It dawns on you suddenly and all at once, the realisation of how far from home you are. Sitting stagnant on a plane for twenty six hours makes you forget that you're even moving. If the rocking of a train can put you to sleep, you don't see the countryside whizzing past you at 100 kilometres an hour. I've forgotten about the hundreds of visa applications and grade transcripts prepared.
Is the rough number of kilometres from home that I am. I've met people from Nashville, Tokyo and Liverpool. Because writing traverses the world.
As writers, we are communicating. As cultures, as broadly spread across the globe as you can imagine, we are communicating.
And what better place to communicate than at the most infamous university in the world: Oxford University.
In the very heart of Oxford, down a tiny side street across from The Oxford University Press Bookshop, lies Exeter College.
Book nerds, such as myself and every other person I have met on this course, will know that Exeter College, Oxford, is a very exciting place to be. J.R.R. Tolkien himself was a member of this College, and wrote parts of his The Hobbit series in rooms that I can see from my window before I go to sleep.
If that doesn't satisfy me enough for one day, I can always pop down to the local pub, about two streets over. It was the meeting point for 'The Inklings' - a casual exchange of ideas and opinions between Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carroll and other notable people.
Talk about inspiration.But between the inspiration of my Oxford predecessors and my awe of the simply wonderful buildings, I am surrounded by a complicated timetable of classes.
Every day, a guest lecturer takes us from 11:15 until 12:45, and propels us into their story. Julie Hearn, a notable Young Adult writer, took yesterday's guest slot, and spoke about the balancing act required to write for teenagers or younger children without being boring or patronising. Julie is also a tutor for a Young Adult fiction class that is offered during the Summer School.
On Mondays and Wednesdays, I take a class called Critical Reading for the Creative Writer. The word 'critical' in that title sends shivers down my spine and makes me think of classes that analyse the symbolic use of rain in a scene. This class, though it looks briefly at the importance of those, is much more interested in how reading other people's work allows you to develop your own writing.
For example, the way different authors shape their beginnings and endings. What sort of beginnings are good? What sorts are bad? Now write one.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I take a class called Developing as a Creative Writer, which is a workshopping class. A lot of writing and immediately reading aloud. I find workshopping particularly useful, because workshops are filled with people who are generally interested in the way a sentence sounds - not the sort to coddle you because they don't want to upset you.
The classes are hard. What else is expected when you attend Oxford University? But it's hard to stay focussed on feeling sorry for yourself when your class is in the Quarrel Room.
The books aren't allowed to be touched, but the smell of the old binding, yellowing pages and leather covers is enough to intoxicate you for the two hours that you're trapped in there.
Once classes are done for the day, we're off Hall (not 'the' Hall, just 'Hall', apparently) for dinner. Our welcoming dinner was a formal ordeal, with so many forks that one table setting ran right into the next one. While the place settings have settled down since then, it's hard for any meal to feel mediocre when it starts like this:
Stamped on those napkins is the Exeter College crest. There are approximately 38 colleges throughout Oxford University, all with different crests. The company who produces the napkins probably doesn't even need any other revenue! If they do, every placemat is stamped, and the water jugs, too.
But enough from me now. Though I'm having a blast, university is still university, and I have to turn my attention to homework. It might only be week one, but homework has reared its ugly head with a vengeance - and assignments are sniffing about as well.