Don’t know how I neglected to mention Christian Union - just came back from my second meeting, and felt so in touch with everyone in the room (a small, cozy group) and with God while we were praying together. It’s a magical thing to pray out loud for someone else’s petition and hear someone else start up with the prayer you just related to the group, with as much thought as you would give it yourself.
Walking over to Student Night tomorrow with someone in the group and going to the Guy Fawkes Day bonfire on Saturday after a “pancake party” at the head guy’s house. Then leaving a little early to babysit. And on Sunday, going “church-shopping.”
Eeeee. I’m so glad I’ve finally found the Christian community I’ve been missing since boarding school. Those were my favorite memories of practicing my religion - being with a group of 15 people and offering our commentary on the sermon, circling the altar before communion and praying in the name of whatever saint we’d chosen that week. And being served the host and wine by upperclassmen leaders in the group, and smelling the incense that another student swung across the aisle as we filed in. I’ve been searching for it since.
My semester is starting to shape up more in terms of what i’m doing outside of class. I signed up - as everyone does - for a ton of clubs at Freshers’ Fair, and then ignored 60% of the emails I got in reply. I originally wanted to do climbing, which I might still do, but the sport I’m going to devote myself to is, I think, archery. There are enough goalies on the soccer (football!) team and I didn’t love the three days a week I’d have to devote to it.
I’m also talking to the C.S. Lewis Society about possibly being a secretary/treasurer, which non-matriculated students like me can’t usually do, but there’s a staff shortage I’m glad I’m in a place where people love Lewis as much as I do. And Harry Potter - I’m in the Harry Potter Society, and we had trivia and Sorting last week, which was fun if really competitive (the trivia part). I’m not sure how many events I’ll go to, but the Yule Ball is the day after Thanksgiving, so I’ll come back to Oxford from London, where I’m spending it with NYU friends; one’s mom and sister and boyfriend are coming into town.
I sub-edit for the OxStu newspaper on Monday and Tuesday nights, which I love because it’s copy-editing, but at the same time I’m really frustrated that few of my edits make it into the paper, and we don’t see all of the paper. In high school and at NYU I was the final barrier for something going into print, and that made me feel secure.
Also doing Jacari, which is once a week for an hour, and I’ll be tutoring a child in one of the surrounding areas. Excited about that and going to receive my match-up soon. In other kid-news, am going to babysit for the family I was talking about last night; the girls seem so, so sweet so I hope I can do that pretty often.
And possibly volunteering at the volunteer-run bookshop across the street, but I still have to turn in my application.
Before coming to Oxford I toyed with the idea of having a regular job; I have tutorials once or twice a week and so I envisioned myself having lots of free time, but it really fills up more than I’d expected.
I could still hear the fireworks when I was crossing over Magdalen Bridge. Apparently it’s like July 4th in that, if the holiday is during the week, you celebrate on the weekend. And so nothing special really happened today.
In high school this one teacher who had lived in Britain for maybe a few years (and yet has retained the accent - miraculous!) would tell us proudly in morning assembly about Guy Fawkes Day.
Also - just noticed that it’s “fifth of November” instead of “November 5th,” because the British like using prepositions in times/dates (“five to eight” instead of “7:55”).
I hadn’t done too well on my first two papers for Victorian Lit. With the first one I focused too much on criticism until I ran out of time and realized that poems could go on for a hundred pages and I should probably start with the core texts instead. And with the second I thought I did well, but I didn’t read two of the core texts and I guess that hurt me.
Gerard Manley Hopkins was this week’s focus; he’s a 19th century poet and Jesuit priest, and was religiously strict to the point of neuroticism. (I identified a lot.) After I read my paper aloud - always a really nerve-wracking experience, since as you do it you realize what mistakes you made - my tutor said it was “well-done” and “the best so far” of mine, and that I’d done a good job in the introduction of inverting the question she was asking and leading the essay in a different direction.
Then she asked me if I was a Christian, and I said yes, and she said she could “tell.” So that made me pleased. Sometimes I worry I over-identify/over-argue the Christian point in essays, if there is one to argue. (i.e. in this I said that being a priest and being a poet were not distinct identities, his poetry wouldn’t be what it is without his religion, etc.)
