Hildie Hoeschen '17

Our boat (W2) warming up before our race

W2 warming up before our race begins

It’s been just over a week since Summer VIII’s ended and there’s been plenty to celebrate. Not only did our first women’s boat (W1) and second men’s boat (M2) win blades (!), but our club also hit a few milestones during the regatta:

— M1 ended the week higher on the river than they’ve ever been before

— W1 made history by being involved in the first ever division where all crews bumped out on Friday (day 2 of 4)

— M2 earned a place in the fixed divisions, which means next year they won’t have to qualify in Rowing On the week before Summer VIII’s

— Last but not least, our M3 avoided getting spoons (getting bumped all four days) and looked really smashing while doing it (they were sporting Blues – the Oxford Varsity team that competes in the Boat Race against Cambridge – kit)

Unfortunately, our boat – W2 – wasn’t so lucky. The first two days we bumped the crew ahead of us within 20 seconds of the starting canon (which in bumps racing is quick – ideal really, because your legs will be fresh for racing the next day). And so, heading into day 3 we were confident – while we knew the boat behind us was faster than we were, we were faster than the crew ahead of us. If we could catch them quickly as we’d done the first two days, we’d be on for blades the next day. However, only about 30 seconds in and approximately half a length away from catching Keble – the crew we were chasing – our race was klaxoned due to a pileup that had formed upstream from us. While the klaxon (a horn that is blown that immediately stops the race when a crash is imminent, the racing line is blocked, someone is in the water and/or needs medical assistance, etc.) was warranted, we had only needed a little longer to gain on Keble and actually complete the bump. And there you have it, folks: the major downside of bumps racing (it’s far from fair). As disappointed as we were, it was encouraging to know that we otherwise would’ve brought home blades, which is a HUGE accomplishment. Plus, the next night’s party would surely make up for it (at least to some extent – I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t still a little bitter)…

Following the end of Summer VIII’s on Saturday – which, after our race, was an entire afternoon spent chatting, laughing, and sharing a few drinks with the thousands of other spectators who were gathered at the river – it is tradition for each college to hold some kind of Summer VIII’s dinner celebrating both the end of the competition and the boat club’s year as a whole. Come 6:30pm, in true Oxford style, all MCBC rowers, coaches, benefactors, family members and friends gathered outside Mansfield dressed up nice to snap some pictures, then headed inside the Chapel for a formal meal, which included toasts and speeches by the boat club’s President and captains. At the end of the night the message was clear: we may be small, but no doubt we’ve shown Oxford just how mighty we can be this year.

As we enter the 7th of 8 weeks in Trinity term, time is starting to fly by faster than ever as us visiting students begin making preparations for our departure from Oxford: completing our last essays, packing, checking things off the tourist to-do list, going to London one last time… Some of us have already left to begin internships, but I couldn’t be happier to stay here through the end of term. While I miss home, I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to Oxford just yet. Besides, there’s still work to be done! We are at school, after all 🙂



P.S. Due to file size limits I’ve been having difficulties uploading photos taken during Summer VIII’s. However, if you’d like to take a look at some pictures of the regatta and Mansfield’s Summer VIII’s dinner, click on the links below!

Summer VIII’s Day 2 • Summer VIII’s Day 3 • Summer VIII’s Day 4 • Mansfield Summer VIII’s Dinner


New Words of the Week

mare n. (informal) – short for ‘nightmare’; an expression of negative emotion towards an object or situation, i.e. ‘we had a mare of a journey and got stuck in traffic’

sticky wicket n. (informal) – difficult, risky or losing situation*

Maccy D’s n. (informal) – nickname for McDonald’s (rather than ‘Mickey D’s’, the Brits refer to McDonald’s as ‘Maccy D’s’)

*This phrase is originally derived from cricket, where unpredictable pitch (playing field, which in cricket is called the ‘wicket’) conditions are called a ‘sticky’ wicket

It’s a little after 11:00pm here and I’m about to head to bed, but then I realise: I (seriously) owe you a blog post.

