Chelsea Clinton Adjusts to Oxford

ByABC News via logo

O X F O R D, England, Feb. 6, 2002 -- She may be the former first daughter, but Chelsea Clinton is still getting some impromptu lessons on foreign policy — this time, on her own at Oxford University.

Clinton started pursuing a master's degree in international relations at Oxford's University College this fall, following in the footsteps of her dad, former President Bill Clinton, who also did postgraduate studies at Oxford, where he was a Rhodes scholar.

Chelsea Clinton quickly immersed herself in campus life, but the 21-year-old student initially found it tough being abroad after Sept. 11. In an article she wrote for Talk magazine, the Stanford University graduate said she felt isolated by an anti-American presence at Oxford, where there have been peace protests against the war on terrorism.

"Every day at some point I encounter some sort of anti-American feeling," she wrote in the December/January issue of Talk.

The Chelsea Campaign

Clinton's public comments prompted rumors that she would leave the school and instead enroll at the London School of Economics.

But Oxford didn't want to see her go. Fusion FM, a local radio station, launched a "Cheer Up Chelsea Day," playing American music and flooding the airwaves with words of encouragement.

"We're going to find Chelsea and tell her what's really hot about living in Oxford, and why it's great, and why she should stay here," DJ Rob Knight said in a radio announcement.

It is not known whether the campaign persuaded her, but she's still there, and Knight, a recent Oxford grad, said Clinton is now doing just fine.

"She thought that it was quite cliquey here in just Oxford, and that people keep to themselves, which maybe they don't do in America," Knight said. "But hopefully she's got over that now. She's got quite a few friends that she's seen out and about with regularly, so hopefully she feels more at home now."

New Beau and a New 'Do

Apparently, the DJ is right. Clinton recently acknowledged that she has a new boyfriend, Ian Klaus, a California native who, like her father, is a Rhodes scholar.

He is 22, just a year older than the former first daughter, and "he's apparently very approved of by the family, by the Clintons," Knight said. Klaus has been spotted joining the family for lunch.

Most fellow students also seem to approve of Chelsea Clinton herself.

"I've seen her quite a few times and I like her," said Julia Vondannenberg, another University College student. "She's outstanding in so far that she does other things than just staying at Oxford. I think she's away, going to London a lot."

Despite her demanding work schedule, Clinton has made the rounds of London's party circuit. She was recently photographed with Kevin Spacey at a fund-raiser, and has been seen dancing with Paul McCartney, dining with Bianca Jagger, and drinking with Bono from U2.

Mingling With Madonna

There are other signs that she has emerged from the awkwardness of adolescence and has grown more comfortable with high-profile friends. Clinton — known for her cascade of curls — unveiled a sleek straight bob hairstyle while attending a Versace fashion show with Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow. The trio was seated in the front row, chatting back and forth.

Celebrity is nothing new to Oxford. It is an institution where Thomas Hobbes and Erasmus philosophized, Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) honed his imagination, scientist Stephen Hawking pondered the mysteries of the universe, Lewis Carroll created Alice in Wonderland, and Tony Blair crafted his debating technique.

It might seem like even the daughter of a U.S. president can blend into the crowd.

But not everyone is pleased with Clinton's presence on campus. One Oxford instructor claimed that she ran over his foot with her bike.

"Chelsea Clinton ran over my foot!" Father David Johnson said. "The bad foot, actually, the broken foot. Outside the Bodleian Library, and I had to remind her that we in England drive on the left."

It had to be her, he contended, because American coeds dress up and wear more makeup than British students.

Nor is everyone is impressed by her celebrity.

"I've walked past her once or twice, but that's been the only impact she's had on me," said Tim Buckley, an Oxford student. "People are much more concerned with dashing from the lecture theater to the library, possibly making a detour to the union, writing their essay for their tutorial. They're much more concerned about that than they are about rushing around after the celebrities we might have about."

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