Oxford

Last Day! :(

Cyle here, fully exhausted after a full day and night of classes, activities, and excitement. Not to mention no small amount of emotion and nostalgia for departing students and the culmination of what has been a truly superb three weeks here in the City of Dreaming Spires. One of our students, India, came to the office this morning to show Lindsey and I her final project for her Oxford Art and Architecture class- a hand-rendered map of Oxford that shares what she feels is special about this lovely city.

Look at that lettering!

Now that we’ve come to the last day, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic myself. Especially as students find me and tell me things like:

“I can’t believe all that we saw and did! It seems like I saw every part of Oxford three or four times over!”

“My Shakespeare class was so interesting! It didn’t even really feel like class- just talking with really smart people and getting to ask questions that I’ve always had.”

“It feels cheesy to say, I know, but I really feel like I met my people- like I made friends that I’ll have for the rest of my life. I can hardly believe it!”

“I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed getting to know the people around me as much as I enjoyed meeting the staff and students at Summerfuel.”

“Cyle! Please don’t make any more puns!”

(Okay, I’m not so nostalgic about that last one…)

Lindsey, the RAs, and I agree that this group of students is truly special, and we feel so fortunate to have gotten to have taken them through castles and churches and gardens and museums and- okay, even a mall or two.

Our last night was, to steal a British phrase, chockablock full of activity. Pizzas were ordered and consumed (turns out teenagers really don’t care for veggie pizzas, so if you’re hungry, I think I’ve still got a few slices left over…), and then we gathered in Talbot Hall for an award ceremony where academic awards were given out, students were recognized by teachers for their contributions, and the RAs gave “Superlatives”- our way of recognizing cultural leaders and getting to tell each student how special they are as individuals.

Then Cameron led a Talent Show and, as if I weren’t already impressed enough by these students, they got up and sang or danced.

I was especially impressed by a student’s choreographed dance to Adele’s “To Make You Feel My Love”. I had no idea that the student was a dancer- nor did many of her peers- but we all did by the time she was through! The applause was thunderous for her.

Students stayed up late into the evening, reminiscing and making promises of adventures to come and we, the staff, took our opportunities to get to hear what students enjoyed about their time and what they were headed home to.

Perhaps the best encapsulation of Oxford 2019 is another sentiment from a student:

“I can’t wait for next summer to come back!”

Neither can I, kid. Neither can I.

Thanks for reading, and thank you for trusting us with the care and education of your students. We truly enjoyed each and every one of them.

Museums of London (and, The Boys of Lady Margaret Hall Meet an NBA Player in Harrods)

Cyle here, with a very full cup. Let me explain. My great uncle was a successful commercial illustrator who, when I was a kid, told me that everyone has a proverbial “cup”. Into that cup goes many things: stories, art, books, movies, friendships, experiences, etc. Out of that cup comes our “work”- the things we put our energy into. I say this because, after today, everyone’s cup- students and staff alike- is very full. We spent all day in London and saw some amazing things: a Narwal’s tusk! 15th Century Persian Porcelain! Marble sculptures by Rodin! Original sketches by Christian Dior!

Oh, and an NBA player in Harrod’s.

Students were given the option to visit one of three museums based upon their interests: the Museum of Natural History (self explanatory), Victoria and Albert Museum (fine art), and the Science Museum (also self explanatory). I was fortunate enough to lead a group to the Museum of Natural History, a building that, to put it quite mildly, is pretty impressive.

And housed some pretty impressive things, including a full skeleton of Earth’s largest mammal: the blue whale.

(It’s so large, I couldn’t fit it in the frame!)

Later in the day, several students went to see Tina: The Tina Turner Musical at the Aldwych Theatre- but not before getting themselves some fancy ice cream.

 

Oh, I almost forgot! I’m going to tell the story as it was told to me: Some of our male students went through Harrod’s and saw an extremely tall man perusing the newest Apple gear. They suspected that the man in question was Clint Capela, who plays for the Houston Rockets, and did a quick Google Images search to prove or disprove their suspicion. One of the students (The bravest among them? You decide.) ventured up to the man, asking, “Clint?”

“Who?” the man replied.

“Oh, we just- my friends and I thought you were Clint Capela.”

“No, I don’t know that guy.”

“Oh.”

“No, I’m kidding. I’m his brother.”

“Oh?”

“No, I’m kidding. It’s me.”

Or, at least, that’s how I imagined it went.

Two Plays, Ice Skating, and a Birthday!

Cyle here, and if you become exhausted by my use of language as you read this post, please kindly blame the wonderful (and outdoor!) performance of The Merchant of Venice I am just returning from. I was fortunate to accompany the Actor’s Workshop class as they attended the Bard’s tale about love, business, prejudice, and the notion of justice. To a person, we’ve all come back delighted and talking about the creative choices that the theatre company made in production, and all of us are impressed by seeing actors perform out in the open in the middle of University Parks. What projection! What expression! What enunciation! (Apologies for the lackluster photograph- I was too taken by the performance!)

