Saturday, October 30, 2010

Five weeks!

Well, I've been in the UK for five whole weeks.  It's kind of crazy, really.  I can't decide if it's gone by super fast or if it's taken it's time... mostly because every day is AWESOME and seems full of fun, and yet they also seem to fly by!  It's baffling.

Took out two novice boats today on the river... lots of novice coxswains out so that basically means stopping every fifteen strokes or so because they don't know how to steer and cause a traffic jam on the tiny Isis.  Literally, I've never rowed on a smaller river before.  It's baffling that Oxford is so good at rowing and yet they have this tiny expanse of river to practice on.  Most USA teams never knew they had it so good!

It's Halloween weekend here, which is funny because most Oxford students don't party on Saturday nights... so it'll be interesting to see what happens when the students invade Oxford amongst the townies (who usually party Saturday nights).  England is all about making costumes 'scary' with fake blood & things.. it's hilarious compared to Halloween in the states where the only qualification for a costume is to show as much skin as possible (well, in college, anyway).  At least England somewhat remembers the real theme of Halloween!  I can't say I'm excited to apply fake blood, though...

Looks like I'll be receiving my debit card Monday since post doesn't arrive here on Sundays and it didn't come today.  Too bad.  Ah well, with all being said and done, it could've been a lot worse if I didn't have friends who were so willing to loan me money.  It hasn't been so bad... but it will certainly be nice to actually have a card & cash in my pocket, mostly just for reassurance.

My visiting student friend and I have been planning our winter vacation over here in Europe.  We're thinking of flying to Greece --> Rome --> Barcelona --> Paris --> London --> Edinburgh.  We'd love to be in Edinburgh for New Years since apparently it's nuts!  I originally wanted to do a global train pass but flying is SO cheap here that it turns out about the same money to fly and it's much faster/efficient so we can see more places.  I hopefully also have a job lined up at St. Anne's so I'll be making a small income to refinance my bank account after this trip (a much needed endeavor...)

England time zones fall back an hour tonight, so I guess that makes me only four hours ahead of the states now!  I'll have to remember that!


Lovely changing of colors outside my window!

Monday, October 25, 2010


It's starting to definitely cool down at night around here.  We were rowing on the Isis last night until about 7pm and it was unbelievably cold... and I was not prepared!  Let's just say that it was a long walk/bike ride home.  And, of course, we finished later than the park closed so we had to jump the iron gate to get out.  That just added to the excitement!

The workload still isn't too bad although I do need to start a paper this week and do some reading for my tutorial on Friday.  For the most part though, this is not at all like the workload I would've had at Bryn Mawr this year (as far as I can tell).  I think it's because we don't have tests here during the actual term, which helps a lot.  It's more-so just reading, but it's selective reading (AKA, you don't have to read everything on a reading list if you don't want to).  It's obviously helpful to read most things when going to a tutorial so you can sound like you know what you're talking about or if you're writing a paper on the topic, but for the most part the lectures cover the material decently.

My debit card got DESTROYED by an ATM here last Friday so I've been getting loans from a few friends until my new card comes in the mail tomorrow.  I think I'm going to try to open a bank account at Barclay's today, just to have a back up account in the UK for these sorts of things.  Plus, my pay-as-you-go phone is making me broke so I'd like to do a monthly contract of some kind, I think.  They need a UK bank account for the monthly contract, which stinks, but I understand where they're coming from.

I want to start visiting more of the Oxford colleges when I have time.  I haven't got to go into many of them except Queen's, St. Anne's and St. Catherine's.  I really want to see the inside of the older colleges.  Christ Church meadow is one of my favorite places in Oxford; it's a beautiful walk to St. Anne's boathouse.

Booked our Harry Potter 7 tickets today for when Steph visits in November!  We'll be seeing it at 8pm on November 19 in Oxford.  I'm stoked!  Then Steph, her friend and I are headed into London on Saturday to explore.  I'm excited to finally make the trek to London.  Everyone always thinks that Oxford is close-by when in reality it's a good 2 hour bus ride from London.. much the same as Philly is from NYC.  It's doable but not exactly an evening endeavor, per se.

Since dinner isn't served on weekends here, a group of British and American friends started getting together for 'dine with me' Sundays.  The Americans cooked first last night and it was a glorious fest of American breakfast-for-dinner, complete with banana, chocolate chip and regular pancakes, fried over-easy eggs, scrambled eggs and real American bacon.  I think the British friends really enjoyed it.  I'm excited to be cooked-for next Sunday!  It's a nice time to get together and have downtime with just the ladies.  I'm quite glad the idea was created.

I'll leave you with a picture of our newly inducted 'female social society' members.  They're a great group of girls!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rowing, etc!

Last night we had first crew outing: an English curry, of course!  Pirate style!  I mean, why not?

