Oxford. Infamous home of punting, Pimm’s, and pretentiousness. And it’s a home we’ve all come to know and love. Thousands of applicants voluntarily undertake the almost week-long agony of interviews, tests and talking to everyone under the sun, and it’s not just because they get a free (all-inclusive) holiday in the process.
The place has appeal – and it’s certainly not its position in the ‘University sex league table’ (51, to save you having to Google it). Well, we can’t tick all the boxes. But It did turn twenty-six ordinary scholars into Prime Ministers. It turned Rowan Atkinson into Mr Bean. It gave Harry Potter a home. What more could you want?
Of course, being a member of one of the oldest universities in the world means that we are able to grab every opportunity we can to drop it into a conversation that is undoubtedly not at all related. Although this inevitably results in an awkward silence, a nervous giggle and a glare of malicious hatred, we carry on. Let’s face it; having someone on the other side of the world fall at your feet because you mention the O-word (and I’m talking Oxford) is worth a scowl or two.
If that wasn’t enough, we’ve got a whole load of ridiculous traditions that we happily embrace and that allow us to pretend we’re something of a different species from the rest of the world. Anyone wanting to imagine they’re a) in the 1600s, b) in a novel or c) just (obviously) very cool, can quite easily do so as they slip on their sub-fusc and settle down for a formal in hall, the likes of which can only be found in fairy-tales, cartoons and… well, Cambridge. It might be a far cry from real life but we can wrap ourselves in a little Oxford bubble and happily bob along until the fateful day of graduation where we’re inevitably going to be forced out of our comfort zone and into the Big Wide World.
Until then, we can carry on basking in the bottomless pit of oddities particular to Oxford.Take sconcing; nowhere else will you find anyone that uses a word dating back to 1617 to tell twenty other people who your friend slept with last night, and nowhere else will you find that happening on a “crew date”. Say either of those words to anyone that doesn’t go to Oxford and you’ll find yourself babbling on for a good couple of hours trying to make it sound good (or at least relatively normal), miserably failing, and realising that you really are at a very strange institution indeed. But that’s hardly going to stop us.
Add to that all the other made-up words we find ourselves using (pidge, tute, rustication, matriculation, and probably a whole host of other equally dodgy-sounding words), and you could pretty much fill up an Oxford English Dictionary (ironic). You can guarantee that any conversation you overhear from a fellow student will contain at least one of the above listed words, and if you’re lucky might even combine them in a sentence such as “Kept getting sconced at a crew date last night, got fined for wearing sub fusc out. 9am tute was horrific, might have to rusticate because I’m always pidging my essays late”. What language is this? No-one has any idea, but it made us want to come here.
Then there’s the fact that we can imitate Brideshead and lie around on the lawns living the high life (well, we could if it wasn’t forbidden to step on the stuff). We can go punting on a daily basis (largely because there’s nothing else to do) and witness our friends gracelessly falling in the water, empty bottle of Pimm’s shamelessly in hand and dignity floating along the river Cherwell like a washed up whale.
When we’re not doing that, we can request Bod books from the strange concept of ‘stacks’, in an attempt to look studious and fulfil the expectations the world has of us (not really understanding what a ‘stack’ is, however, I think I might let them down).
Aside from all of that, Oxford is a place full of impressive architecture, extraordinary opportunities and extravagant balls, and although we might take it for granted as we sit in its “dreaming spires” at 4 o’clock in the morning desperately searching for something to say in a miserably dying essay, it really is an amazing place to be.
Even those early morning essay crises are part of the appeal, however; people are drawn to the place for its unceasingly fast pace. The work hard, play hard ethic means every term is intense, nothing is done in halves. We learn how to argue a case whilst still hung-over from the night before, to blag our way through tutes still bleary-eyed, and to get used to being ill 24/7 without mummy there to nurse us with Calpol. To summarise, we learn to balance a stressful life with a social one, all whilst dressing up in strange clothes on a worryingly regular basis and imagining we’re in some sort of hedonistic 19th century novel. If all that wasn’t enough, we’ve got Hassan’s, horrendously cheesy clubs, and a hardcore (mature) raver that’s out on the town every night and that’s always there with a cheery smile to greet your drunken declarations of undying love for the legend he is…