Tomorrow, Sunday 11 October, I will have been in Oxford for exactly one month. Being so far away from home is a difficult thing to wrap your head around and knowing that it has been a month is extraordinary in so many ways. They say the first month is the hardest and after that you start to settle in, but I wonder if you truly ever settle into a place so different from your heart.
On the one hand, I cannot believe how much has happened in the last month. I am starting with my fourth out of 12 weeks of class for the semester next week, I have learnt to ride the bus all over town (and sometimes found it’s simply better to walk), I’ve learnt how to do grocery shopping on a budget and I’ve done laundry using the ridiculous, water spewing hall washing machines twice already. I’ve got a new look after being a hair model in London and I’ve been to Shakespeare’s hometown. I have had pints and half pints (beer for my non-UK friends), my first macaroon and beer battered (yes these people like their beer almost as much as us South Africans) fish and chips. Every Springbok game I’ve watched they have won and I am converting all my new friends to die heart rugby fans. I also feel like I’m in Hogwarts half of the time and I am falling deeply in love with Oxford. I know now that I need to go into the city center once a week. It’s the place where I feel alive between all the history and cobblestone streets.
I have been extremely blessed with the people I have met and who have become such special friends in such a short time. The fact that we are all so far from home has made us console ourselves in each other’s loneliness. It is exciting to explore all the nooks and crannies together because it’s pretty new to all of us. We have also been blessed with amazing weather up to this point. It has only rained 4 days since I have been here, but as October struck it seems the weather started changing because we have less sunny days and 17 degrees now is not the 17 degrees of a week or so ago (basically I am freezing my ass off already). Luckily I received my awesome K-way Atlas 3-in-1 rain jacket from my parents just this week. It’s like wearing a blanket all day! Finally, I have been blessed with the most amazing support system ever! Skype with the parents, the funny 9Gag videos from the boyfriend, the voice notes and messages out of the blue from my friends. I cannot explain how much these have all meant to me.
On the other side though one month can feel terribly long, and worst of all the things you have missed in that one month. Just in the last week I missed my mom’s 50th birthday and my soon to be cousin’s kitchen tea. And that has been the biggest challenge, missing my people knowing that just like my life is going on here, their lives are going on back home.
Not a day goes by that I look up to the sky and see one of those streaks left by an airplane taking off in this cold air, and that I don’t wish that I was on that plane, on my way back home. In many ways, I feel like I am starting to live a completely different life from my family and friends back home. Most of them are working, starting families even, and here I am sitting in a university bar on a Friday night watching the rugby. I am still making student food (trying to make interesting, quick meals on a student budget), I have to deal with noisy students coming home at all times of the night (and as I am the first room in our flat, a front door that also gets slammed every time someone comes in or leaves), classes, assignments and people promoting the “real campus experience” that I had in excess (and loved) back home. I am part of the most international world I could ever have asked for, with friends from all over, learning, discussing, joking and mostly admiring the difference and similarities there are between our countries.
I have been saying that I am bored for the last few weeks and last week I realised it was not because I wasn’t busy, it was because I was being selfish with my time. Being selfish bores me. Having to make decisions and only taking myself into consideration frustrates me. I lived with my parents all my life and when making decisions back home I always took them and their schedules into consideration (even if only for a second). There were family birthdays (which you only appreciate when you can only see the photos and you are not there) and friend time and then there was boyfriend as well. I would make time for him and it wasn’t a chore, I loved it, I looked forward to it (and now I long for it).
When I made the decision to come to Oxford to further my studies I hoped it would teach me something, and it has. Coming to Oxford has taught me that I am so much stronger than I ever dreamt I could be. It might seem mundane to some but I now know that I am able to take care of myself, and do it well. It has taught me patience and it has taught me to stand up for myself. I am learning to make decisions for myself and not just to live with them but to embrace them and make an amazing adventure out of them.
I know that I am going to miss out on a bunch of other things back home (the cousin wedding is coming up in December for one and my little nephew is turning 2 soon), but I also know that I am extremely blessed. I can’t wait to see my family and my country again (I even can’t wait for the heat), but I am so glad that I am where I am at this very moment. Coming to England is making me a richer person. I am richer in friends, in places and dreams. Not many people get the chance to live in their dream city, but I have that honour. I was placed in this place at this moment for a very specific reason and I intend to grow, learn and slurp up all the sights, sounds and tastes (at a student budget price of course). I intend to do all of that, and finally to bring my growth back home with me, a fuller, stronger person with even more people and places to share my time with in the future.
Cheers Oxford, I am wholeheartedly up for your challenge!