Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sometimes I Study at Uni

I thought abroad could not get any better; then we went to Oxford for the week. Something I didn't know about Oxford is the fact that there is no "Oxford University". We studied at University College but there 38 colleges within the university.  We arrived on a wet, cold Saturday morning, departing Bath around 930 and arriving in Oxford at 11:30. We got our room allocations and were able to settle in, followed by a few housekeeping points from the staff in the JCR, which is the student lounge. After a logistical orientation, we ate lunch in their "Buttery", the cafeteria. This was followed by a welcome and introduction by Dr. Mike Nicholson, a Fellow and Praelector in Russian. He was a funny fellow and constantly made jokes about the "ghosts of Oxford", which none of my housemates or I found very funny (we are convinced our house is haunted; it doesn't help we watched paranormal activity).

The ASE staff then split us up into 3 groups based on our houses (back in Bath).  Two groups went on tours of Oxford then, and the other group had to wait an hour and a half; my house plus our good friends in Nunes Flats had to wait an hour and a half until our tour. Since it was Saint Patricks Day, we thought it only appropriate to get an Irish Coffee.  We went to a bar down the street and enjoyed our Bailey's Latte while we waited for our tour. The tour only lasted about half an hour and Lindsay, the sort of director of student life, gave us great pointers of restaurants, cafes, and shops that are popular amongst the Oxford students so we would hopefully mingle with other students.

That night, my friends and I enjoyed a lovely guinness and fish and chips dinner at the Eagle and Child, a famous pub in Oxford where J.R.R Tolkien and C.S Lewis used to dine, drink, and write! It was delicious, and we instantly felt smarter.

Sunday morning, a few friends and I decided to attend mass at Christ Church, another college in Oxford right next to University College.  We enjoyed the mass, however, my favorite part was the chorale.  It was a 50 boys/men choir and they were absolutely amazing.  Some of the boys could not be more than 11 years old (purposefully, so they can get the high notes that soprano women like myself can hit) but their tone and level of ability was stunning.  It was also Mothering Sunday, Englands Mothers Day, so at the end we all got flowers as we proceeded out.

A few friends and I after Mass at Christ Church

That afternoon was surely an interesting one. We went punting to test our skills at maneuvering a flat-bottomed boat along the river with only a long metal pole to assist us.

Let our terrified faces tell the story. 

Monday, one of my classes took us to Oxford Castle, which is now really just a tower, but a historical tower! It was mostly used during the Norman Occupation, but also used as a prison later on, especially during the Civil war in the 17th Century.

On top of Oxford Castle

Monday night, we had a talk by Dr. Leslie Mitchell, a renown historian.  He gave us a talk on "bloody Oxford", and highlighted the rivalry between townie and academia life in Oxford, from the foundation of the university in the 13th century even up until now.  It was a highly humous and informative talk, but right as we were applauding him, the lights went out. We thought it was a gliche, but the power ended up staying off for 5 hours! 

Wednesday, we took a tour of Christ Church, the college, and it turns out that Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone was filmed there! The scene where Professor McGonnagal greets the First Years to take them to sorting takes place on their staircase.  They also got the idea for the Great Hall at Christ Church.
Later that night, we ate dinner at the Turf Tavern, the infamous spot where Bill Clinton "didn't inhale." We got to eat outside on picknick benches because it was so warm out! 

Finally, Thursday, our last full day in Oxford, Fiona and I went to the Bodleian Library to see official manuscripts of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Tolkien, Lewis, Shelley...you name it, we probably saw it. It was amazing. The afternoon was filled with a Civil War walk, led by my favorite professor.  After, we went to the Ashmoleon museum, then had drinks on the roof.

 inside the ashmolean
 one of the European Art rooms 
Having a drink on the roof! 

That night, we had a smart dinner with our tutors and staff.  We had to "dress smartly" as they often emphasized, and it was an amazing dinner.  The wooden tables were covered with white table cloths, candle sticks, all the silverware a person could ever need (I finally figured out which fork to start with) and bottles of wine flowing.  Our 1st course was a goat cheese and pesto salad; the main, free range chicken with tomatoes and beens; finally a caramel coffee mousse.  I cannot explain how delicious it was. 

Sorry for the lengthy post but it was an eventful week....and thats not even all of it! Keep your eyes posted for a post on my summer shack, Blenheim Palace. 

Keep Calm and Drink a Cup of Tea (Or Five) 

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