Freshers’ Week | Holly Goes Abroad

Freshers’ Week: that infamous transition period after everyone is on campus but term hasn’t yet officially begun. I had heard many things about it before coming here but I wasn’t sure which rumors had merit and which were false. Did people actually just go out and get drunk every night? (Yes.) Was that all there was to do? (No.) Would I still have course work to do? (Absolutely.) Does freshers’ flu exist? (YES.)

Freshers’ Week is essentially seven days of orientation for first year students during which they learn how to be students both academically and socially. I’m not going to lie: it was a strange, strange week. I’m a third year college student back in the States, which means that I’ve already been through the standard discussions about racial diversity, asking consent, and fire safety. Everyone in the room felt so young and it felt weird to be constantly asked if I was a freshman as well. The students in my particular program are in a unique position: we know how to be students, just not how to be students at Oxford. There’s a fine line there that’s hard to describe, but it’s definitely there. 

Even stranger than this phantom fresher feeling was the fact that the college itself sanctioned events relating to and centering around alcohol. Back home that would be illegal because the drinking age is 21, but here it is obviously not a problem because the drinking age is 18. The college led pub crawls, organized club nights, and had a fully stocked bar at our bop. Perhaps this has just been my experience, but here it feels like there’s less pressure to drink to get drunk; instead, people drink to have a good time or to be social at relaxed pubs.

Speaking of bops, they’re basically my new favorite thing. A bop is a party that a college will host, usually in their Junior Common Room. Each one has a different theme that dictates what kind of costume you decide to where. The goal is make the best costume by spending the least amount of money on it, so you can imagine the chaos and fun that ensues. Our theme was to dress up as something that starts with the first letter of your first name. Naturally, I dressed up as Hermione. The bop was a great event to end Freshers’ Week with, especially because the name-centric theme helped me learn more people’s’ names!

Last but not least, we come to the dreadful part of Freshers’ Week: what is fondly called the freshers’ flu. Lectures this week were a sea of sick, coughing students all chugging water and as much Vitamin C as they possibly could. The lack of sleep coupled with mountains of course work certainly doesn’t help– but we push through!

Whether or not you’ve experienced a Freshers’ Week of your own, I hope you’ve enjoyed this little jaunt into mine! It’s certainly a week I won’t forget.

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Have you ever experienced a Freshers’ Week? Been to a bop? What would you have dressed up as according to my bop’s theme? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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LIBRARIES | Holly Goes Abroad

There are so many amazing things about Oxford that it’s incredibly difficult to choose just one favorite. However, if I had to pick a single thing that I absolutely adore about living here it would be the LIBRARIES.

My bookish friends, I am in library paradise.

There are still so many libraries that I have to explore, but the ones that I’ve visited thus far are breathtaking. Today I’ll be sharing my three favorite libraries in Oxford:

Bodleian Library

The Bodleian Library is HUGE (there’s me walking up the front steps for scale!). It stretches way beyond what is shown in the photo above and it even has several floors of underground tunnels that connect it to other libraries in Oxford. The Bod has over 12 million items and is the main research library for the University of Oxford. When I first arrived here I wasn’t sure I would be able to enter it as a visiting student. BUT I CAN! My university card gives me access, so I can go in and casually study there whenever it’s open. Dream. Come. True.

Noise levels are something that Oxford takes very seriously. Be it in dorms or libraries, they always emphasize the importance of being conscientious when others are working. Signs like the one in the photo above are sprinkled throughout the library’s center courtyard because it’s easy to hear people talking from inside the reading rooms when the windows are open. The Bod is a great place to study when you really need to focus. It’s also fun traversing its countless twists and turns!

Radcliffe Camera

There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of walking through the gates of the Radcliffe Camera to go study as tourists snap photos from afar. It’s still so surreal to me that I actually get to use these gorgeous libraries as study spaces! The Rad Cam is often used as an iconic image of Oxford. It’s located right behind the Old Bod, which is convenient if you want to switch up your study spot after a while or need a book that’s in one or the other.

I love studying on the top floor of the Rad Cam because you get to enjoy this incredible view. Whenever I need a quick break from reading I glance over the railing and admire the amazing architecture and gorgeous ceiling. It makes me feel like I’m in some sort of bookish castle!

Mansfield Main Library

Ah, the Mansfield main library. Mansfield College may be small, but its library is perfect. It’s cozy, cute, and just the right size. Chances are you can find a Mansfielder you know studying there at any hour of the day. The dining hall is in the next building, which means that you can spend all day on campus and not have to worry about losing your spot in the library when you leave for lunch or dinner. Mansfield also has theology, law, and PPE reading rooms, but this main library (where the English literature is!) is definitely my favorite of the bunch.

