Like really, really old. The buildings, chapels, streets, books, you name it. Consequently, they also have really longstanding traditions and don’t run quite like most universities.
Most notably, Oxford’s system of the University and Colleges is something that is pretty much only shared by Cambridge (which is a spin off of Oxford, by the way). The University organizes classes, awards degrees, and deals with the other academic issues, but each student is also a member of one of 38 colleges. The college provides accommodation, social activities like sports and “bops” (dances), and even healthcare (which is freeeee!). I’m in St Cross College, one of only a handful of colleges for just postgraduates. St. Cross focuses on international graduate students and brings together an awesome mix of 350-400 students of all disciples and from around the world!!!
About 50 other St. Cross ‘freshers’ and I live in the Annexe (essentially dorms for grown-ups) relatively close to the main college site and just a few blocks from the city center. Our building has 12 flats, most of which have super diverse groups – one has guys from the US, Germany, China, the UK, and Spain. Yet, somehow my 4 flatmates are all from North America…and 3 of us are from within about 10 miles from one another in the bay area! I really lucked out – all four girls are fantastic!
St. Cross is one of the smaller (i.e. poorer) colleges, which means we get to partner with others for squash, rowing, dining events, etc. Two of my flatmates and I signed up for our joint rowing team. It’s blast and the team supposedly rules the All College competitions! This weekend, we joined hundreds of novices at the college boathouses for a BBQ/training session in the river. J
The rich also take pity on us poor kids by sharing dining privileges. I now have no excuse for playing up the grad student card and living off frozen food! I get to dine in massive halls with huge vaulted ceilings and stunning stained glass windows. They look straight out of Harry Potter – in fact, on Sunday we had brunch at Christ’s Church where Harry Potter was filmed (check out the photos above)! A group of friends and I have challenged ourselves to eat at all 38 college dining halls before the year is up…3 down, only 35 to go!
As for academics, classes started today! Out of the 20 students in my program, how many other girls? TWO. The first assignment is already insane, but it seems like it will be a great group. J
Word of the day: chav (someone who’s trashy…but can afford not to be). As in “She’s loaded, so how is Paris Hilton such a chav?”