Twenty-two travel weary juniors arrived in Oxford, England last Thursday morning to start our year abroad as the Williams College Oxford Programme’s (WCOP) 17th class. Five days later, the jet lag is beginning to wear off and our adventure has begun.
In this section, we will be reporting on Oxford life – what we are doing, learning, and experiencing – during our year abroad, while explaining the Oxford Programme to the Williams community, and keeping in contact with all of our friends back in Williamstown.
Indicative of the pace of life to come, we hit the ground running, as our five day Oxford orientation began immediately – without rest – upon arrival. Since a number of students did not sleep on the flight to England, many were awake for over 36 hours before we all crashed on Thursday night. As one fellow student said, it feels like in many ways we are first-years all over again!
For the next nine months, we will be studying at Oxford’s Exeter College in the traditional Oxford tutorial system. Every week, our tutors will assign us an average of a dozen books and articles per in order to write a 10-page paper that is critically discussed with our tutor during our weekly meeting. In total, each student will write an average of 400 pages during this intensive year of study.
Yet, there is far more to Oxford and the Programme than just work; the Williams mantra of “work hard, play hard” is alive and well here, too. Every night since our arrival, almost everyone in our group has gone out to the local pubs, bars and clubs in Oxford, whose vibrant, diverse social scene is alive every night of the week. Since Oxford is nearly 20 times larger than Williamstown, there are a ton of social options here.
“I think Oxford is much more relaxed than Williamstown,” said Abhishek Basnyat ’04, who is taking a full tutorial entitled “Foundations of Modern, Political Thought” and a half tutorial on the works of James Joyce this term.
This past Sunday, we met nearly the entire 300-member Exeter student body at a welcome party for the first-years at the Exeter College bar, located in a crypt-like chamber below Exeter’s Dining Hall, built in 1618.
“Meeting the British kids has been great,” said Rebecca Wertzer ’04. “I feel like we have really set up a solid community at the Ephraim Williams House.”
Additionally, WCOP has worked hard to introduce us to England. Last night, we saw The Tempest performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon Avon and on Saturday, the Programme took us to Blenheim Palace, home to the Duke of Marlborough and was the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.
The Programme is located in a four building compound, collectively called the “Ephraim Williams House,” located one and one half miles north of the city center in the Oxford neighborhood of Summertown.
Over the summer, these buildings underwent a significant amount of renovation. According to Record sources, the College is spending nearly $100,000 this year and next to upgrade the Oxford houses. Improvements made so far include doubling the Programme’s 3,000 book library, wiring all student rooms with ethernet connections and telephones, remodeling the 40-person dining room, upgrading the Williams Oxford network and computer lab and building a new basketball-friendly courtyard.
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In Other Oxford News…
Abhishek Basnyat flew over 8,000 miles over 14 hours to get to Oxford. A native of Nepal, Abhishek flew from his country’s capital of Katmandu to Duha, Qatar where he caught a second plane to London.
The celebration of our year in Oxford began early for some students. Ariel Zetlin-Jones ’04, Andrew L Thomison ’04 and Erin Garrow ’04 partied hard on the group flight to England. “We drank the plane out of gin,” Zetlin-Jones said.
Upon our arrival at London’s Heathrow airport, Ariel was still heavily under the influence of alcohol and was, consequently, nearly refused entry into the United Kingdom. He said that Her Majesty’s Immigrations Officer interrogated him for 20 minutes before allowing him to enter.
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This next week should bring more new and exciting experifirst time and as we continue to explore Oxford. Next Thursday, we all will be attending the “Fresher’s Fair,” where all of the Oxford student groups introduce themselves and solicit members.
Personally, my immediate goal is to stop blatantly standing out as an American tourist and start looking and acting like a local by the end of the week. We’ll see how that goes.