A Canadian in Oxford: The Two-Week Exchange Update

Greetings from Oxford!

I arrived in the UK in one exhausted piece, after a delayed flight and over an hour in line at Heathrow’s passport control, and managed to get myself to my new home without mishap! And somehow I’ve now been here for two weeks already, it’s officially fall, and almost October… I’m not entirely sure how that’s happened! It definitely feels like fall here – cool temperatures, no humidity, and the occasional rainy day – which is making me very happy (especially because it’s been 30ºC back home recently)!

I think I’m starting to settle into British life a bit more, which is nice because I was definitely feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and lonely for the first little while. I had lots to keep myself busy though – campus and shopping tours, mandatory introductory meetings, events for international students, sorting out paperwork, and enrolling in courses. I think I have my bearings now, and all my school-related stuff is pretty much sorted out, so I’ve been in and out of town quite a bit and exploring bits and pieces. I even did what every self-respecting tourist does and took a free walking tour of Oxford!

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The Divinity School, where lots of Harry Potter scenes were filmed!
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The Bridge of Sighs
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Radcliffe Camera
Christ Church College – also home to many a Harry Potter scene
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Even the back streets are gorgeous!
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The River Cherwell runs through Oxford, as does the Thames
Picturesque punts!

Look at this place! It’s stunning!! I still can’t get over how old everything is and that all of this history is a just short bus ride away. Being a student has its perks too – I got free admission to the University of Oxford Botanic Garden and I get reduced prices on all sorts of things!

Being an international student is also great because it means there are a million day trips around the UK organized by the university. The first one I went on was to the Cotswolds and Stratford-upon-Avon! (there is a whole post about this trip, but here are a few sneaky photos)


Classes finally started this week too! It’s really strange to be starting this late so I was really excited. The funny thing is that I keep forgetting that I’m a third-year student taking first-year courses as electives. So while everyone’s panicking about a major term paper of 1,500 words, I’m thinking about how last year I wrote at least three 30,000 word papers! (I know it’s because I’ve already done two years and everyone else is just starting) I’ve also become acutely aware of my Canadian accent… Maybe I’ll end up with a weird mixed accent by the end of the year!

That’s pretty much what I’ve been up to since I arrived – settling into British student life, exploring the town and surrounding areas, starting my classes, and trying to keep myself fed and watered! Even though I’ve only been here two weeks, there are a couple of things that I’ve noticed as being really different from what I’m used to. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s culture shock, they’re just little differences that have really stuck out for me!

  • Driving on the left-hand side of the road – it was a lot weirder than I was expecting, but I’m getting used to it!
  • Drinking and ‘going out’ – every. night. Is this a fresher’s thing? A British thing? A general university student thing? I have no interest in either so it’s a little strange
  • I’m pretty sure taxes are included in the price of things, so if the tag says £2 you hand them two £1 coins and you’re good, which I love!
  • The currency is weird – everything is a different size, coins weigh a ton, and there are weird denominations (2p, 20p, 50p, etc.). Also, why is the smooth, round 2p coin the same size as the 7-sided 50p coin, and that both are thinner but bigger than the £1 coin? Someone needs to explain the logic behind this to me
  • Another question of logic – why can’t people pick a side when walking? People drive on the left but on the sidewalk they walk on all sides, so I’m always stepping to the side depending on where the people in front of me are walking. I’m used to people sticking to the right, so this makes walking to class an adventure!
  • On a more positive note, the history! 4,000 year-old Rollright stones just casually in a field on the side of the road, 16th century buildings housing souvenir shops and grocery stores, medieval castles in the middle of towns! I’m not used to this much living history so I’m in heaven
  • And finally – British windows don’t have screens… is it a North American thing to have them?

This list and my confusion will either grow with time, or I’ll just come to accept everything and go home to be confused all over again! There are a lot of similarities between Britain and Canada (both countries are polite, for instance!) so I feel like I’m adapting pretty well 🙂

And so begins my adventure in earnest. I can’t wait to see what the year has to offer and I plan on taking every opportunity I can! So stay tuned!

x Lauren


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