I spent Easter weekend in Dublin with my friends who are studying at Trinity College. I visited the Old Library, and it was magnificent. Sadly, the Book of Kells was not on display at the time.
This week I am beginning to prepare for my tutorials for Trinity term. For my primary, I need to read a true classic: Plato’s Republic. My secondary is Ethics, and I am still waiting for my complete reading list. I should be a true philosopher king at the conclusion of this term.
Last week, my family treated me to a lovely few days in London and Barcelona. In London we stayed at the Savoy hotel. I did not leave the hotel at all during that trip, because staying in a five-star hotel may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, especially given the fact that I am a philosophy major. During my day there I got an exfoliating facial, and then ate some cookies. For my standards, that was a perfect day.
Then, in Barcelona we stayed at the Mercer Hotel in the Gothic quarter. Gorgeous narrow streets, tapas restaurants, and cathedrals highlight this area. The hotel was a mix of new-concept architecture built into the ancient roman that remain in this area.
If I could recommend one place to visit in Europe for a vacation type trip, I would say go to Barcelona. Not only is it warm there (it was probably high-60s and sunny on my last day there), but the food is delicious, and the people are incredibly beautiful and friendly.
To cap off an extravagant trip, My dad and I went to a Barcelona game. To see Messi, arguably the best player ever, from maybe ten rows up at the halfway line was certainly a highlight of my life. I am not a Barcelona fan, especially after they beat my beloved Chelsea a few days prior, but to see Messi play was a treat, and I am happy to say that I was able to see him. He scored an amazing goal, too. It was like watching Michael Jordan or Roger Federer. Awe-inspiring greatness is not something you see everyday.
At Heathrow on my way to Barcelona I ran into retired Barcelona legend Carles Puyol, and he was nice enough to take a picture with me. Also, I ran into a guy I went to high school with on a street in Barcelona. It is a small world.
Now I am back in Oxford and feeling refreshed. I have about a month until Trinity term begins, so I still have a decent amount of time. I have been spending my time reading, watching Netflix, and exercising. I watched the entire second season of Stranger Things in a night a few days ago. I am also spending more time in the Radcliffe Camera, which is where I am now. It is nice to have time for pleasure reading again. I have already read a few books this break.
On Thursday I go to Dublin to visit my friends at Trinity. I look forward to the Guinness.
I am two-thirds of the way done with my studies at the University of Oxford. An overall successful term comes to a close, and I am excited to sleep, and perhaps travel, for the next six weeks.
In the news the other day, Sir Roger Bannister, a former Oxford academic and doctor, as well as the first man to run a sub-four-minute mile, passed away. He achieved this record at the Iffley track that is directly next to the tennis courts that I use. Even when you least suspect it, there is history wherever you go.
Speaking of history, it truly was a pleasure taking the Wars of the Roses tutorial at Oxford. If any of you ever have the opportunity to do so, no matter what you study, I could not recommend it more.
Oxford itself possesses influences from the Wars of the Roses. At Merton College, where I took my history class for the last five weeks, there is a Henry VII crest on the stone archway next to the entrance of our building. Our lecturer pointed this out to us on our first day. A king from the fifteenth century has his crest on a college that originated in the thirteenth century, and I am studying here in the twenty-first century.
Being at Oxford is awe-inspiring to say the least.
Someone on the Oxford tennis team must have read my last blog because I was invited to play with the third team this past Friday. They must have enjoyed my spirited description of my encounter with the fourth team’s captain.
There are only two more weeks of Hilary term, and only two more papers to write. This is the point of the term where I am pretty fatigued and looking for motivation. On days like this I tell myself that if I manage to at least outline my paper and do all of the necessary readings, then I will buy myself Nando’s for dinner.
I plan on writing about the tutorials from this term during my vacation when I have a bit more free-time. But for now, here are some nice pictures that I have taken.
With fourth week having been completed, I am now halfway done with my time at Oxford.
