Oxford University International Relations journal part 1
July 3rd, 2014
After leaving the states at about 6:00 pm on the second, we arrived at about 3:00 am our time, which is around 11:00 am in the United Kingdom. We made it to the office on George Street and were given instruction on how to get to our place for the next three weeks. We arrived at our house via taxi and found it to be a really cool set up. We share a backyard with a couple guys from San Diego State who are really cool. Although the walk from our place to the office is a little over a mile, it is worth it because our place compared to others is extremely nice. After unpacking a little and getting settled into our place, we headed back to the office for an orientation. The orientation was more of just a meet and greet where we met some of the other students and the professors who would be teaching our classes. After the meet and greet we headed to a local pub called the Head of the River which is right on the Thames River, a staple of Oxford, and had a couple beers with the professors and other students that we would be hanging out with. They all seem super nice and easy to get along with so I look forward to getting to know them better. We made our way to O'Neil's, another pub, after we got some food before heading to an awesome club the Purple Turtle. Half of our group headed out before the club because of the lack of sleep we had gotten so far but we thought it would be fun to go out on the first night there. Wiston and I stayed out pretty late and met a few people before heading back for the night. It turned out to be a fun night and we made friends with an awesome bartender who is a local here. It was a great idea of what is to come in the next couple weeks of being here. That is, when we are not studying, of course.
July 4th, 2014
It's Independence Day and a great first full day in the beautiful city of Oxford. We made it to the office at about 8:45 am, where we had our first taste at an Oxford lecture. Professor Schuettinger, one of the OSAP directors, gave the first one due to Doc's absence. He compared the Oxford education system to that of ours back home and how it is going to be a much different experience studying at this university then at SDSU. He compared statistics on the top schools in the world that produce the most employable graduates and Oxford reined superior. This, I might add, has little to do with the degree they received but more the experience that comes with attending such a premiere university. He wants us here to find 'killer facts' or facts that if they did not happen our world or country would be vastly different. These are the important things to take into account and we must make sure that we are finding and analyzing these facts. The overlying message of the first lecture was that putting in the effort is what it going to carry over into the best possible time at Oxford. You only get out what you put in. The next lecture was from Doctor Harp, a professor of history and politics at Maryville University in Missouri, another school attending the program. He talked about the different strategies of international peace attempts and the ways it has changed over the years from the different international wars and conflicts. It was basically an outline to give an idea of what the direction of different lectures in the future are going to go. There are many different strategies for maintaining peace since the 17th century and we are going to study those different strategies more in depth later on. The last lecture of the day was from one of the OSAP staff members who gave us some information on our living situation and tips on the city. All the students are split up into different groups and housed in places all over the city, ours being one of the best in my opinion. He also informed us that we are the only place that gets a cleaning crew to come and pick up after us (which made us all cheer). After learning more on the best ways to get around the city and information on other Oxford perks, we headed out for lunch and to change for a walking tour of Oxford. I got a sandwich with Adam and we headed home for a quick nap and change out of our suit jackets into comfortable clothes to walk around the city. Our tour guide, a local lady who knew everything about the city took us to a bunch of sites around town including some of the almost forty different colleges that make up the entire university. Each college is made up of a huge building, which houses the students for the three or so years that they live here. In addition to that we saw a ton of interesting buildings and got cool pictures of different sites on the tour. One building, which is right next to the OSAP office, is actually almost 1000 years old, the oldest building in Oxford, a huge tower. It is no surprise that a majority of Harry Potter was filmed here because it feels like you're at Hogwarts when walking around. We ended our tour at one of the places some of the other students are staying and had a Fourth of July pizza party. After the faculty advised us to leave (due to the beer running out) we made our way home to change for the night out. We started by going to Wahoo's a sporty pub which showed the World Cup game between Brazil and Columbia, which turned out to be a great game. They were having an American themed party there (with red solo cups and all), which made us feel at home. After that we made our way to the Purple Turtle, one of our favorite clubs here. After spending some time there, another student and I decided to adventure around the city and explore a little. After getting back pretty late that night, it was safe to say the first full day in Oxford was an exciting one.
