Tuesday, September 28, 2010

First Day Impressions

After more than five years since my last day of law school, I started back at Oxford yesterday.  It was not the “official” first day, as my course has two weeks of “induction” before the term begins.  The induction program (or “programme,” if you prefer) is basically two short courses on Math and Financial Reporting to make sure everybody is on the same page before our classes begin.  Nonetheless, it is still school so I will call it my first day.  I will post more about Oxford at the end of the week, but I wanted to jot down a couple of my first impressions before I forgot:
  • People I meet may forget my name, but they ALWAYS remember that I am from Texas (the boots might have been a small hint)
  • Financial Reporting is more interesting than I anticipated
  • I know absolutely nothing about Financial Reporting
  • In England, there is an “r” at the end of “law” but I can't seem to find it
  • “Enron” is still a bad word after all these years
  • If you are from Australia, that automatically makes you cool in my book
  • I got a really good math education at Livingston High School and Texas A&M
  • I will always have a natural tendency to sit in the back row of every class
  • My father’s saying of “the mind can only absorb what the rear end can endure” is absolutely true (he might not say it exactly that way, but we are trying to keep this blog PG)
  • I was very disappointed when I did not receive any messages from Leah delivered by an owl 
  • No matter where you are from, a cold (or lukewarm) beer at 5:00 is the perfect ending to a long day

Monday, September 27, 2010

First Day of School...for the 22nd time if anyone's counting!

Jared started school today, so our carefree lives that we've become accustomed to over the last couple of months have come to an end.  I really wanted to take a picture of him in front of the fireplace (like his mother always did)....but we don't have one.  I thought I could build one out of cardboard boxes, but I only have one box.  So I decided to hand him our mini Texas flag to add a little flare!  So this picture will have to do!

I can't put into words how proud I am of Jared.  He constantly downplays his intelligence but let me be the first to say that he is brilliant! (English "brilliant"!)  Jared is definitely a life-long learner and I know that he will thoroughly enjoy every class he takes at Oxford.  I know he will learn so much, but I also know that so many will learn from him.

This picture is for our niece Addilyn:

During the Kress stop of the Tour of Texas, Addilyn and Jared became best buds.  She refers to him as Uncle J-Rod (per Jared's coaching of course).  Addilyn will be three next month and she was so excited about starting preschool.  When she learned that Jared would be starting school too, she was thrilled about his backpack and wanted to compare it to her princess one.  Although having a backpack like Uncle J-Rod made her day, she was very concerned that J-Rod's school would not have a slide.  He tried to assure her that his school was still cool even though it did not have a slide.  Although he didn't tell her....I'm sure Jared's recess will be at the local pub!

*Bonus points for anyone who can figure out why this is Jared's 22nd first day of school!

**Double bonus points if you post where your mom made you take the infamous picture on your first days.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Since Jared does not actually start classes until Monday, September 27th, we have had the chance to do a little exploring.  I know some people have expressed concerned that he is not attending classes by the looks of our blog....don't worry, he will!

We've gone to London twice is the last two weeks so I thought I would share a few pictures of our trips.  Our first stop was Westminster Abbey.  We were there two days before the Pope gave an address and visited the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, so it was quite entertaining watching the crews prepare for his visit.  Unfortunately we could not take pictures inside (and I'm a law-abiding Visa holder!) but here are some pictures of the beautiful exterior and gardens.

I really hope this law thing works out for Jared because his photography skills are lacking!
Next stop, Big Ben and the London Eye.  A few things I learned along the way, thanks to Rick Steves, a fabulous guide book author. :
  • Big Ben is not actually the clock tower, but the huge bell inside of the clock.  It's chime is a beautiful sound!  
  • The London Eye was dubbed the "London Eyesore" by many while it was being built, but now is widely embraced by the city.  We did not ride the Eye but hope to on another trip.


 As I mentioned earlier, Jared and I really enjoy Rick Steves and all the tour books he has to offer.  But our favorite thing is to download one of his podcasts and let him give us a live tour as we walk around the city.  This was the case as we came upon Downing Street.