I have had plenty of incredible experiences here, and I have formed great memories. I have loved going to formal dinners, visiting the beautiful college buildings, and studying in many different and interesting libraries, but there have been difficult times as well.
Life on Cowley Road has its perks, but living so far away can be exhausting. People always recommend that you should buy a bike once you get here, but bikes get stolen all the time—just ask Brandon. While I personally enjoy the walk from Cowley to Mansfield, the road does get a bit dangerous later at night. I would always recommend that you walk with a friend once it gets late. And if you do decide to get a bike, be careful on the roads because they are quite busy, and make sure that you buy a good lock for it. But with all this being said, I am looking forward to the second half of the year.
I am playing on Oxford’s tennis team, and I am doing well in my tutorials. I am happy with how things are going.
Playing a sport adds great balance to life, in my opinion. Matt plays on Oxford’s second team for football (soccer), which is amazing in itself, and I see how it positively affects the other aspects of his life.
I am currently on the men’s fourth tennis team because I joined the team midway through the year. I personally think I am too good to be on this team. I played the team captain in a match the other day and beat him ruthlessly and without mercy. My performance was a beautiful display of both power and grace. Hopefully, I will move up the ranks if I continue to perform well and remain kind and humble.
Other than that, not much is new. We had a “halfway” dinner for the visiting students and the second years at Mansfield on Wednesday night. After the dinner, awards were given. I thought the event was a bit frustrating because the students running the event created all of the awards and ended up giving the awards to themselves. Maybe I am just a sore-loser. I could have sworn that I would have won either “best-dressed” or “most likely to become a soulless investment banker.” Life goes on.
Two weeks into Hilary term and I finally have some time to sit back and reflect. My tutorials have been going well, and the quality of my writing is improving significantly, but I can certainly still work on time management. I am very sleepy.
My original plan for the year was to take all philosophy courses, but I changed a few things around this term. I am now taking history and a Buddhism tutorial. I still have a few remaining common-area requirements for Holy Cross, so I am hoping that my Buddhism will count for my cross-cultural requirement. Apparently I was taking too many philosophy courses to begin with, so, in order to graduate, I need to take more non-major courses.
Early in each term we need to submit course acceptance forms with a detailed description of each tutorial in order to get credit for the work that we are doing while abroad. I sent mine in a few days late, but I have not received an email yelling at me yet, so that is a good sign.
My primary is on the Wars of the Roses in 15th century England. It is an incredibly interesting time in history. The different primary sources that have existed are remarkable as well. The chronicles, parliamentary rolls, and manifestos still exist and are readable.
My secondary is Buddhism. I have never studied eastern philosophy before, and it is quite different. My first paper topic was defending the buddhist arguments for anātman, which is the concept of not-self. It is hard from a western, Christian background to be able to consider the lack of existence of a self, or soul, but it is facinating nonetheless. I am looking forward to doing more background reading.
Outside of my classes, I went to a Premier League football match at Crystal Palace a few weekends ago. There is a bus stop directly outside the Ablethorpe dorm that has busses to London.
It has also been nice to watch some of the Australian Open tennis matches that are on at 4am while I am up revising my papers. And speaking of tennis, I tried out for the Oxford tennis club, but have yet to hear back. I will follow up with them soon.
I now have two weeks off from of my tutorials, and I am looking forward to having some free time.
The 1st week of Hilary term starts this Sunday. It has been a nice and relaxing winter vacation, but I am ready to get back to my old routine.
I travelled a decent amount in the last 2 weeks. I spent New Year’s Eve in Munich, and then spent 2 days in Paris. I think that I overestimated the amount of travel that I would do this break; I did not account for how exhausting it is.
I also managed to visit a few more pubs in Oxford that I have not been to before, including the King’s Arms, Lamb and Flag, and the Eagle and Child. J.R.R Tolkien apparently used to frequent the Eagle and Child. The pub culture here is a wonderful thing. There is such amazing history to all of these places, and I always enjoy seeing professorial types drinking their Guinness while reading interesting textbooks.
