Tyndale offers students the chance to spend a semester studying in England for academic credit. ExploreTU blogger Conor is an English major participating in the program. Here are his first thoughts on his experience so far:
Oxford is not what I expected.
In the months preceding my flight to Heathrow, I had my rote response ready for anyone who inquired about my trip to Europe. “Yes I’m very excited, I’ve never been outside of North America so I know it’s just going to blow my mind… I barely even know what to expect because it’ll all be so new!” Indeed, the pace, people and scenery in my life has changed drastically — but the Conor Sweetman, with all his triumphs and faults, stayed the exact same from Canadian customs to the United Kingdom border.
At Tyndale, I glimpsed the inklings of my deepest self; within the walls of Ballyconnor and Bayview, I found a place that I belonged where I was allowed to flourish. My sense of identity was cultivated throughout my four years at Tyndale as I experienced the social dynamics that I work best within, plumbed the depths of learning in a way I previously didn’t know possible, and found purpose and passion which awakened me to the vibrance of life on earth with heaven in sight.
As I stepped off the plane at Heathrow Airport, I suddenly realized that the concept of Conor Sweetman was about to be tested against a new reality.
Having attended university approximately 30 minutes away from my childhood home, I still had not been faced with the initial isolation inherent in ‘leaving it all behind”. When I woke up from a nap on my first day in Europe, with bleary eyes and a hollow sigh, the homesickness hit. Thankfully, it took only a short phone call and a tour of the town to evaporate. As I stepped on the train from the charming country village of Charlbury into the all-encompassing city of Oxford, I dove head-first into the slow moving blur of the first week.
As I shared in progressive lunches with the elderly, witty population of Charlbury, I began to realize that one can share their life and heart with literally anyone. As I woke up at 5:00 am two mornings in a row to finish my Shakespeare readings, I realized that deep passion takes disciplined effort. As I looked upon the “dreamy spires” I realized that architectural magnificence and historical richness can leave you dizzy with awe, but yet the beauty of the soul is an even more valuable treasure. I found that I am still the same ‘me’ as in my hometown, and the beauty of the landscape is secondary to the beauty refinement of day-to-day life in new contexts.
Now, I’m settled in. I’m familiar with main streets, train times and local pubs. As I sit on the bed, which a few weeks ago seemed so unfamiliar, in the small country home of a 60 year old carpenter (who reads voraciously in theology) I am at ease. The opportunity for rigorous academics, fresh friendships and spiritual stretching lays before me under rainy skies and in steaming cups of Earl Grey, and I look forward to embracing all that Oxford has to offer.