrast has been interesting to think about as a college student and as unsettling as it may be, I have been grateful for the opportunity to gain perspective. Discussing the differences in media coverage of terrorist attacks in the U.S. versus Britain has been interesting. Also, realizing how different politics, especially elections, are in Britain has also been fascinating. Despite our historic “special relationship” and common values, the U.S. and Britain possess a multitude of differences that I wouldn’t have been able to comprehend without spending time here.
Therefore, although these can be disconcerting times, I am incredibly grateful for the chance to visit England. I realized in the park, smiling at the sunset and children playing with their families, and walking through Port Meadow, that Wonderland definitely still exists.