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Ogden Honors in Oxford 2019 Travelogue

Reflections from the 2019 Oxford Study Abroad Program

Note from the Program Director 

 

Welcome to the annual Ogden in Oxford blog postings, which chronicle our studies at the University of Oxford, Bath, London, and the Cotswolds. Students share their first impressions of Oxford, the highlights of our days visiting the Roman Baths in Bath and museums and palaces around London, the sites on our drive around the British countryside in the Cotswolds, and their own reflections on the impacts of study abroad.

We would love to have you join us on our next Oxford adventure! Contact me for more information at .

Cheers!

Drew Lamonica Arms

 

First week in Oxford – First Impressions 

 

I’ve quickly fallen in love with this city and the way it challenges visitors to dig deeper 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Oxford during my first week here, it’s that further investigation always proves to be worthwhile. At first glance, Oxford can seem to be a normal city, but a deeper look into the architecture, culture, and history of the city reveals the true beauty of Oxford and the people who inhabit it. From restaurants with hidden histories to secret gardens within the grounds of a college, my experiences in Oxford have already led me to discoveries that will no doubt leave a lifelong impression on me.

Our first night in Oxford we ate at Pizza Express, a chain restaurant that serves Italian-inspired food. On our way there, Dr. Stem compared it to an American Pizza Hut. While I must say that the food at Pizza Express, especially the dough balls, was much better than anything I’ve had at Pizza Hut, it wasn’t the food that made the night memorable. We dined at the Goldencross location of Pizza Express, and the building we were in used to be a hotel where Shakespeare once lodged. In fact, it is believed that Hamlet was first performed aloud in the courtyard in front of the restaurant. It was amazing to think that the Bard himself once stood on the ground I was currently standing on. We could have had a simple first night full of pizza-eating and introductions, but the history of Oxford changed that. Don’t get me wrong, we still ate plenty of pizza and got to know one another, but we were also enriched by the memory of Shakespeare and his literary genius.

Angelina Cantelli3_oxfordThe University of Oxford is made up of 38 separate colleges, each with its own property, including a hall, chapel, and quadrangle. On our first full day here, we toured Magdalen College. After the tour, we were able to explore the grounds of the college, including its deer park. Dr. Arms encouraged us to explore anywhere that was open to the public, and informed us that there are many parts of the college that we did not see on our initial tour. A few friends and I walked down a trail in the deer park as far as it would take us, and we stumbled upon a beautiful pond that was surrounded by greenery and a couple of benches. We took plenty of pictures and imagined what it would be like to be a student at Magdalen. We all agreed that if we did attend the college, we would definitely use the spot as a study location. Going beyond the typical tourist spots of the college ended up leading us to a gorgeous, tranquil piece of nature.

These are only two stories of the wonderful things Oxford has shown me. I’ve quickly fallen in love with this city and the way it challenges visitors to dig deeper. I’m so thankful to have been able to go on this trip, and I am already a better person because of it! I am beyond ready to see what else Oxford has in store.

Angelina Cantelli

 

“Oxford is one of the most amazing places in the world”

Hayden Guidry_Oxford2Dragging my suitcase down a cobblestone street is the first memory I have of my time atOxford University. Sounds glorious, right? While the designer of my 4-wheeled “easy travel” suitcase clearly didn’t plan for 19th century cobblestone roads, I didn’t even really notice the struggle. While I was dragging my suitcase, I was also taking my first walk down the High Street to St. Hilda’s College, and I was completely in awe. Oxford is one of the most amazing places in the world. Not only is it extremely beautiful, but also full of such rich history. Where else in the world can you eat pizza in a building that Shakespeare visited and hosted the first showing of Hamlet in its courtyard? (If you guessed that we ate our first meal at Oxford in that building, you would be correct!)

One of the first things I learned about Oxford was that the study of science began at theHayden Guidry_Oxford university under the “School of Natural Philosophy.” Originally Oxford only offered degrees in theology, so they integrated the study of sciences into their school in accordance with their beliefs and church teachings. As a Biology student and avid Christian, I personally found this to be very exciting and interesting. Despite your beliefs, I think that we can all share in this lesson of compromise and progress. While Oxford still honors the longstanding history that surrounds its beginnings, it also continues to be an institution that produces outstanding scholars and is a champion for diversity. This is why Oxford is so amazing. It is a place that is composed of such diversity, yet it maintains such a crystal-clear identity at its core. By cultivating this type of culture at the university, Oxford sets it students up for tremendous success. We should all strive to live, work, and learn in an environment that is united in its cause, but celebrates differences among its members. 

My first few days at Oxford have opened my eyes to so many things. I’ve experienced new cultures, made new friends, and challenged myself in so many ways. 

