Foreign Correspondence: A Taste of Oxford

Opinion by and
Jan. 14, 2011, 12:10 a.m.

While the seasons change and the clouds turn heavy with rain, the Stanford House in Oxford remains alive and kicking. Accommodating its nearly entirely new breed of 46 Stanford students (some leftover from last quarter), the house offers a maze of staircases and double doors to confuse residents of their own rooms’ whereabouts. A few hours upon arrival to the site and after finding my room conveniently located at the first door on the third floor, I find another girl swinging through the hallway doors. Asking her what she is up to, she responds, “I’m lost. I’m trying to find my room.” So to all posterity of Stanford Program in Oxford, do not be alarmed if you can’t find your room even after having come from it. In fact, there is a map of the house that might help you find your way, but there is no guarantee. My best wishes to you for finding your room in this masterly design. Make sure to pass this first assignment. Otherwise, they might send you back home.

Just kidding.

The Stanford House, though architecturally complex and difficult to navigate, offers a homey ambiance with a common room and several kitchens. It is also situated right on High Street, a main street of shops, patisseries (my favorite) and other conveniences that cities typically offer. Moreover, we are also located right across the street from Magdalen College, one of the three colleges with which Stanford students are affiliated (the other two being Corpus Christi, and Brasenose, which I am a part of).

Already into our second week here, many have begun their classes as well as their tutorials. But those taking two tutorials (each either six or seven units, usually at the student’s discretion) may decide not to take classes and do only the tutorials instead. Classes typically take place in the seminar rooms inside the Stanford House, and meetings with tutors, often Professors or experts in their field, happen either at an office or in their homes. On Friday, I am meeting one of my tutors at his home to discuss syllabus content and readings before the weekly research papers have to trickle in in a timely manner. Though there are weekly classes, there is no typical schedule for a student of English, mathematics or history because much of it is a self-guided study (i.e. the tutorial) and most of the time every week is spent on independent research. This is one of the program’s best traits—giving students the creative flexibility to learn about their topics of interests with a certain amount of guidance from the tutors.

While the program has begun its classes and some of its tutorials, the Oxford term starts next week. In the meantime, amid our own work and the occasional (day and night) outings into different areas of Oxford, we do have to cook for ourselves, as the dining halls aren’t open. Each student, having been provided with a food stipend, has been able to go shopping. As the nearest kitchen is located across from my room, my roommate and I often find ourselves making omelets for breakfast, stir fry or pasta for lunch and a pastrami sandwich for dinner. These don’t at all sound like British food, but I plan on trying its famous meat pies! More to come, I suppose.

Besides homemade food, however, Oxford, a city mostly populated by University students, revels in its affordable pub food consisting of “fish and chips” in addition to varied drinks from mulled wine to hot cider. Taverns are popular social sites for college students. In fact, Brasenose has its own bar called Down the Bar (“DTB”), and other pubs are easily located on High Street and in small yet busy alleyways that run through the city. Although the Oxford term has yet to start, an increasing number of students returning from winter break are re-populating the streets of Oxford. Yes, the clouds remain heavy, though they occasionally surprise us with sunlight after some precipitation. But life is active and studies resume. Vibrant energy is present all around and grandiose (Gothic) architecture continues to dazzle me as I continue my academic endeavors and attempt to immerse myself in British culture. Oh, and remember all the Asian tour groups who frequent Stanford? They’re here too. They’re everywhere!

Trying to figure out the different meanings of “boot?” E-mail Anna Tenzing at [email protected].

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