So, everyone dolled up in their pirate best and headed to Jamal's indian food over in Jericho (the little part of Oxford right near our college).  Let's just say that it was a pretty good time with lots of ridiculous games throughout the dinner.  For instance, if the captain took off his shirt, all the other men had to take their shirts off as soon as possible.  If someone yelled BOMB, everyone had to get under the table.  If a second or third year jumped onto their chair, everyone else had to do, preferably with good dance moves accompaning!  I'm sure I've just painted a hilarious picture of rowing.. but it was a great bit of fun!  We then went to Park End (a club on the south west side of Oxford).

I had no problem with the dancing on chairs bit.  Rather my forte, I say!

Lots of pirates!

Coxswains!  We have the exact same birthday.. good news for us in January!

I somehow acquired a pirate hat at Park End.  Not bad!

Also received a great package from the parents.. much appreciated!  The swedish fish are a bit addicting.  Ah well, everyone has a vice!  Speaking of vices... I'm going in town today to check out LA Fitness since the Oxford gym has a RIDICULOUS price to join and really isn't that great.  You have to pay extra for classes and stuff.  I think I'm prepared to pay a bit of money to join LA Fitness just because I may go insane if I can't workout, even for just a bit.  I tried running, but that failed terribly because of my hip.  I also need to still find a bike for rowing.. hmm!

I'll leave you with a picture of four of us visiting students at formal dinner (a dinner where we all dressed up and ate with our academic tutors and other fellows of the college):

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Lauren's visit!

Lauren of Zoo School days flew to England yesterday for a lovely visit, and her first stop was me!  She arrived about 8pm at Oxford last night (rental car in tow!).  We went out to one of Oxford's clubs with a group of friends, which was a real blast.  Today, we walked all around Oxford: to the university's botanical gardens and the castle which also served as a prison for most of its' duration.  It was a great excursion, though my hips are certainly feeling the journey!

Here's a few pictures from the experience!

Punting boats!

Magdalen College's turret in the background
The Radcliffe Camera
Panoramic view of Oxford from atop the Castle/Prison

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Two weeeeeeeeeeeks!

It's officially been two weeks since I touched down in lovely England-town and began to experience the greatness that is Oxford.  It's also matriculation day for all of the freshers, so they're officially becoming part of the Oxford experience as well; quite fitting.

So, in the spirit of these last two weeks, a list of reasons why Oxford is ruling my world at the moment:

1. There is a life outside of academia.  Seriously; it's a little rough to balance out everything, but the nightlife makes up for the strenuous school work.  Also, I might like clubbing a bit too much.

2.  The town is beautiful.  I just stroll into center city at least once every two days just for the hell of it.  I've begun to love walking a lot more.

3.  There were cows three feet from the river we were rowing on yesterday.  They got in the way of our coach's bike.

4.  The three-to-one and one-on-one tutorials are awesome.  The professors are super approachable (at least mine are) and have high, though fair, expectations and make great discussion points.

5.  The people here are pretty much amazing.  I don't know if it's just a St. Anne's thing, but almost everyone I've met here is incredibly friendly.  Plus, they don't make fun of my American accent.. too much.  They do take great pleasure in trying to teach me English slang/correct phrasing, however.

There's just a few.  The list goes on and on in my head.  Also, I've completed several things that I desired to do while in England: buy a drink in a pub, take an English taxi, visit a famous library (although I'm still working on the Bod and the Camera...), etc.

Time to clean my room up for a visit from Lauren of zoo school era!  Should be a good weekend, I'm hoping.  The weather has also been very nice here except for the occasional cold evening.. but really, the rain hasn't been bad at all.  I've been impressed, over all.

Happy matriculating!


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Greetings, again!

Well, it's Thursday and I've just finished my first essay for an Oxford class!  My timetable of classes really isn't bad thus far, with one lecture Monday, one Tuesday and one Friday.  I also have a private tutorial two days per week and a debate in human neuropsychology four times this semester.  I should be juggling two essays and a powerpoint debate about every week, so I need to brush up on my efficiency!

Rowing should also be starting soon.  I got certified as an Oxford coxswain on Monday though I haven't received my 'status' yet.  I'll most likely be 'experienced' status, which allows me to cox in most river conditions, which will certainly be a great asset.  I'd just love to get back in a boat!

The Isis and our boat house

Well, must get to rereading the essay and finding other such things to do!  Cheers!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Crew & the BOP!

Hello again!

Our college hosted our BOP last night (BOP being like a themed party, basically.. maybe most comparable to a 'homecoming' or 'halloween' deal?).  Ours was Heroes v. Villains and was at a club called Babylove in central Oxford.  I must say, the costumes were quite funny and we had a good time with it.  However, the club itself was like sardines trying to dance.. let's just say that it wasn't well ventilated.  Still a fun time, though!  Here come of the hilarious pictures:

Marc & I (fellow visiting student).  He was Hugh Hefner & I was a prisoner.

