My Love Letter to Oxford

            Throughout my first year living in Rhode Island, I could not understand how people were so quick to call Salve their new home. This was until I spent one month living in Oxford, which I found incredibly easy to call this temporary stay, home. I have learned so much through all that I have experienced at Oxford, and this begins with all of the places Salve had me tour during my stay.  

Getting to Know Oxford

Walking through Broad Street for the first time & falling in love.

When first arriving to Oxford, I remember feeling very disorientated and excited. Once our orientation officially began, and we came across Martyrs Memorial and the markets leading up to Broad Street, I immediately felt a sense of belonging. I have always taken time with adjusting to my new surroundings when I travel to new cities and countries. Yet, with Oxford, I have not found that to be the problem whatsoever. I have always been fond of architecture and art history, so I loved getting to hear about Martyrs’ Memorial and the buildings surrounding it. It is absolutely horrible to hear about the truth behind the memorial and makes its beauty all the more impactful. I think walking through the streets surrounding this memorial was the perfect introduction to Oxford. Oxford, to me, is a city of culture, history, and life. I see so much of New York City, my first home, so whenever I roam Oxford, I have found my love for this city constantly growing. 

A Friend to Royalty’s Nature

One of the various rivers we came across in the secret garden that we found breathtaking. This one had a fountain and colorful trees that made it even livelier.

Blenheim Palace was a beautiful country house with a stunning museum attraction which I also enjoyed. What I especially enjoyed, however, were the outdoor attractions all around this palace. Some friends and I ventured around looking for the rose garden attarction and ended up stumbling across the secret garden attraction. Immediately falling in love with the attraction from just the first sign we saw informing us about this garden, I was instantly reminded of Frances Burnett’s novel, The Secret Garden. Burnett’s novel was one of the first novels from the classics genre that I read, and it is what got me into reading at a young age. Burnett’s novel was extremely influential for me and is what had me excited to explore Blenheim Palace’s secret garden. This garden was large, serene, and just gorgeous. It had various lakes and waterfalls which were all adorned by floating flowers and lily pads. Besides gorgeous lakes, there were also fountains, bridges, and even a stunning gazebo. We were in love with everything this garden had to offer, and it warmed my inner child getting to experience a secluded garden as intimate as Burnett’s.

Getting Local at Turf Tavern

Seeing Turf Tavern’s celebrity plaque for the first time was interesting to read. Sat in the outdoor patio of the pub, it was nice to share a few drinks in the cold with my friends.

Another must-see location in Oxford has to be the iconic Turf Tavern. I went with a good group of people from our program and, seeing as nearly everyone had been to Turf Tavern at least twice before I had managed to go, I just took their advice on what was best to order. I felt like a proper Brit when first walking through the narrow corridor which takes you to Turf Tavern, and even more local once I was inside the pub. I had no idea Turf Tavern was so well known until after seeing the plaque they have which tells which celebrities have visited in the pub. I am a big fan of David Bowie and Oscar Wilde, so realizing that I was currently at the same pub that such huge figures such as themselves and others had once been at was incredibly astonishing. Turf Tavern had such an interesting and friendly environment that I quite enjoyed, and now I fully understand why Turf Tavern is thought of as highly as it is.

When in London

Ranging from books to movie prints, this market had something for everyone at incredibly low prices.

My first time visiting London definitiely solidified my love for the U.K. I loved getting to walk around the city and experience the culture firsthand. I went with a couple of the girls and ended up having a lovely day getting to know them all, all the while seeing beautiful monuments such as Big Ben. One of the things I most enjoyed about this day was stumbling upon an open market which was selling all sorts of novels, vinyls, and prints. I love farmers markets, record stores, and bookstores in general, so I believe you could imagine the excitement I felt upon coming across such an epic market. I ended up buying cheap copies of Franz Kafka’s The Trial and Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends; both of which I had time to read on my morning bus commutes to class.

Falling in Love with Bath

Some of the beautiful scenery from Bath.

I absolutely loved everything Bath had to offer. From the lively environment to the various street markets, there was not one thing about Bath that I disliked. I found it so fascinating that I got to physically experience the town that Jane Austen wrote about in her novels. It was definitely a surreal moment, and I found myself in a state of permanent Zen the entire trip. We went to a handful of markets when exploring Bath, but out of all of them I believe I most enjoyed the bookstore we stopped by and the restaurant we initially ate at. I had heard so much about England’s meat pies from a friend I had made on this trip and therefore felt like it was the only right thing to order from this restaurant’s menu. Bath felt like a relaxing getaway from the busyness of Oxford, and was definitely one of my favorite excursions Salve took us on.

            One of the courses I took was Literature of Place. This class consisted of reading three different novels and writing bi-weekly reflections of what we had been up to since the last reflection. I will end my Oxford adventures with an excerpt from my first reflection, which I believe best summarizes my overall experience abroad: 

“While it is initially disorienting to venture out in an unfamiliar location, I have always found it to be worthwhile in the end. I have learned that curiosity can also be a friend of mine, and it is something that I could never get enough of. I have loved all the sights and buildings here in Oxford and already feel at home here… Now that I am actually living in the moment, I have found myself meeting more people than I could imagine now that I am giving life a chance. I felt initially shy when first reaching Oxford, but now I find excitement in getting to greet anyone and everyone I see in this house.”

            It was a privilege getting to study abroad at Oxford and I would not trade my experience for the world. Leading up to this trip, I had felt anxious and unsure about my decision to study abroad, but now looking back on it all, I highly encourage this trip to anyone and everyone considering this trip even in the slightest. I loved everything I got to witness and everyone I have met, many who I believe I would not now be friends with if I have not gone on this trip, and I can guarantee the same experience for anyone else planning on studying in Oxford in the future.

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