How does it feel to attend one of the most prestigious university in the world? Well, I can’t answer that question yet but I did pay Oxford a visit during my trip to England to get a feel of attending one, which is home to the world-renowned University of Oxford. Oxford is a perfect destination for a day trip from London as it is only about 1,5 hours away by train. I chose to go with New Sandemans tour after going on their amazing free walking tour of London the day before.
The tour was bound to depart from Paddington station at 9, but then I miscalculated and missed the meeting time.
I was so bummed, but I won’t let it stand between me and Oxford because I still really wanted to go! So I got another ticket, some caffeine and croissant, and was on the train to Oxford while browsing through for any tour available there. Then when I arrived in Oxford, by some miracle, I met my guide on the London tour who just happened to guide the Oxford tour I was supposed to join. Long story short, I showed him my payment proof and turned out he did recognise that I was on the tour with him yesterday (being the only Asian that day..), I was on my merry way to explore Oxford for the day!
It was a particularly cold day and while my layers of clothes did little to insulate me from the cold (and we were outside the whole time!), for me Oxford was so exciting and filled to the brim with history, unsurprisingly so since it’s the second-oldest running university in the world. The tour guide, Jake, was really informative and knowledgeable. I went on the tour with 2 elderly couples who are as fit as ever, coming from the USA and Australia and took me under their wings for the tour. We even took the Tube and went to Harrods together afterwards.
The university sprawled over the city with 38 colleges. One notable college, Christ Church, has educated 13 of 27 British Prime Ministers who attended University of Oxford. It also hosts a formal dinner every night where you have to put on suits and dresses, fancy! Excuse me while I stay in my pyjamas for dinner. Many locations around the university also serves as an inspiration for Harry Potter movies, including the Great Hall at Christ Church as Hogwarts’ dining hall! In the past, you couldn’t go to the University of Oxford without being able to speak Latin in your daily conversation. DAILY! And it is a dead language! Nowadays, they still speak Latin but worry not as it is only spoken for grace before mealtime.
The college grounds are meticulously maintained and is such a perfect place to enroll for your studies, IF you can beat 17.000ish (and growing) other applicants who also share your ambition to go here. And also, do you know you can only choose to apply either to Cambridge or Oxford? Until today, they enjoy a healthy rivalry as the best university in England, and quite possibly the world, coining the term Oxbridge. The interesting fact is that Cambridge was born from scholars who left Oxford caused by disputes resulting in riot with civilians who live around Oxford.
Despite the arduous study the students have to endure, they do know how to have fun. Turf Tavern is a pub located in a tiny alleyway that has been there since 13th century and is a silent witness to many infamous people (before and when they are already famous), like Bill Clinton, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and Stephen Hawking, relaxing and having a good time with some (or a lot of) ale.
In addition to the housing the most extensive university library in the UK, Oxford also has Blackwell bookstore. Okay, a bookstore. What’s with it? Indeed, it does not look like much from the front but it is actually the largest bookstore in Europe spanning over more than 900 m2 !
Oxford was a lovely city to visit, with beautiful architecture (look up, gargoyles are scattered around the building!) and even more quirky history and tradition, some of them still withstands the test of time and changes. Maybe for you undergraduates, a visit to Oxford can be a motivation for you to take up grad school here! In the meanwhile, just grab the university t-shirts like I did. Anything to keep the dream alive, right?
Tips on visiting Oxford :
- Many of the colleges are open for public, some are free while others have visitors fee with Christ Church being the most expensive. Pay a visit to get a closer look to the college ground.
- Grab some snacks and some gifts at Covered Market, located in the middle of the city.
- Take a quick look at the original blackboard written by Albert Einstein about his relativity theory lecture at Museum of History of Science. Admission is free!
- Oxford is bursting with history, so I highly recommend taking a guided tour so you don’t miss all the intriguing facts about the university AND the city.
- Have a lunch at The Eagle and The Child, a pub where J.R.R Tolkien and C.S Lewis used to hang out.
- Look out for Lewis Caroll Alice’s Shop just opposite the Christ Church college. Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass used to buy sweets there and now became a gift shop.
- Choose between Cambridge or Oxford to visit, because you can spend the other day visiting other amazing cities in England.
Until next time,