Though the spires in Oxford are best known as ‘dreaming’, I can assure you that those who live and study beneath them seem to work and play very hard indeed. Coming from a lovely, but slow moving, village in Scotland, I have never experienced anything quite like the Oxford ‘Fresher’s Week’ or ‘1st Week’ before in my life.
My first days here were mostly a blur, not through alcohol luckily, but because they were so emotionally overwhelming: meeting new faces, unexpectedly bumping into old ones, learning to live alone, and getting around a breathtaking but complex and busy city. But after the excitement of Fresher’s drew to a close, the intense feeling of bustling opportunity and novelty seems to remain: every day is filled with it, alongside an air of tradition and excellence on all fronts.
When I showed interest in Old Persian and comparative philology, I was welcomed into classes and lectures. There are whole libraries here for subjects I could never find even a book about in my local library back home, and after accessing all this wonderful information there are dozens of historic and well-equipped reading rooms in which to absorb it.
Those inclined to think that Oxford is just a place for ruthless, isolated study are very wrong indeed. I have been to tens of dinners and gatherings throughout the past couple of weeks, all interesting and exciting in their own way. I’ve tried guinea fowl, had dinner by candlelight, was served a delicious homemade indian lunch in the presence of His holiness Radhanath Swami, and had a meal which started and ended with Latin. Through it all I have made great friends, from all subjects and all years. I feel these occasions give the college, and more widely the university, the feeling of a large extended family, rather than just a place to study.
After all the food and feasting, I felt I should get out and do some sport, too. I tried rowing for the first time and surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it, and have now been signed up for the Novice A’s, an opportunity I could have easily missed if it wasn’t for the kind representatives at Fresher’s Fair who pushed me in the right direction. The number of sports and activities on offer at the university is vast, and indeed the main university sports centre surpasses anything I’ve had the chance to use before.
For those who studied here years ago, I assure you that Oxford still holds its romantic charm. For those who hope to study here one day, I can tell you that I have never been somewhere with so much in the way of freedom, resources and encouragement, both academic and otherwise. And for those who are still here, I urge you to make the most of what is available, because I find it hard to believe that anyone could find more opportunity in a single place ever again.
There looks set to be a surprise at every turn.