These past few months have been challenging, stressful, and exciting. I have met interesting people from all over the world and have been learning from them and with them about something we are all incredibly passionate about: disaster relief and development. Everyone has come to Oxford Brookes to study at different points in their lives. Some people have been working in the field for years, some are just out of their undergrad, some have been working in a completely unrelated field for 20 years and decided they wanted to do something else.
The Center for Development & Emergency Practice (CENDEP) professors and lecturers have been interesting, experienced, engaging, and just as much interested in hearing what I have to say as I am in what they have to say. The humanitarian world is constantly getting it wrong and occasionally getting it right. A lot of people who have worked in the field for many years are very narrow minded in the way they think things should be done, whereas people who haven’t contributed fresh, new perspectives that changed how others looked at things. This diversity has brought a lot of lively discussion and interesting debates in the classroom and in the pub.
I have learned how to think differently, challenge ideas, and to consider the context. I’ve learned to understand the value and complexities of good partnerships and the relevance of human rights in disaster (among other contexts). I’ve learned there is no such thing as ‘best practice’, that context is key, and that good intentions are not always enough. I won’t keep chattering on about that though. I feel I should also take a minute to brag about the 5 research papers, 1 presentation, and 1 group project I’ve somehow managed to complete. Of course, I’ve only got grades back on two papers so far so perhaps it’s a bit soon to brag. Still feels good.
I’m sitting in the airport looking forward to being home for Christmas and spending time with my family, boyfriend, and friends (and to the inflight movies – I just love them!). I’ve really enjoyed this past semester in Oxford. I got lucky with really lovely housemates and a pretty ideal house location (just off Cowley Road).I also managed to snag a job up (Subway..again..I know, I feel sorry for me too) within the first few weeks. As much as I complain about it, I’m still grateful to have it. I haven’t had many opportunities to travel around England yet because I’ve been so busy with my studies, but I did pop by London for a day of sightseeing and Jenny brought me on a day trip to her old stomping grounds, Bath, for the Christmas market. I hope to do a bit more traveling over spring break or over the summer when I am doing my dissertation and have a bit more flexibility.
A few more things:
-At the beginning of the semester Jenny, Chris, Tara and I went to Warwick Castle, where Jenny works. We got in free and got a tour from Jenny.
-Thom hosted a Halloween party which I decided to go all out for. I made a homemade shark costume. It was awesome. I won the prize for best costume which was a gigantic bottle of champagne and eternal glory.
-I hosted an American Thanksgiving dinner at my house for ALL of my coursemates. It was really fun. I don’t know how we managed to fit everyone (about 30) into our tiny lounge and kitchen, but we did and it was great! It was a potluck so everybody brought a dish and we feasted! It was especially fun because my coursemates are from all over the world and very few of them had celebrated a Thanksgiving before. Great people, great feast, great night.
-I think the hardest adjustment to the UK has been differentiating “chips” from “crisps”. Crisps are what you’d call chips in the US. Chips are what you’d call french fries in the US. Very confusing. I confused many customers in my first month at Subway, haha.
Some Britishisms (or the ones I can remember off the top of my head right now anyway):
-Muppet: calling someone an idiot in an endearing kind of way..
-Instead of saying “Can I please have..” they say “Please can I have”
-Instead of saying “hello” or “hey” or “hi” they say “heyya”
-on offer = on sale
-bin = garbage
-rubbish = trash
-blagged = sorta like..winged it or half-assed it..kinda
This winter Elliott and I will be bouncing around to THREE different Christmas’. One early Chinese dinner and yankee swap Christmas with my mom and brothers, another early Christmas in Albany with my dad (and some aunts, uncles, and cousins), and then Christmas-Christmas in Ohio with Elliott’s family. I feel like I’m in a movie, but hopefully the kind where nothing goes wrong.
Happy Holidays to all.
Title quote: Over the Rhine