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Chelsea: Oxford life difficult

Chelsea Clinton
Chelsea Clinton: Seeking the company of Americans  

By CNN's Dylan Reynolds

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Chelsea Clinton has admitted she is finding it hard to cope at Oxford University because of anti-American feeling.

In a frank article for Talk magazine, the University College student says the attacks on the United States left her feeling confused and scared, and she finds it "difficult" to deal with those who question America's actions.

"It's hard to be abroad right now. Every day I encounter some sort of anti-American feeling. Sometimes it's from other students, sometimes it's from a newspaper columnist, sometimes it's from 'peace' demonstrators," she said.

"Over the summer I thought that I would seek out non-Americans as friends, just for diversity's sake. Now I find that I want to be around Americans -- people who I know are thinking about our country as much as I am."

The 21-year-old daughter of former U.S. President Bill Clinton and senator Hillary, said questions about whether Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks, and scepticism over America's humanitarian commitment to Afghanistan, made her "bristle."

"The idea that anyone believes America would enter into this capriciously boggles my mind, and the notion that the United States is acting without regard to the Afghan people is offensive."

But staff and students said that while a certain amount of friction among students was inevitable, the university's social and academic life had not been affected.

American Robert Tobin, who is studying Modern History at Merton College, said: "While it's true that there is a certain amount of anti-American sentiment in Oxford, I don't think it has increased since the terrorist attacks. Nor have I found it a barrier to forming many friendships with British people or students here from other countries.

"I have to wonder whether part of what she is going through isn't just being a fresher. She is in a foreign country for the first time, and is bound to feel isolated."

"The fact is that what has happened affects us all, and though our grief as Americans may be unique at the moment, I would hope that we could use it as an opportunity for greater mutual understanding."

Oxford University Student Union Vice President Catherine Sangster told CNN she was disappointed to hear Chelsea was feeling isolated, but she stressed that help was available.

"The graduate students who I represent -- of whom over 50 percent are international students -- are a diverse and generally extremely tolerant group of people.

"The student union provides a wide range of support services to students who feel unhappy or isolated, and that we are very aware of the particular difficulties being encountered by international students.

"Some American students will naturally find it hard to be away from home following the events of September 11, and it is not surprising that the war in Afghanistan is a topic for debate in Oxford at the moment, as it is everywhere."

Colleges at Oxford University implemented a number of measures intended to offer further support for international students after the attacks on the U.S., including opening up the university telephone system to allow international calls to America.

In addition the Vice Chancellor, Dr Colin Lucas, circulated a letter expressing concern and support for those students affected by the attacks.

A university spokesman said: "We want all our students to enjoy the experience of living and studying at Oxford, and encourage them to raise any concerns at the earliest opportunity."

Chelsea Clinton is studying for a Masters degree in international relations. Her father attended the same college as a Rhodes Scholar between 1968 and 1970.


• University of Oxford
• Oxford University Student Union

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