When I last posted during 1st week of our last(!) term here at Oxford, I had just returned from over five weeks of traveling across Europe (plus a quick stop in the United States). Four weeks later and we are officially in 5th week, now over halfway through Trinity term. I know it’s just about the most cliché things study abroad bloggers say, but it truly has flown by. My friend Sarah arrives in Oxford tomorrow after finishing her final exams at the University of York, which is just a few hours north; when I called her tonight to confirm when I would be picking her up at the train station tomorrow, the first thought that came to my mind was: “remember when we were flying out of MSP, and the entire eight-hour flight we talked about how nervous and excited and terrified and thrilled we were about going to live in England? You realise that year of our lives is coming to an end, right?”

And so it is. Eight months after landing in the London Heathrow airport with bags in tow (both those holding our belongings and the ones lurking under our eyes), the preparations have begun to pack back up those same bags and head back to the grand ol’ US of A. I’ve written out a bucket list of things I would still like to do before I leave England: punting on the river, winning a game of croquet (something, I ashamedly, have yet to do), visiting the Tate Modern in London, seeing a production at the Globe Theatre… Time may be running out, but I’ll happily run along with it over the next couple of weeks, packing as much life and as many experiences into this last month in Oxford as I can.

This week, however, may be the most important of them all this term: Summer VIII’s. Tomorrow, we, along with all of the other student rowers at Oxford, will begin the four-day regatta that we have been training for since before Trinity even began. This regatta, like Torpids last term, will operate under ‘bumps racing’ rules: essentially, physically bump into the boat ahead of you before the boat behind you catches up and does the same, every day, and you’re a winner. Admittedly, most of my free time has been spent either at the boathouse or in the library, so there isn’t much to report in terms of recent study abroad adventures. However, there have been a few fun and special things that have happened since I last posted, including: celebrating May Day (at 6:00am, no less) with the entire Oxford community as we listened to the Magdalen College choir sing from their tower; seeing John Kerry, current U.S. Secretary of State, speak live at the Oxford Union; attending formal dinner at another college for the first time (thanks to Piotr, another HC student studying at St. Edmund Hall this year!); and baking. Lots and lots of baking.



Needless to say it’s been quite a ride, and there’s still more to come.

Stay tuned for updates about Summer VIII’s!



P.S. Below I’ve included a video made by the Union of Kerry’s entire address along with the Q & A session following his talk. I highly recommend watching it to anyone who is interested!


New Words of the Week

blimey (informal) – an exclamation of surprise*

bungline (n.– [in bumps racing] a rope held by the coxswain and someone standing on the river bank to keep the boat in the correct position before the starting cannon is fired

*funny enough, I first encountered this word this week in the title of a book I had to read for a tutorial (on contemporary art…)

Since last posting a little over 4 weeks ago (so sorry, Jessica!), I’ve been to Venice, Florence, Rome, Palma de Mallorca, Sollér, Barcelona, made a short 48-hour stint in the United States, then headed back to the UK to visit London, Edinburgh, and then finally… Oxford. Home sweet home!

Until Barcelona I was still traveling with my friend Sarah, while our little tour around the UK was done alongside my siblings and parents. Now that I’m back, I realize both were incredible experiences for completely different reasons: backpacking Europe was a lesson in independence, confidence, spontaneity and flexibility, while traveling with my family was a chance to practice patience, my tour guide skills, and be reminded of where (and who) I come from, and how much it still remains a part of me, no matter how far away I may be. Needless to say, though, I am very happy to finally be back and settled in in Oxford; I have a strong suspicion the jet lag was starting to get to me (i.e. I was getting hungry and sleepy at the weirdest and most inconvenient times…).

While it’s been a little difficult to get used to long days in the library again, we are already back into the swing of things here in Ox, tutorials and all. This term I am taking Political Sociology and Contemporary Art (the study of, not actually doing art), and will still be rowing with Mansfield (hopefully in Summer VIII’s (eight’s) during 5th week!). It’s a bitter sweet time: though I am both perplexed and saddened by the fact that I am less than 7 weeks from leaving my new home-away-from-home, I am also really excited to return to the States and begin my senior year back on the Hill. Plus, I am in desperate need of some summer sun – something the UK is less than well known for…

My computer is having a few problems with uploading photos, so more pictures to follow! For now, I leave you with a selfie from each place, because it’s the 21st century and I guess this is what people do these days:

Cheers for now,



New Words from the Week

dosh n. – contemporary slang term used for an amount of money

cashpoint n. – an ATM or cash machine

mate n. – commonly used term of endearment and affection; equivalent to the American “buddy,” “pal,” or “dude”



Sorry for the delay in posting! Sarah and I are still traveling (we’ll be gone a total of 5 weeks!), and wifi is definitely more scarce than usual.