10 Downing Street is the official residence of the British Prime Minister so it is somewhat comparable to the White House.  In our headphones, Rick (we are on a first name basis) was telling us how this place is heavily guarded and rarely does anything exciting happen.  Unless...a dignitary pulls up in a black sedan and then the guards will whip into action.  About that time, a black sedan pulled up!  We knew exactly what was happening because Rick was walking us through the entire process.  The guards checked the driver's credentials, the gates were opened, the car was thoroughly checked for bombs (as I snapped pictures) and, after he was cleared, he simply parked and went inside.  Of course, we have no idea who the super cool guy was, but we were excited to see the bomb squad in action!

Then there was this guard that wanted to pose for me...maybe he thought I was cute....or just desperate for a picture!

And another cutie...

On to the next stop.  St. James's Palace has horses that stand guard at the gates.  These are quite regal horses and definitely a tourist attraction. 

I noticed this sign and thought it was funny.  I guess being a farm girl, I thought...duh.

Then right after I took this picture, the lady in it got bit!  I guess she got a bit too close to that perturbed horse!  No worries, she was OK, but I bet she thinks twice before standing close to such a regal horse next time.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Our Neighborhood

We are really beginning to love our neighborhood! 

The road that leads to our flat complex is extremely quiet so we almost feel like we live in the country.  Our flat overlooks the golf course and with that comes tons of wildlife.  Just the other day we saw a red fox out our window! 

Our building is surrounded by all types of flowers and trees.  It was built in the 1970's which is considered brand new in England!

A view of the golf course behind our flat
Our super fun Royal Mailbox...makes you feel really important when you send a letter.  Notice the "ER II" which symbolizes the monarch under which it was installed (Queen Elizabeth II).    

The main road is where you find all the local shops that represent the diverse character of our neighborhood.  Here are a few of our favorites!

Our favorite pizza place

Our local pub
A beautiful local church
A view down a local street into the countryside

Friday, September 17, 2010

Kellogg Kangaroos

One of the most fascinating aspects of the University of Oxford is the “collegiate system.”  In addition to being enrolled at Oxford, each student is a member of one of the thirty-eight colleges.  Each college is an autonomous, self-governing unit within the university, and all teaching staff and students must belong to one of the colleges.  Each college has its own governing body, comprised of the Head of House and a number of Fellows, most of whom also hold University posts.  During the application process, after I was accepted to the University of Oxford, I then had to wait and see if I was accepted to a college.

This is completely different than the U.S. system of higher education, and I think it will add an interesting element to my time here.  Although classes have not started yet, it seems as if colleges are a sort of hybrid between a dorm and a fraternity.  Leah gets mad at me every time I make this comparison, but…Harry Potter went to Hogwarts and his “college” was Gryffindor.

While my class lectures and exams will be through the University (via the law school and the business school), my college will provide “small group” tutorials which are the main method of teaching at Oxford.  I am excited about this because Oxford as whole is an imposing place for an old, foreign student like me.  Hopefully my college will allow me to find my place in a smaller community and allow me to meet students from other programs at Oxford.

I have also noticed that each of the colleges seem to have a unique character.  Some of the colleges are very prestigious and can trace their roots back to the thirteenth century.  I imagine that an alumni network is associated with each college, also.  In fact, some of the largest colleges (like Christ Church) are the most frequented tourist sites in the town of Oxford (but some are completely closed to visitors and those that are open, charge admission fees).  Most colleges are comprised of a dining hall, a chapel, a library, common rooms, and lodging for students and faculty.  Some of the larger ones have amazing amenities such as magnificent cathedrals and a deer park (Magdalen).   The deer park should be good times when my buddies from East Texas come visit!

I am a member of Kellogg College and it is the newest college at Oxford.  It focuses on “lifelong learning” and has about 150 full-time and 400 part-time students.  It is named after Will Keith Kellogg of Corn Flakes fame.  Colleges do not have mascots so far as I know (although we do have a crest and colored scarves).  However, Leah (a Kress Kangaroo herself) has dubbed us the Kellogg Kangaroos.

Go ‘Roos!

The newest Fightin' Kangaroo
The view from the bell tower of the University Church of St. Mary into one of the college grounds

Oh Happy Day!!!