At the same time that the Actor’s Workshop class and I were getting to see Antonio and Shylock, a group of students was seeing a performance of The Picture of Dorian Gray that featured a cast of actors who, depending upon the night, were one of two parts, which allows for the play to be performed in four different variations. The students’ reviews of this play were similarly gushing.

Meanwhile, a group of students led by Riley went ice skating at a local rink. There were several students going ice skating for the first time and Riley was impressed by their “can do” spirit!

As if all of that weren’t enough, we all returned to Lady Margaret Hall to celebrate the birthday of twins Grace and Cooper!

We ordered 15 pizzas- and nearly ate them all (while arguing about whether to fold, roll, cut, or bite one’s slice). Ping pong and football were played, cakes were had, and merriment was in the air.

 

Blenheim Palace

Cyle here, with another episode in our ongoing summer of academics, adventure, and camaraderie. Today, we took a Sunday afternoon trip to Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. Short version of this blog post: Blenheim Palace is magnificent.

The day was just the slightest bit overcast, and the grey clouds against the palace made the grounds… well, resplendent. 

The grounds are enormous and many students reported walking several miles over the course of the afternoon, as they circled the lakes…

And took in, perhaps my favorite part of Blenheim- the Rose Garden.

There is also a section of the grounds known as the “Pleasure Gardens” where there are lawn games, and a MAZE. I ran into several students trying to make it to the center of the hedge-walled behemoth, and each one I came upon was grinning and laughing.

Upon return to Lady Margaret Hall, we hosted a Harry Potter Pub Quiz Party in the commons area where students were sorted into houses by drinks (we put a drop of red, green, yellow, or blue food coloring in the bottom of cups and, when we filled the cup with Sprite, their “house” was revealed.

RA Monica created an AP-level Harry Potter quiz (example questions: “Give the full names of each of the founders of the four houses.” and “What are the first four lines of the Sorting Hat’s song?”), and we had a guest: Max, a student magician from Balliol College, a constituent college here at Oxford.

Koby and Will were FASCINATED by Max- in borderline disbelief. It was hysterical to watch.

Ah, summer!

London!

It’s Saturday and we’re in London seeing the sights, including The Globe Theatre, the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Tate Modern Museum. It goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: London is incredible. Such history! Such stories! The severity of the grey skies and clouds makes everything so much more so!

Students are loving the tea culture as well, and enjoying it wherever they can- including in the museums themselves!

Slowly, each student is learning whether they prefer the clotted cream over the jam on their scones, or if the jam goes over the top of the clotted cream. Tough choices.

Tomorrow is Blenheim Palace! Birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill!

Harry Potter Tour

This afternoon, students were led on a tour of locations featured throughout the eight Harry Potter films. 

As a high school literature teacher, it’s heartening for me to see students so passionate about these stories. Throughout the tour, they were wholly taken in by the architecture and wealth of little details that each location had to offer. “Oh, this is where Harry,” and “Do you remember the scene when,” and “Oh my gosh!” were common refrains throughout the afternoon.

One of my favorite things about Summerfuel is diversity of students’ backgrounds. Because of Harry Potter and Oxford, students from the United States, Spain, and Brazil made personal connections with one another and learned about where they come from.

 

First Venture Into London!

Cyle here, blogging to you from the teeny, tiny little screen of my iPhone and retyping every other word because, unlike so many of our students, I am not particularly adept at typing on the iPhone. At least one student (and all of the RAs) have laughed at me directly for still having an iPhone SE. They tell me that everything is easier with a large screen.

This is when I laugh at them, because my phone fits in my pocket.

Tech talk aside, I am sitting in front of M&M’s World in Covent Square, the designated meeting place for our afternoon adventure into London proper. A group of students, along with Lindsey, Riley, and Cameron, are enjoying The Illusionists at the Shaftesbury Theatre, and I am delighted by watching the vast sea of humanity coming and going. Students have been checking in with me regularly, each group of four regaling me with things they’ve seen: a fire juggler, a group of contortionists stacking themselves on top of one another, a football player juggling two footballs at once- with his feet, of course.

On Saturday, we’ll be going into London for a full day visit where we’ll see the sights, including the Tower of London and The Globe Theatre.

The Vagabond Spirit

Cyle here, writing to you with the immediate need to explain the title of this blog. Here at Oxford, we have an embarrassment of riches insofar as academics and thinkers are concerned. As such, we host a weekly seminar series that begun last week with Elena Hesse of St. Clare’s Oxford speaking on mental health, physical well-being, and the competitive nature of college and university titled: “Healthy World, Healthy Oxford, Healthy You”. This week, we had Dr. Edward Clarke, who teaches our Shakespeare classes, discuss the ways in which poets convey the ineffable elements of humanity. Dr. Clarke referred to this quality as the “Vagabond Spirit”.

That was a very long way to explain the title.

We were fortunate enough to hear Dr. Clarke speak in the Simpkins Lee Theatre- another gorgeous venue on the Lady Margaret Hall campus.

What a pleasure it is to not only be on campus here at Lady Margaret Hall, but to join the panoply of students who have gathered in theaters and pondered the largest questions of the universe.