Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Oxford: People, Places and Plans

Written by: on September 5, 2023

The adage if walls could talk comes to mind when I consider the upcoming doctoral advance to the celebrated city of Oxford, England. In preparation for the trip, I reviewed Paul Sullivan’s quippy book The Secret History of Oxford[1] and lost myself in Youtube videos about this historic city. As a writer, intellect, and lover of all things secretive and poetic, I can think of no better place to explore than Oxford. From its mysterious beginnings and fabled history to its modern-day reputation for advanced education, there is so much on my want-to-see list for this visit. However, I’ve learned a great deal over the past two years about traveling as a student rather than a tourist, so it is through that lens that I highlight the following objectives of my upcoming visit.

Engaging with the People

The Culture Map by Erin Meyer has become my go-to book in grounding myself for any experience with a new culture. To fully immerse myself among the people of Oxford and learn from them, I investigate how their culture differs from my own using the key categories Meyer explores. Here is a summary of what I found:

  • The US and UK are both on the low-context end of the scale when it comes to communication, but there is still a significant difference. In the US, good communication is precise, simple, and clear. Repetition is appreciated for clarity. The UK falls closer to the center of the scale with communication being more high context, sophisticated, nuanced and layered.[2]
  • When it comes to evaluating a person, place or experience, the UK again falls in a similar place as the US right in the middle of direct negative feedback versus indirect negative feedback. [3] However, the UK is more indirect, according to Meyer. For example, when the British say, “With all due respect…” they may really mean “I think you are wrong.”[4]
  • And perhaps the most important difference for me to keep in mind (given that I tend to be emotionally expressive), is that when it comes to confrontation and emotional expressiveness, the UK is more emotionally unexpressive and tends to avoid confrontation more than the US.[5]

One of my goals in Oxford is engage with the people there in a positive way, so keeping these cultural differences in mind is important.

Engaging My Imagination

I do not believe in coincidences, but the fact that many of my favorite authors hail from the streets and colleges of Oxford is serendipity at its finest. Seeing the lamppost, walkway and doorframe that may have inspired C.S. Lewis’s Narnia and visiting the pub where my favorite Inklings C.S. Lewis, J.R. R. Tolkien and Owen Barfield debated and shared the genesis of their imaginary worlds has me waiting for these experiences in utter delight.[6] Not to mention that the literal door handle on the deanery’s door at Christ’s Church was made for the real life Alice (daughter of the dean) for whom Lewis Carol, then the librarian at Christ’s Church, wrote Alice and Wonderland.[7]  The consciousness of imagination is real to me and I plan to have my notebook readily available to glean any tidbits of creative ideas that want to come my way as I explore the landscape of my favorite authors.


Engaging The Holy Spirit

The final quest I have for visiting Oxford is to spend some retreat time alone with God—particularly reflecting on what He is calling me toward after I complete my doctoral degree. In preparation for this time away, I’ve been reading Invitation to Retreat by Ruth Haley Barton. It has changed my mindset about time away and how to spend alone time with God away from the toils of daily life. Barton explains it this way:

“Many of us are wasting our life’s energy fighting for things that aren’t that important in the whole scheme of things. There are times when the quiet of retreat is the only way we will be able to discern well what battle we should be engaging and how. As it turns out, the invitation to pull back and put some distance between ourselves and the battle line is the first and, in some ways, most significant invitation to retreat.”[8]

My prayer for the retreat of Oxford is an openness to receive wisdom from God about my next steps and to discover the battle He has prepared for me to fight.


[1] Paul Sullivan, The Secret History of Oxford, Reprint edition (The History Press, 2013).

[2] Erin Meyer, “The Culture Map: Breaking through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business” (New York: PublicAffairs, 2014), 39.

[3] Meyer, 69.

[4] Meyer, 67.

[5] Meyer, 204.

[6] The Secrets of Oxford’s Streets | And What Lies Beneath the University, 2023, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jck5VOnNL0s.

[7] Christ Church: A Tour, 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jTbl-S0Q4s.

[8] “Invitation to Retreat: The Gift and Necessity of Time Away with God (Transforming Resources): Barton, Ruth Haley: 9780830846467: Amazon.Com: Books,” 21.

About the Author


Laura Fleetwood

Laura Fleetwood is a Christian creative, certified Enneagram Coach, doctoral student at Portland Seminary and Creative Director at her home church, Messiah St. Charles. As a published author, national faith speaker, podcaster and self-described anxiety warrior, Laura uses storytelling to teach you how to seek the S T I L L in the midst of your chaotic life. Find Laura at www.seekingthestill.com

2 responses to “Oxford: People, Places and Plans”

  1. mm Shonell Dillon says:

    Laura you are well prepared the upcoming advance. The Lord is a rewarder to them that diligently seek him. I am confident that in your quiet time he will answer and you will excel in whatever he task may be. If you could pick just one place to have that quiet time where would it be?

  2. Jenny Steinbrenner Hale says:

    Laura, I love your blog! I appreciate how you start out with the desire to explore Oxford as a student and not a tourist. That’s a great mindset and reminder to us all. Also, what a great idea to pull our Erin Meyer’s book. I’m thankful for the wisdom you highlighted in the some important insights to keep in mind while traveling in the UK. And, what a great idea to retreat while you are in Oxford to seek God’s wisdom on your future. I pray that time with God will be rich.

    I feel privileged to be on the “I am Here” day with you! May the Holy Spirit lead us! I can’t wait!

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