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Avantika Singhal

Teen IWB Curator/Blogger

Part 3: JWB Blogger Falls In Love & On Her Butt As She Bids Goodbye To Oxford

  • IWB Post
  •  August 3, 2016


JWB’s Avantika Singhal was recently at Oxford University for a Summer Creative Writing course. Read her journey on campus, and emotional transition that she goes through during her stay in London, before she moves to the USA for her higher studies.

We were well into the second week of the summer course and the scent of my mother’s home cooked rice and dal abruptly and figuratively entered my nose.

We were mostly kept busy in the evenings. So, this Indian food craving would come and go away just as soon.

The second week was fabulous for we all were settling with each other so well. I call myself shy, and the thought of going into someone else’s room would cause me discomfort but there, everyone was family, and I had no qualms in chilling in my friends’ rooms.

I don’t think our rooms were exactly soundproof because I could distinctly hear rap music blaring from one of the many rooms.

Dear God, I hope no one overheard me singing along ‘Blank Space’ by Taylor Swift!

A time will come in your life where you will be so fearless and so certain of yourself that no evil force can deviate you from your goal. That is what I felt as we went for Ice Skating.

Of course, now that I have mentioned it, I might as well tell you that I am also equivalent to Bigfoot because my shoe size is so complicated that no skates would easily fit me there.

Once I was all strapped in after trying hundreds of pairs of skates, it was time to tread the thin ice.

The boundary surrounding the ice rink was my ally and the motivational words fed to me by my amazing course director; Jenny helped me stay on foot throughout.

Although, on one occasion, I managed to fall gracelessly on my butt. It was funny, and I just sat there, letting my backside cool while my friends rushed in to help me up.

If you didn’t see it then, you can read about it now.

I am spilling all the beans here!

Palak and I were the only newbies in this case. Therefore, all of our friends tried to teach us to ice skate and failed to, in the end.

Eddy tried to teach me by being relentless in his lessons and repeatedly saying-“You can do this, Avantika! Do it for God Vishnu!” In his thick Canadian accent.

After seeing me stumble and noticing no progress, he left me to wander around the ice rink on my own.

Oh, he tried. IMG_5181

Everyone else glided through flawlessly, and some even showed off their impeccable ability to skate!

Ice skating is probably the hardest activity I have had to undertake and the constant fear of cutting my head open on the ice was overwhelming me.

Okay, happy thoughts.

We were also taken punting on one pleasant evening. A punt is a flat-bottomed boat with a square-cut bow, designed for use in small rivers or other shallow water. Punting refers to boating in a punt. IMG_5285

Punting is a big deal in Oxford as some steamy races have happened between Oxford University and Cambridge University. While we girls rested on the cushions of the flat-bottomed boat, our French friend, Lucien tried to propel the boat away with all his strength. IMG_5298

If you punt for the first time, it will be an oppressive task since you won’t understand the technique right away but all in good time. One of the amazing Student Helpers and our good friend, Alex came to our rescue and taught us how to move that beast of a boat in the water.

Iona also punted and damn, she punted well! IMG_5293

We moved a little further away from where all the other boats were stationed and found ourselves enveloped in blankets of tranquility and beauty. An overhead bridge, obedient water that made no swishing sounds and just the five of us. IMG_5296

This was a better scenario than our boat colliding into other boats.

On another occasion, we were also shown the entertaining movie ‘The Imitation Game’ for we were scheduled to visit Bletchley Park the place where all of it was shot. Bletchley Park is a gigantic kingdom of pulchritude and a lot of history embedded within every inch of it, what with how code breakers encrypted messages in ancient times and also the history of ‘Enigma’. cover

My course director’s name is Jenny Clark, and she is one of the friendliest and most positive people I have ever met. She is a Chemistry tutor herself and has been involved with the summer courses for over three years.

Being a course director and making sure that everything runs smoothly is a job but what she does is completely different. She lives off of the experience; she thrives on it, and she loves it.

I am glad I had a decent conversation with her about how much I was not looking forward to traveling back to India. I loved Oxford that much.

Jenny and Alex also organized an English Tea for us, and it was an interesting event.IMG_5238

We all looked fancy while holding cups and saucers in the most sophisticated way while biting off biscuits and munching on delicious cucumber sandwiches made by another Student Helper, Daise who is a proud student at Cambridge University! IMG_5239

“This is the most English thing that you’ll ever do!.”, Alex had pronounced. IMG_5244

We were surrounded by such lively energy that I don’t think anyone wanted to pack their bags and come home.

Before that, we all dressed up again in our Sunday best and went for that one last formal dinner at the Dining Hall of Christ Church. IMG_5431

We also had our very own graduation ceremony planned wherein we could puff up our chests in pride for we were being given certificates at the completion of our course and a picture with the adorable Alex and Jenny. IMG_5173

For this very dinner, Mr. Harry Hoare and Mr. Robert Phipps also joined us. They are Oxford University alumni who are also the founders of these summer short courses. IMG_5456

By the end of this course, I can say with immense relief and satisfaction that I have international friends who were as delighted to be in my company as I was in theirs.

And I hope they let me crash on their couches if I ever visit them. Haha!

One friend that I have not talked about yet is Layla. She is from South Africa, and we knew each other before the course started and our first meeting in real life was nothing but special.

The way she hugged me with excitement and happiness oozing out was one of the things I will always reminisce with eternal affection. We had lengthy conversations about every inane thing in the world. I told her my weaknesses and strengths, and she told me hers.

It was friendship in its true essence. I miss her every day and regret the fact that we could not spend more time together, just talking.

She also got me a gift from South Africa. It was a set of useful skin products like toner, face wash, and moisturizer.

Not that I favor material possessions more, but it is the thought that counts.

I have plans to go and meet her in her hometown someday. She is one bright, insightful and practical girl and I am glad to count her as one of my best friends in my head. And, in this picture, I feel that anyone can see the attachment we have as good friends.

The two-week summer school finished and we all packed our bags, glazed with reluctance and beautiful memories.IMG_4982

I would want to live in Oxford all my life. (Papa, please read this and take some hints!)

My Velvet Eyes surely saw a lot and what they saw was nothing but magnificent!

Don’t worry! I will be back with more enchanting excursions when my college life commences.

Until then, this is a temporary goodbye from the Velvet Eyes of a girl who was brave enough to step out into the world and embrace its perfections and imperfections.

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