Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Adventures of a Yank in Oxford

I guess I haven't been posting regularly because part of me doesn't want to acknowledge that time here is slipping away, that I'll be back in America next week. I want to hold this close to me, like maybe if I keep quiet, I can stay in this Oxford bubble longer, no one will notice me and send me home.
This is my last week at Exeter College and I'm profoundly sad that it's ending. This afternoon four of us went down to Christ Church Meadows and laid out in the grass reading The Virgin Suicides aloud to each other, then played Orange Under Chin, made clover chains. It seems ethereal and other worldly, partly because of the people I'm with. It's such a mixed, exciting bunch of people all passionate about the same thing I am: language, stories, books. Partly though, it's Oxford itself. The town is malleable and can be whatever you want or need it to be. There's a bustling market of high street shops, parks and gardens, pubs, clubs, museums, the rivers, tea shops, theatre: if you can't find something to do here, you aren't trying hard enough. But at the same time, it's not a huge city. There's still so much green. Early in the morning or late in the evening you have the streets virtually to yourself.
Exeter is a beautiful, history laden college as well. Established in 1314, it is (I believe) the third college of the University. It sits basically in the center of town. Perched at the top of our Fellow's Garden you can look out on the Radcliffe Camera (above) and the Bodleian Library. It's close to plenty of great pubs, the Covered Market, several book shops, a Sainsbury's, a cinema; close to all we could need here. Several episodes of Inspector Morse and Lewis have been filmed here. Morse had his famous death scene in front of the Exeter chapel (where they have glorious Baroque concerts during the week), and the 2009 Lewis episode "The Quality of Mercy" was filmed in and around the quad and gardens here.
Our program has been really wonderful as well. Every weekday we have writing professionals: publishers, booksellers, literary agents, poets, come and speak to us. We also have four seminars a week in our chosen area of literature. Everyone is always writing around the campus. There was a paper swap in the student bar and a writing party in my dorm room over the weekend. Best of all: we genuinely are working together, supporting each other, swapping ideas, and producing work.
I know writers have to keep in touch with the world, but there is something so wonderful about being in this little commune with all these other writers. Today, David Fickling of David Fickling Books spoke to us. He mentioned that he thought writing was an intensely social activity. It was funny, usually we think of the writer locked in their basement or study for hours on end, but it's true, writers desperately need to balance that solitude with social interaction, especially with other writers and readers. We need that interchange, we need to be with our species who understand us.
I love Oxford. I'm already contriving ways to come back here. And I'm so glad I came on this study abroad. This weekend though, I know I'll probably be in tears as I leave, because after three weeks it already feels like home. I can't bear to think of this town going on without me. I don't want to miss anything.


  1. Aww, it sounds like you're having a great time, and I'm sorry that leaving's going to upset you so much. I can imagine how hard it would be - it sounds wonderful! At least you'll be able to treasure this experience for always - and, as you say, you can always go back :)

  2. Thanks. It was so incredibly hard leaving. Part of me is glad to be home with my family, but a marginally bigger part of me wishes I never had to leave the bosom of Oxford.
    Well, when I'm a famous, successful writer, I can start my world tour there ;)

  3. Finally catching up on your blog! (It's been a busy time.) Oxford is amazing, isn't it. Those photos make me feel nostalgic. (I'll have to look up mine, of of these days.) I'm going to be there myself for a couple of days in November, but it's just not the same in the fall and winter months, with no flowers and little sun.

  4. I hope you have a great trip in November! I always love the changing colors of the fall, but I've never experienced an English autumn. Hopefully it won't be too dispiriting.
    Sometimes I feel a bit depressed because I doubt I'll ever be back there in any long term capacity. It does get under one's skin incredibly fast.

  5. Thanks! I'm sure I'll enjoy it. And I do hope you get back, someday.

    (Good to hear back from you! Home you'll come visit on the board, too; any plans to rewatch RH? ;) We've also got a couple of good multifandom threads going, Favorite characters and Your most unpopular fandom opinions.)