 Hayden Guidry

 

 "We all have the same desire to gain invaluable knowledge and to contribute to the world"

After quite the journey to get across the pond (thank you Hurricane Barry), my initial reaction to stepping off the bus and onto High Street was a mixture of anxiety, amazement, and exhilaration: anxiety stemming from the crowd of people on the side walk and the massive busses passing by; amazement from looking up at the towering buildings that line High Street whose architecture is a true work of art; and exhilaration from the thought of all that I would experience in my three weeks in Oxford. 

The first days were filled with tours of the most popular colleges including Magdalen, Christ Church, and Balliol, allowing us to become accustomed to our new home. Walking the streets of Oxford and being surrounded by buildings filled with such history and knowledge reignited my desire for education in the way that it did when I moved into East Laville almost three years ago. 

The tour of the Bodleian Library blew me away. Being surrounded by hundreds of years of work puts things into perspective. Although my upcoming thesis seems daunting to me, it is only a small contribution to the larger basis of knowledge that humanity has today. One of the rules for entering the Bodleian is that there are no bags allowed past the 1st floor. As I watched current students entering into the special collections section, I saw that they carried their laptops, chargers and notebooks all in their hands. Their literal lack of baggage made me realize that no matter our background or what we face at home, as students we are all the same. We all have the same desire to gain invaluable knowledge and to contribute to the world. 

Hannah Perkins_OgdenWhen considering the entire first week of classes and activities, the day spent in Bath was my favorite. The tour of the city led by Mr. Knightly was both entertaining and educational in that he showed us the places and buildings that inspired Jane Austen when writing Persuasion while keeping things light and fun. Later that evening, we toured the museum of the Roman Baths and the actual baths themselves. Seeing firsthand the architecture and intelligence that went into planning and building these baths and drainage systems has allowed me to understand how advanced humanity was even thousands of years ago. After this trip and our discussions in class, I have formed my own educated option of the imperialist goal of “civilization.”

In sum, my first week at Oxford was a growing experience for me as a student and as a young adult. I learned to appreciate the different style of higher education that Oxford employs. I learned to navigate a new city with cars driving on the “wrong” side of the road, and I developed a newfound respect for English culture, especially the breakfast. I learned that humans are far more capable than we first imagine and that although the Victorians, Classical Greeks, and Romans had some faulted ideals, today we are capable of identifying those mistakes and improving ourselves.

Hannah Perkins

 

A Day in Bath

 

 "All in all, we gloried in our roles as Ogden-Oxford scholars"

Sophia Brazda2Upon disembarking the carriage, it became clear to us that Bath was a place in which all laws of propriety had been and forever would be upheld to the highest degree. Since the arrival of the Romans, Bath has provided for British society a homefront for arts, culture, and general hobnobbery. My eyes were greeted by rows upon rows of constructs of blinding white marble, and I was struck by the allure of innate curiosity. What treasures could these temples contain? What would be my first adventure in this land of mystic waters? Surely, my fellow Oxfordians would seek an intellectually stimulating and challenging first excursion. 

Sophia Brazda 1“Baguettes!” cried my fellow classmates, with an urgency that matched those fleeing Mount Vesuvius. “We shall delight in baguettes, and then roam the streets like vagabonds!” 

Though a tad incredulous at this plan initially, I soon found great joy in my meal and quickly began to acclimate myself to the streets and layout of Bath. We took a long walk, admiring architecture, applauding street musicians, and constantly forming comparisons between the cobblestone streets we strolled upon and the pages of Miss Austen’s Persuasion. It was juvenile fascination; it was a city so perfectly captured within the pages of a novel that it revealed itself to us like an old friend. Sophia Brazda4

Our wanderings reaching some stage of completion, we set off for the Jane Austen Center. Upon meeting Mr. Knightley at the door, the walking tour commenced, and our suspicions were continually confirmed regarding landmarks Miss Austen had previously described to us in the paper universe of the Elliotts. This was perhaps the most splendid event of the day -- apt narration coupled with graces to the eyes -- topped off with a facility full of Austenian artifacts and costume. (Based upon the author’s experience, the house Jane Austen Tea comes, indeed, highly recommended.)

SB6The time then approached that we should venture into the Roman baths, the ancient buildings whose natural hot springs are by which the city finds its name. There can be no doubt: it was truly as though we were transported to another time. The museum was found by all to be exceedingly insightful, the waters murky, mysterious, and quite literally, distasteful, and the further discoveries of Roman influence over the early Britons, astonishing. A few hours had seen the beginning and end of our excavation of the baths, and yet all who ventured inward were forever changed. 

