Letters from Abroad

Champagne and Chocolate

I’m in my third week at Oxford, and going into my fourth week of living in England, and it all feels mundane and surreal at the same time. I’ve settled into the routine of my tutorials and lectures, but I still get a giddy swoop in my stomach each time I enter Mansfield’s gorgeous dining hall for dinner.

I have been doing things other than geeking out over the Harry Potter-esque dining hall, however. Since my last update, I’ve rowed on the Thames (only a twenty minute walk from my flat!), become a member of the famed Oxford Union and attended an event dedicated exclusively to champagne and chocolate. My foray into the Mansfield’s women’s rowing team definitely falls into the surreal category; picture a group of sleepy, nervous first-year students (called freshers here), plus me, all somehow managing to heave a twelve-foot long boat onto the Thames at 6:30 in the morning. Once our group got into the rhythm of rowing without capsizing the boat, we managed to propel ourselves down the river, past the massive white geese, and in the wake of teams from other colleges who actually knew what they were doing.

The champagne and chocolates evening was a slightly less disheveled affair, although the process of getting tickets involved the sloppiest queue I’ve ever seen British people form. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised given that it’s one of Mansfield’s most popular events–unlimited champagne and chocolates all evening, who could say no? Even my tutor for my Milton tutorial, who did his undergraduate at Mansfield and remembers the event well, looked a little wistful when I mentioned that I was attending. The event itself was black tie, and I was extremely impressed that every male present had actually adhered to the dress code. Even more impressive was the fact that the champagne truly was unlimited!

I feel as though I’m being initiated into life at Oxford over and over again as I attend events like champagne and chocolate, row on the Thames, and register for the Oxford Union. Even though I eventually want to feel like I’m fully integrated into life at Mansfield College and Oxford as a whole, part of me is okay with still feeling like I’m a bit on the fringe of things. Everything that I’m seeing, doing, and experiencing still has a bit of that initial magic left– and I’d never want to lose it.