Radcliffe Camera

This is our last weekend of the program, which is saddening because there are still so many sights that I want to see! We wanted to make the most out of our weekend, so we headed out to Oxford after class on Thursday.

Unfortunately, due to delays at the train station we arrived in Oxford at 5:30 instead of 2:30, when we planned on arriving. I was highly skeptical about the amount of sightseeing we could get in with only 4 and half hours left before the train left to London, but it was totally worth it.

Outside St. Catherine's College

Oxford students are currently sitting for exams during their second term (or spring semester) so we were able to meet up with a friend from SMU who is attending Oxford for the second term. She took us around the quaint and historical, yet modern city. We noticed Oxford students walking around with black capes, which are the norm since graduation season is occurring. There are commoner’s robes and scholar’s robes. Scholar’s robes are for selected students who make exceptional grades.

While walking along the streets of Oxford, our friend told us that there was an underground library – Bodleian Library, the main research library for Oxford, which holds every book published in the United Kingdom. There are numerous libraries for each of the colleges in Oxford University, but the stacks for Bodleian are located underground.

After touring the town, we were given the option of eating at a pub or returning back to Jessica’s college (St. Catherine’s) for dinner. However, she described this very differently from what an American would visualize as a standard meal at a university cafeteria.

At Oxford, breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all referred to as “hall.” After we walked into the contemporary dining hall and found our seats, a group that looked like professors walked in. They were dressed in traditional black robes, which were the inspiration for the robes in Harry Potter. The group that I thought of as professors are actually referred to as tutors or fellows. Oxford students are taught under a tutorial system that provides one-on-one interaction, and class discussions are very rare.

Once the fellows walked in, we were all summoned to stand up until they arrived at their high table. A quick few words were said in Latin and someone pounded their fist on the table, signaling the beginning of hall. Waiters then came out and presented us with our first course, followed by a second course and dessert. Although everyone was dressed casually, it felt like a very formal dinner.

Afterward we walked around the University Park, and went to a local pub that Bill Clinton frequented during his time at Oxford University. We made our train on time and arrived in London to get a good night’s rest for Wimbledon the next day!