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Foreign Correspondence: I’m abroad and I’m not coming back…this year

When I was counting down the days to my departure for Oxford, I was sad to leave. During my last month of summer, I stayed at home in San Francisco. I spent a lot of time dashing back and forth between Stanford and the City. Being around campus during NSO, I saw my friends. While I was saying goodbye to all of them, I started to think about how much I would miss them and I felt an ache for Stanford and the Bay even though I hadn’t left yet.

Despite the preemptive homesickness, I was itching for a change. I had spent the better part of two years in the Stanford bubble and the better part of my life in the Bay. When I applied and got into the BOSP in Oxford, it was still winter quarter of last year, so I knew that I would be abroad before I even knew what classes I was going to take in the spring. The idea of going to Oxford was both exhilarating and scary. I was going to be living in England! I was going to be working harder than ever. I was moving away from home.

After pining over the people and places that meant home to me, I packed my bags in one day and left for the UK. I arrived in Oxford in one piece. Quickly, I got picked up by the whirlwind of Oxford’s intense and fast-paced Michaelmas term, which lasts only eight weeks. I found myself living in a new mini-bubble called the Stanford House, which might be the best living situation I’ve had “at Stanford” thanks to a great group of people (and access to open kitchens for the first time in college!). The other Stanford students in the house are people who I have come to trust as friends and respect as scholars, athletes, musicians and writers. I arrived knowing fewer than four people out of the 47 individuals living in the house. I’ve realized quickly how lucky I have been to meet all of them because if I weren’t here in Oxford, I honestly would never have crossed paths with many of them on campus.

Oxford beyond the Stanford House is better than I could have imagined. I’m working on a tutorial in postcolonial literature, which is pushing me to become a better reader and writer every day—perfect for my English major. I’m also taking a Shakespeare course right here in England, something that is hard to believe at times. I’ve had the chance to pursue extracurriculars—the Oxford water polo team and the singing group I’ve joined have been amazing so far. Stanford students have the chance to be a part of one of three colleges here at Oxford—I’m in Magdalen (pronounced “Maud-lin”) and it’s great, because we get the opportunity to mingle with Oxford students as much as we want.

I originally signed up to stay in Oxford for two quarters somewhat apprehensively. How would I like it? Would being far away from home be tough? Once I got here, I quickly realized that the opportunity to study and live abroad was something I couldn’t take lightly. How often does anyone get the chance to be at more than one elite university as an undergraduate? Hardly ever. I decided that I would commit to being at Oxford until March, and then, I also applied and got into the Paris program for spring quarter. I’ve accepted the spot and will be abroad for the entirety of the ’10-’11 academic year. I realized early on that this meant sacrificing my whole junior year on campus, and missing out on seeing some of my closest friends graduate with the class of 2011. I know that there will be times when I’ll wish I could be back in California, but I also know how much I stand to gain from being here in Europe for longer than just three months. As this first quarter starts to wind down, I feel like I’m just getting started. I’m already having a great time, and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next.

Want to get away? E-mail Zahra Axinn at [email protected]

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