We are currently celebrating the Easter holiday in Innsbruck, Austria, a city nestled within the grandiose peaks of the Austrian Alps. Since we left England we’ve made stops in three different countries and seven cities:

Needless to say, it’s been one crazy ride. So far, I think my favorite part of our trip has been Austria as a whole – not only is it stunningly beautiful, but the food is fantastic (if a whole lot of sausage and kraut is your thing) and I’ve gotten the chance to get more in touch with my Austrian roots. Speaking of roots: Sarah and I got the opportunity to meet, for the first time, my distant relatives in Vienna! Truly one of the coolest experiences of this entire year abroad. It forces you to realize just how big and beautiful the web of what we call “family” stretches across the World!

Being in a VERY Catholic region of the globe these past two weeks, Sarah and I have had the privilege to celebrate Easter as we may have at home in the States with the addition tof the rich traditional practices of Austrian Catholicism. While in Salzburg earlier this week we attended Holy Thursday and Tenebrae services at the famous Salzburg Cathedral (Mozart’s home church when he was young and living in Salzburg!). We took a break from Church yesterday, then attended an Easter Sunday mass this morning at the church across the street from our Airbnb in Innsbruck. While the church was so packed we had to stand at the back, it was well worth it, as the entire service was narrated by a full-power orchestra and professional choir. Practically a free ticket to the symphony or opera! Walking back across the street to the delicious confectionary located in the bottom of our Airbnb’s building, Sarah and I agreed it was truly one of the most beautiful masses either of us had ever attended.

With that, I hope everyone has a Happy Easter! Be back soon with more updates on our travels (next stop: Italy!).

Auf Wiedersehen,



New Words of the Week: Interrailing Edition

danke, danke schön (German) – thank you (very much, kindly)

bitte (German) – please

Kuchen (German) n. – cake

*as you can see, for the most part we’ve only learned German words; we found Hungarian and Czech much harder to pick up!


I have to admit, it’s been a long, long day… After going to Formal Hall last night followed by drinks at the Oxford Union Bar, then going home to finish up our packing, Sarah (a fellow HC student and close friend) and I were both exhausted. By the time we got to bed it was around 1:30am, which only gave us a few hours of sleep before we had to wake up to catch our bus to Gatwick Airport. But come 9:05am (plus a two-hour delay due to foggy

We've landed on the continent!

We’ve landed on the continent!

weather conditions) the door of the plane was shut, the captain had turned on the seatbelt sign, and we were off! We’ve since landed in Berlin, Germany – the very first stop on our 5-week backpacking tour around Europe over the Easter vacation. Especially because our flight was delayed and we arrived in Berlin later than expected, today was mostly about getting situated: learning to navigate the public transportation system (clearly made more difficult by the fact that neither of us know a lick of German), settling in at Dirk’s place (we’re staying with Sarah’s distant cousin), and getting some much needed sustenance in the form of food and an early bed time.

While we agreed last night that the prospect of leaving our respective study abroad homes for five weeks was a bit overwhelming, no doubt it will be one of the most incredible experiences of our lives. Here we go!

As for the recap of Torpids and the Mansfield Ball that I promised:

Torpids couldn’t have gone better for Mansfield! Both first boats for the women and men won blades (a.k.a. “Double Blades”), which is about as good as it gets! Though, as I said, it was disappointing to miss out on the opportunity to race myself, I had an absolute ball taking photos and documenting their victories (I was unofficially “hired” as the MCBC photographer). Speaking of having a Ball… The Mansfield Ball was incredible! A rockin’ party with yummy treats (e.g. spiked milkshakes), live music, one of the most interesting sit-down dinners I’ve ever attended (the theme was “Doors of Perception” a.k.a. Psychedelic), and a whole lot of quality time spent with friends old and new. All in all, a great way to celebrate the end of Torpids!

I’ll be back in a few days to share our experiences in Berlin!



My good friend Elliot (a 3rd year Physicist) coxing W1 this afternoon

    My good friend Elliot (a 3rd year Physicist) coxing W1 this afternoon

A.k.a. Torpids.

