The start of adulthood?

N.B. I wrote the first half of this a week ago, and I have now left Oxford and am back at home in Lincolnshire.

It’s been almost a whole year since I wrote a blogpost but that is not to say that the past year has been uneventful. On the contrary, it’s been a highly formative year: I’ve completed my degree, found out what I’m really interested in, and made exciting plans for the coming year. To be honest, it feels like it’s been about five minutes since I got home from Spain last June having finished my year abroad…and now I’m sat in my room in Oxford, surrounded by boxes and suitcases ready to be taken back to Lincoln for the final time tomorrow.

To say a bit about Finals, suffice to say that they happened and I came out the other side considerably more tired and haggard but alive and proud of myself for getting through it. Oxford Finals are notoriously gruelling because for several of the BA courses 100% (or almost) of the degree hangs on a handful of exams at the very end of the three or four years. It’s an antiquated system which lends itself well to last minute cramming and for which I have (at present) little to no respect. Maybe I’ll feel differently about it in a few months time when the seemingly endless revision period and the flurry of sitting eight three-hour exams in less than a fortnight is but a distant memory. Or maybe not.

That said, I could not be more grateful for the myriad opportunities that coming to Oxford has given me; I genuinely feel that I am leaving the place transformed into a completely different person to who I was at the beginning. I’ve learnt a lot about my subject and about myself and met some people with whom I know I will be friends for the rest of my life. But, although I am sad to be leaving a city where I’ve been so happy, I have no doubt that it is very much time to move on.

And I’m moving on to something really quite exciting: at the end of August, I’ll be moving to Santiago de Chile, where I’ll be working as an English Language Assistant through the British Council for ten months. I cannot wait, and am currently in the process of sorting everything out: visas, insurance, flights, and so on. Latin American life is not exactly famed for its fast pace and things are taking a while, but I suppose that that’s something I’ll just have to get used to!

Anyway, I’m planning to rekindle this blog and post regularly while I’m in Chile, so watch this space for updates on my ever more desperate attempts to evade adulthood…


Final thoughts and happenings

This post was written in two bits, mainly because I never got round to finishing it the first time round but then couldn’t bring myself to delete it and start again.

Written on Monday 20th June

I write this, (probably) my final blogpost concerning my year abroad, from the comfort of my bed in little old Normanby-by-Spital, the Lincolnshire village where my parents live. There’s nowhere quite like home, is there?

There’s not really a lot to say about my last few days in Santiago apart from that they happened.

Last Monday, I flew from Santiago to Madrid, where I spent a dreamy three days playing my favourite role: the tourist. I was really lucky with my hostel, Way, because it was by far the most sociable and friendly hostel I’ve ever stayed in. They offered paella and tapas nights a couple of times a week for not much money and there was an unexplained night of free sangria while I was there. The kitchen was huge and well-equipped and the bedrooms clean and spacious; check out the hostel’s website here.

The weather was glorious and particular highlights of my trip included seeing Velázquez’s Las Meninas in El Prado, one of Madrid’s art galleries, visiting the Royal Palace, and photographing as many streets named after Golden Age authors as I could.

Madrid was also absurdly cheap compared to other major European cities – or it at least seemed like that to me – and so I didn’t really end up spending much money. There was a Lidl just round the corner from the hostel which was great, and a lot of the museums and galleries I visited were free for students.

I flew from Madrid to Stansted and I can safely say that it was one of the worst flight experiences of my life. I am not a hard-to-please customer. But Ryanair really excelled themselves this time. I should have known that it was going to be hellish when they tried to charge me €90 for overweight baggage – which still only weighed 24kg. Yeah. In the end, I paid €35 to put my rucksack in as an extra checked bag instead. I was extremely happy to get off the plane a few hours later, having spent the whole of the flight secretly seething.

The couple of days I spent in Oxford were fabulous: on Friday, New College had its last Guest Night (meaning a black tie dinner in the dining hall) of the year followed by a bop (college-exclusive party) and it was the best night out that I’ve had in a very long time.

