Classes, salsa and kebabs at Oxford

 NEW EXPERIENCE Kellogg College in OxfordWhen I joined as a student everything was new to me, despite the architecture dating back to the 14th century. My college accommodation was in one of the most picturesque residential areas here, called Norham Gardens, a stone’s throw away from the University parks! It’s well known in the entire University that, “Kellogg has arguably the best college accommodation in Oxford.”

I went to Kellogg College which had fellows from around 70 countries. It was a nice atmosphere studying with colleagues who were motivated and committed to development and practice. I had enrolled for a programme called, ‘MSc in Evidence based Social Intervention’ at the Department of Social Policy and Social Work. My first day started with cheerful greetings from tutors and professors, a lot of references to read and acquainting myself with the department. All of us got a picture college ID and a library card — the two most important cards for a student to gain access anywhere in the university. Quite a day of running around and a lot to digest in one day!

The department is located in Barnett House, a minute’s walk from the Little Clarendon Street, a joint where students love to hang out at the famous George and Davis (popularly known as G&D’s), an awesome ice cream café and cookies joint.

As I sat on the porch of my flat in the evening, I tried to reconcile the romantic vision of the university that I had created prior to my arrival with the reality that I had discovered. I sure had a lot of hard work ahead of me! 

In my class, there were 26 students from 19 different nationalities. Although my classmates had distinct origins, thoughts, feelings, perceptions and learnings, different from my own, we also shared a strong bond from studying together.

Classes here were different from that in India — here we had more freedom to dissent, and to agree to disagree. Tutors treated you as equals and also acknowledged it if they gained from our perspectives.

Vibhu  Garg.The Oxford University is made up of almost 40 colleges and halls, which are more about social support than about academic support. Oxford offers a plethora of clubs and societies in which you can get involved. I highly recommend joining at least one or two. For one semester I was part of the novices rowing team of Kellogg and Christ Church. The best compete in the famous ‘Boat Race’ of England between the Oxford and the Cambridge University Boat Club every year and an estimated quarter of a million people watch the race live. I also took on salsa and Irish dancing. It was a great way to meet other students outside the college and saved me from drowning in academic work.

World class library

Studying here also means you get to use the world-famous Bodleian Library. It’s a ‘legal deposit library,’ which means that it receives a copy of every book published in the UK and Ireland. With over 11 million volumes housed on 120 miles (190 km) of shelving, it is the second-largest library in the UK, after the British Library. It has been open to scholars since 1602 and only students and faculty of the university are allowed inside. No tourist can go into the reading rooms.

The place is picturesque too. The Radcliffe Camera is especially beautiful, (The song ‘Tenu Leke’ from Salaam E Ishq was filmed there).

Oxford is a city of bikes. People of all age groups ride bikes, here. You can be in a dress or suit and still ride a bike. I too rode a small bike which I had bought very cheap. I must say it remained very faithful to me throughout my stay!

Food wasn’t a problem. There is a large Asian community and any Indian or Asian gets introduced to Cowley Road very quickly after arriving at Oxford and it also becomes a major destination for buying an old bicycle or hiring a gown/tuxedo for formal functions at the university!

The food vans of Oxford are another major attraction. Apparently Oxford is the only university in the UK with night caravans which fill the kebab voids of hungry students in Oxford. There’s something delightfully rebellious and romantic about devouring chips on the steps of ancient highbrow institutions under a moonlit night!

Kebabs, chips and cheese, salads, jacket potatoes... all perfect for the tight budgets students live on. These vans vanish at 3 am in the morning.

Entertainment

Theatres, cinemas, and concerts form a big part of the entertainment scene here. Pubs are great hangouts for discussions. I must make a special mention of  The Eagle and Child as the discussions at this pub contributed to Lewis’ Narnia and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series. It is a pleasant place to stop for a pint and has good pub food. Punting is a great experience at the Cherwell and Thames rivers that run through Oxford. Seemingly quite easy, it requires great skill and strength to move those punts with the poles.

Oxford is full of historical significance. It has witnessed the likes of Oscar Wilde, John Locke, Albert Einstein, and countless other brilliant minds. It maintains a number of museums and galleries in addition to its libraries and the Oxford University Press. One can walk through the streets and discover much more than I mention here and I can assure you that you’ll discover something new everyday!

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