And what better to top off the day with a delightful, three-course meal? Surely, the ancient Romans and Brits, even Sulis-Minerva (an intriguing combination of mythological traditions, the divine patron of those aforementioned holy waters) never dined as the kings we did that eve! All in all, we gloried in our roles as Ogden-Oxford scholars. Our enjoyments were spoiled not by the heat nor by the opportunistic seagulls, but rather, were enhanced by the company of one another.  

Sophia Brazda

 

"Our day in Bath taught me about the nuances intertwined with imperialism"

*written in the style of Julius Caesar’s commentary on his conquest of Britain in The Gallic War*

Lexie, a member of the Ogden Honors College, wrote up the story of the Ogden Honors in Oxford trip as they visited the city of Bath on the day of July 18 in the year of 2019. She began this blog documenting their visit to the city of Bath in Somerset with the expectation that it would become one of the best days of the students’ three-week venture into the United Kingdom and would be deserving of an accurate account.

BLexie LaGrone1ath was the first of the Ogden students’ visits outside of Oxford, in the pursuit of cultural exchange and learning. Named for Roman baths created after the conquering of ancient Britons by Julius Caesar, Bath is a beautiful city close to the coast of England, as made evident by the existence of seagulls roaming the streets. As we entered the city, we split into groups in order to divide and conquer all the sights and sounds Bath has to offer including the River Avon and Bath Abbey.

Lexie LaGrone2After we reconvened, we were rallied toward the museum center constructed for Georgian era authoress Jane Austen, whose writings we had previously read and discussed in the form of her novel Persuasion, much of which is set in Bath. From the Jane Austen Centre, we were marched through Bath by a “Mr. Knightley” to the areas that were significant to Jane’s life in the city including her old homes, hangouts, and places she considered “too loud.”

Sophia Brazda3

Following our tour, we set out to conquer Austen’s museum, learning more about her life and her writings. Being able to see all of Jane’s accomplishments as well as the events in her life which helped make them possible was amazingly eye opening to the life of women in her time. To prolong the experience, my friends and I chose to visit the Jane Austen tearoom on the top floor of the museum, where Mr. Bennet, the most photographed man in England, joined us for a cup of tea.

After our foray into the world of Jane, we visited the Roman Baths, famed for representing the transition between the culture of ancient England into something closer resembling that of the Roman Empire. The baths were created as a way of sharing the culture and ideas of the Romans with that of the Britons, but sometimes the line between cultural merging and cultural replacement becomes a bit blurred. Especially when the baths were created to almost brainwash the Britons into admiration of their conquerors like Julius Caesar and prominent generals like Agricola. Nonetheless, the baths themselves were beautiful.  The temple and many artifacts which had been excavated and put on display showed the marvels of Roman engineering and told the story of Sulis Minerva, the goddess to whom the temple was dedicated.  Sulis Minerva herself served as a sign of cultural merging between these two civilizations as she was the combination of Roman goddess Minerva and pagan goddess Sulis. The water from the Bath’s spring, said to contain healing properties, was given to us as an offering of peace.

Lexie LaGrone3Our day in Bath taught me about the nuances intertwined with imperialism. Sharing culture and technology can be beneficial, but where does one draw the line between sharing their own culture and annihilating another? Does the ancient Roman empire play more into imperialistic England than meets the eye? With those thoughts, I will be closing out this blog, but remember: You are Roman.

 

Lexie LaGrone

 

London Weekend

 

 "It was going to be a fun weekend"

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in London? No clue. Those were my first thoughts upon finally arriving in London after finally getting used to the (by comparison) calm, peaceful town of Oxford. My thoughts were immediately broken by a local yelling at me to “Use the pavement!” when I took two steps into the street.

It was going to be a fun weekend.

Evan Casper1Most of my memories are from our last day in the city. After waking up bright and early to head to the Victoria and Albert Museum, we were greeted by what I consider to be the strangest museum I’ve ever been to. An odd collection of art, designs, and artifacts from what seems like every culture on Earth. It’s a true testament to how Victoria and especially Prince Albert wanted progress in education and industry, and no exhibit exemplifies this more than the cast gallery. A huge collection of cast replicas of famous sculptures and buildings, including a life-size replica of Michelangelo’s “David,” the cast gallery is the perfect place to study the masterworks of the past. Even today I saw people with pads out sketching these timeless pieces. 