Written on Friday 1st July

I’ve now been back in the UK for more than two weeks, and it feels strange to think that I was ever abroad at all. I’ll try to continue with this post by carrying on from where I left off.

Yes, Guest Night: we danced and chatted all night and it was basically the best night ever. The photo is of me (second from the left) with my best gal pals. Needless to say, given that the birds were starting to sing by the time we went to bed, the next day was pretty much written off.

The next week passed quietly by. I came home on the Sunday because my brother and I met in London to see The Lion King at the theatre and then came home together on the train. I bought us the tickets as his 18th birthday present back in March and we weren’t even slightly disappointed by the production. Every aspect of it – the costumes, the dancing, the songs, the set – was fantastic, and I felt a bit like we’d reverted back to our 3- and 6-year-old selves. The rest of the week was spent sleeping, seeing my grandparents, sleeping, and dog walking. Thrilling stuff. The highlight of the week was going to our village’s pub quiz with my parents and two of their friends.

Then, on Saturday, I went back to Oxford (I honestly think that I’m singlehandedly keeping National Rail going) for New College (my Oxford college) Commemoration Ball. I’m going to write a separate post about this at some point, but here’s a quick summary: an opulent night full of food, drink, and dancing held in the college grounds.

And now I’m back at home for the whole of July. I’ve got an essay to write but that’s about it as far as plans go. August and September are pretty full with work experience at various newspapers and magazines in Lincoln and London and I’ll be heading back to Oxford for fourth year at the beginning of October. Scary stuff.

As I’ve said before, there is a massive build-up to going on a year abroad, and this just makes the sense of anticlimax when it’s over all the more palpable. No doubt that I’ll look back at the past year over the course of my life and regard it as one of the most formative, but at the moment I’m just enjoying being at home (even though the UK is currently going through a period of immense political turmoil and uncertainty – thanks, Boris). Having days filled with doing absolutely nothing apart from the odd dog walk is definitely underrated.

“Life doesn’t stop for anybody.” – Stephen Chbosky

Today is the last full day of term before anyone who doesn’t have exams is unceremoniously kicked out of their rooms by 10am tomorrow morning (a big thank you to New College for that), and it’s only really properly started to hit me this week that leaving Oxford this time round is going to be very different to all the times (five, to be precise) that have gone before. Admittedly, I’m here for two more weeks yet because I’ve volunteered to help with the open days (keen as per), but only a handful of my friends are staying too; for most of them, this is the last time that we’ll be in Oxford together as students. And that is an utterly terrifying realisation.

I’ve made better friends here in Oxford than I could ever have imagined, and the two years that I’ve spent here have undoubtedly been the most formative of my life so far. I’ve learnt so much about so many different things (ironically, my degree probably appears pretty far down on the list) and even though it definitely hasn’t been an easy couple of years – in fact, it’s been remarkably tough at times – it has been 100% worth it.

On another level, contrary to everything I’ve just said, I can’t wait to get away from Oxford and the stress and pressure it foists onto its students and to get stuck into my year abroad. I want to see what life outside of education is like, remind myself what it feels like not to have endless deadlines constantly looming, cook for myself again, meet new people, and come back in Michaelmas 2016 feeling fresh and knowing that I’ve lived a year of real life.

This term has absolutely flown by, and was rounded off perfectly on Monday evening when I went, somewhat spontaneously and unexpectedly, to a ball at Warwick Castle with four of my best friends…

IMG_4447…but I can’t help but feel that the last eight weeks have been building up to the year abroad. I’ve been planning it for ages, have discussed it with and explained it to numerous people, booked my (single) Eurostar ticket, and now I just want to do it.

Oxford, you’ve been fab, and I feel 100% sure that many more good times will be had here in 2 years time when I’m back for the fourth year of my degree…but I need a break. It’s not you, it’s me.

Laval, come at me.