After 6 weeks (plus a few days) of training, Torpids has finally arrived! Throughout this term I’ve been rowing in seat 6 in Mansfield’s W2 boat, which has been a great fit for me (minus the track bite (bruising) I’ve been getting from this particular seat’s less than stellar hardware).

Unfortunately, the English weather has been even less kind to Oxford rowers; since the beginning of term we’ve had a really difficult time getting any practice on the water, due mainly to a dangerously high water level and its accompanying increase in stream speed.  To make up for lost outings we’ve been spending some extra time in the erg room, and also opted to make the one hour trip to Dorney Lake with the top four men’s and women’s boats two weekends ago. Visiting Dorney was a pretty cool experience, since it is the location where the rowing competitions took place during the 2012 London Olympics. It was also, though, ‘cool’ in the literally sense: very cold, very wet, and a trip that required multiple changes of clothing per person. But huddling together for warmth helps facilitate team bonding, right? Regardless of the miserable weather, I do have to admit that many of us were happy to finally get some practice out on the water.

Post-Dorney we had hoped the forecast would lighten up a bit, but had no such luck. IWL-D (our second and last time trial before Torpids) was cancelled, and the W3 boat did not even get a crack at their qualifying race during Rowing On this past weekend because of the stream speed. W2 boats were allowed to race, but, to our dismay, the rocky waves and racing stream made for a more difficult piece than we had expected; not only was our stroke person ill, but after catching a crab that lead to one of our boat mates getting knocked repeatedly by her oar in the face and body, we were forced to finish the race rowing only with 7 people. We found out a few hours later that we were only 4.5 seconds from qualifying (and that’s with 7 rather than 8 people!); though we were disappointed with the outcome, we were at least left with the confidence to know that we were a solid crew and had managed to pull hard through the end in spite of our bumps and bruises.

Now that rowing has essentially ended for us W2’ers (minus a few workouts here and there to maintain our fitness), we’ve been left with a little extra free time to go and support the other boats racing on the river this weekend. Torpids began today and will run through Saturday, and involves what Oxonians call ‘bump’ racing rather than typical side-by-side racing. Instead of using up a hefty chunk of my (already broken) word limit to explain to you the logistics of bump racing, I refer you to the following videos:


A good example of when a ‘klaxon’ (warning horn) is not blown early enough to prevent a pileup crash.

And my personal favourite: Mansfield’s Men’s boat getting ‘bumped’ (more like utterly destroyed) by St. Peter’s (if you listen really closely, you’ll be able to hear a fellow in the background scream, ‘GO PETER’S! GO PETER’S! NOOOO PETER’S!’).


In essence, the goal is to physically ‘bump’ the boat ahead of you with any part of your own shell. You bump someone, you stop racing and hang out on the side of the bank until the end of the race; you get bumped, you keep on racing, trying to bump anyone in front of you. You bump all four days in a row, and you get blades (akin to winning, though more than one boat can get blades)! So that’s Oxford rowing, for you: super fun, but utter ‘carnage’.

Stay tuned for next week’s post about MCBC’s performance at Torpids and the Mansfield Ball!




New Words of the Week: Torpids Edition

car•nage adj. or n. – damage, collisions, danger, chaos, and anything involving the injuring of Swans (at least when you’re on the Isis)

e•jec•tor crab n. – exactly what it sounds like: when a rower catches a crab, gets caught by the backswing of their oar, and is subsequently ejected from the boat

klax•on n. – an electric horn or warning hooter used during Torpids to stop a race for any reason, most especially safety



Welcome to (well, the near end) of Week 3, Hilary Term! I hope everyone is safe and well after the crazy snow in New England these past few weeks!

To be honest, there’s not a whole lot that’s new here – now halfway (!) through the school year, it seems most of us international students have found our rhythm; now life in Oxford is just, well, life – normal, messy, sometimes boring, but other times totally incredibly amazing, life. It’s not that nothing special has happened since I last checked in…  But, per usual, we are spending our days studying, writing and reading, fitting formal dinners followed by nights out on the town, pool games, and coffee breaks in between (which I am thoroughly enjoying!). So, in the midst of not having anything über interesting or new to report, I’ve decided to take this opportunity to tell you a little more about what exactly an Oxford degree course entails…

We are currently nearing the halfway point of the second of our three terms (named Michaelmas, Hilary, and Trinity, respectively). I’ve asked loads of people trying to figure out why the terms are named in this way, and have had no luck; just like we wonder why our college bills are called ‘battels’, some questions at Oxford just really have no clear answer (that we know of). My courses this term (which I am absolutely loving!) are (1) Medical Anthropology of the Senses and (2) Gender Theories and Realities: Cross-Cultural Perspectives (essentially, the Anthropology of Gender).

