Around the World
Sep 2022 | By Catherine Daley
An Immersive Experience into a Quasi-Student Life at Oxford University
Pirates, Adventurers and Fortune Seekers; The Enigma of Stone Henge; Country Houses; Food and Feasting through the Ages; Chivalry and Knighthood; The Black Death and the Transformation of Medieval England; The English Ghost Story: Warnings to the Curious – these are only a sample of the week-long courses that you can take over a seven-week period this coming summer, 2022.
Created in 1991 by Trevor Rowley, The Oxford Experience is a residential summer program that offers one-week courses in a variety of subjects aimed at non-specialists in the areas of archaeology and early history; art; music; houses and gardens; literature and creative writing; modern history and philosophy; natural and social sciences.
While the content of each course is fun and intriguing, the whole package will resonate with you on a level that few have had the pleasure of attending. Here, you will have the unique opportunity to sample life in Christ Church – one of the university’s most beautiful, and impressive, colleges.
Small study groups of approximately 12 people are taught by experienced tutors. Your course will run from 9:15 until 12:30 Monday through Friday, and some include a field trip. You will eat your daily meals in the Hall, and your accommodation will be in a study bedroom of Christ Church. Each participant is invited to sit at the High Table one evening during the week, and on the final night, a celebratory dinner is held.
After attending an orientation meeting in a lecture hall on the Sunday evening prior your course, you’ll stroll through the Tom Quad to the staircase of Bodley Tower, and make your way up to the ante-hall. Located on the left is The Buttery, which is home to one of the college’s oldest bars. Here, students and guests can enjoy wines, whiskey and beer – some specially produced for Christ Church. The Hall is the finest surviving section of the college’s original foundation. Completed alongside the kitchens in the 1520s, the Hall has been in almost-constant use since the sixteenth century. It was the Renaissance splendor of this Hall that charmed the makers of the Harry Potter films to build a replica in their London studios.
At the appointed time, an attendant strikes a wooden board three times with a gavel, and announces that dinner will now be served. The sheer grandeur of the Hall is irresistible, but pay attention to those who have been there before you in order to take your cue as to what to do next. Diners stand behind their chairs until the gavel is struck again and a scholar recites a shorter version (in Latin) of the pre-dinner grace. The efficient staff immediately begin to serve, and in no time at all you’re breaking bread with fellow participants from around the world – many of whom had been coming back year-after-year, or take more than one course each summer.
After a buffet-style lunch, the afternoon is yours to enjoy. As part of the program experience, you can choose to attend special guest lectures and cultural events, attend an evening of whisky tasting, book a guided walking tour, or play a round of croquet (weather permitting) on the grounds of Christ Church. Every evening at 6 p.m., Evensong is spoken, or sung, in the Cathedral, which is the oldest part of the college and located next to the Hall.
Enjoy a picnic in Christ Church Meadow, stroll the gardens or soak up some atmospheric knowledge in one of the more-than 100 libraries in Oxford – the largest library system in the UK.
For some additional student-like ambiance, grab a pint at The Eagle and Child (nicknamed The Bird and Baby) pub. It was here that The Inklings, a literary discussion group that included the likes of Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams, met for lunch during the 30s and 40s in a lounge at the back of the pub known as the Rabbit Room.
The dreamlike world of Oxford is a bit like going down the rabbit hole and, definitely, worth the experience.