After this, we went to Kensington Palace, the birthplace and childhood home of Queen Victoria. We saw several of her (very small) dresses and, most memorably to me, a copy of the “Kensington System.” These were a set of rules the young Victoria had to follow, including only being allowed to use the stairs while holding hands with an adult, and her diet consisting of bread with milk and plain roast mutton. Evan Casper2

Lastly, we walked from the palace to the Albert Memorial, where Victoria’s beloved Prince Albert is immortalized in bronze and seated on a throne above various friezes and statues depicting the old masters of the arts like Raphael and Da Vinci. Also included are groups of statues representing different continents and aspects of industry. It’s a very symbolic and reverential memorial that truly shows what Victoria thought of her husband. From here we got on the coach to eat a delicious dinner at Maggie Jones, a nice little traditional English restaurant, and boarded the coach one last time for a late drive back home, er, to Oxford. 

Evan Casper

 

"I had one of the most memorable experiences of my life"

Two weeks into our trip, we arrived in London--the heart of the United Kingdom. My first impression of London was just wow… this is nothing like Oxford. I felt like Oxford and London were two different countries. Oxford was pleasant and quiet while London was crowded and loud with people bustling to and from destinations all around you. In Oxford we could reasonably walk to most places, but in London we had to use the underground rail system, which was extremely confusing but turned out to be a lot of fun. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed cramming into a tight space with 16 LSU students so much. While in London, I went to two shows, Everybody’s Talking About Jamieand The Illusionists. I had never really gone to any theatre performances or shows before, and these two have set the bar high. From the breath-taking vocals and choreography of Everybody’s Talking About Jamieto the mind-blowing mentalism and card tricks of The Illusionists,I was thoroughly impressed with London Theatre. 

Nijoka1While in London, we enjoyed many excursions to places such as the British Library, Kensington Palace, and Buckingham Palace. My favorite of these trips included the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum. We focused mainly on art and sculptures from the Romans, Greeks, and Pre-Raphaelites as well as the Great Exhibition of 1851. At the British Museum, I saw the Rosetta Stone. I never realized the true importance of the artifact until I was there, not to mention it is much larger in person. Without the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian hieroglyphs might never have been translatable into a language we understand. Furthermore, we might have never understood the significance of many Egyptian artifacts without the stone. 

I enjoyed the Great Exhibition Gallery in the Victoria and Albert Museum the most. The Great Exhibition was a chance for Britain to bring together world powers and show them the success of the Industrial Revolution and the marvels of the Victorian Age. The Great Exhibition of 1851 contained the most impressive inventions of the time, such as massive steam engines and model cameras, from countries all over the world such as Britain, Russia, and India.  The Exhibition was vastly influential on many aspects of society such as trade and international relations, art and design, science and technology, and tourism. Learning about the Great Exhibition was enjoyable, but actually seeing the objects and inventions first hand was an unforgettable experience. Nijoka2

The London weekend was both a time to see and appreciate the culture and history around me and to relax and enjoy modern theatre and food. Throw in a few wrong underground tube stations and running around frantically searching for where to go, and I had one of the most memorable experiences of my life. 

Justin Nijoka

 

"It was a surreal moment"

Weaver1I peer down at my “Tube blue” fingernails upon my laptop keyboard—a term coined while riding the London Underground, examining the frightening resemblance of my current nail color to the pool-blue poles within the train car—as I begin to reflect on our weekend-long excursion to London. The weather was beginning to seem more and more England-esque as our coach approached the bustling city—the dark clouds loomed above with the threat of rain at any given moment—replacing the unexpected heat wave that had been ruling Oxford for the previous week. 

The British Library was our first stop after quickly relinquishing our luggage to the DoubleTree conference room. Entering the dark room of literary treasures on the ground level of the library, I could not think of a more appropriate way to find shelter from the London rain than observing Jane Austen’s 1794 writing desk and the handwritten masterpieces of the Brontë sisters. Witnessing these items provided me with both a sense of comfort and awe in the realization that these renowned writers actually used desks, pens, and paper to bring their stories to life—these items are evidence of the reality and physicality of their lives and work.   

We next found ourselves entering the British museum, face-to-face with an ancient collection of another kind, the heavily-debated Elgin Marbles, retrieved from the Parthenon in Athens. As our class discussion of these marble sculptures and their just place of residence lasted much longer than anticipated, it seems as though the people of Greece and Britain are not going to reach an agreement any time soon. Thus, I feel these pieces of Ancient Greek history will remain in their current, massive, exhibition until further notice. Friday proved to be a day of cultural enlightenment on a vast number of subjects, concluding with a fantastically horrifying theater experience at The Woman in Black, and thorough conversation on the greatest bands of all time—both instances with Dr. Stem in attendance. 

