After going on what felt like a CT goodbye tour, including Willimantic, Waterbury, and Oxford, I finally made it to Newark airport for my flight out to England for grad school. I was lucky and missed the evening rush – I slid right through baggage check and security which is a rare treat. The flight over was fine – I only watched one movie (I usually watch as many as I can cram in during the flight) and was able to get in a bit of sleep. I arrived, went through immigration pretty quickly, got money out of an ATM, put my ridiculous amount of luggage on a cart, and followed the well-marked signs in Heathrow all the way to the central bus station where I was able to purchase a ticket 5 minutes before the bus was meant to leave. It worked out quite nicely. As the bus was driving though Oxford I noticed the lack of taxis around and asked the driver how easy it would be for me to get one. He said you had to call one and well, without a SIM card, I couldn’t. He was very kind and called one for me. Minutes later I was picked up and brought to the door of my new home: 82 Bullingdon Road.
Here is my full address for those wishing to post me items such as postcards, Cadbury Mini Eggs (the ones here just aren’t the same – I swear!), or themselves:
82 Bullingdon Road
Cowely, Oxford, Oxfordshire
United Kingdom OX4 1QL
I was greeted by two of my housemates, Theo and Chris. The others had not yet arrived. They helped me with my bags and we chatted as I started to unpack a bit. Chris wasted no time in taking the piss out of my accent and ‘Americanisms’ – haha. They’ve been picking up on some of the things I say though so we’ll see who has the last laugh! The three of us walked to the centre (I was corrected when I called it downtown) to pick up keys for Chris and I. It is only about a 25 minute walk to the centre, and a quite lovely one at that. On the way back we stopped at Tesco (a supermarket just 3 blocks from out house) to pick up a few groceries. We live just off of Cowely Road near all the shops. Apparently it is the place to live, drink, and shop!
The city is really small, clean, quite lovely, and not nearly as posh as I had expected. The Tube is the subway in London, but they don’t have a subway in Oxford so they call the bus system the Oxford Tube. The buses are pretty expensive though – a few quid! Can you imagine paying 4-5usd for a short bus ride?! That’s why I had to get a bike. Well, I had been planning on getting one anyway. There are bikes ALL over the city. Everyone seems to have one. You have to be careful though because apparently there are a lot of bike thieves around so it is wise to invest in a solid D-lock. We even noticed that bikes get tagged if they are locked up in the same place in a public area for a long time – they are notices of removal, which I thought was interesting.
Maja (pronounced Maya – she is from Poland) arrived late that night (Thursday) via car. She had planned on keeping her car here and getting a parking permit. However, she realized that when she was in uni in Manchester she got about 5 parking tickets which she never paid for because the car is only registered in Germany. If she were to register her car now, it is likely that those tickets would come up and she would have over 5000 pounds worth of tickets to pay. Obviously, she doesn’t have that kind of money and ended up coming with an insane plan. She had just driven the car here from Germany (where her dad lives – about a 10 hour drive) and decided that the best thing to do would be to drive it back to Germany the next day (after unloading her things here) and flying back that night – crazy!
Jenny arrived the next day (Friday, I think), but only dropped her things and chatted with us for a bit. She had to go back home and work, but she should be arriving tomorrow. Jenny will be the only one in the house with a car. Chris has a bike and Maja has one coming in the post). Tara and her mom arrived Sunday around noon and we helped her move her things up to the 3rd floor where her bedroom is.
On Saturday, Chris, Theo and I walked down to the Oxford Brookes’ Headington Campus to get familiar with the area where we will be taking all our courses. They are both Architecture students and my program (Development & Emergency Practice) is under the Faculty of Architecture so we are all in the same building called Abercrombie, which is brand new. There is still a little more construction being done in that building, but it is essentially done. There is also a bit of confusion with what has been moved where because professors all have new offices, etc., but it looks beautiful.
Saturday (I think) I went bike shopping with Chris and Theo and found that the cheapest I would get a new bike would be for 100 quid (160 usd). That was too expensive so I started looking at used bikes. I didn’t find any used bikes in the shops that would work for me so I started looking online. There is this great website in the UK called Gumtree, which is pretty much just like Craigslist, so inquired about a few bikes that were much more reasonable prices. That night, after Tara had arrived at the house, the 4 of us walked about a half hour to someone’s house to look at their used bikes, but neither were going to work for me. Both were a little too big and one didn’t have properly working breaks. It was nice to have company on the walk and to get to see a bit more of Oxford. Last night I found a bike on Gumtree that looked perfect and only be sold for 45 quid. I met the guy this morning and bought it! It’s not quite as pretty as my Ghanaian bike, but it’s solid. It has good gears and breaks, new tires, non-rusty chain, and even has a basket! I am very pleased with it and all that is left to get is a D-lock, which I will hopefully go purchase later today. I’ll be keeping the bike in my room in the meantime. Oxford Brookes has a bike doctor that shows up on campus about once a week and fixes students bikes for free – it sounds pretty awesome so I’m going to bring my bike over for a tune up tomorrow.
Sunday (I think – I’ve really confused all of my days), Chris, Theo, Tara, Maja, and I all went to uni and walked through the park on the way back:
Tara, Me, Maja, Chris (Theo was the photographer)
Now everyone is in the house except for Jenny who is coming tomorrow. We are all getting on really well. We went to the pub at the end of the street last night, which was nice, but a bit quiet because it was Sunday. My course doesn’t start until Wednesday so today I am just hanging out and getting a few things done like buying a bike and going grocery shopping in a little bit.
I did something stupid. I wasn’t thinking when I was packing and packed things like my hair dryer, straighter, kettle, and bed heater. I didn’t think about the fact that I might have problems because of the wattage difference. I plugged in my bed heater and it blew a fuse and broke it! I had to throw it out and buy a new one on Amazon. I had actually used my kettle and straightener a few times with no problems (besides the kettle being much louder than normal, but I didn’t make the connection), but I don’t want to continue using them and risk blowing another fuse and/or breaking them. I bought a converter thing on Amazon so I can use my straighter, but I won’t be able to use my blow dryer or kettle. Luckily, there is a house kettle that Jenny brought and Chris, of all people, has a hair dryer I can borrow when I need it occasionally.
When I got my visa mailed back to me right before I left it stated that I could work a maximum of 20 hours per week. This was very exciting news as I REALLY need the money. When I was browsing Google maps at home and zooming in on where I would be living once I got here I noticed that there was a Subway just three blocks away. As much as I disliked (as much as I would dislike any terrible job like that) working at Subway, I have already been fully trained and it’s familiar to me. I figured with the experience I have I could easily land the job and having it just three blocks away from home is a bonus. Luckily I jumped right on it when I got here because they are doing interviews and hiring right now so I was able to submit my resume and cover letter (seemed ridiculous to me, but my housemates insisted I should write one despite how shitty the job) and I have an interview for the job tomorrow – fingers crossed!
So, I think that just about covers it.
Title quote: Vampire Weekend