Toreros’ tales of traveling abroad: Oxford

Studying over the pond at St. Clare’s International school


Sarah Brewington/The USD Vista

Sarah Brewington/The USD Vista

While changes in culture were expected, I did not expect to lose the common sense I learned in first grade. I cannot cross the street. I cannot tell the time. And I cannot determine the temperature. If you are unaware, England uses Celsius, they use military time, and they drive on the other side of the road. I have found myself in the land of J.K. Rowling, Jane Austen, and J.R.R. Tolkein.

Oxford is the beloved home of Oxford University, many inspirations for Harry Potter, and Blackwell’s bookshop. It is here that I have started to enjoy my number one talent of getting lost. I have been lost in Scotland, Oxford, London, and Portugal. And getting lost is one of the best things that could happen to me. In getting lost I found the ocean in Portugal and Kensington Palace in London.

As I have witnessed a culture that makes America look like a teenager in comparison to this ancient ancestor, I have experienced traditional cottages, Celtic churches dating back before Christianity, and country homes that still house dukes and duchesses. Riding on the bus from the neighboring town of Kidlington, through Summertown, and into Oxford, the landscape changes from suburbia, to the upper middle class, to the English and Gothic architecture of the university’s landscape. It is a place you want to be lost in.

Just shy of the Oxford colleges sits my school, St. Clare’s International school. While USD allows me to have introverted days and hide behind some classmates, St. Clare’s requires that I be an extrovert. What I mean is that I cannot hide in the back of the classroom here when there is only one other person in my class. Yes, a classroom with one other student, the professor and me. I have gone from a class full of 20 or so students to classes of two to six. I have gone from a campus with classes in several buildings, to having all my classes in one building, and it is in an old six million dollar home in Oxford, England.

The buildings next to mine are high schools and schools for young girls. If you still manage to convince yourself that you are not in England, your bubble pops when you hear an eight year old say, “That is quite nice” about lunch. The children may startle you with their proper English manners, but the students who are my age might look familiar.

Wrong. The Oxford students emerge decked out in suits, with white bow ties, or in dresses. A natural guess would be a school dance, yet wrong again, they are going to take exams.

For someone who makes it a religion to dress in sweatshirts and t-shirts on finals day, this was unfathomable to me. After less than three hours of sleep, you just want to throw on a shirt and pants and go take your test.

On their way to their exams, these students pass buildings that are so drenched in English, Victorian, and Gothic architecture that house libraries, dining halls, chapels and gardens.

But returning to my small corner of Oxford, I meet people from South Korea to Germany to Argentina. As I learn about their cultures, they question me about mine. The number one question on the table is, “What do you think of Donald Trump?” Guns in the air, and our right hand over our “Make America Great Again” shirts, is what America looks like from many international eyes. Even in the small town of Kidlington, adjacent to Oxford, American politics is a topic of rich discussion.

England has taught me many things, about their culture, their love hate relationship with the royal family, the decision on whether to recede from the European Union, the political parties, and the reaction “what a knob” toward Donald Trump.

I am lost in cities, and lost in cultures. Soon I will leave for Easter Break, where I will probably get lost in Dublin, Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna and Prague. And when it is all over, I will go back to San Diego and immerse myself in the rich campus of USD. But please, I will ask this one thing: if you see a girl who has forgotten how to cross Torero Way, please help her; it’s me.