Weaver2Saturday morning, we embarked upon a mission to view the Buckingham Palace State Rooms, and I could not physically nor mentally contain my excitement. The special exhibits featured in honor of the 200-year anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth made the tour all the more incredible and relevant to the subject matter of our Oxfordian classes; for, without these collections of Victoria’s personal items and descriptions of her additions to Buckingham Palace, I would not have gained the insight into her roles as queen of an empire and a wife and mother within her family. I walked around transfixed by the extreme attention to detail in the interior design and craftsmanship of each room, the incredible collection of paintings and sculptures from all over the world, and the portraits of British royal family members past. I was especially proud of myself for recognizing King George VI’s mother, Queen Mary, in her unlabeled portrait located in the Ante Room—as an embarrassing amount of my somewhat-deficient knowledge of the British Monarchy comes from an excessive watching of The Crown. I left Buckingham Palace feeling far too regal for my own good; then, it was time to visit the Tate museum, where the Pre-Raphaelite paintings were my next tools of submersion into the world of 19th century Britain. 

It was a surreal moment to stand before John Everett Millais’ ‘Christ in the House of His Parents’ in the same manner that the Victorian people—Queen Victoria herself included—would have viewed the painting following its unveiling. Although I believe this Millais painting fully encompassed the characteristics and intentions of Pre-Raphaelite works that our class examined prior to our trip to London, the most striking Pre-Raphaelite painting I came upon in the museum was Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s ‘The Beloved.’ The gem-tone colors of emerald greens and rich reds make the skin-toned faces of the women appear haunted, intriguing their spectators and drawing them into their story. Seeing the collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings held in this museum—sadly minus Rossetti’s ‘Ophelia’ as it is currently on tour—illuminated this movement that exposed the flaws of previous traditional Victorian painting. 

After a weekend of exposure to the life and reign of Queen Victoria, the vast collections amassed by the British people and their rulers (especially Queen Victoria and Prince Albert), Pre-Raphaelite artists and their “stunners,” theater-induced scares, and more Pizza Express dough-balls, I hopped on our coach back to Oxford feeling both inspired by monarchial power and overstimulated by obscure ceramic objects. 

Lydia Weaver

 

Around Town

 

 "We get to study history in the very places in which they occurred"

Upon our arrival to Buckingham Palace, I was awe-struck at the magnificent scene, from the intricately decorated gates surrounding the royal home to the marvelous Victoria Memorial located directly in front. The memorial is intriguing, as the tall, white marble with regal Queen Victoria is meant to enchant any on-looker. However, the figure itself being honored is what most captivated me.

Sanaa Alam1Our visit to Buckingham Palace allowed us to walk through an exhibition that brilliantly showcased how the young queen transformed a private home into a symbol of the monarchy and a residence for her nine children. I admired the highly-decorated walls and priceless paintings, but more so took note of how Victoria made the palace suitable for family, with the addition of a nursery, guest rooms, and an east wing with a balcony that is the rallying point between the general public and the royal family. The Queen had few political powers, but possessed great public influence, earning her the title of “grandmother of Europe.”

Upon seeing these additions, I realized that Victoria is a valid representation of the domestic virtue that the Victorian era demanded of women. I was reminded of our study in class of a text written by Sarah Stickney Ellis that said, “it is the minor morals of domestic life which give the tone to English character.” Although Victoria was Queen of England, she still felt it to be of great importance to fulfill her duties to her family within the home, which included instilling good moral character in each of her nine children. Unfortunately, this belief that women exercise influence at home was used to argue against women's suffrage, a right Victoria did not support.

Charlotte Brontë uses Jane Eyre, my favorite reading from this course, as a strong symbol ofSanaa Alam2 women's limited role in society and the emotional frustration they experienced. Jane expresses, "women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer." Jane does not wish to fulfill her “duty” to anyone except to herself and to God. Critics were appalled at Brontë's novel, which challenged the gender roles of the time. Nonetheless, it was a best seller in Victorian England, which speaks volumes on the internal rebellion felt by women everywhere.

The insight that I gained on the historical context of Victorian works we read while in the very home of the era’s reigning Queen was an unmatchable learning experience. I realized that the place in which you learn has a profound impact on how you process new information. That is why these past few weeks have been so stimulating— we get to study history in the very places in which they occurred, at the oldest university in the Western world. Place matters, and I’m grateful for the immense impact Oxford has had on my studies thus far.

Sanaa Alam

 

 "Our class discussions on the PRB came to life through the paintings we discovered "

TamraManfredo5

The University of Oxford, 1857. Several men, including William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, were commissioned as cheap labor to paint the ceiling of the Student Union. A mix of Oxford alumni and students, the painters chose to theme the murals after Tennyson’s telling of Arthurian Legends.

