This Thursday I will leave the US for about 10 months to resume my studies in Oxford University, doing a one year masters program in comparative social policy. I was very fortunate that these studies are financed by my scholarship foundation, which has already financed my undergraduate studies. It will certainly be unprecedented for me to live in another country all by myself, though it can’t be much harder from when I migrated from Austria to the US.
One of the most frustrating things about getting ready for such a long trip is that I only have a moderate size suitcase and need to pack in all the clothing that I can possibly need for 10 months. Am I going to pack all the things that I need? What am I going to forget that makes me really upset? One of the more lucky things is that I actually do not require a whole fashion wardrobe along with me.
My plan is to stay in London for four nights, which includes three days of sightseeing in London and one day of sightseeing in Paris. I have not decided on what buildings to visit, but I am sure it will be a lot of fun to see the ancient buildings in the major European cities. I have only been to London once, and I have never been to France. The Eurotrain is only 2 1/2 hours between London and Paris, which should be a cool experience for a train lover like me.
My first visit to the UK was in tenth grade, when I was 16 years old. I had a great English teacher, and she insisted on taking us to England, while the other English teachers favored Canada. My brother’s class went to Canada, and he did not go along with the other students, because my parents had argued that he had already been to Canada, and what would be the point of going there?
I went with my class to Canterbury, and the strongest memory was that we were mostly socializing among each other (speaking German and not improving our English that much), going to the two story tall McDonalds multiple times of the day, which reflects our poor imagination of what to do in our free time. We attended a two-week class, where we did role-play, and could develop our own country on paper, which was a lot of fun. We played a silly laser-pointer game in the arcade, and ate fish and chips, the only culinary highlight that the British people seemed to have. (We got potatoes in every meal in my host family.) I still don’t understand how people there can enjoy vinegar chips.
Canterbury was a very nice old college town, where most of the people were secondary level or college students. We went to the Canterbury Cathedral, where Archbishop Thomas Becket was assassinated in 1170, resulting in the pilgrimage of thousands of Christian pilgrims all over Europe. It also resulted in the writing of the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, which I had to read while studying in George Washington High School in the US. I had to recite the first 18 lines of the Canterbury tales, though I cheated by having a fellow student hold the poem in front of me so I could read from it.
We also had the opportunity to spend the weekend in London, and we visited the British Museum. I have heard a lot of things about the museum, which is famous for its huge collection. The obvious reason for the tremendous historical collection is that Britain dominated a huge part of the world, and stole the artifacts of its subject territories. I have to admit that I am not much o a museum-goer, and don’t remember much of the museum trip. This is probably a good reason to repeat the trip. Not long afterwards, we walked the city of London, walked past the red-clothed guards on Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and the House of Parliament building, the political heart of the city. We saw the London Eye on the other side of the Thames river, and concluded the day trip. I am sure that not much has changed in the past eight years, but I look forward to see it once more before I retreat to the halls of learning in Oxford.
Checking the climate, I notice two things immediately: Oxford is a rainy city (50cm per month) without much sunshine compared to Philadelphia (8cm per month), and second, Oxford’s temperature band (1 to 20 degrees between most seasons) is not as wide as in Philadelphia (-5 to 32 degrees). I am certainly looking forward to the rain, and the opportunity to go to bicycle tours. Must-see locations within the UK are Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Cambridge, Stonehenge, Hadrian Wall, Stratford upon Avon (birthplace of Shakespeare), Edinburgh and Glasgow. Then take the ferry to Dublin and Belfast. Other European cities on the itinerary are Brussels, Amsterdam, Dusseldorf, Wiesbaden, Strasbourg, Zurich, Milan, Rome, Innsbruck.