This time last year I could be found wandering the streets of Oxford, perusing the bookshelves at Blackwell's, enjoying a cider at a pub built in the 17th century, or sitting by a laptop in my room looking out to the grounds of Exeter College as inspiration to write filled my mind and soul. Since it has been a year since I was there, I thought this would be a good opportunity to write about my experience and to also give you an insight into a chapter of my own creative writing journey.
It's not the first chapter nor is it the last, but it sits somewhere in the middle of a roller-coaster ride of discovery, persistence and a love that I cannot fathom to understand but grows everyday. Having the opportunity to study my craft at Oxford was a huge step in my journey as a creative writer. It was push in the right direction, which helped me reinvigorate myself and hone in my skills. It was also a confidence boost and a reality check that I needed, and I cannot explain in enough detail how if you ever have the chance to study what you love abroad to take it in both hands and dive right in. Other chapters of my creative writing journey will come to light in the future, but for now let's focus on this one part: Oxford.
It all started with the application process. I was sent an email about an opportunity through my university and I was unsure about applying. At the time, I had lost sight of my creative writing. I had been bombarded with assignments and some of the writing I had done for my course had felt forced and disconnected. I had come to think of myself as 'not as good' as the other writers around me, and I had drowned myself into a rhythm of studying and completing assignments. I still felt bursts of inspiration, finding a love in writing essays because not only did I know I was good at them but because I was able to find journal articles about topics that were interesting to me to do with writing. To get to the point, I didn't feel comfortable at all with applying. Luckily, with a big enough push from family and friends, I did (shout out to AIM Overseas who were also amazing support during the application process). Next thing I knew I was purchasing tickets to fly across the world for the first time to study at the one and only University of Oxford.
Fast-forward and I'm surrounded by a group of amazing and inspirational writers who, like me, have entered a new chapter of their creative writing journey. We were all at different stages but we were able to learn from one another. To be around people with different skills and techniques was incredible, and to be able to go to someone and talk to them about what books they were reading or what they were writing without feeling like I was inundating them with my passion and excitement was reinvigorating. It all sounds pretty clichéd but it was a lot of fun.
And how could one not be inspired to write when surrounded by the beautiful landscapes that Oxford has to offer? I had never travelled overseas before and I was glad that that was my first experience. It was hard to comprehend that people lived in such a fairytale-like town, that the cobblestone streets were what they walked down every day. Even the pubs had their own gorgeous aesthetic. I was astounded at the sizes of their book stores, and would spend a long time just staring along the shelves in awe at the amount of choice there was. Then there was the college garden... but I think you get the point. I was in love.
It was intense, which was to be expected. There's an expectation at a place held in such high regard, and I worked as hard as I could to reach that expectation. I soon began to realise that the people around me were amazing writer's, and with some things going on back at home it was hard to find the confidence to put myself back into my writing. The teachers I had taught me so much and helped grow my confidence. They were patient, which I appreciated, and they had so much knowledge to give that I found myself inspiring to be like them. The guest lecturers opened my eyes to other aspects of writing, but I had this continuous urge to forge the best stories while I was there. The high expectation I had put on myself and my need to impress my teachers led me to doubt my proficiency in the skill I had spent most of my life trying to perfect.
That was until I received my results. They weren't the best results, but that's where the reality check kicked in. One assignment I received quite high marks, which I was thrilled about. The other, not so much. I passed but I expected more from myself. However, something occurred to me when I did receive that result, which inspired me more than anything else.
What occurred to me was that no, I'm not the best at my craft, but that wouldn't stop me from loving it as much as I did. From when I first discovered my love for reading and writing (which is another story) I knew I wanted my future to involve it in some way. It was why I chose to study a writing-based degree and why I would always go back to writing my thoughts in a notebook or lose myself in a story. The experience I received at Oxford was more than I could ever have imagined, and it opened my eyes to so many other opportunities.
I still love writing, and I find I get more enjoyment out of it now than I did before I went to Oxford, but I have also found a new love in discovering the stories that are already out there and analysing them. I have also found myself enthralled by words in general and the power that language has, particularly in story-telling. With this has come an interest in editing, publishing, and all the other professions that involve the creation process of a story. It would be a dream come true to be a recognised author one day, but I think I would be just as happy for my creative writing to traverse casually hand-in-hand with the other aspects of reading and writing I have come to discover.
So, to reiterate: my experience in Oxford was priceless. It made me realise that my love for creative writing did not just lie within the skill itself but with the other aspects of it as well, which has expanded the journey I am on and has opened many opportunities for the future. If there's anything for you to take from this, it is to keep an open-mind and to always take up the opportunities available to you for you might be just as surprised at the result as I was.
If you have any questions about my experience, go ahead and send them through because I'm happy to answer them! Or, if you have any experiences yourself with travelling overseas to study what you love or to try something new, I'd love to hear your stories
Charlotte is a reading and writing lover who has completed a creative writing intensive course at the University of Oxford and is a current university student studying a double degree in journalism and creative writing. If you are curious to learn more, check out the 'About' page.