July 5th, 2014
This morning was a struggle getting up early on little sleep and walking to the bus to take us to Windsor Castle, the largest occupied castle in the world where the Queen of England often spends her time. Although she was not there when we arrived, it was a cool experience to see just how massive this place is. It houses over 200 people who just maintain the property and ensure that everything is in check. To me it seems a little excessive to have something this big for one person who does not even live there all the time, but it is history and something that the English have always done. When we first got there we were too hungry to start the tour so we explored the town of Windsor and got my first experience abroad of fish and chips. Unfortunately, I think we picked the wrong place and the meal was somewhat subpar. We will definitely need to pick a better place to eat next time. We then went inside the castle and walked around. They gave us headsets that talked us through the tour and gave us information on the castle, everything from the grounds to each individual room and what it is used for. An interesting part of the castle is that it is actually three separate building and not just one huge mansion. It makes it seem even larger because of the huge amount of land that is also maintained by them and can be walked on. The fortress has been working for over 900 years and is one of the biggest pieces of their history. A flag represents if the Queen is present or not and unfortunately when we got close we saw it was a British flag, symbolizing that she was not in the castle. If the flag is a royal flag it means she occupies the castle. We went through the different rooms that are part of one of the buildings and were given info on what they do. The place was huge and almost impossible to not get lost if it wasn't for the rope guiding you through. There is a room bigger than our entire eight-bedroom house just for drawing, yes drawing. That was what seemed a little excessive but I know that this is a part of their culture. The last part of the castle was the church. Hundreds of kings, queens, princes and dukes were buried here which gave off a very interesting feeling. It was a very spiritual place that definitely is held in high regard to the English. After exploring the rest of Windsor we headed back to Oxford for a mellow night doing some reading and writing for our class.
July 6th 2014
Our first free day here in Oxford was definitely something that we needed. After minimal sleep and a lot of running around the city the last couple of days it was really nice to spend the day relaxing. After waking up I started on my journal entries and was able to finish those and get some of the reading done. I fell a little far behind in the reading and was able to sit down for a couple of hours and get a little further. We have our first exam on Wednesday, so it was important that I used the free day to get as much done as possible. After a couple hours of just hanging out and getting some work done, a couple of our friends from the states who has been in London came over to our place for the day. We took him around Oxford a little bit and showed him the little that we knew so far. After showing them around, they had to make their train back to London before Amsterdam in the morning. While we were out I picked up some groceries for the next couple weeks of being here and made dinner when I got back, after eating I went back to my room and went back in on A History of the English-Speaking Peoples since 1900, an interesting read I may add.
July 7th, 2014
Our first full day of classes started this morning at about 9:30 am. We started off with a lecture from Dr. Tudor Jones a tutor in politics and history at Oxford. He further explained the differences between the education system at Oxford and at almost all institutions around the world. Oxford and 'the other place' are the only two schools in the world that teach with tutorials instead of the classic lecture and seminar type. Having a small group of individuals working closely with a tutor really helps to bring out the true nature of the student and what he is thinking about the subject. It is important for the student to really think analytically about a subject instead of just memorizing it and never retaining that information. I think in every way possible the tutorial system works. In no way can a student learn less from more involvement with the instructor as well as guidance to reach their full potential. A quote he used which epitomized the entire lecture was that Oxford teaches "knowledge for the self-development of the individual" and to push students to think for themselves. It isn't just to teach information but to let students have something to take from their experience, a real life skill. If I were an employer, I would look for a person who is going to think on their feet; this is something that Oxford takes pride in. It is easy to go through school sitting through lectures and only remembering topics for a test and forgetting them but engaging in dialogue, discussion and arguing a point really teaches you to learn more than just the face value of the topic and delve deeper.
The purpose of the next lecture on British customs from Professor Schuettinger was to shed light on the differences from Americans customs to the English. I have experienced first hand in the short time of being here that we do differ in great amounts. Professor Schuettinger was quick to point out ways in which we sometimes only see our point of view and do not often get accustomed to the culture that surrounds us, only what is familiar. I have seen that the English are indeed more reserved then we are when meeting an American, just like the Professor stated. Yet, in a sense, I think that this is not always true. Though it can be picked up on with some people that they are reserved, it is almost a stereotype that is difficult to prove. Just like some Europeans feel that some Americans are stupid; there are more than a few intelligent Americans. It is all up for interpretation and from what viewpoint you look at. In my opinion it is easy to point out differences between cultures but it is often more individualistic. One thing that I found completely shocking was how much privacy was allotted to the people. One Prime Minister at 85 years old had only been to three dinner parties at a person's house. I have probably been to more than that in one week; the culture is just something that is different, and that is coming from a former Prime Minister. Privacy has little to do with where a person lives and more in a sense of who that person is and their actions. It seems odd to hide a person and even friends from your home but converse with them at say a pub or a restaurant, what is the difference? I was raised in a very personable family and it just a different way of growing up; it's odd to me. Yet, just like them looking at our lives, it is where we came from. Things like only shaking a person's hand once and never doing that again as with the English may seem odd to a person from America who has just been raised in a place where it is proper to shake when greeting people no matter how well you know them. Again it is up for interpretation and not about which is odd and wrong but accepting the different culture and knowing your place and where you come from.
