Studying at Oxford

It has always been on my bucket list to study at the University of Oxford. It is something I have wanted to do since I first discovered that writing and literature was an actual option for a future career. It’s one that most people are skeptical of, sure, but it definitely beats me trying to half-ass some other major that I hate. So, when I found out that Oxford was happening–like, for real happening–I was over the moon. Shoot, I was over Pluto.

I am still amazed when I think about the fact that I could study there. That I did study there. Suffice it to say I knew I would have an amazing time.

I studied Medieval Literature at Brasenose College. William Golding, the author you may know from his novel Lord of the Flies, is an alumni of Brasenose. Whether you loved or hated Lord of the Flies (I happened to love it), you have to admit that’s pretty freaking cool, right?!

I lived within the walls of Brasenose College in one of the student “dorms.” I hesitate to call it a dorm because my room was absolutely massive. (Well, massive in comparison to my U.S. dorm.) It was tucked back into an alcove off of one of the three quads within the college. Living in one of Oxford’s colleges is especially unique due to the fact that none of the rooms are the same. Because the university was built hundreds of years ago, they have had to build the rooms to fit the college. You wouldn’t just tear down a two-hundred-year-old piece of beautiful architecture to put in a sink, right?

My room faced out of the college toward the alley between Brasenose college and University Church of St. Mary the Virgin. The Radcliffe Camera was also visible from my room. I faced the quad outside of St. Mary’s and there were always people chatting over tea or having picnics; it was adorable. The day we arrived was Alice’s Day–based on Lewis Carroll’s famous novel (and one of my favorites) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland–so there were tons of people out picnicking and drinking tea, and the little kids all wore nice dresses with white bunny ears!

Now for the photos!

The entrance to the college:

door to brasenose

The entrance to my dorm (inside the college):

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Please excuse the mess in my room–

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The view:

In the first picture you can see St. Mary’s Church on the right. That plot of green is the quad where people picnic. Across the quad is All Soul’s College–the most prestigious of the Oxford colleges. It’s also very intimidating from the outside because it has these MASSIVE iron gates. The picture on the right is of the Radcliffe Camera from my room, one of the famous “study rooms” at Oxford, though it’s more of a small library. According to our professor, come time for finals it is nearly impossible to get a seat in there.

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The college has its own dining hall which you can see pictures of online. The wood-paneled walls are filled with portraits of alumni and benefactors, and at the head of the hall is the the college’s coat of arms. The animal on the left is a lion and on the right is a very excited unicorn…if you can catch, ehem, what I mean there. At one time the college felt they had to, uh, reign in this “excitement” so they removed it and kept it in a drawer in the attic of the library. It was years and years later when they found “it” again and re-attached it to the coat of arms. And that’s the story of the once castrated unicorn.

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My group also had the opportunity to utilize the Brasenose library for research purposes (so I was able to do research for my thesis as well). It was absolutely stunning. Like a dream. I love libraries. The bookshelves were 10+ feet tall; the kind you need a ladder to reach the top of!

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The staff at Brasenose were amazing. Many of them (primarily the wait staff who we interacted with most) were students of the college earning money over the summer. Because everyone was around the same age, we ended up hanging out with them quite often when they were not working. Our rooms were cleaned daily by a wonderful staff of very nice ladies. It honestly felt like being in a hotel. In America, you are responsible for the cleanliness of your room. It may be because we were from abroad that they did it–knowing we didn’t have cleaning supplies, etc.–but, hey, it’s Oxford. They are probably just that intense.

The staff at Brasenose were more than willing to help us with any problems we may have had; the maintenance staff were all nice, as was the organizer of housing who was more than willing to let someone have an extra pillow, comforter, fan–whatever it was they needed for their room.

They even threw a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party to welcome all of the students studying there for the summer. All of the staff were dressed as characters and they served sparkling pink lemonade, tea, and tons of sweet treats. It was adorable!

mad hatter tea

There are so many fabulous things that I could tell you about Brasenose. The people were great and my time there was unbelievable, but I’m quickly running out of space and attention span. I am super grateful for the opportunity to study at Oxford, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. This was the most memorable thing I’ve done in my life, and for this reason I would suggest studying abroad to anyone and everyone. There is so much to learn and see outside of what you are used to, and I hope that if you have the opportunity to experience another country and another culture you go for it!

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