One of the traditions here at Oxford is that once a week we all come together for a formal dinner called High Table. It’s one of my favorite traditions and best experiences here at Oxford. Everyone gets dressed up. It’s wonderful to see all the gentlemen in their suits and all the girls in their nice cocktail attire.
The evening starts out with cocktails and conversation on the lawn. When there is rain, and over here that tends to happen quite often, we move our cocktail time inside to a large round room with windows that look out over University College. The cocktail time is great because it allows all 36 of us to mingle freely, moving from group to group, discussing classes, tutorials, our weekend travels and other topics of interest.
After about half an hour of cocktails, we move into the main dinning hall where the staff of University has formally set up two long tables. High Table starts with the official University College prayer. Each week a student is chosen to recite the prayer in Latin as the rest of the class stands politely behind their chairs and repeats the necessary responses. We then all sit and the meal begins.
High Table consists of three tasty courses, accompanied by wine pairings for each course. Throughout the meal, we continue to mingle among ourselves and with Professor Epstein and Professor Winship. The best conversations with the professors occur at High Table. Outside the classroom, Professor Epstein and Professor Winship speak freely with us. While the level of respect that the students hold for them is still present, it is easy to converse with them about almost anything – the history of their legal careers, their family life, current events or our Oxford experience so far.
At every meal, there is a guest speaker who gives us a brief presentation. The topic of our first High Table was International Arbitration, and among all of the legal advice given, the most important lesson is that proficiency in languages is essential. By being multilingual, you place yourself at a huge advantage over other competition when trying to get hired in an international firm.
At the end, we all progress, along with the professors, down to the University Pub, where we spend more time visiting with each other. All in all, Tuesday evening’s High Table is my favorite night of the week. This weekend, a group of us is going to Sicily, and I’m sure that adventures will ensue. More on that next time.