The last lecture about poetry in World War I was an interesting one from Dr. Murray from Maryville. They call the Great War the forgotten one for a reason. I took AP World History and Government and high school and feel that we learned so much more on the Second World War than the first. With 65 million causalities it is hard to imagine why it is forgotten and not taught as much as many other events in history. The four year war shaped all of how not just Americans but the world viewed culture, art, literature, philosophy and in a deeper sense mankind. After the First World War there was an outburst of not just people reading poetry but writing as well. Going over some poems written at this cataclysmic time of war shows the true nature of what was happening. It is not as patriotic and heroic as many deem it to be. The soldiers, who were regarded as heroes, were the ones that looked at it in the lowest sense. There is this propaganda way that war is good and killing the enemy is valiant or brave but it only destroys survivors as can be seen through this poetry. It changes the viewpoint of invading every country that has conflict because it's easy to send troops abroad but much harder to be that troop doing the deed. Looking at the First World War and how it affected the soldiers and country after answers tons of questions about involvement in the next war and just conflict in general.
July 8th, 2014
We started the day with a talk on the four assaults of the English-speaking peoples in the since the 20th century. They include World War I and II, The Cold War and The Islamic terrorism in the Middle East. These events are crucial to the history of America because it influences our foreign policy and how we deal with these threats. It's crazy to see all the different polices when it comes to these threats and how each administration has their differences in the best way to cope. It really is necessary to look at history to see exactly which ways work best and where we should go from there. There are 3 values that differentiate the American people from everywhere else in the world: rule of law, democracy, and diversity. Without just one of these things America would be drastically different. It seems as if when the United States was first developing, we took the best ways of ruling, combining and shaping them into what would be the best way to run a country.
When it comes to anti-Americanism, a lot of people would say that they dislike America yet at the same time would also admit that they would rather live here than their own country. It is ironic that people act as if America is the worst thing that has ever happened to the world yet at the same time depend on us everyday. Citizens of other countries will say that we have poor virtues or our government is flawed and even go as far to say they hate America. This hatred can also be interpreted as a fear or even jealousy of us. I think that a lot of countries fear America because of the history of the world. Countries who have gained as much power as we have in the past hundred of so years have often ended up fighting and taking over people that are weaker than themselves. It is a fearful thing to see such a powerful empire that so many people depend on having the ability to successful eliminate a little of people with the snap of a finger. Of course, I think this is absurd and would not happen but I don't think very many people thought that Hitler was going to get away with killing as many people as he did. The fact that George Washington did not have a desire to dictate an entirely new country says a lot about where we come from. It is not very often that a person who defeats that powerful of a nation like England would so easily give up power and establish a government for the people so unselfishly. If a lot of people were to reassess their definition of hatred I'm not sure they would feel so strongly about America in a negative way.
July 9th 2014
After the test, which I felt confident about, we had a lecture form Dr. Jones about the political system in Britain and how it differs from the system that we are used to in the United States. It was a brief lecture with a lot of information in a short period of time, but you can see the resemblances in the two systems. It makes sense that the United States based its government on that of the parliamentary government in Great Britain. Having the exact same government may have been detrimental to the colonies due to the fact that they were breaking away because of its unfairness. It seems as if our founding fathers took the best parts of the government that we broke from and incorporated what they thought would be positive to the country. It is hard to say which government is most successful. The fact that America is the strongest world power may have something to do with that but it could be debated. Great Britain has also been a strong nation for much longer than the states so some may argue in that sense.
We also learned more about the commonwealth of Britain and into more details about exactly what each person does when it comes to Monarch, Prime Minister, etc. Again, the similarities between the United States can be seen, yet we did a good job of improving their system in my opinion. It is interesting to see the main policy issues and that they are similar to the ones that are dealt with daily across the pond. The same issues that frustrate the people here are issues that are debated all over the world. There are so many problems in the world that all people are working on but the solutions are difficult to find.
The last lecture was in regard to the turning points in World War II. There are so many events that are necessary to go out way in order to win the war. One little German victory could have changed the outcome and vastly changed what our world would be like. These killer facts are little things that not very many people know but are necessary to have knowledge on. The fact that Hitler had to help Mussolini in Greece and was late to invade Russia is vital to an allied victory. Without this late invasion, the outcome of war is not certain. These small details that are often overlooked is the difference between a vastly different world.
