Hi everyone! I have just completed my first week here at the University of Oxford in England and I'm so excited to share all of my experiences with you, so lets jump right in!
A little bit of history...
There is no clear date of foundation, but teaching existed at Oxford in some form in 1096! For those of you who were confused like me, the structure of this university is very unique and it is best understood as a federal system. The University is the umbrella and each of the 38 Oxford colleges are self-governing and financially independent institutions under this umbrella.
The summer school I am taking, History, Politics & Society, is being held at the fourth oldest college at Oxford, Exeter College. Founded in 1314, Exeter just celebrated its 700th anniversary, which is incredible! For a bit of perspective, Australia was colonised in 1788 (only 227 years ago). Living and studying in such a historically significant college is very inspiring and I'm feeling very lucky to be in the same place that J. R. R. Tolkien studied, as well as so many other important people!
I travelled from London to Oxford via the Oxford Tube bus, which I highly recommend, as it is affordable and has amazing wifi connection (the most important thing of course!)
The City of Oxford is buzzing! Not only do university students occupy this historical place, but during the summertime so do tourists! After a week here, I have found the best time to roam the streets and explore is definitely first thing in the morning before all of the tour groups arrive. I will be writing more on the must do things in Oxford in a blog post soon!
On Sunday night, the college welcomed all of the summer school students with drinks in beautiful Fellows Garden and a formal welcome dinner. Oxford loves to observe tradition, and everyone was dressed in his or her very best. Entering the dining hall, the first thing you notice lining the walls are oil paintings of Exeter College Rectors (aka Chancellors) dating back to its very origins. As a sign of respect all of the students stand as the academics entered the dining hall, then we were treated to a sit down three-course meal including two different wines. I love tradition and history, and throughout this experience I couldn't help but feel like I was sitting at Hogwarts!
Student life at Exeter...
My first week has been filled with orientations, classes, lectures, walking tours and plenty of socialising!
Not only were we welcomed to Exeter College, on Monday we were welcomed as readers at the prestigious Bodleian Library here in Oxford. The Bodleian is one of Europe's oldest libraries dating back to 1602. It has over 12 million books and is a copyright library, meaning it receives a copy of every book published in the UK. The Bodleian currently receives 5000 new books each week to add to its collection. Keeping with Oxford tradition, each student is inducted to the library and in doing so we had to read a historical oath promising to obey the rules of the library to protect it.
A quick fun fact for all you Harry Potter's lovers! The Duke Humphrey's Library, the oldest reading room of the Bodleian is also the Hogwarts Library. Located below this library is the Divinity School, built by the University for lectures and exams in the 13th Century, and this hall was used as the hospital wing in Harry Potter as well!
I am participating in two seminars during this summer school; the first called Political Economy in a Globalised World, the second called the Changing Face of Britain that is sociology based. I won't bore you with too many details about the academics but I'll say a little so you have an idea about the structure of the summer school. I have a two-hour session for each of the aforementioned seminars on Monday and Wednesday's. These are discussion-based classes for which I will complete research essay each.
In addition to this, we all attend a one-hour plenary lecture about various topics designed to broaden and enhance our awareness of current issues and events. I have to say these lectures have been my favourite so far! Learning about new concepts and ideas from experts in the field is exciting and then chatting with everyone about their thoughts at lunch is such an eye opening experience! So far this week my favourites lectures have included topics such as the implications of the recent British election, warfare in the modern world, also the need to make international development evidence based.
Week one hasn't been all academics though! The social calendar here at Exeter College is a busy one.
On Tuesday, there were pre-dinner drinks with Program Director as well as an Oxford City Orientation tour where all of the necessities were pointed out, the grocery stores, the pharmacy, the coffee shops and the cheapest/best pubs of course.
On Wednesday, the first of the evening political debate series was held, the topic: Democracy, does it exist and do we need it? It was certainly an intense and lively evening!
On Thursday, beer tasting! I don't actually drink beer but I was very excited to go along and learn some more about it and have some fun. Exeter College has its own bar, the Undercroft, and the bar manager hosted a night of beer tasting to introduce us to some local ales and the correct way to drink them. We sampled three local ales by the White Horse Brewery:
'The Village Idiot' - A golden ale
'The Dark Blue Oxford University Ale' - A dark chestnut ale &
'Exeter College 700' - An ale brewed to celebrate the College's 700th anniversary last year.
I am proud that I tasted each of these beers and was able to identify the differences, whilst confirming that beer is certainly not my drink of choice. I also learnt that ale is supposed to be drunk a 2 degrees below room temperature so as to actually taste the flavours of the beer, because the cold actually distorts the flavours. After the tasting, the consensus of the bar was that the room temperature beer definitely tasted better!
Coming up next...
I feel like I've been typing forever... if you're still reading, thanks for sticking with me up to here! I hope you're enjoying reading about my experiences. I'll finish off this mega blog post here. The next will included some of my sightseeing adventures in Oxford as well as the details of our first weekend excursion to Stratford upon Avon, the home of Shakespeare!
Chat with you then!
True to their words, University of Cambridge is the best in medieval studies and the lecturers and the class tutors have their way of condensing the topics into something digestible in such a short time.