My mad scientist Brit friend & I.  The handcuffs proved quite funny.

Several visiting students

Obama was enforcing the law

A great group!

Today, I also went to the first 'trial' for the rowing team here.  I got to take out a novice boat & help coach, which was really cool!  I think I'll be coxing for the men while I'm here, so that should be a fun experience.  The river where we row is quite small and there are plenty of barges and boats, so it's much like an obstacle course.  We did pretty well today for having only two experienced rowers in the boat.  I'm looking forward to continuing in the future.. though I definitely need a bike.  It was a long walk to get down to the boathouse and I sense I may not enjoy that at 5:30am, in the rain or in the cold.  Yipes.

Class tomorrow, finally!  I'm actually excited to get started with things.  I've done some reading and feel adequately prepared, so bring it on Oxford!  Cheers!

Friday, October 8, 2010


Hello all!

Finally got my classes ironed out.  I'll be taking Human Neuropsychology with my personal tutor, Kate Watkins, and Behavioural Neuroscience with a fellow from Queen's College at Oxford (yes, this does entail walking quite far...).  Just to show everyone an example of the lecture format of my program here:

So, you can see that I'll be attending lecture approximately three hours per week.  However, that's not the beauty of Oxford.  Oxford has individualized tutorial sessions in addition to these lecture-style classrooms, where the professor-student ratio is very, very small (ideally one-on-one, but often no more than three students).  I'll be signing up for those tutorials as well.  I believe I owe two papers for behavioural neuroscience during the tutorials, and I'm unsure about the other class's requirements.  The professors hand out fairly extensive reading lists before each lecture, and I just received mine for the behavioural class -- looks like my weekend may be full of reading!  It's been a long time since I've done anything education related.. gracious.  Five months tomorrow, actually. 


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A picture update!

This is seriously such an incredible place!  Great people, great places to see and such a welcoming college environment.  Here's a little picture tour!

My room:

View from my balcony:

Central Oxford


The college hosted a special 'club night' for us at a local club last night, which was spectacular.  Freshers week has been going well, with lots of lectures (that I've heard at least three times now throughout my college career...), pretty good food and lots of trips.  I'm getting to know the center city of Oxford well.  Rowing is also starting up soon!  We're doing trials this weekend for St. Anne's, I believe.  They're really excited to have an American cox, so it should be a good time!  However, their cox terms are much different than our own, so we will how they react to my mixed lingo!

My new favorite British word is also 'cheers.'  It's quite endearing.

Monday, October 4, 2010


This isn't going to be the best of updates, but nonetheless!  I arrived safely on saturday morning after an uneventful and relatively easy 6.5 hour flight out of JFK.  JFK was absolutely packed with stranded passengers so I thought for sure I wasn't going to get on the flight to London.  However, everything worked out great! 

Oxford is amazing.  I mean, seriously.. it's ridiculous.  The town is beautiful, the people of St. Anne's are incredible and the overall experience is going to be one of the best of my life, I'm sure.

I'll be uploading pictures as soon as possible!

I also highly approve of this culture's clubbing love -- way to go, dancing Brits.

Friday, October 1, 2010

It's D-Day!

I'll be in England in 20 hours time!  It's so weird to think about it.

I had my last row with the lovely ladies of GCRA this morning.  They were a wonderful way to end the summer and set off to England!  I'll miss them a lot; best of luck to them in the head race season!  They gave me a JL from their crew and a lovely gift certificate to help with the (outrageous) British costs!  Thanks a lot ladies!

I'll wear it with St. Anne's crew proudly!

I'm nearly done packing my carry on bag and have everything prepared for take off!  I leave Columbus at 4:50pm and land at JFK around 7pm, then head to Heathrow at 9:10pm.  I'll be arriving around 4:30am our time (since England is +5 hours).  I'm hoping my Tylenol PM pulls through and I can sleep throughout the entire plane ride!  That'd certainly make for a much better adaptation to the time change.

It's been great seeing everyone these past few days/weeks.  Thank you for all the well wishes!

If you want to comment on these blogs, I believe you need to have an account with wordpress, blogspot or a google email address.  It's really easy to sign up for one if you click the comment box below -- there should be directions.  You can also email me!  I'll still be checking my BMC email: & of course facebook!

If you want to send postcards/cards/well wishes, please do!  My address is:

Brielle Stark
St Anne's College
Woodstock Road
Oxford OX2 6HS 
United Kingdom (but some post offices prefer 'England')

Also a note: my phone will shut off today at around 1pm.

St. Anne's crest

Next blog will be from OXFORD!
(I also changed my blog times to match with London's time zone!)