July 10th 2014
Today we had a couple lectures on foreign policy and trade. The foreign policy talks compared both the foreign policies of Great Britain and that of the United States, which I found to be similar but not the same by any means. Both usually are not the type to wage a war with a person, but waits to be attacked before moving in. Though I find this to be true, our troops are stationed all over the world and though we do not necessarily wage war, we provoke others to fight us, which is just as bad. Great Britain since both world wars is often reluctant to be involved in problems around the world. This is because of the terrible losses that happened because of the wars that they never really recovered from. It is hard to step in on world problems when they know how detrimental it is to their people. This is the foreign policy that I feel America needs to move toward. It does not make sense for us to be the policeman of the world and solve all the problems that we see. It costs countless lives on both sides and a lot of the time really does more harm then good.
We also learned about the history of trade and exactly the different ways that people exchanged goods from the beginning to as recently as the 18th century. The trade routes and countries that front international trade have changed drastically over time. Many world powers have used trade to have an upper hand on the world and build their empire. I never realized exactly how important trade is to the world and that most nations are far from self-suffient so having good exports is important to creating a stable economy. I was also unaware of the fighting that goes with having these trading ports all over the world. Disputes over the years have been created due to the fact that people compete to be the best. In order to live in a country that is prosperous, having imports and exports are needed to grow that economy. Even now with the Russian and Ukrainian conflict, one reason that Russia is in Crimea is because it is right on the water. If a war were to break out having that spot occupied would help them out tremendously.
July 11th 2014
On Friday, we were happy to receive a talk from a British General in their Army who spoke about both the British and United States intrusion in the Middle East, particularly Iraq and Afghanistan. The overlying question was for what purpose did we go into the Middle East? That can be answered with one event that this generation will remember forever. That event is 9/11, where the World Trade Towers came crashing down and thousands lost their lives. At the time going into these territories that was responsible for this terrorism made sense. Now almost 15 years later, most do not approve of the war. In hindsight it is easy to make decisions now since you were not in that position in the time when tough decisions needed to be made. At this time of distress, a majority of Americans were very interested in war and really thought that it was necessary. In the lecture, he said that from the beginning there were not enough troops initially sent. We needed more troops there in order to successfully get in and out of there as soon as possible. Now we are in a position where we have spent more money, resources, time and lives.
We also learned about Lincoln and his presidency. Being a president that was put in one of the toughest situations in American history, he was able to successfully make sure that the country was no longer divided. He did that by waging war on the south and ensuring the equality of African-Americans among others across the nation. If we had a different president than Lincoln, slavery may still be a relevant thing that still goes on today. It is crazy to think that one man can change the course of human history and change the lives of so many people. I didn't know that much about Lincoln before and now have an interest in learning more about him. We truly are lucky to be blessed with a president who didn't falter in tough times and was able to save the world from another catastrophe.
July 12th 2014
Today we woke up early to make a day trip to London. We were able to get a short tour of the city on the bus before we got out to roam around ourselves. We were able to see the famous monuments that are associated with London. The House of Parliament and Big Ben were two cool things that we were able to get a look at. Before the War rooms we were able to walk around get food and stopped at one of the museums. It was a huge six-story building that overwhelmed us. It was awesome to see the artifacts from countries all over the world. One of the coolest things we saw was the Rosetta Stone, which is something that changed history forever. Without the Rosetta Stone there is so much information in the world that we would not know. It is what helped historians learn so much and to see that with my own eyes was a cool experience. After the museum, we walked to the war rooms where we learned about the British side from World War II and more information on Winston Churchill, who I knew little about. During the war, the British were blessed with a very smart Prime Minister. He got them through the war and without his tactics it may have turned out differently for the Allies. It was interesting to see the different rooms where the important war generals and other people lived for almost six years and even hear phone calls between each other and even President Truman. After the war rooms we were free to go and stayed to explore London for the night.
July 13th 2014
After getting back from London early this morning we had a free day to catch up on sleep before a couple days of school and then Barcelona this weekend. I was able to catch up on a couple journals and speak to some friends and family back home. I was able to get a few things done around the house and also watch the World Cup. We are going to Germany in a few weeks so a German win tonight was awesome to see!
July 14th, 2014
Just a couple days of class this week due to the Barcelona trip on Thursday, we started with a lecture from Don McCann about the disapproval of the people against some of our most famous wars. A lot of people have been opposed to every single war we've had even the Revolutionary War. There were a handful of people who left for Canada because they were loyalists and wanted to still be a part of the crown. The only exception for this is World War II, where nearly every American knew that war was inevitable. It is often hidden by the media that war is great and that we need to participate to protect the livelihood of our country yet at the same time it never shows the opposition. Going against the government's actions is often looked at as hating your country. The fatalities and casualties of war are so high that some people should be opposed to war at least so people see both sides of the issue.
