I really wanted to do a weekly update while Steven and I were studying at Oxford – but obviously that didn’t happen.
It still amazes me that I studied at Oxford University this Summer!! In January, we knew that Steven was going to go. He applied, got in and then I got the go-ahead to work at my company’s London office while Steven was at Oxford. Everything was going perfectly. Then in March, when I got laid off.. (AFTER we purchased our plane tickets..) I had no idea what I was going to do. Up until Steven’s graduation every week was different. First it was “Well, I’ll just go and just tour England while you’re at Oxford.” Then it was “No, I shouldn’t go because it might not be safe traveling alone.” & then one day, Steven got an email from the lady who helped plan the Study Abroad saying that there were 3 woman spots available! I remember I was nannying Buffy & Steven was like “you wanna go?” and I was like “okay!!” So that night, I stayed up way late, sent in my application and had an interview the following day because I was going out of town for the next 2 weeks to Virginia. I had an interview with Laura Ricks & Jonathon Wood at BYU and I was accepted right in their office!
So you’re all probably wondering – wait a minute.. you graduated 2 years ago – how are you going on a study abroad with BYU? I had to pay extra money since I graduated already. I was considered a “grad student” so I had to pay for graduate tuition and take an MBA class while I was at Oxford. Also, the funny thing was that Steven and I couldn’t stay in the same dorm! hahaha It was okay – the buildings were super close to each other and it was only for 3 weeks.
We left the USA a week early to travel to Paris and Amsterdam (click on the links to read my blog posts about our adventures) & then stayed in London for 2 nights with our friends Kyle, Chiarra, Spencer, and Jaime who were all attending Oxford as well. We hopped on the train at Kings Cross to Oxford University and once we got there we took a taxi to our flats…. Not knowing that where the train station that we got dropped off at would be right next to the Saïd Business School where we would spend a majority of our time at Oxford!
On the first full day we were all together, we got on a bus and traveled to Stonehenge, Salisbury Cathedral and Bath! People said Stonehenge is overrated but when we got there, I was so amazed by those stones!! You see these things in movies, internet, etc. But to see this in person it’s just amazing! We got there right when it opened so it wasn’t crowded at all and we took some good pics. Salisbury Cathedral was HUGE and amazing to walk through. But, what I loved the most about that day was Bath, England. It’s the cutest little town – think Paris meets London. It’s super clean, amazing architecture, yummy ice cream everywhere, and the town is just picturesque. We had the chance to tour the Roman Baths. We went through it pretty quick & the bath water was super green so they don’t let you touch it… Even though Kyle did hahaha. By the end of the day, everyone was so tired from jetlag!
The first Sunday we got on a bus that traveled to London so we could go to church! It was a forever long bus ride probably about 2 hours and then a forever long walk to the church – another 45 minutes. It was a long process, but we made it to church in time and I saw some friends that were on the Global Marketing Study Abroad! It was fast & testimony meeting that Sunday and all of the testimonies were so great and it was so cool to hear from people who were from London and grew up in England all their lives. After church, we walked forever long way back to Hyde Park and played the name game with our professor, John Hoffmire. All 42 of us got in a circle, and we had to memorize everyone’s names! This was actually super helpful because it helped me to talk to more people once I knew their names!
The next few days – we attended the Business & Poverty Conference that John Hoffmire put together. It’s a free conference and so many people from all around the world came to this conference at Oxford to learn how they can fight poverty through business. Long story short – they were 11 hour conferences both days. & for lunch – we had mini lunch sessions with speakers to talk about poverty (or if you were in my lunch session – about nuclear weapons and how we’re all basically going to die..) I learned a ton at this conference. From employee ownership in companies to what we can do to fight poverty through business. But also I was confused a ton – some words I just didn’t understand and since they only had a few minutes to talk – they didn’t explain what they were talking about because they assumed most of the people there know what they are talking about! On the 2nd day of the conference, that’s when the singing started.
We sang a ton while we were at Oxford. John loved listening to our church hymns and we sang “Nearer My God to Thee” about 3084985 times to faculty, the cafeteria workers, people passing by, etc. It sounds like I’m complaining but honestly I loved being able to sing that song. One girl in our group – Melissa – She has an AMAZING voice and when she would sing her solo part – I got goosebumps every time!
We also got to attend Education Weekend at Oxford. John Hoffmire’s wife put together this weekend filled with educational speakers, thought leaders, etc. I loved education weekend. I think being out of school for 2 years, it became clear to me that I can always just keep learning wherever I am in my life. There was one speaker, Sanjiv Chopra who was the Dean of Harvard Medical School spoke on happiness and leadership. He read a lot of quotes from different leaders and also told us (a group of mormon kids) that drinking 74 cups of coffee a day could make us live longer. HA! That was pretty funny.
for the 2nd week we focused solely on our big group project we were working on with John Hoffmire. We worked on a financial literacy company! Before I came to Oxford, the group that I was in had a call with John to discuss what we had to do before we got to Oxford. What I thought was the “Social Media Group” was actually the “build the entire curriculum for this financial literacy group.” Not going to lie, it was a LOT of work. Luckily, since both our group and John didn’t really know what to do – we worked together a ton to go from one project to the next.
On week 2 they gave us a free day! Steven & I decided to go with a group to Blenheim Palace & we fell in LOVE with that place! It’s only about a 30 minute bus ride from Oxford to the palace and it drops you right in front. Steven was excited to go through this huge hedge maze that they had. When we got there – I had to go use the toilet, but then everyone kept going so Steven and I did our own thing the whole day! We walked through Pleasure Gardens to get to the maze – got lost in the maze and finally found our way out! We took this cute little train back to the palace for 50 pence and then toured the palace that Winston Churchill was born in. The Duke & Duchess of Marlborough are the main people who own the place & they eat Christmas dinner with their family each year there. The palace reminded me of Versailles because it was GORGEOUS all around.
We also had the chance to go punting! You’re basically on a rickety boat and to steer and get the boat moving, you have a long metal pole that one person is pushing into the ground to get the boat going! It’s harder than you think hahaha and we were all laughing our heads off because one group lost their pole and almost fell in and Jaime got some HILARIOUS pics of Steven and Kyle punting.
Okay – let me back up and say that we got to eat breakfast every morning at the Christ Church Dining Hall. It’s where the Harry Potter Dining Hall was inspired! We had croissants, fruit, cereal, eggs, mushrooms, porridge, beans and hash browns! I didn’t miss a day of breakfast!! So on one of the nights at Oxford, we had a formal dinner night at Christ Church Dining Hall. We all got to dress up & had a 3 course meal. SO YUMMY.
The last week of Oxford was crazy busy!! We were fully involved with our group projects. My project consisted of creating 5 power points about budgeting. I had an awesome group and we all clicked. Presentations were also happening – The first day of presentations we were in a room with no AC and we were all dying! The 2nd and third day of presentations, we moved to a lecture room with AC and all was right with the world.
I learned a ton about presentation skills and how to create a captivating power point. It’s all about telling the right story to your audience. We presented on the 2nd day and I’m not the one who will jump right at the opportunity to present or do any type of public speaking – but with enough practice, we all felt confident during our presentation.
Because of #Brexit – the pound dropped a ton while we were at Oxford. It was a good thing for us because BYU could put on more activities since there was extra money in the budget. For the last night, they took us out to a Thai restaurant and we said goodbye to John Hoffmire and took a ton of photos with him. It’s bittersweet saying goodbye to a guy who helped us grow a ton in just 3 weeks.
If you are ever wondering if you should apply for Oxford Seminar – DO IT!! It was one of the best experiences of my life! & especially with Steven!!
Lizzie Lin Johnson