We have internet at the flat!!  Our rooter, oh I’m talking like them again…I mean router was actually delivered to our landlord’s college, Queen’s College, instead of the flat.  Our landlord is still on holiday so it took some investigating to figure this out, but when we finally did…pure bliss!  Jared was like a child waiting for everyone to get up on Christmas morning.  In his opinion, I couldn’t get ready fast enough!  He did not understand why I needed makeup on to get the router…men.  When he finally held the router in his hands, you would have thought that someone just handed him the Crown Jewels!

Actually, yesterday was an all around fabulous day.  We found Dr. Pepper for Jared and Dr. Pepper Zero for me, which tasted just like Diet DP.  I found 3 new thrift shops in my neighborhood. And for the grand finale of the evening, we finally took the plunge and started up the washing machine….and it worked!  Now, it felt like the flat was going to collapse it was spinning so fast, but that’s what it has to do when you don’t have a dryer!  I’ve always complained immensely about laundry, but as I have had to hang everything to dry on these weird wire gadgets in the living room, I’m admitting once again that I’m a spoiled American!  I will be so grateful to have a dryer when we get home!  Here is a picture for your viewing entertainment.  Don’t be jealous of our “HD” TV (Hugely Disappointing) you see in the background!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Our New English Home

As I said before, we had not seen pictures of our flat before we arrived.  We found an advertisement in the Oxford Gazette (the University newspaper, similar to the Battalion or Daily Texan).  The landlord lived here before she got married and now mostly rents it out to students like ourselves.  She and her husband are both professors at Oxford and have been extremely kind and helpful.  They arranged for someone to pick us up from the bus stop when we arrived, set up our phone and internet service, and have provided us with lots of good advice.  We were also very surprised to learn that her husband has taught at TCU and A&M...small world!

The flat overlooks a golf course which Jared is very excited about!  We can hear the golfers on the 18th hole.  A few pictures are below, and we will post more when we get internet service at the flat.

Those who know me won't be surprised that I've already started a redecorating list.  Jared constantly reminds me that we will only be here a year.  But I want it to be a comfortable home for a year, not just a furnished flat in Oxford.

These pictures were taken right when we arrived, so you will have to come see the redecoration in person....or I might post a few pictures later on. 

This is our living and dining space.  It is extremely bright and those windows open wide...no screens, of course!

The kitchen with the small fridge/freezer and super small washer....no dryer.

The other side of the kitchen with the range, oven and microwave (which was a total surprise!)

A lesson learned...maybe

If anyone had any questions about what side of the road the English drive on, let me clear it up for you....it's NOT like the USA.  And if anyone thinks these crazy habits just affect those behind the wheel of a car, think again!  You must always look both directions at least 12 times before crossing the street and these signs that are painted at the end of every sidewalk are quite helpful, especially to these dumb Americans!  Brilliant!

Friday, September 10, 2010

We're Here!

The adventure has definitely begun!  We arrived in Oxford about 1 pm Thursday afternoon.  Our flight and bus ride to Oxford were totally uneventful...just how we hoped!  Our landlord had arranged for a friend of her's to pick us up from the bus stop since she is on holiday in the south of France...must be nice!  All the way to the flat, I was preparing myself - hoping for the best but preparing for the worse!  Keep in mind that we had not seen pictures and were only going on written details and blind faith that we were making the right decision.

The main road that leads to our neighborhood can described as "diverse."  Our flat is about 1/2 mile off the main road in a group of others that could easily be an apartment complex in the States.  We are on the 3rd floor but they refer to as the 2nd floor (just one of the many things we have to get used to).  Our flat is much bigger than we expected, so that was a nice surprise.  I will say that it was clean but had a distinct musty smell...yuck!  If you know me well, you know that I have a bad CVS couponing habit.  I have a huge stock of all kinds of plug-ins and other smell good things back home that I was really wishing for!!

Unfortunately our router (which they pronounce "rooter") has not arrived at the flat yet so we still don't have internet access and probably won't for awhile.  We really feel disconnected from the outside world!!  After a trip to our local grocery store last night we settled in with pasta, red wine and Robert Earl Keen.  So all in all, everything was right with the world.

