Reflections on blessings in my preparations for Oxford
Leaving home for the first time is never easy. And when it means, in addition, moving country, hemisphere and continent, it's all the more difficult.
Yet, I've noticed so many little things that have happened to make the transition and preparations easier. Below is a list of these little things. I can see God working daily, and constantly confirming and affirming decisions I make. It's these little things that give me the confidence that God is in control of my plans and helping me every step of the way.
When replying to the offer of a place at Worcester College in March, I had to give them a date by when I would know whether or not I had a scholarship. I had not been told when the Emma Smith scholarships would be awarded, but assumed they would be sorted out by the end of April. For some reason, however, I put down "end of May", just to be safe. After the delay caused by my application getting lost, that was exactly the date by which I could confirm that I had it.
One of the issues in applying for a place a Oxford, is that you have to choose a college on your application form. Other than having heard names of colleges that famous people belonged to (e.g. CS Lewis - Magdalen), my knowledge of Oxford colleges is poor, how can I make such a decision? In email communication with a lady from the Linguistics department, two colleges were recommended to me. Initially I was going to choose the other one, but after examining the college websites, had the sudden impression that I should choose Worcester instead. The next email I received confirmed that impression because the lady mentioned that Worcester was specifically keen on linguistics students. Worcester also happens to be very close to the linguistics department, meaning travelling to lectures will be easy. I have since been told that Worcester is one of the most beautiful colleges at Oxford - and well I believe that. It even has it's own lake! O.o
Another thing that had been worrying me about going to Oxford is health issues. I was uncertain whether or not I would need a medical aid (insurance) and how I would be able to get my chronic medication for my insomnia. It turns out that since my course is longer than 6 months, I qualify for NHS health care, and have nothing to worry about! :-)
Another major concern for me was finance. The scholarship I have been awarded is a little different to most in that you have to tell the committee how much money you need (as opposed to them having a fixed amount that they award). It's an amazing privilege to be able to do that, and is in itself a blessing. The scholarship covers fees, accommodation and living expenses. If it had not been a full scholarship, my family would hardly have been able to make up the difference. But drawing up your own budget it's also a frightening responsibility. Using information on the Oxford website and help from other Oxford scholars, I came up with a basic budget for my application form. When I received the acceptance letter from Worcester, it had an estimate of what my fees for the complete course would be. The amount was almost identical to that which I had calculated. Perfect confirmation that I was on the right track!
Once I was awarded the scholarship, I was then tasked with drawing up a more detailed budget for my first year of study, which, if approved, would be the amount given to me. I was worried, because the Financial Guarantee form requests proof of finance for both years, but my scholarship will only be renewed in the second year following a satisfactory academic report. I have since been told that this would not be a problem, as long as I could provide proof of finance for the first year. The revised (one-year) amount, once again was almost identical to that which I had requested for the first year.
It might have been just short, but the Rand-Pound exchange rate has dropped since I first made my application. At that time, the exchange was £1=R11.50; it is now £1=R11.00. That 50c makes a significant difference when you are dealing with such large amounts. As a matter of fact, the exchange rate has just dropped below 11 for the first time in months! Another one of those "little things" that makes a big difference ^.^
When my parents asked what I would like as a graduation present for this year, I asked for a camera to take with overseas. I had just been through the difficult process of finding a digital camera for my dad's 60th birthday, and knew it was no easy task finding the right one. We went on holiday to the 'Berg in the first week of June and I used my brother's old camera to take photos. I decided after that that I wanted a Canon because my brother's camera, despite its age, takes the most beautiful pictures. The next week, we found a Canon on special. Confirmation that that's the make I should get. I am extremely pleased with the camera I got.
My trip to Oxford is the first time that I will be flying in an aeroplane. Two things have already happened that mean I will not be taking that flight alone. To begin with, one of my friends from Church, may be flying to the UK in September. She says that if our schedules coincide, she will be happy to fly with me. That may not be necessary any more, though. My mother has just had a pension policy mature and been paid out a significant amount of money. There is enough to buy a ticket for my dad to fly over with me and help me settle in (and there will still be money left over for my mum's own use)!
One of the big issues when I get over there will be finding a church. I already have been promised an introduction to two different churches in Oxford. The friend in the aforementioned paragraph lived in the UK for a few years. She has a friend that lives in Oxford who is coming over to South Africa for a holiday in July/August. She has promised to introduce me to this girl who will in turn introduce me to the Brethren Assembly in Oxford. Another couple known to our family has promised to put me in contact with an evangelical Anglican church in Oxford.
These are some of the more major "little things" that have happened. There are many others: I have never owned one of those CD storage wallets, and was thinking I ought to get one rather than carting my CDs over in their separate boxes. Yesterday, I found a nice one for R15 on the throw-out table at Pick 'n Pay! A couple months ago, my brother got a new laptop. It came with an alternative cable with a UK plug end. I tested it the other day and it fits perfectly into my netbook's charger! I was looking for a travel bag the other day. Although I haven't bought my bag yet, it was a successful hunt and it turned out that one of my friends used to work in a luggage shop, and could give me some additional advice. The list goes on, and I'm sure this isn't the end.
Although the number of people who live in England whom I personally know is rather small, I have a really long list of contacts (more than I need). Many people who have heard I am going, have said: "Oh, I have a brother, uncle, sister, friend who lives in Oxford or London - I'll give you their contact details). I'm no longer even surprised when I hear something like that, or relating to any of the other countless "little things" that have happened. God is awesome in that he cares about every aspect of our lives. His omnipotence is made clear as he works through and cares about not only the big things, but the little things, like clothes I need to take, the bag I carry them in and the plug I use for my laptop.
What an amazing God we serve :-D