It is easy to get “lost” while visiting Oxford. Not lost in the physical sense (although, I’m wondering how many more terminal degrees I need to learn how to read Google maps…I have a terrible sense of direction) but lost in a world that is slower and more relaxed. Despite the insane number of tourists many of whom were mostly downtown, I was able to travel from my dorm, to the Bodleian Library, to the pub mostly unencumbered. I wanted to share a little of my normal day because I think it will help further elaborate on the current theme of this series-story and reflection.
The Harris Manchester staff have developed a hospitable and engaging institute program. The ability to engage with experts from around the world was a phenomenal experience. I was able to dine with experts from Pepperdine, Wake Forest, BYU, Oklahoma, etc. etc. I enjoyed the opportunity tell people about Bellarmine and my city, Louisville. Our meals were communal, a shared time of conversation and engagement—and the food was fantastic, although in typical American fashion I wanted some larger portions 😊 I was lost in the art of small talk, but purposeful and intentional small talk that leads to deeper relationships. I rarely saw participants on a phone and instead was reminded of how dialogue is an art and an experience.
While meals were communal, study time was independent-at least for me. I would typically wake up, eat breakfast, head to Café Nero, and then make my way to the Bodleian Library for a time of engagement with archives. In the afternoons I would either visit an Oxford site on my own or go with a few other institute participants on tours (like the Inklings walking tour we completed on our first day). The program was a fantastic balance of programs and independent opportunities. There were so many highlights, but I especially enjoyed watching A Midsummer Nights Dream at Oxford Castle and hearing about the Exhibition of Treasures at Harris Manchester. Harris Manchester has an exorbitant amount of “treasures” but my favorite was the letter from the British government written to Harris Manchester explaining how they were commissioning the college for their purposes in WWII.
Dinner was typically followed by drinks at The King’s Arms and a little “football”. I was lucky enough to visit Oxford during England’s somewhat improbable World Cup run. Incredible.