For actual Oxford students it works a little differently, but for us visiting students, it’s pretty simple: each of us takes one primary tutorial, which meets 8 times during the term, and a secondary tutorial, which meets 4 times during the term. These tutorials are quite flexible, and it is up to the student and tutor to figure out a schedule that works for them. Sometimes tutorials meet every week, or every other week; sometimes you may have more than one tutorial for the same course during a particular week, and some tutors like to schedule tutorials on a week-to-week basis… It really just depends. For example, my secondary tutor for my gender course decided to complete our four tutorials during the first four weeks of this term, so after this coming week, I’ll already be finished with that course!

Regardless of the wide variety of student’s unique experiences, the tutorial system is a hallmark of Oxford University’s academic program, and this system being employed at this level of intensity is pretty much unique to Oxford and Cambridge University (GO OXFORD BEAT CAMBRIDGE).

We do get graded, but it is very different from how it works in the United States, and we also don’t take any exams (though our friends who are real Oxford students do). Rather than being graded continuously throughout the course, most tutors simply give you an assessment at the end of the term with a percentage out of 100 (which is then transferred into the classic American A, B, C, D, etc. grading system) based on the quality of your essays, engagement with the topic(s), observed improvement throughout the term, and participation in your tutorials (also, an A here is anything between 70% and 100%… Strange, I know). At first, I found it a little unnerving that I didn’t know the exact guidelines by which I would be graded, as well as the fact that I was not able to check my grades incessantly like I tend to do at HC; but now, I find it really freeing, not worrying about my grades all of the time. It’s a nice break! Personally, I feel after some time here I can trust that if I’m putting in my best effort and proving to my tutors that I am interested and engaged in what we’re learning about, that I will be rewarded accordingly for that (Holy Cross freezing your GPA during study abroad doesn’t hurt, either 🙂 ).

So that’s The Oxford Tutorial System 101! Stay warm, stay safe, and I’ll be back during 5th week to let you know how IWL-D (our second and last time trial before competing in Torpids for rowing) turns out!




New Words of the Week: Academic Addition

paper n. – at Oxford, this not only refers to what you turn your essays in on, but also the course(s) you’re studying, i.e. one of the optional papers (courses) for Human Sciences students is Medical Anthropology

reading v. – at Oxford, students don’t only read books, but ‘reading’ also refers to your major subject of study, i.e. one’s bod (ID) card may read ‘Hildie Hoeschen, UNDERGRADUATE reading for Human Sciences’

A* /A-star/ n. – equivalent to an American A+




We’ve now almost come to the end of 1st week, and things are really great here. By coming back to the UK a little early I was able to have a few days to recuperate, catch up on my jet lag (which I miserably failed at), and altogether get reoriented to Oxford life. Unfortunately, the river has been flooded for a few weeks now, making it unable for us to row – ergo, rowing camp was kind of a bust (erging, erging, and more erging). To take advantage of having a little more flexibility in our schedule than planned, fellow HoCro student Katrina and I made a day trip down to Brighton, which was absolutely incredible! Brighton is a city on the southern coast of England, and features a rustic pier (arcade and amusement park rides included), rocky beaches, shopping, and Trafalger Street, which is home to a monumental exhibition of street art (Katrina the art major was in heaven).

I also decided to make a three-day visit to York to visit another Crusader, Sarah Slipek. I was rather surprised, as I hadn’t been aware of how well known York is for being a tourist destination; but it was a beautiful city, and there was plenty to see that Sarah could show me without having to pay entrance fees. We also got the chance to spend a night exploring with my friend Elliot, who is an Oxford student who was home in York for the day.

Other than that, life has pretty much gone back to normal here at Mansfield: rowing, tutorials (this term, Medical Anthropology of the Senses and Anthropology of Gender), playing rounds and rounds of pool, attending talks at the Union… Normal, and totally fabulous.




