Friday, December 3, 2010

Oxford, How Can I Leave Thee?

Today - dare I say it? - is my last full day in Oxford. Although I'm not leaving to go back to the U.S. until next Friday, I have several trips and sightseeing days planned for the next week, and there's no real reason for me to stay in the Stanford House now that the quarter is over. I spent the day wandering the city at a slower pace than I have in recent weeks, finishing my Christmas shopping, and visiting one final set of buildings with my architecture class. Later in the day, there was a mulled wine and mince pies event for all the program students, administrators, and professors - very classy, very British. Finally, I turned in some final paperwork and even started to pack a bit (but - wasn't it only yesterday that I arrived with my suitcases, fresh out of Paris?). Among other matters of housekeeping, that paperwork involved writing a thank-you letter to the Bings, the benefactors of Stanford's overseas program, for which I was almost at a loss. How to express the full extent of my experience, my sense of wonder at discovering and visiting new places, and my gratitude for the opportunity that I've had over the last ten weeks? I am truly fortunate to have had this time in England, during which my only responsibilities have been to see, learn, and experience as much as I can.

And now I'm getting a bit sad to leave, even though another part of me is writhing in excitement to be home and back at Stanford. To reminisce a bit before my upcoming week of travel, here are some of the things I will miss about Oxford:

- The smell of the library, and the look of old leather-bound book spines against the shelves

- Formal halls, and how well the students dress

- Eccentric professor types on bicycles, tousle-haired and dodging towering double-decker buses

- The tutorial system, allowing me to learn and interact as I do best: one-on-one

- Gothic architecture, spires, and towers, each one striving to outshine the others

- Street musicians, performers, and vendors, bringing the city to life and always making my head turn

- Unprecedented shops and quaint pubs, winding back streets and quiet nooks

- The covered market and how I always seem to stumble on something new every time I go

- The way I indeed stumble on something new every day, some subtle and beautiful detail in plants or people or architecture that I never noticed before

- Birds and wildlife beside the river, paths and benches and plants, boats going past, and always some people-watching besides

- The way each individual college is like its own world, secluded in quadrangles unbeknownst to the tourists on the streets

- The ancient sense of the place, as if I'm breathing in the intellectual energy of all the people who have thought, invented, read, written, taught, learned, or just passed through here

As close as my heart is to Stanford, Oxford certainly is special, even incomparable.

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