Oxford / Updates

a brief timestamp

I am awaiting university eagerly – I see it as a chance to do a lot of things I want to, things I now know how to start properly, from the small issues like proper note-taking techniques and habits to the medium ones like cooking and planning and budgeting meals to the big ones like cultivating healthy and positive relationships with faculty and staff and engaging with my major(s). Also, I take a lot of comfort in knowing that wherever I eventually choose to go, I will have familiar faces around, both Pearsonites and people from home. These last two months and a half are what I need to justify the past two years, I think, in a manner of speaking.

march 10, 2012

I don’t think I’ve done many of those things I thirsted to do just seven months ago. (Feel a bit silly linking to myself, but someone just read that post and it appeared on my stats page, and that paragraph struck me.)

The weekend has been spent flailing useless at my essay, which was inconceivably difficult to write for no satisfactory reason. I can’t characterize work as hard here, not yet, but it has been stressful because the standards are high and tutorials are worth only as much as you put in (and there’s already a sunk cost – or investment – of a couple of tens of thousand dollars).

Work here is amazing(ly autonomous), though. I love reading and I love agonizing over writing (what a lie) and UK politics is fascinating in its complexity but the fact that I am living in the UK while studying it in such detail (relatively speaking) in one of the best British institutions in the world – that’s phenomenal. My bus drove past Westminster last Friday. One of the leading authorities on the British constitution was a Fellow at Oxford, and taught David Cameron, who had a first in PPE. Tonight, I went for a talk today by someone who was on “Obama’s energy and environment policy team, and was an advisor to the Office of the President of the Maldives.” The talk was interesting – could have been better delivered, but inspiring nonetheless. It was in Christ Church, and it is legitimately gorgeous; the only thing that stops me ripping my heart out in jealousy is the knowledge that a term in the place will dull its stately grandeur, give it the worn edge of familiarity instead, closer to contempt than I even want to think about getting.

It was a foggy night and the night wrapped softly around centuries-old stone and generations of moss, and walking the twenty minutes home, the city half-obscured, draped in mist, rain-slicked streets, night soft like a lover’s eyes, it was the threshold of a dream. Made me think back to years ago, the piano in K S Chee, SS and history RA classes in the tin can we called our classroom block, the floating building and its philosophy and marine science classrooms, furled sails rattling in the wind, all leading, not inevitably, but necessarily to this. I remember flying over for interviews, the beer I had in Imperial College in London, the train ride, the nervous, jittery trek from the station to my college. I remember leaving with the audacity to feel like I belonged here, that few other things have ever felt more right – the presumption! – with the cold surety of knowing that that thought alone will jinx all my chances of ever being accepted.

Now I am, in a room still not my own, eating a giant (seriously, giant) plate of salad (bland Tesco lettuce, smoked salmon, a boiled egg, a devastatingly unripe avocado, sunflower seeds and sweetcorn with honey mustard dressing). Everything feels like it’s on the brink, but the days stretch mellowly out, like sunlight creeping across cobblestone, and this must be what timelessness is. Or freedom.

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