He sat down at the kitchen table and opened up his laptop. It buzzed and moaned as it started up. He stretched and groaned, his frame outlined by the blue-gray light of the rainy morning. With twelve-clicks, the screen flew into a flurry. Safari popped up with six tabs, Chrome opened up to a Youtube playlist of Taylor Swift (it was a late night), a 2,693 word essay on early 20th-century Middle Eastern history grimaced back at him, and Spotify required an update of his “present country” status. For all intents and purposes, Spotify still thought he was in living in the US, and thus assumed he was trying to cheat the system. It refuses any attempts to fix it, and he still doesn’t know why. Quickly minimizing three of the four windows, he stared at the essay. It stared back.
Term at Oxford began a few weeks back. At first, it was slow and surprisingly lax with assignments. The first week, endearingly called “Fresher’s Week,” barely changed from the previous vacation week. I had two meetings, one with my primary tutor and another with my secondary tutor, that lasted a good fifteen minutes each.
There was a white van sitting in the pebble-covered drive. He walked up to the front door of 18 Lathbury Road. Facing the door, a dark-blue color, he debated for a minute or two on whether he should knock or ring the door bell. Mind made up, he raised his fist to the door. As he went to knock, the tutor opened the door. “Oh, hello. I saw you coming up the drive,” the tutor said. “Please, come in and to the left.” He walked through the door, and into the small hallway. Laying on a half-table, a large orange cat stretched out its paws. Her claws flexed out, and scratched quietly against the wood surface. “Hello, kit-kat,” he said. Inside the sitting room, he sat down on a striped, high-backed armchair with a cat pillow. The tutor, with gray Wilde-esque, hair, sat down across from him. Conversation began, and he soon realized trying to listen to the tutor’s whispery, accented voice would be the most difficult aspect of the tutorial.
Tutorials, Oxford University’s system of education, soon took on its true form. In one week, I had two essays due: a 2,000 word essay on the influence of the Peace Settlement after WWI on the shaping of the Middle East, and a 3,000 word essay on Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. The library and my headphones became my two closest aids. A week prior, I was sitting in cafes with friends, and talking about the clubs I might join. I said I would try the Lewis Club (interesting talks on different aspects of Lewis and his fellow Inklings – went once, and regret not going since), the Christ Church football team (went to one game, and effectively convinced myself I should never play football again), the Fencing team (never went), and the Muse Society (speed-dating for making friends). The Uni life felt relaxed.
It was nerves. Mostly. The other part was the apparent lack of books in his college library. “How can they not have Tribes and State-formation in the Middle East?” he asked himself as he scrolled through the list of books located in the closed stack of the Bodleian Library. Despair took hold of his heart. He wouldn’t have enough time to do all of his reading, and he only had three sources as of this afternoon. He shut his laptop, and packed his things up. Pushing the wooden chair back from the large study table, he flinched at the eerrrrreaaaccchhhh! of wood sliding against wood. A few heads turned his direction, and he shrugged in apology. Walking toward the door, the wood boards underneath his feet moaned. “For such a quiet place, it sure likes to make noise,” he thought as he opened the creaking door to the main hall of the library.
I love Oxford. It is beautiful, poetic, and dynamic. A real sense of magic emanates from every street corner, tree stump, and meadow. Yes, I am happy here, but I look forward to home. To “peace and quiet and good tilled earth.”
Keep on keeping on,