These men, however, were not just ordinary artists. Their story begins eight years before, in 1849, when a group of former Oxford undergraduates attending the British Royal Academy in London disagreed with the artificial and formulaic painting methods taught there by Sir Joshua Reynolds. These methods included painting only one source of light and blurring the background so only the main figures of the painting are seen in detail.

TamraManfredo1

These students, including Rossetti and another man named John Everett Millais, banded together to form the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, or PRB, which lasted until the end of the 19th century. The PRB painters had a very distinctive style that contrasted with the popular Victorian ideas of beauty. They believed in a higher art form, one found before Raphael during the late Medieval and early Renaissance periods, and their ideas sparked a movement.

Our class discussions on the PRB came to life through the paintings we discovered on our trip to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.   

One of the most distinguishing characteristics of PRB paintings is detail. In Inchbold’s A Study, in March, the high level of detail in the entirety of the picture makes it nearly look like a photograph, and the omnipresent light creates a bright and colorful picture. An emphasis on nature was also a distinctive feature of many works by the group.

TamraManfredo3In addition to a focus on detail, light, and nature, this painting by Collins shows another characteristic of the Pre-Raphaelite movement: symbolism, particularly Christian symbolism. Their paintings of Christian scenes, such as Christ in the House of His Parents by John Everett Millais shown below, caused quite a bit of controversy in the strict Victorian Era due to their radical portrayals. This particular painting was frowned upon due to the depiction of the Holy Family as a red-haired laboring family.

The PRB was not just limited to painters, however. The group also included poets and other craftsmen. The pictures below give an idea of what kind of objects the PRB made, and by making these objects, they were to give a sense of beauty to normal, everyday household items. They believed that we should all surround ourselves with as much beauty as possible.

Tamra Manfredo

 

"My free time was full of great food, friendship, and fascinating history"

There’s so much to do in England that I feel like a few weeks isn’t enough time to experience it all, but I did my best to make the most of my free time and I enjoyed every second of it. I got to try a variety of new foods, some of the highlights being Tepanyaki from Wagamama, steak and ale pie from Eagle and Child, and a fried chicken burger from the Cape of Good Hope. I also was never much of a tea drinker before this trip, but it became a part of my morning routine. One of my favorite free-time adventures was at Fourteas, a delightful little cafe in Stratford upon Avon that had delicious baked apple tea.

Isabella Manrique1Apart from getting to try new foods and drinks, our free time also allowed me to form new friendships. I was nervous about the trip initially because I didn’t know anyone else that was going, but as it draws to a close I can safely say I’ve made friendships that I hope will last for the rest of my life. I went punting, did karaoke, played trivia and saw shows on the West End with a wonderful group of people and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world. I’ll always have fond memories of Jane Austen movie nights and walking across London only to almost miss our train, and I hope that our group continues to make memories once we’re back in Louisiana.

Isabella Manrique2

I also saw some incredible sights during my free time. While in London for the free weekend,my group and I roamed around Kensington Gardens, saw a show at Shakespeare’s Globe, and shopped on Oxford Street. We also visited Stratford-upon-Avon and took a tour of Shakespeare’s life. I saw his birthplace, the property where he spent most of his life, and where he was buried. My free time was full of great food, friendship, and fascinating history, and I know that this trip was an experience I’ll cherish for a long time.

 Isabella Manrique

 

"Their placement shows the power of a world museum and why it is important for all people to see them"

Devin MecheWhile studying at Oxford, we discussed English imperialism and were given many opportunities to study it through excursions. One of the best excursions that captured the concept of imperialism was going to the British Museum in London. This museum is a massive building with a vast collection of artifacts from around the world. It is built like a Greek temple, with a pediment depicting Britannia. She is holding a golden globe which is supposed to represent the common phrase “The sun never sets on the British Empire.” When you walk in, you enter this large opening called the Great Court. Dr. Arms bought us maps, which was extremely helpful, because without them, you would easily get lost. On the map is a list of the Top 10 things to see, including the Rosetta Stone. The Rosetta Stone was the first thing I saw and it was overwhelming to get a view of it. It was in a dimly lit room with no air conditioning and lots of people surrounding it. As bustling it was to get a good look, it was still an amazing treasure to see.