It is a new year and a new term, so naturally I have been reflecting, and making a list of goals for myself. Matt and I have decided that we want to cook more of our meals in order to save some money and eat healthier.
I have also been saying for a while that I want to join a sport team here, so I have decided to try out for Oxford’s Lawn Tennis Club on Sunday. I needed some time away from the sport, hence the whole study abroad thing, but 4 months without it has been tougher than I expected it would be. Hopefully this will be a good way to meet people and not get too out-of-shape while I am here.
I learned a lot during Michaelmas term, so hopefully this will be a successful and fulfilling second term in Oxford. Once again, wish me luck!
It was nice to spend a few weeks at home, but I am happy to be back at Oxford. I missed my little house on Cowley Road.
I think that I have had a productive break so far. I learned how to fry eggs and boil pasta, so I may actually use the kitchen on my floor now. I never realized how useful cooking your own meals could be.
I am a bit jet-lagged at the moment, so I am going to keep this post as brief as I can. A good friend of mine from high school is here to visit, so we plan on traveling for a few days. I hear Munich is a fun place to spend New Year’s Eve. I think the best way to travel is to buy a 7 day Eurail pass. The pass provides unlimited travel by rail throughout continental Europe, and it is reasonably affordable.
Looking forward to next term, I am excited to go to more Oxford Union events. Meeting J.J Abrams was a highlight of my term, and life in general. Also, I will try my best to go to more of the formal dinners at Mansfield.
After 8 weeks, 12 papers, and 105 pages of writing, Michaelmas term has come to a close, and it is time for a well-deserved winter vacation.
Oxford is hard, but I think that goes without saying. These work-intensive 8-week terms can challenge the resolve of the most confident and accomplished student. Managing all of the unstructured free time can be difficult even for the most disciplined student. At times, the tutorials are humbling. But I think that is what is great about Oxford. It may not be for everyone, but if you enjoy a good academic challenge, then this is the place for you.
It is also nice having a frozen Holy Cross GPA. And I do not mean that in the sense that people studying abroad can just slack off for a year. I think that the focus while at Oxford is and should be more about the process of learning, rather than just grade-grubbing, for a lack of a better term. We discuss the papers and their shortcomings and strengths, and then we move on.
Being a week removed from the end of term, I am enjoying life back in the US. As wonderful as Oxford is, the food leaves much to be desired, with one notable exception.
I have a few weeks at home before returning to Europe. I plan to travel before Hilary term starts. I have only been home for a week and I already miss Oxford.
On even weeks I have both my primary and secondary tutorials, so on odd weeks when I have a little bit more free time I try to explore different areas of Oxford. This week I finally made it to the covered market, which has some nice small cafes and shops, as well as a popular milkshake shop called Moo-Moo’s.
But one of the most spectacular things that I have done so far in Oxford was climbing to the top of the University Church of St Mary. For 3 pounds, you can climb up a narrow and winding staircase to the top of the church where you have the most spectacular views of Oxford.
On the whole, this was an eventful and fun 7th week at Mansfield. Since Thursday was Thanksgiving, Mansfield gave us a nice and relatively authentic dinner in the chapel. It was also nice because the Holy Cross contingent all managed to sit with each other and have a meal together. We have all been busy with our work and other activities, so it was nice to finally catch up with everyone.
And then on Saturday night the Mansfield JCR threw a Christmas themed “bop”, which is pretty much the equivalent of an awkward high-school dance, but with more wine. I dragged Tim and Brandon along with me, but they did not seem to enjoy it as much as I did. The students at Mansfield are very fun-loving and good people, so events like these are definitely worth going to, in my opinion.
Only two more papers and tutorials next week, and then it’s time for winter break. Looking forward to it!