Two weeks into my semester in Oxford, I’m attending my first hall dinner. Candles light the room-length dining tables, and the three-course menu is printed on what seems to be parchment. The waiters are all in tuxedos. I’ve never attended such a formal event before. Everyone suddenly stands, and I scramble to my feet just a second behind them, and watch robed masters stride into the hall, up to the high table. One of them says something in Latin, and strikes a gong. We resume our seats. Am I at Hogwarts?
I’m at an individual tutorial, and my professor asks me to read aloud. I’ve always hated the sound of my voice, but I comply, and my words reverberate in the stone office. This actually isn’t so bad. My words are powerful, important. I should do this more often.
I’m at a house party with English friends, when I realize that I know everyone here: I’m part of this social group. These are my friends. I almost start crying but then decide that I’d rather dance instead.
It’s Easter Break, and I’m in Edinburgh. I’ve checked into my first backpacker hostel, and spent the day hiking up to Arthur’s Seat, but it’s night now and freezing. My companion tells me that Scotch comes from Scotland (who knew?). We duck into a tiny two-room pub and order thimble-size shots of all the available types. The scotch is fiery in my throat. The room spins, and I laugh at the impossibility of it all: I grew up in Nepal, far far away, and now I’m on an island from my storybooks, my history, on an adventure I never dreamed I’d be a part of.
It’s an unusually warm day, and I’m reading Victorian literature in a thirteenth century castle courtyard. I lie back and listen to a nearby fountain, watch a hawk trace circles in the sky. I feel quite at home here.
It’s my last evening in London. I’d spent my first few days in England here at an IFSA-Butler orientation, and the city still reminds me of that initial excitement. I had walked aimlessly then, and I walk so now, along the Thames, past the London Eye and the Waterloo Bridge, all the way to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, where I cross the Millennium Bridge and still keep walking. It gets dark and the night is cool, and I silently say goodbye.
Shristi Uprety is an anthropology and creative writing double major at Franklin & Marshall College and studied abroad with IFSA at St. Catherine’s College, University of Oxford in Oxford, England in spring 2016. She served as an International Correspondent as part of the IFSA Work-to-Study program.