Oxford really is that idyllic. But like most things in life, it’s all about the people.
I have met some truly wonderful people this year. Gadding about this beautiful sandstone city, rambling around Addison’s Walk, nervously attending tutorials, rowing through hypothermia (and hypochondria), nursing beers at the Turf, dining under flickering candlelight…it wouldn’t have been the same without these kindred spirits.
I came seeking an ‘Oxford Experience’ beyond the libraries (which, true to form, I did not set foot in except when Instagram called. Stained glass + vaulted ceilings = hashtag bonanza). I expected to have to wade through the nerds to find people on a similar wavelength. To some extent this was true. The intenseness of some students is startling, particularly amongst those coming straight from Oxbridge undergrad. The effects of the pressure-cooker environment are pretty obvious: seething stress and anxiety, intellectual combativeness, constant showmanship and outspokenness. Many people are also (admirably) just incredibly engrossed in their work, so seem to function on a different (slightly distracted) plane.
And yet, most people here are very down-to-earth. They’re keen to socialise, travel and switch off from their work, which makes for a ‘vibrant postgrad community’ (the brochures, like Shakira’s hips, don’t lie) and fast friendships.
PCBC Pimm’s Party (photo: Fashion Biscuits)
First week of Trinity term kicked off with the Pembroke College Boat Club Pimm’s Party, which fulfilled all of my ‘preppy University experience’ wishes. Back in my undergrad days at Sydney Uni, I used to wear this cute knock-off Ralph Lauren blazer around campus, which was pretentious enough to land me in the banner photo of the university website, but also meant that I fielded incredulous, “Why are you wearing your school blazer?” inquiries at least twice a day. But at Pembroke, the students donned their boat blazers and cuffed chinos with gay abandon. Of the pictures below, 1 is from the event, and 2 are Ralph Lauren ads. Can you guess which is which?
Usually when I wake up on my birthday I feel exactly the same as the day before. Not any older, not any wiser. This year was a little different; my raging hangover was a stark reminder that I’m definitely getting on. Apparently, gone are the days when a morning Gatorade solves all ills.
My college had a Heaven and Hell Bop on the Friday evening, so when the clock struck midnight I turned into a 24 year old tequila-shotting pumpkin in a Hieronymus Bosch-meets-geriatric ward scene (equal parts people in devil horns/macabre face-paint/neon wifebeaters and those in white gowns/cupid diapers/cotton ball cloud costumes). Yikes.
My lovely followers (the 3 of you who are still hanging around despite my sustained absence!),
First up, apologies for my Irish exit last weekend. I fear I’ve treated this blog like a batch of SeaMonkeys™ – I got really keen and overfed it, then lapsed into woeful negligence. Fortunately, unlike a tank of dead mini-shrimp carcasses, this blog can be revived with some TLC. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen within the next week, as I’m heading off to the French Alps on Varsity Ski Trip in T-7 hours! I’m planning to take my laptop so may get a couple of posts up, but brace yourself for a Tignes-mountain-air-chilled cold shoulder.
So why the Irish exit? This was the final week of Michaelmas term (I know, it sounds like a Steve Carrell-centric holiday on The Office) meaning an onslaught of social events and assessments. Frantic essay writing, sleep deprivation and drinking has been at an all-time high. Here’s a Whitman’s sampler:
Oxford Gargoyles A Cappella Evening
I didn’t get any photos on the night so I snagged this classy lil team shot from their FB page so you can see what an Oxford a cappella group looks like. Basically, a regular a cappella group but in black tie and often found lounging amidst colonnades.
I am such a sucker for branded stuff. At 13 I was enamoured with Emily the Strange (my Whimsical Emo stage), at 19 I couldn’t get enough of Marc by Marc Jacobs (mouse shoes, ’nuff said). At 23, it’s still MBMJ (hey, who can go past the cheery colour palette and winsome typeface?) but I’m also counting my pennies for Oxford clothing and tchotchkes.
Since I got my Magdalen hoody and rowing jacket, I been craving more merch. I’m like the Very Hungry Caterpillar* of pretentious varsity clothing; except rather than eating cakes, pupating and blossoming into a beautiful butterfly, I’m just going to become an impoverished but well-swaddled human.
Here are my picks from the Uni shop:
Such an insouciant day-tripping bag. I’d stuff it with beach towel and trashy mags for a Brighton trip, cardi and guidebook for a castle jaunt, or use it for sports gear. As per the specifications, you could also carry exactly 11L of milk, juice or liquid of choice.
The other night, us Magdalen law kids were invited to a High Table Dinner with the Fellows. At the risk of sounding like a polar explorer from the 1920s, bouncing a grandkid on his knee and reminiscing about Antarctic otherworldliness, now THAT was an experience.
Dammit Oxford, you’ve done it again. Every time I start to think you’re just a regular university (and I get a grip on my city crush), you front up with some incredible romantic gesture and I fall head-over-heels all over again.
Yesterday was Matriculation, the day where freshers become official members of the Uni. For one day the town is overrun with students in subfusc – the official dress of white shirt, dark suit and bow-tie/ribbon – attending a traditional ceremony with their college cohort, and kicking on to celebrate…
Here’s an account of my day (in spotty detail):