Oxford, one of the oldest universities on this island. Wikipedia (the all-mighty source for all facts–and fiction–) doesn’t even have an established foundation year for it. It could only offer up 1096 as the year with evidence of teaching there, whatever that means.
I first set foot in this university town by myself back in March 2011 when I was an exchange student at Sciences Po. It was one of three daytrips I made from my friend’s dorm room at LSE Holborn.
This time around, I went with an Oxford Alum. Oh the doors you open when you are a lifelong member of such an old, prestigious (almost legendary in its reputation in some parts of the world, ie. China) educational establishment.
My guide was a graduate of Balliol College, which, conveniently, stood on the main square/street of the university part of town. It was, naturally, our first stop.
The entire time we were walking the grounds of Balliol, there was a nostalgic, joyful glint in my guide’s eyes. He was remembering everything. I, on the other hand, couldn’t close my mouth, gawking at the beautiful history of its buildings…
and its Harry-Potter like dining hall, which was where we had lunch. Although, we didn’t get the chance to sit at the head table where the professors would sit. The seats proved too popular for us to grab two. But I didn’t mind, I already felt like royalty. The food was delicious by student-meal standards. Oxfords are a well-fed bunch.
The afternoon was spent strolling through Christ Church College’s meadow (they have meadows!) and walking past one of the most popular sports in action. A sport that incites intense competition between colleges and in the eternal Oxford-Cambridge dichotomy: rowing.
The amount of equipment that some of these colleges possessed were incredible.
But what’s most incredible was, of course, some of the men who rowed these. Think of the Winklevoss twins from The Social Network, tag on a pleasant British accent, and you’ve got yourself some of these athletes. Drooling was a big part of the day.
After a quick visit to one of the hauntingly beautiful chapels
It was time to continue the Harry Potter hunt I never got to finish back in 2011. Somehow, we were able to smoothly walk past the porter at New College, and a few turns later, we came upon a holy site…
I’m not going to lie, I had tears in my eyes. I excite easily. Also, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Professor (fake) Moody, Draco Malfoy and his gang, and Professor McGonagall all convened at this exact spot at one point in time. I think my tears of joy were justified.
Yes, it warrants a second close-up.
A round of hyperventilation, several minutes of wide-eyed fan-girl bedazzlement, and dozens of thank-you’s and omg-I-love-you’s later, I was dragged out reluctantly.
As we walked down the corridor that also featured several times in Harry Potter, I was told that one of the dares Oxfords would cast upon their fellow college-mates was to walk around the entire corridor at nightfall, when everything would be thrown into darkness with only weak moonlight as the source of light.
You can’t see it in the photo but there stands some truly horror-inspiring stone statues along the wall. They look as if they are crawling out of the stones to take your soul, or eat you alive. Whatever terror your imagination likes to conjure up.
Suffice to say that only the brave and perhaps the very foolish would complete the task.
One of the last stop before we hopped onto the Oxford Tube back to London was the locally-famed pub where, chalkboard has it, a certain ex-President of America once did not do something…
A final walk through the central square that housed the Bodleian Library, where coincidentally, a wedding reception was taking place (hence we found out wedding receptions of a measurable size could be held here), under the bridge of sighs, through a cobbled winding road that was made eerie by dusk, and it was time for a quick dinner, a dash in the evening rain, and back on the home-bound coach.
Gorgeous, ancient, awe-inspiring university, I will be back for more someday, armed with my student visitor library card and HP-hunting GPS wand (Christ Church, I’m looking at you).