Oxford Week

We had the opportunity to live at the University of Oxford for about five days (specifically at the University College campus).  We began with an introduction to Oxford (which especially highlighted its graduate programs) and tours.  Our programme then hosted a disco night at the university bar, advertised as a time to “let our hair down” (and my hair is almost always down anyways).  Once requests started coming from students, the 70s disco theme quickly transformed into an 80’s night.  Us millenials seem to have a greater affinity for the music of our parents’ generation.

The next day we were able to explore the town of Oxford itself, including the original Blackwell’s bookstore.  It was a nice spot to finish some reading for my journalistic writing class.  One of reading subjects was Oxford, and ironically mentioned Blackwell’s as I was literally sitting in the store.  Then later that afternoon we treated ourselves to some English tea in a spot that claimed to be the first coffeehouse in England.

Shortly thereafter we visited Turf Tavern just beyond this archway.  It’s a historic pub famously visited by Harry Potter actors and Bill Clinton.  I tried my first mulled wine here, which was surprisingly delicious.

Other beverages of choice this week included Paul’s hot chocolate, which is essentially liquid chocolate in a cup.

On Tuesday I went on a tour of Christ Church, which also had connections to the Harry Potter franchise.  These stairs were used in the Sorcerer’s Stone scene where new students meet Professor McGonagall for the first time, and the great hall was the inspiration for the great hall of Hogwarts.

I didn’t have any classes Wednesday, so I decided to focus on seeing the city sites.  After a bit of trouble determining when places where open, I visited the Pitt Rivers museum.  This was a fascinating anthropological take on human society and culture.  The museum was organized by theme (leatherworking, firemaking, tattoos, armor, etc.) and then presented various ways different cultures addressed these themes.  Perhaps one of the most striking examples was body modification, which presented neck rings, foot binding, and corsets all in the same display.  The exhibit thus simultaneously highlighted the diversity and commonalities among human cultures.

Attached to the Pitt Rivers museum was the University National History Museum.  This had wonderful displays of all sorts of creatures, including dinosaurs and the Oxford Dodo.

Later that afternoon I met up with Maddie and Jennifer.  We visited a library exhibit highlighting women who dared, from Sappho to the suffragettes.  We also visited a museum exploring the history of science.  But perhaps the best place we visited was the Worcester college, recommended to me by my internship adviser.  The grounds included a beautiful lake and greenery, populated by numerous aquatic birds.  It was lovely to just walk around and take in sights, and really was, as my adviser put it, “like stepping into Wonderland.”

I concluded the afternoon by visiting the Ashmolean, an absolutely huge museum with displays covering all sorts of areas and history.  One of my favorite finds was a display containing an outfit worn by Lawrence of Arabia.

The next day Bea, Pippa, Emma, and myself went on a tower tour, where we climbed up to the top of a nearby church tower.  From there we could see the whole of the city.  We had very limited space, so maneuvering around often involved backing into alcoves to let others pass by.  But the do-si-does were worth it for the magnificent view.

Our last night in Oxford concluded with a formal three course dinner in the University dining hall.  We then came full circle by returning to the university bar to conclude the festivities.  It was wonderful to see an institution so steeped in history, and it will be great to be able to truthfully say that I lived and studied at Oxford, however briefly.

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