First week in Oxford – First impressions

July 24, 2023

Sydney Grafals | Mass Communication, Manship School

Studying abroad has been a life-changing experience, and my first week in Oxford was better than I ever could have imagined.

 Stepping into the unfamiliar city, not knowing a single other student, I felt a mix of excitement and nervousness. From the moment I arrived on campus, I was making new friends and creating lasting memories. One of the first cultural experiences I had at St. Hilda’s was trying the quintessential British dish, beans on toast. As a newcomer, I was genuinely intrigued by the combination of baked beans and toast, but my excitement quickly vanished – my first bite was also my last. I can’t say I’ll ever be as excited to have beans on toast again…

In addition to exploring local delicacies, my newfound friends joined me in exploring traditional English pub culture. The cozy, dimly lit atmosphere provided the perfect setting for bonding and sharing stories over pints of beer or cider. Pubs have become a regular haunt, and each visit allows me to connect even more with my classmates and locals.

Throughout the week, we also had the opportunity to venture outside of Oxford. One of the most exciting excursions was to the picturesque city of Bath. Sipping tea and eating pastries by the Roman Baths, I was transported back in time and felt like I had stepped right into Persuasion, which we’d been studying back in the classroom. It was so interesting to compare the text with the real-world experience of the city.

Of course, no visit to England would be complete without experiencing the vibrant city of London. Our weekend trip was an exciting journey, filled with iconic landmarks, crazy clubs, and unforgettable moments with my newfound friends.

Throughout my adventures in Oxford, Bath, and London, I was struck by the kindness and warmth I encountered from both locals and LSU students and faculty. I have absolutely fallen in love with Oxford and the people here.  The historic buildings, sprawling gardens, and vibrant streets are awe-inspiring and overwhelming, and the sense of community and the friendships I have forged make me feel at home, even though I’m thousands of miles away from my family.

Studying abroad in Oxford has been a dream come true, and my first week was just the beginning of an incredible journey. As the days turn into weeks, I am certain that my love for Oxford and the cherished memories I've made will only grow stronger.

View from Bath Marina


Table set for high tea

Mindy Jones | Psychology, Humanities and Social Sciences 

As soon as I stepped off the bus in Oxford, my first thought was “old.” In this context, that is the highest of compliments. Back home in the United States, the oldest buildings and establishments are only about 250 years old. Here in Oxford, however, some of the colleges date back to the 1100s, a time period that is almost unimaginable for me. Thinking of the sheer mass of students, hundreds of whom are of notable status, is enough to take my breath away. To be in a place of such culture and knowledge truly gives me goosebumps. Visiting different colleges, specifically Christ Church and Magdalen, and seeing their beautiful and intricate architecture, evidence of a long-gone time focused on craftsmanship and quality, was awe-inspiring. The huge, vaulted ceilings, wonderful landscaping, and rich history make it easy to want to study when one is surrounded by such culture and art. There is inspiration hidden in every corner of each building, and the obvious dedication the past patrons and students of Oxford showed in their work inspires me to do the same in my time here.

The next thing that struck me upon arriving in my new home for the month of July was the food. This is possibly shocking to some, as the English are not known for their cuisine. This, however, is quite far from the truth. All along the streets of Oxford, there are hundreds of cafes, restaurants, and trucks selling every type of food imaginable. This is an exposure, not only to English culture, but other cultures from across the globe. In this first week, I have eaten at English, Turkish, Chinese, Thai, Italian, and Greek establishments, all of them delicious and educationally immersive. Finding a new and interesting place to eat dinner has become a fun staple of our days. I look forward to the ability to experience new foods and cultures. Whether it is high tea or a kebab food truck, Oxford has plenty for both adventurous students and eaters. Here, there is no shortage of entertainment, culture, and learning, making it the perfect university for any type of student.

Great Quadcloister at Magdalen College

Lunch is served

Emma Britton | History, Humanities and Social Sciences 

So far, I have been very impressed with Oxford.  I have loved strolling along the charming streets, enjoying the amazing college and library visits, and discussing the course content during class.  I have never been somewhere so beautiful as Oxford.  It is simply amazing how when I wake up in the morning, it is already bright out, and when we get in late from dinner or sightseeing, the sun is still out to light our way.  I have loved taking advantage of the garden areas at St. Hilda’s before breakfast and during lunch breaks.  I have especially loved our afternoon excursions to the different colleges and libraries.  It is so amazing to see famed buildings that have so much history and significance in pop culture.  I specifically loved visiting Christ Church, New College, and the Bodleian Library because of the amazing chance to get to be where so much of the Harry Potter movies were filmed and inspired.  Seeing the beautiful halls, cloisters, and gardens of the colleges has been inspiring to say the least.  Seeing the sheer volume of the books in the Bodleian Library left me awe-struck.  Our excursions outside of Oxford have also been amazing.  I particularly loved getting to go to Bath to see where so many of the scenes in Persuasion were set.  Our in-character tour guide was hilarious and offered insight on the cultural nuances of the novel.  In our first days here, we discussed some Oxford history in class.  I think my favorite activity yet has been the guided walking tour where we got to learn all about “sub fusc” and “town and gown”.  I feel very humbled to be in such an amazing place where so many scholars before me have learned.  It is not lost on me that this is a once in a lifetime experience, and I have so far loved every minute of it.

Duke Humfrey's Library