Date of Publication: 30 July 2014
We are really pleased to reblog this post from Brahm Capoor, who was a student with us at Oxford Summer Courses last year. He wrote this piece (and a second one) while he was with us last summer for his Blog Abzonnian Ramblings. Check back next week for part 2!
Oxford is an interesting city. It’s a dichotomy of old and new, of learning and culture, but most of all, it seems to be centered upon an obstinate refusal to change its ways. This comes to light in all sorts of eclectic manners. It shows in the way cutting edge research is performed in centuries-old buildings. It shows in the grass on some of the college quads, that to this day, you can be rusticated for walking on. It shows in the meandering lanes that wander their way through quaint parks, with the oldest college in Oxford on one side and the newest building on the other side.
For those of you who perhaps aren’t completely familiar with the nuances of the Oxfordian education system, let me attempt to summarize it. Oxford in itself is not somewhere you study, it is an umbrella-like institution encompassing 38 colleges. As a result, when you apply to Oxford, you apply not to the university itself but to an individual college. On a personal note, it seems a daunting task to consider almost 40 colleges, each with their own flair and merit, and narrow them down to one that’s right for you. It takes a level of retrospection that I’m not entirely sure even exists.
These colleges, most of which have curiously religious-sounding names (indeed, they were generally instituted as institutes whose primary tenets included religious service), are scattered sporadically around the city, as though if there is enough space to build a college, no expense is spared. These aren’t tiny colleges either, they are all incredibly wealthy with many facilities, and if your college doesn’t have them, odds are the university will. The prime example of this is the Bodleian library, the university library, which gets a copy of every book published in the UK.
As part of the summer course in physics that I’m currently undertaking in Oxford, I’m staying in a college called Somerville College. It’s amongst the more unpretentious of the colleges; it says in its student-written prospectus that students are welcome to have snowball fights on the grass (unfortunately, being summer in the UK, the temperature averages a sweltering 14 degrees and so snowball fights aren’t quite possible) and in fact, I spend a great deal of time with my friends just relaxing and chatting with them on the massive lawn.
As sure as I am that you wish to know more about how I spend my time, allow me a momentary digression. Somerville college lies a 5 minute walk away from the high street of oxford, as well as a pedestrian street which seems to have jut about every shop you’d ever need to go. It’s one of those areas that you imagine in your ideal city, It’s got small clothes stores, massive bookstores (there’s one called Blackwells which contains a room with more than 3.5 miles of shelving. I had no idea where even to start.), computer and music stores, all of which are interspersed by the obligatory Starbucks. Stores selling university hoodies aren’t exactly an endangered species either. Buskers line the streets as well as street performers such as this peculiar individual:
Oxford isn’t a city you can visit without experiencing. When I say that, I don’t mean that you need to go out and walk around the city. I mean that by being in the city, whether it be relaxing in a dorm room, strolling around your college or shielding yourself from the rain as you walk to the seminar, an Oxfordian vibe permeates itself into your consciousness.
It could be when you go on a ghost tour with Bill Specter and he performs a magic trick on you that will give you nightmares until you figure it out.
This wasn’t the magic trick. I know how this one worked
It could be when you gaze up at one of the city’s thousand dreaming spires.
It could even be when you lie on the grass of Somerville college, in an idyllic stupor, racking your brains as to how you’ll end a blog entry.
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