I don’t know if you can remember but a few months ago I wrote about how I’d been invited to visit Oxford University in the summer. Well, a few weeks ago (more like a month, actually, but we’ll leave my disorganised blogging out of this) I went to Oxford!
I’d never been to Oxford before so it’s fair to say I was a bit gobsmacked by the beauty of the city when we arrived. It literally felt like I’d stepped back into the past as every single building had this kind of Gothic feel to it due to the extraordinary architecture. However beautiful the narrow streets were, they did cause a bit of a problem with parking the minibus so we just had to pull up quickly outside Lincoln College (which was the college we were supposed to be visiting) and jump out. Unfortunately my school’s minibus’ weren’t designed for tall people so when it was my turn to jump out of the minibus, I hit my head on the roof/door frame. Fun.
Anyway, we then headed through one of the numerous Hogwarts-y door ways which were so huge even Hagrid would have been able to fit through. The doorway led – to our surprise – to Jesus College (it was kind of surprising how easy it was for a group 10 teenagers and a teacher-who’s-not-actually-a-teacher to walk into the wrong college and loiter in the entrance hall for a few minutes before anyone noticed) but we were soon pointed in the direction of Lincoln College. When we arrived at Lincoln, we were greeted by our tour guide, an Oxford graduate, who then took us back to Jesus College because Lincoln College was full up. So basically we spent the first 20 minutes in Oxford wandering round in circles!
Once we eventually got there (and after some interesting incidents invovling pitch-black toilets, phone lights and shadows – nothing more need be said) we went into a lecture theatre and joined a group of students from another school not too far from mine to find out more about the university and what studying there could offer.
That’s when it finally began to sink in that I was sat in Oxford University – one of the top universities in the world – surrounded by people who, like me, were considered to be possible future Oxford students.
I kind of have mixed feelings about the experience as a whole. It did feel good to be in an environment where we were constantly being encouraged and inspired to have high aspirations yet I couldn’t help but feel out of place. I felt the same whilst we had a tour of Jesus and Lincoln College’s too. The colleges themselves were incredibly pretty, and so were their accompanying libraries.
I could definitely feel just how peaceful an environment Oxford University would be to study in and how rewarding it would be to live and study somewhere like this after putting in all the effort it would take to get there. Yet I couldn’t imagine myself being there. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from going to university open days with my sister, it’s that some places just don’t feel ‘right’. And Oxford was one of them.
I’m not sure if it’s because I am very self critical when it comes to my acedemic abilities and was constantly questioning why I had been invited on the trip throughout the day, or if it was because Oxford is so different to anywhere else I’ve been and I’d never given studying at Oxford University much thought until the actual day of the trip.
Aside from this, something else visiting Oxford made me realise is that it’s not perhaps as elitest as I thought. Obviously it still is in the sense that their entry requirements and very, very high, but just the fact that my school has been targeted by Oxford as a school that could, and has, provide the university with future students shows that background isn’t as important as it once was. My school itself is in a fairly nice area, but the rest of my town is really not that nice of a place or at least not the type of place you’d expect people to have high aspirations.
Another thing I noticed is that the vast majority of the students from my school, and the other local school that we were grouped with, were female. In fact, there were only four boys in a group of around 30. I thought this was quite interesting as it just goes to show how encouraging and assisting girls to aspire high in terms of education (which is something my school, and probably many others in the UK, had been. doing increasingly over the past few years) has worked. I do feel as though girls do tend to be encouraged to aim high at school more than boys do, but that is a subject I’ll talk about another time.
So, overall, what I learnt from visiting Oxford University is that although it may not be the right place for me, it really does live up to it’s reputation of being a top educational establishment, getting into Oxford requires a lot of hard work and committment, it’s not as elitest as it used to be as it gives the impression that anyone of any background would be welcomed there and it is basically Hogwarts.:)
(Oh and also that there is a bakery in Oxford that makes really nice white chocolate chip cookies – thanks to the awesome teacher-who’s-not-really-a-teacher who bought us all cookies.)