It made me happy that I finally did well, because I’ve been intimidated for a few weeks by my classmate, a visiting student from Vassar. He makes these really great analyses and close-reading, and I fear I’m too broad, and that writing broadly is writing lazily.
(Confession: I didn’t even touch meter/rhythm/stressed and unstressed syllables/sprung rhythm in Hopkins, even though it’s such a big part of his work - he invented sprung rhythm. But she didn’t point that out.)
Anyway, so that’s good. I felt today finally “settled” now that I have a good essay under my belt, that I deserve to be here and don’t need to feel inferior to my classmate whenever we walk in to the tutorial or I open his email with his essay attached. Today she told him that he was going a bit too far with his close-reading, which showed me that even if an essay seems perfect doesn’t mean it is. (I get swayed by good writing and a confident voice, which he has.)
Don’t know why but I feel nauseous; might have something to do with the ‘Sex on the Beach’ and vodka ‘n’ Coke I had at the “bop,” which is the first one we’ve had at the college this year - it’s held in the dining hall and is reminiscent of middle/high school dances. (“Vodka and Coke” here is more popular here than my favorite, rum & Coke, which people have told me is an elementary choice because it has only two ingredients. But what kind of fancy drinks have more??).
Thought I did well on my essay last week until my tutor paused three times during my classmate’s essay to say how “amazing” the last paragraph was, and asked me if I understood what he was doing.
He was kind and told me afterwards she’d been too harsh/unprofessional, but maybe it’s a good thing she was honest because now I’ll try harder to not be criticized as much.
Maybe I’m nauseous because I eat a lot of junk food here - not so much that I feel myself getting heavier, but enough to notice. I have at least one bag of potato chips (edit: crisps!! crisps!) a day and load up on dessert, because I don’t really like the “meal” part of the meals we have.
Going to London tomorrow to meet my dad for lunch (he’s there on business), and feel pressured to come back the same day because there’s supposed to be a big storm tomorrow night and I don’t want to be stuck in the middle of it.
Not looking forward to the four-hour-total trip, though. (I take the bus, which is slightly slower, and it takes about two hours each way if you factor in transportation-to-the-transportation [‘tube’ —> bus]).
Also missing my boyfriend, who just lost his job, and so I’m especially feeling for him. Loan money is finally coming through and so I finally feel like I can feel “settled” for real here; I tried to print out pictures to put up in my room (I have only two, and some posters/other framed things), but my iPhone didn’t work in the pharmacy’s machines. So I’m borrowing a USB on Monday.
Got cut from the soccer/football team and then realized some of the goalies may have dropped out after I stopped, and so now I’m considering going back on because I feel like I could make the team now. But I’m also doing archery, and am mad because I emailed too late to be put on the novice squad. (I hate when it’s because of my laziness that I’ve missed out on something.) But I’m going to go to practices with the hopes that I can be put on it eventually. I’m just upset because that’s something I knew I wanted to do as soon as I got into Oxford, and I talked about it at the Freshers’ Fair but missed this one window.
Other than that, doing Gerard Manley Hopkins this week and like his poems/his religiousness. Also, because it focuses on only one person, the essay seems manageable. And maybe I’ll feel proud enough about this essay to send it to my grandmother, who asked me to send her one. But I shouldn’t speak too soon.
Also, have been talking to Hunter about her coming to Teddy Hall next year, since they have a scholarship specifically for UNC students for a term, and I hope she does (she says she might come even if she doesn’t get the slot!). So strange that she’s looking at the one college where I am. Definitely feels like providence. (I wish she were here now!) I love the friends I’ve made but it’s also strange to realize that there’s no one here I knew before, or knew well. I was upset the other night and wanted to talk to someone, then had an unexpected realization that there’s no one in this city who knows me as well as my friends do back home. But I like that I came into the program this way. It’s just odd. I guess NYU was the same, but for some reason it didn’t feel like it. I guess because it’s on the same continent.
(I was talking to Hester, a British friend I’ve made here who I’ve gotten close with, about: she said the other day someone had asked her if she knew of a classical musician, and she later thought about how anyone at home would know that about her already, that she loves classical music.)
I actually used “Nightline,” which is a British phone hotline advertised in the universities (when I visited Lindsey and Lindsay in London, I saw it on a bathroom stall there too). I talked to a third-year at Exeter who sort of “hmm”ed a lot, and said goodbye when my therapist came on Skype chat.