Saying Goodbye

Lauren Kelly Hertford College,University of Oxford, England


December 14, 2020

I have been home in the U.S for a little more than a week now, but I put off writing this last post because I really miss it all and it’s tough to think about saying goodbye. Of course, as everyone has reminded me, I can come back—but unless I go back for grad school, “coming back” means a short period of time. Anyways, I wanted to write a reflection of my study abroad experience.

My linguistic experience:

I recorded my accent for every single day I was in England (83 days). As a big fan of sociolinguistics, I was worried that my Wisconsin accent would merge with whatever British accent I heard the most—especially because I very deliberately paid attention to linguistic differences. To test this, I arbitrarily came up with the utterance “Hi, how are you doing today? Do you want to go get some coffee? I’m thinking that I’d really like that. Thanks, bye.” I probably should have come up with a better construction, but other than slight variations due to my tiredness (I recorded before I went to bed each night), my eagerness to sleep (resulting in faster speech), or my worry that my neighbors could hear (resulting in quieter speech), my accent did not change noticeably. If you are interested, here are some of the syntactic variations (but I will not perform any more conversation analysis nor attempt to write this in IPA):

-Do you wanna go and get some coffee?              -Would you like to go get some coffee?

-Would you like to go and get some coffee?          -I think I’d really like that

-Thank you, good bye                                           -Hi, how are you doing __?

I did notice that I picked up words, like “takeaway” (to-go food) or “cutlery” (silverware), and even if I never wanted to use them, I could easily translate the British words I heard into my own dialect: “rocket” is “arugula,” “aubergine” is “eggplant,” “courgette” is “zucchini,” and “pancakes” are actually “crepes.” These examples are all food-related because a lot of my interactions with people were when I got food from the marquee, grad centre, or cafes or saw my household in our kitchen. Also, sometimes I’d start saying something with British vowels by mistake, which was always super interesting but very nerve-wracking for me!

My educational experience:

I had a great educational experience at Oxford! I got a lot from my tutorials and I found it really enriching that they built off of each other, both in their close time periods and in the skills I picked up from my tutors. I am so glad that I had in-person tutorials and that I was able to attend Oxford in-person and not from the U.S. My biggest advice about navigating Oxford academically is: remember that as long as you feel like you are learning and growing, you are doing a good job there. There is no one way of succeeding, and the grades are truly not that important—this is for you to grow and learn, so don’t put so much pressure on yourself! It’s ok if you can’t finish all of your reading or if you start the essay a little later than planned. If you are struggling, reach out to your tutors, Arcadia, the visiting students coordinator, the academic skills tutor, or even attend University counseling workshops! Also, remember that unlike many “official” Oxford students (who’ve matriculated there), you will only be in Oxford for a short period and you might want to spend time exploring and meeting new people—it's ok to also balance fun activities with your academic responsibilities! Whatever your experience ends up being, I guarantee that you will pick up some new skills to bring back to your college (and life as a whole); just know that it takes a couple of weeks to get used to the tutorial system and find out what methods work for you!

My "fun" experience:

Although I do feel like I missed out on opportunities to travel beyond Oxford or London or to meet new friends or explore more cafes or shops (for more than a few minutes), I accept that this was my experience. I had a wonderful time and comparing it to previous study abroad students’ blog experiences does not do much at all, especially considering how the pandemic has affected everything. I am just lucky that I could even travel to England and venture out of Oxford for a day! Hopefully I can come back and explore, though.

As a whole:

I could go on and on, but I’d rather think about other points on my own. Ultimately, Oxford is going to hold a big spot in my heart—and of course, with everything I’ve learned, my brain as well—for a long time. I am proud of myself for leaving my comfort zone and studying abroad! I will miss the Thames (though I have my own long river here in Wisconsin), the architecture and history of the buildings (especially the Radcliffe Camera!), the city, the old alleyways, the academic opportunities, the clotted cream, all of the walking I did, and even the grocery stores! Even though I was only there for three months, Oxford feels like a second home to me—and I can do my best to introduce my loved ones to all the tea I brought home and the British shows I started to watch until we get there someday.

Thank you for reading my blog posts! I hope this helped give you a taste of Oxford University and the city of Oxford as a whole!! If you ever have the opportunity to go there as a tourist or a student, I hope you enjoy it!