Also, I’d like to give an honorable mention shout out to the English Faculty Library. Though not as architecturally impressive as the other libraries I’ve mentioned, the English Faculty Library has an amazing selection of any and every book I would ever need here. When I found the American literature section I had to stop myself from doing a happy dance in the middle of the aisle– the number of Faulkner novels and collections of criticism on his works is incredible.

Click here to check out other posts in my Holly Goes Abroad series!

Do you have any favorite libraries? (Both in Oxford and beyond!) What are the most important features of your ideal library? What aspect of my year in Oxford should I talk about next? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

My First Week in Oxford | Holly Goes Abroad

Hello from across the pond! I can’t believe I’ve already been here for almost a week– it simultaneously feels like a month and just a single day. This past week has been spent settling into my room here, exploring Oxford, and learning the ropes of living in a new culture. From vocabulary and customs to navigating city streets, there’s so much to learn!

I’m not going to lie: the transition was rough at first. Everything is just different enough from the United States to make it frustrating and nerve-racking when you get off the bus in the middle of a foreign city. I live in a fairly rural town back home, which means that simply living in a city was an adjustment. And don’t even get me started on the time change– it still boggles my mind! It’s strange to wake up at seven o’clock here and realize that it’s only two in the morning back home. All of a sudden around 2 p.m. my phone starts buzzing because people are finally awake in the States. I can’t imagine what a time difference of more than five hours would feel like!

The food is also different here, which makes eating out with my nut allergy quite interesting. It’s essentially the same process as eating out back home, with the disadvantage that I’m not familiar with food brands and restaurants here. I’ve noticed that most restaurants have a broad statement on the bottom of the menus saying that they cannot guarantee that their food is not cross-contaminated with nuts; however, when I’ve spoken to servers they have assured me that I would be fine eating there. I’m not sure if they make that statement simply to cover them legally or if there is actually truth to it, but I haven’t had any problems so far! (Knock on wood!) Fortunately, my college here at Oxford has been extremely accommodating as far as dining is concerned

I was lucky enough to have my dad with me for the week to help me settle in, so we were able to do some major sightseeing around Oxford. This city is absolutely stunning. The architecture is incredible and the history behind every nook and cranny here is endlessly fascinating. The more I learn about the significance of my surroundings the more grateful I feel to have the opportunity to be here in the first place. To think that Oxford could become like a second home to me after living here for a year is surreal!

I love, love, love the academic vibe this city exudes. From the expansive Bodleian Library and Radcliffe Camera to the sprawling Blackwell’s Bookshop, everything here is a bookworm’s dream! I can’t wait to spend the next year exploring these bookish sights. I’m looking forward to exploring now that I know the area pretty well and can get around without a map.

What would this update be without mentioning the beautiful Mansfield College? It still hasn’t quite hit me that I’ll be studying here for the next year. The campus is gorgeous, the dining hall is like something straight out of the Harry Potter films, and the library is literally the library of my dreams. It’s only about a fifteen minute walk from my dorm, which is enough to make me feel like I’m getting out and doing something but not so much that it’s frustrating to walk back and forth all the time. I can’t wait for my tutorials to actually start!

I hope you’re all having a lovely day and that you’ve enjoyed this little study abroad update. I’m planning on doing one of these each week, so stay tuned for more! If you’d likely more timely updates on what I’m doing, check out my bookstagram @nutfreenerd.

Let me know in the comments section below what aspects of my study abroad adventures you’d be most interested in hearing about!

Yours,

HOLLY

Tomorrow is Travel Day! | Holly Goes Abroad

The day I’ve been awaiting for months is finally around the corner: travel day. Tomorrow I hop on a plane and leave the United States for the first time (eek!).

As I talked about in a past post, I’ll be studying English literature at Mansfield College within Oxford University during this academic year. Even just writing it out like that feels so surreal– I still can’t believe this is actually happening! I can’t wait to solely focus on studying literature for an entire year (of course, the fun adventures and exploring that come along with it aren’t too shabby, either).

This summer has been filled with packing, doing required reading, and preparing in any way I can for the huge leap I’ll be taking. I’m incredibly excited (and nervous!) for what this next year has in store for me!

My plan is to post weekly updates on what I’ve seen, experienced, and done throughout my study abroad experience. Not only is this a fun way to share the experience with others, but it also allows me to have a record of my year at Oxford. I’ll also be posting plenty of photos to my bookstagram (@nutfreenerd) so be sure to check it out!

I want to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has supported me along the way– your kindness and generosity means everything! ❤

Cheers!

Yours,

HOLLY