I had never been to California. I had seen the Atlantic from rocky cliffs in Ireland and the sea from the shores of Iona, but I had never walked barefoot on a sandy beach in the sun while the jade ocean pulsed against the shore. It was the longest road trip I've been on, and my amazing sister and I rocked it. But as exciting and new as that experience was, and beautiful and amazing as everything was, the best part was seeing my friends from Oxford.
I had the privilege and the pleasure not only of attending Kelly's beautiful wedding and reception, but also of participating in her bachelorette party. Seeing her again and seeing her so happy and having the opportunity to hear about her engagement and so much that had taken place since we were in Oxford was wonderful. Celebrating her and her husband's joy on their wedding day was special and incredible. But even better was the time I spent with another flatmate, Alexis, and a couple of the guys from Oxford, Logan and Nigel.
But then we started getting to know each other. We spent all day together in the worldview intensive discussing the course readings, the Bible and theology, and sharing about ourselves and our lives. We started to see how each other thought and who we were. We spent time together outside of class. Before long, we were doing pretty much everything together--studying, eating, travelling, watching movies and TV shows. We talked about everything--the trivial and the eternal, the banal and the serious, pop culture and politics, our families and our futures, our innermost thoughts and fears, our aspirations, our studies, our successes and our struggles. We knew what each other thought of our worldview readings through our discussions in and out of class. We told each other what we were learning in our Oxford tutorials. We knew when someone did well, and we knew when someone had been sprawled out on the kitchen floor working on their essay at two in the morning. We laughed together, prayed together, encouraged each other, and brought each other down a peg or two when necessary.
There was also laughter, so much laughter. There were movie nights and bonfires and fireworks and long treks through England's old streets. We cried, we laughed. We were out too late sometimes, and sometimes we motivated each other to leave our flats when we hadn't left in two or three days. We danced. We drank mulled wine and tried sips of each other's ale. We set off the over-sensitive smoke detector making grilled cheese sandwiches.
We told each other our pains and then we found something to laugh about--not to ignore the problem, but to put it in perspective. We laughed at live dragons and in our laughter found the courage to slay them. And we still do.
There is a lot I loved about my time in Oxford and that made it meaningful, special, worthwhile, and a life-shaping experience. The wisdom and knowledge I gained from the worldview intensive, Kevin Bywater's thoughtful experience and wisdom, my Oxford tutor's knowledge, and the mountains of reading are impossible to quantify. The experience of living abroad, traveling around Great Britain, and living and studying in a city and libraries older than my country is impossible to describe. I suppose that's why I can't stop talking about Oxford--I feel I have yet to convey the depth of what that time means to me. Yet, even with all of that, the greatest impact, the most importance aspect, the most valuable take-away is my friendships.
I don't make friends easily and I struggle with community. But not at Oxford. Not with these people--these people are my people. We're the same and we're wildly different. We have moments of beautiful brilliance and times of extreme inanity. The time spent together discussing every topic imaginable with people who all care deeply about learning and growing and God and each other produced some of the most important friendships in my life.
We lived life together for four months, in all its highs and lows and messy glory. I didn't make friends at Summit Oxford.