Devin Meche2Every major museum in the world has a striking title that demands attention. For example, there is the Louvre, the Met, and the Smithsonian. Most people know what are in these museums and what they are known for. It is not the case for the British Museum. I was not aware of the items that lived there until I got inside and started looking around. It struck me as odd that the British Museum is given this name when most of the stuff in there in not “British.” It has artifacts from all over the world, including ancient Greece. In the news, there is controversy over the Elgin Marbles that are housed in a replica Parthenon. The Elgin Marbles are a part of a larger piece of artwork that was a part of the Athenian Acropolis. The Brits have 247 feet of the original 524 because they were rescued in the 19th century after a Turkish invasion. The Greek government has recently released statements that they want the pieces back in Greece to house them in their own museum, but Britain refuses to return them. The debate is intense between the two, with both sides having strong arguments. Seeing the marbles and learning about this situation showed the imperialistic motives regarding the museum. Although Britain is not imperialistic in the way they used to be, this shows that they still have a worldly influence and believe their museum is the best place to display this art. The British Museum was built on the idea of British domination and they still keep that idea today to show their success as a country and empire. The Elgin Marbles aren’t “British” but their placement shows the power of a world museum and why it is important for all people to see them.

Devin Meche

 

" I feel so fortunate to have been able to visit these three sites"

While studying in Oxford, I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens. As a landscape architecture major (and all-around plant lover) this is something I had been looking forward to for months. I had always seen pictures of the intricate glass buildings and lush greenery. After navigating my way through the Underground Tubes of London, I finally arrived. When the woman at the gate handed me a map of the gardens, I was immediately taken aback by how enormous and grand the site was.

Elizabeth Volden2Knowing that I would never be able to explore the whole site, I first set out to the greenhouses. The first stop on my journey was the Palm House. As I pulled open the door, I could instantly feel the warm, humid air rush over my face. If I am being honest, this was a nice break from the cold and rainy weather that London is known for. Taking this first greenhouse at face value, it was truly incredible. Walking in, I felt as if I had somehow stumbled upon a rainforest in the middle of the United Kingdom! Each greenhouse seemed to bring something new to the table, but continued to uphold the same sense of wonder and beauty. Kew Gardens truly boasted a world collection of plant species ranging from the desert to the rainforest. This was not the only world collection that I had seen on the trip. In that same weekend, I was able to see both the V&A and the British Museum. Both of these places changed the way that I have come to view the Royal Botanic Gardens.

The Victoria & Albert Museum, an outgrowth of the Crystal Palace that housed the Great Exhibition of 1851, provided me with the historical context I needed to fully understand the gardens. The building itself was designed to be completely paneled with glass and ironwork. Here, industrial feats of the Victorian era were put on display from all around the world. When I first saw a picture of the old Crystal Palace, I thought it was a picture of one of the glasshouses at Kew. I looked it up, and it turns out that the Palm House was built between 1844 and 1848. Both of these buildings were erected during the peak of the Victorian era. I also learned that Joseph Paxton, the designer of the Crystal Palace, first designed large greenhouses—much like the ones at Kew.

The British Museum deepened my appreciation of Kew’s world collection. At the British Elizabeth Volden1Museum, I was able to see over eight million culturally significant artifacts from around the world. Among the many collections were the Parthenon sculptures. The museum built a lovely exhibit for them, but with the Brexit turmoil, this part of the museum has struck up much controversy. There have been disputes over who is the rightful owner of the sculptures. Knowing this, I was able to further appreciate the controversy-free, multitude of plant species at Kew Gardens. I feel so fortunate to have been able to visit these three sites. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised to find that these experiences worked hand-in-hand to deepen my understanding and appreciation for not only one another, but for many of the other museums and gardens on this trip. 

Ellie Volden

 

Cotswolds

 

"We had seen the Cotswolds, and its beauty and significance was not lost on us"

With Gary at the helm and all the Oxonians packed into our trusty time machine (a Mercedes coach), we embarked on what was to be a trip through Britain’s past and present and our final excursion. On the agenda was an ancient Roman villa, a quaint English town, and a 17th century manor. In our exploration of the Cotswolds area with its rolling farmland, winding backroads, and historic sites, we had the opportunity to evaluate the legacy of Britain’s earliest inhabitants and its artistic revolutionaries and wonder at what is yet to come.

Austin Clark1At 9:00 sharp (not quite), we set out toward the town of Chedworth to get a sense of the Cotswold area’s roots. In the case of Chedworth, these roots are stone, and they comprise what is left of a grand villa that was erected during the Roman occupation of Britain. Could the British farmers have guessed when Caesar first landed his legions on their shores that in a couple hundred years they would no longer be living in huts but rather stone houses with heated floors and plumbing? My guess is no, for they put up a valiant effort to keep the empire at bay. Still its influences and armies swept over the island, and today we can find Roman artifacts, shrines, and complexes like the Chedworth villa littered around the countryside. All that was left of the grand house and halls that once stood on the grounds we walked that morning were the stone foundations, remnants of the fantastic heating and plumbing systems, and the colorful mosaic floors (depicting Roman gods and mythologies). The only living inhabitants left were the snails the invaders had brought along with them for eating. We even had the delight of finding one of these Roman tenants hiding among the low stone walls.