We are at Jared's college right now checking in and finalizing his registration.  Pictures to come as soon as we can!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Things Jared Already Misses in Fort Worth

  • Mattison Avenue
  • Black bean dip at Tres Joes’s
  • Walks through North High Mount with Oliver
  • Lunch at the Fort Worth Club
  • Baby Baron
  • Conference calls with the guys in TRWD’s “middle finger”
  • Drinking beer at Angelo’s
  • The convenience of driving three miles to work
  • Christ Chapel Bible Church
  • The Ranch (95.9 FM)
  • Derrick (my mentee)
  • All our great friends

How It All Began

The rumors are true! We’ve lost our minds! We quit our jobs, sold our house, sold our cars, and left our child, I mean Basset Hound, and are moving to Oxford, England!

As we broke the news to many friends and family over the last few months, the first thing they asked was, “How did this happen?” So I’ll try to fill in the details and answer some of those questions without boring you to tears.

One channel that we can always agree on is HGTV and one show that we love to watch is House Hunters International. After one particular episode that highlighted a village in Switzerland, we decided that we were going to sell everything we owned, quit our jobs and travel Europe for a year. A week passed before reality sunk in and decided that our pipe dream was not extremely responsible. So we went back to the drawing board and started thinking of alternate ways to live in Europe. Jared has always been interested in getting an advanced legal degree, so we thought this might be the perfect opportunity for him to further his education and us to experience living abroad. Jared started his research of schools and applied to four LLM programs: Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, and a smaller school in Switzerland. In November the application process began with lots of paper work and many international FedEx packages. I began dreaming of living in a cottage and working in a coffee shop…I’ve seen too many episodes of Rick Steves.

At first, we had our hearts set on Lausanne, Switzerland. The Swiss Alps were the backdrop of the city with Lake Geneva in the front yard…absolutely beautiful! Our first bit of news came in early March, Jared had been accepted to the University of Edinburgh. After much prayer and discussion we decided that this was not the school or city for us. The deadline to accept Edinburgh’s offer was much too soon, so we continued to wait.

Next Jared was wait listed at the University of Oxford. Although this was somewhat disappointing, there was still hope and two more pending applications to hear back from. Jared was accepted to the school in Switzerland and we (tentatively) started making preliminary plans to move there. The first strategic move was when Jared’s car needed to be repaired and, rather than fix it, we just sold it to the mechanic. Thanks again to David and Mattie for letting us borrow the Jeep Liberty for almost three months!

Finally, Jared was deemed a Cambridge reject, so we decided to try and make the move to Lausanne. We knew the Swiss visa process would be difficult and the local language (French) would present a significant barrier, but we were going to TRY and make it work. We contacted an immigration lawyer to help with my visa application and decided to list our house with a realtor. However, if you want to make God laugh, just tell Him your plans…

On the day that Jared’s non-refundable tuition deposit was due to the Swiss university, he was checking his email to verify that transfer from savings had reached his checking account. Having almost completely forgotten about the being wait listed, he was completely surprised when he found an email informing him that he was accepted to the Masters in Law and Finance program at Oxford. With a trembling voice, he called me on my cell phone at school. I know I scared my kindergartners because 1) my cell phone never rings in class, 2) I never answer it, 3) very seldom do you see a teacher giggle like crazy through tears! We decided that this just changed from something we MIGHT do to something we HAD to do.

After that, things happened so smoothly that it became increasingly clear that this was God’s plan for our lives. Our house sold in ten days, our visas were approved, and Jared’s law firm was amazingly supportive. Once everything was set, we started selling some of our furniture to our friends and loaded up what we were keeping in a POD and our families’ barns, attics, and basements. With a lot of tears and long goodbyes, we closed the sale of our house on July 27th and left Fort Worth on August 2nd.

Since then, we have “toured” Texas and stayed with our parents and friends. One of the most difficult things to do was leave our beloved dog, Oliver, in Tyler with Dustin and Ashley. We will not go into it much right now because the tears are still fresh on our eyes. Let’s just say that the alternate name for this blog was “Missing Oliver in Oxford.” We would be a lot sadder if we did not know that he was in such good hands with Dustin and Ashley and his best friend, Sam. Thanks again Kinders!

Two days ago, we sold our remaining car and are now making final preparations to leave. Tomorrow we will face the reality of packing our lives into four pieces of luggage. On Wednesday our crazy adventure begins…and by Thursday, we will be Oblivious in Oxford!