(Disclaimer: this post has a lot of text at the beginning but then many pretty pictures at the end, so don't be alarmed by the initial wall of writing!)
It's hard to believe, but it's already been a week since this whole wild and crazy adventure began. I suppose a week isn't that long in the grand scheme of things, though I did calculate this morning that my whole course, breaks included, is only 90 weeks in total, so it feels a little strange to already have over 1% gone without really doing much!
It's been a week of ups and downs, for sure. I'm really looking forward to school getting underway and things normalizing a bit. Right now, everything in my life just feels uncomfortably new and raw: sometimes in a good way, like when I was absolutely awed by my first sight of Port Meadow in all its beauty on a fair autumn afternoon yesterday, but also sometimes in a far less pleasant sense, like when I've been feeling lonely and homesick and fearful that I won't fit into this bizarre little English tapestry at all and will be left out, like the loose jigsaw piece that migrates out of its own puzzle by accident and ends up in another to which it doesn't belong.
It's also hard not to feel very intimidated in this city of some of the best and brightest budding academics of my generation. As I mentioned when I first got in, I really don't feel like my resume or qualifications are all that impressive, to the degree that it was essentially a lark that prompted me to send in my application. I was so stunned when I got in that I could hardly believe it, and even now it's difficult not to think that some grave error was made. I'm surrounded by so many people whose deserved place here is so obvious: Rhodes scholars, Fulbright scholars, Clarendon-funded geniuses, and winners of what feels like every other academic prize under the sun. I have to fight the urge to not want to panic in the face of all this talent that feels like it so far outstrips my own.
I remember having the same feeling when I arrived at Stanford (and Stanford I think might have been worse, because you found yourself surrounded at every turn not only by geniuses but also by Olympic gold medalists, self-made millionaires, and these gorgeous tanned Californian amazons who seemed to have fallen effortlessly out of an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog WHO WERE ALSO GENIUSES). And, I got over it. By the time I graduated I still wasn't clear on why I'd ever gotten in in the first place, given how suspiciously exceptional so many of my classmates seemed to be, but I was confident and happy in the niche I'd found in the Stanford community where I was valued and successful.
So I know I can do it, and I know that the intimidation factor will largely go away once this period of pre-academic speculation is over and the actual work begins. (The work itself might be intimidating, but I'm well used to that!!) I've just got to hang in there until then!
It's a whole week of induction activities and orientation before school begins next week, and I still don't really know my schedule and only have an amorphous idea of what my first term is going to look like from an academic perspective. Perhaps another explanation of why I'm feeling a little on edge! But in the true California spirit that Stanford bestowed on me, I'm just trying to relax and go along for the ride at this point. There will be plenty of time to fret later on if I want to.
Whinging aside, here are some photos I've collected over the last week but hadn't yet posted. As you will see, we had heartbreakingly good weather yesterday--possibly the nicest day I've ever experienced in England EVER--and I tried to take full advantage, between a nice foggy morning bike ride and a 3-hour afternoon ramble while the sun shone. It was a reminder that, anxiety aside, life is indeed good :)
(Warlands, the bike shop where I got Marcel reassembled on Tuesday; additionally, I also received a dead-serious explanation of why the British term 'spanner' is far superior to the American term 'wrench' when I used the latter word in requesting to have my seat lowered--apparently, 'wrench' is BARBARIC and IMPRECISE, while 'spanner' isn't. If these people ever saw my attempts at construction, they'd see that 'wrench' is the proper term for whatever it is that I'm doing!)
(This was advertised as an example of 'good living.' Why, again, are Americans the ones who get the reputation for shady food??)
(My room more decorated, complete with some horses and some (obvi) American pride)
(The new building at Pembroke, which has a bizarrely desert-like, 'sandstone ziggurat oasis' feel to me. But in a good way, if that makes sense.)
(The view from the Osney lock in West Oxford on my way back from picking up Marcel at Warlands)
(It was summer term commencement day at St Peters College - if you look between the gates you can see a crowd of people in full academic robes, complete with fur lined black hoods and all the rest. Very Harry Potter!)
(The view from the kitchen/common room in my dorm - I think I could used to this!)
(Umm... okay? I was unaware that vegetarianism required an identity card, but apparently it does? Also yes, that is my Oxford ID picture, and yes, it is glorious and makes me look vaguely psychotic. No regrets.)
(Sunday morning bike ride in the Cotswolds - pinch me! So lovely!!)
(My attempts at cooking at lame at best, but I love our little kitchen sitting area!)
(A very festive street in North Oxford looking boooootiful in the autumn sunshine yesterday)
(So much pink!! Also the Rose and Crown is the name of the British-style pub near Stanford that my friends and I used to go to for weekly pub quizzes, so I feel like a pilgrimage here needs to be in order)
(Pretty British doorway that was probably only my height at the top)
(The canal on the way to Port Meadow looking amazing)
(Port Meadow - !!!!!!!!)
(Sailboats, Port Meadow, and some Dreaming Spires in the distance - truly a perfect day)
(The number 1 pub on my 'want to go' list: The Punter in Osney - it's quaint, small, always seems to be packed with suspiciously stereotypical British people, and at night they fill the windows with real candles and it just looks so snug and cozy. Soon!)
(Watching a balloon go up in the meadow outside my dorm)
(Up and away! The white footbridge is the route to the Pembroke main campus and central Oxford - I live on the quiet side of the river in a residential neighborhood. Some people seem a little disappointed that it's not right in the thick of things, but I'm loving it.)