Wednesday, July 11th was our final class day. The topic was ‘place’ and how the students had experienced Oxford as place and in what ways their experiences changed. Each student contributed his or her insight into the way in which Oxford-as-place affected them. Some of the ideas shared included:
- from unfamiliar to familiar: getting one’s bearings
- same but different: how Oxford and its people challenged us to see the world through different eyes but in many ways they found a core of the familiar
- insiders and outsiders: tourists and ‘natives’; St. Hilda’s as ‘home’
- place through food: longing for American comfort food but finding alternatives here
- finding one’s place in the group: moving from strangers to friends
- connecting with locals through shared love: football for one!
We end the session by encouraging them to consider carefully what kind of capstone project they would want to undertake as a summary of their experiences.
Thursday we left Oxford and drove around the Costwolds, a rural area in England with picturesque villages. Our theme this day was nature as place. Our visit to a Falconry Center included a demonstration of birds of prey and how they negotiate their own ‘spaces’ and ‘places.’ Every imaginable bird of prey was there in the aviary and the guide assured us life was far better there than in the wild.
We also visited a number of small town, bustling with visitors where those who live there try to make their way through the many transient tourists, like us. I felt a certain degree of sympathy for them, even as we recognized the financial boom their lovely villages have brought them. Where is the tipping point when a genuine community becomes a tourist destination and thereby loses its soul? –A question for another day.