We also heard a lecture with a little more detail on British foreign policy and this so called relationship that the United States has with Great Britain. When it comes to this 'relationship' America could be considered the partner that does not try as hard as the other. For the British, the position of foreign ambassador to the US is a prestigious and often hard fought position to get, but that isn't the case for Americans. It is often a job given to someone of fewer skills that has made some sort of contribution to a President's campaign. For over a year, President Obama didn't even appoint a new Foreign Ambassador because that position is just not as important. This relationship is said to be more beneficial for the British because they reap the benefits of the biggest powerhouse in the world. If this relationship were to diminish fewer Americans would hear about it than British. The French have also felt bitter to this relationship and don't like the idea of being left out. I do think that this relationship is there, at least when it comes to foreign policy. Since the War of 1812, the British have been more of a friend than an enemy. Our President and their Prime Minister are friends and meet all the time and we help each other out when it comes to certain issues. It's almost like a child growing up and caring for their elderly parents because that's what they did to them when they were young. Granted, there may have been some fighting along the way but that all got sorted out quite a while ago.
July 15th, 2014
We had a few lectures on Tuesday that had to deal with war and more specifically the reasons why as people of one world there is so much conflict. It is hard to point a finger at one specific reason but it can be started with the sheer fact that any one superior authority does not bind us together. The UN is a joke and it often undermined all the time, and international law is also frequently disregarded. This gives leeway for bad people to do bad things and often America must step in the control the situation. What solves these problems is power, which is not a bad thing. If power is held in the right hands it can ensure that there will be less problems like when the US helped Kuwait from an invasion from Saddam Hussein. On the other hand this power can be abused in situations like the Germans in WWII. There are three reasons why a nation goes to war. At least one can be found in any wartime period since human civilization started. They follow as: honor, fear and interest. In someway or another a nation is fighting a nation due to these things and sometimes all three. In my opinion war is inevitable. People are always going to be selfish, that is human nature. There are always going to be bad people who find a way to get power and force people to listen. Not everyone is good or enough strong enough to fight the bad but it is our duty as humans of the same earth to combat that with our own power: a good power.
Another lecture stressed economics and how our 17 trillion dollar debt really shows that we may not be as powerful as people think we are. I've always held the view that if you do not have the money you shouldn't spend it, especially in places where we don't need to be. I hold a similar view to Ron and Rand Paul whereas we are not the policemen of the world and should not be putting money and resources in places that resist it. There are so many problems with have internally that must be solved before we try to fix everyone else's problems. Having such a huge debt to China enslaves us to them and gives us very little power to do as we wish. There really is more to what we are told and not a lot of people know what is going on with our debt and how exactly we plan on getting out of it.
July 16th, 2014
Today we started off with lectures on the revolutionary war and the future of US Foreign Policy. The Revolutionary war really wasn't a revolution. It was a war of independence but far from a revolution. The constitution was really just a peace pact against the British for our independence and basis for ending the war. What made our founding fathers successful was that they were idealistic but realistic at the same time. They had a plan for the future of the United States and strove to meet those goals. They could have been unrealistic and tried to do too much but really balanced the best way that was humanly possible for us to succeed. The break from Great Britain could have gone both ways and if we had lost would have really changed the course of human history. It is interesting to think how different the world would be if we had lost and were still a colony.
When it comes to international relations, there are four different ways that the US can do things. In my opinion we need to change what we are doing right now. The four theories are isolationism, liberal intervention, realism, and democratic globalism. Over the years presidents have flirted with all of these theories. The best thing to do would be to combine them together. A policy that incorporates some of all of them is a good thing. I agree that sometimes it is necessary for us to intervene in countries but I also believe that we cannot do that for every conflict that goes on in the world. Due to the amount of debt we have, it does not make sense for us to be intervening in all foreign countries and try to fix their problems. An example that I know a little about is the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. We give aid to Israel yet place restrictions on them so that they are not able to act independently without us. If we were to withdraw I personally don't believe there would be any more fighting than there already is, we would just save money and let their government decide what is best for them. It is not the government's job to promote humanitarian efforts but that of NGO's who have more knowledge on the subject. Again, we cannot be strictly isolationists but at the same time having soldiers in nearly 150 countries is excessive. This needs to change and the Obama administration as well as the next president must address this issue and change the scope of American foreign policy or we could be in serious trouble.