New Words of the Week

mardy adj. – to be in a bad mood; grumpy, pissy

dosh n. – cash money

plaster n. – band-aid

Up, up, and away

                               Up, up, and away!

Good morning! (Well, afternoon for us here in the UK). I only arrived in Oxford around 1:00am England time this morning, so my biological clock is still tuned into good ol’ Central Time. Now that I’m finally awake, there’s a few errands I’ve got to run today: get some groceries, buy a few more hangers for my closet (ok, so I brought back more clothes… You got me). Hopefully, with the help of a little melatonin and hot tea, I’ll be able to get to bed a little earlier tonight (last night I managed to fall asleep around 5:00am, which was less than ideal). With a little luck, the jet lag will be mostly flushed out of my system by Monday when training camp for rowing begins. As I have absolutely no ideal what that will entail, I’ll have to tell you about that next time!

So far, it feels really good to be back. Although I had a moment last night where I all of a sudden realised that I was now 3,000+ miles from home, I took a deep breath and looked up from my pillow: the cork board on the wall was full of pictures and flyers; the desk was covered in dirty dishes, magazines, and office supplies; the book shelf was stocked with books and journals and snacks and pictures and a stack of used maps and museum brochures. The room was lived in, and loved. I was home; right now in my life, I just happen to have more than one! Though I miss Minnesota – let’s be honest, I will always miss Minnesota – I am excited to get back to all of the amazing things that come with a year in Oxford: friends, tutorials, cycling everywhere, traveling… The list is wonderfully endless.




New Words of the Week will be back next post!

So… Our first race in the Christ Church Regatta, which began yesterday, could have gone better. We had a great start, and about a half a minute in we were moving at an incredible (for novices) pace. To be fair, we’re all actually very proud of ourselves – had we not caught a crab, we surely would have won, and by multiple lengths! But we did, and ended up getting disqualified when we veered into our opponents’ racing lane. And yet, I think we all still had an absolute blast! It was really fun to come together as a boat/unit/team and finally get a chance to put our 7 weeks of hard work to the test. We had fun, and nobody fell in the river, so I’m calling it a win (just not a Win).


The regatta will continue on through Saturday afternoon, with one race per team per day. We had a chance to redeem ourselves this afternoon, and we pulled through with a W! Though it was what they call a ‘friendly race’, we still pulled through with a great performance: we were catching in time, staying balanced, and altogether rowed a very clean race. And boy, I had almost forgotten how good it feels to WIN in sports… 🙂 We race again tomorrow, though this time it will be twice as long – I’m confident that we’ve got another couple of good races in us, but I’m happy that we have the rest of today to rest up and enjoy Thanksgiving!

Other than suffering a disappointing defeat yesterday, life at Mansfield is pretty darn good (especially after today’s race!) – we’ve nearly come to the end of 7th week, and most students are beginning to finish up their final work for their tutorials. The stress level at college has noticeably been raised a tad, but come next Friday (sooner, for some), we’ll be home free! I’ve chosen to stay an extra week and spend some time hiking around northern England with some of my British friends, but other visiting students have chosen to head back to the States straight away. Regardless, I think we’re all pretty excited to be going home to spend the holidays with our families. I can just imagine it: the delicious food, the pine scented candles, the slobbery kisses from my dogs…

Though I’m sad I’m not home celebrating Thanksgiving today with my family in Minnesota, I’m just as happy to be here, making memories with my new family 🙂 Plus, Mansfield is hosting all of the visiting students and our guests (most of us are bringing other Mansfield students) for a classic, American-themed Thanksgiving dinner tonight, so at least we won’t be missing out on Turkey Day food!

Until next time,




New Words of the Week

  1. crab n. – a rowing error where the rower is unable to timely remove or release the oar blade from the water and the oar blade acts as a brake on the boat until it is removed from the water; this results in slowing the boat down
  2. cull v. –  killing animals, ​especially the ​weaker ​members of a ​particular ​group of them, in ​order to ​reduce or ​limit ​their ​number*
  3. smashing adj. – terrific, wonderful


*the reason I learned this word: cull can also be used informally when someone is nixed or cut from something; say, being removed from a Facebook chat



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