Then we were off to lunch at Bibury, a treasure of a town described by the Victorian era artistAustin Clark2 William Morris as “the most beautiful village in England” (more on him later). Past limestone walls covered with ivy, flower beds grown taller than my head, and charming houses set in the hills we drove into town. There we dined on whole local trout, taking care not to swallow too many bones. After this, we had a tramp around the place, and, humorously, I stumbled upon the very trout farm my lunch came from. Watching the fish navigate around their channels, I couldn’t help but wonder if, another 2,000 years from now, the trout would be the village’s last remaining ambassadors of the past for whatever future archaeologist investigates those limestone foundations – just as the snails were now for the Roman ruins.

My conjecturing would have to wait though because we were soon off again to a 19th century artist’s very own garden of Eden. The house was first built around 1600 as a farmhouse, and would later turn into Kelmscott Manor in 1864. It would soon have the honor of housing two of England’s greatest artistic and social revolutionaries of the century, William Morris and his friend Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Both were highly involved in the Pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts Movement, artistic re-awakenings that sought to rebel against the stagnant art norms of the times, and against the loss of individuality of the common people. To William Morris, this countryside retreat that we now walked through was a source of inspiration and a “heaven on Earth.” I could see exactly what he meant as I admired the elegant yet simple manor nestled among the meadows and stream. Walking through the garden with its colorful hues and smells was enchanting, and after having tea by the languid stream I hoped to never leave.

Alas, Gary was waiting, and too soon we had to end our expedition. We had seen the Cotswolds, and its beauty and significance was not lost on us. We had seen England’s very legacy. Farmers still plow the ground that once fed Roman legions, and centuries-old secluded sanctuaries continue to soothe and delight. My only hope is to one day return.

Austin Clark

 

"I feel truly blessed"

GraceStewart2As our time in Oxford comes to an end, I feel truly blessed to have been able to experience the beauty and rich history of this country. Our last group excursion was a trip to the Cotswolds, a rural area filled with beautiful hills, lush meadows, and probably the most narrow roads known to man. It felt as if I had taken a trip back in time as I admired the lovely country homes made of limestone, nestled into the surrounding greenery. We began the morning at Chedworth Roman Villa, the remains of a 2nd century AD villa that was once inhabited by the aristocrats of Roman Britain. Our tour guide, Roger, explained to us the history of Roman Britain and assimilation of culture as the Roman Empire invaded Britain and began to implement their new technology and religious beliefs. However, he emphasized that the citizens of the English countryside considered themselves to be fiercely British, as they identified with their native roots but adopted some aspects of Roman culture.

For instance, the Romans introduced artful mosaic floors, baths, and plumbing. The intricate mosaic designs found within the bath-house rooms and dining room of the West Range of the site follow detailed patterns and are a display of wealth and status. This helped me to truly understand the vastness of the Roman Empire at its height, as it spread across Europe. Victorian society can be linked with these villas because the remains of Chedworth were uncovered in 1864 by James Farrer, an experienced excavator. In a blend of two cultures, a conservation building was created on a portion of the very foundation of the Roman Villa, I believe it also serves as a testament to the endurance of Roman architecture throughout the years. Additionally, a Victorian museum was constructed on the site and it now houses some artifacts from the archaeological digs that have occurred throughout the years. Unfortunately, the Victorians did not keep any records of the artifacts found during the excavation, so we are not entirely sure where the remaining artifacts are today, or what else is underneath the villa. 

After a few hours at the villa, we made our way to The Catherine Wheel pub in Bibury, whereGraceStewart1 we ate a traditional English pub meal and spent a few hours exploring the walking paths and trout farm. On our way to Bibury, I couldn’t help but laugh as our coach driver navigated the narrow roads of the countryside. It reminded me of the amusing words of our tour guide from the Roman Villa: “I spend most of my time driving here with my car in reverse!” It is true, you must reverse when cars are approaching to allow the other driver to pass. My favorite part of the day was our final activity, a visit to Kelmscott Manor, the summer home of William Morris. Morris is revered as a brilliant textile designer, poet, and social activist of the Victorian era.

In 1871, he rented the summer home with his friend, pre-Raphaelite painter, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. It was at Kelmscott that Morris found his inspiration, describing it as “a Heaven on Earth.” I couldn’t agree more with his sentiments as I wandered through the garden and felt a sense of peace and tranquility. I sat on a bench and read for a few minutes, taking in the final moments of our trip while surrounded by a magical paradise of my own. It was the perfect ending to our day and final excursion.

Grace Stewart