The Oxford Commute

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If like me, you’re living out of college this year, you’ll know that there’s a “commute” in the morning. Ok, so this is a very loose definition of the word, but not being able to get to everything you might need (JCR, bar, hall, and possibly the library sometimes), within 3 minutes of leaving your room leaves you relishing that extra half an hour you got in bed before 9ams last year.

Whether you’re livn’ it up on the Cowley Road or hipster-dodging in Jericho or even stuck on a random road that’s practically in the North, you’ll undoubtedly be cycling, walking or rollerblading (looks fun, but watch out for those perilous cobbles) into college for all the exciting stuff.

Oh, and tutes. With such a trip to make, it’s no wonder we begin to notice things on the way, practically akin to commuting to a proper job. You notice there’s a knack to sneaking through red lights on a bike, or overtaking annoying tourists on the high street, all the while maintaining an expression which says “coming through!”. Here are just a few observations I’ve made on my daily college run.

You’re faster than you think. It’s perfectly acceptable to leave your house with less than ten minutes to go until your lecture starts. Oxford’s not that big a town and a good, brisk walk is all it takes to slide into a seat at the back of the lecture theatre just as the lecturer steps up to the lectern to begin. If it’s a tute you’re going to, the motivation to make a good impression and not to worsen your essay marks will propel you forward. Whether you end up legging it down St Giles or puffing up St Aldate’s, you’ll make it, possibly with a healthy autumn glow from your strenuous voyage. Hey, it means you can skip the gym today!

Breakfast lends itself to transportation. I find that toast is extra-specially useful for this – the ‘grab-and-go’ approach means more time in bed and less fumbling around in the kitchen when you’re only half awake. It’s also a legitimate foodstuff to be seen out and about with. Whilst I’m not knocking a hearty bowl of cereal in the morning, it makes walking/cycling/running a lot harder, plus you’ve got to do something with the bowl and spoon. Not ideal. To partner with your toasted delight is an insulated coffee cup. A best friend of busy, caffeine-dependent people (so the majority of the Oxford student body), it keeps your coffee hot and spill-proof for as long as you need to wake up properly. They also come in cool colours and designs, taking the humble petit-dej to a new level of sophistication.

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Your best secondary school purchase was that large, oversized, year seven style backpack. It’s not always possible (or desireable) to make multiple trips home during the day, so what is to be done about all the books/electrical equipment/ food you’ll want to have with you throughout the day? Whilst your eleven-year-old self was probably the epitome of uncoolness and even the thought of those unfortunate Facebook pictures from back then makes you cringe, you can at least rest in peace that at least one of things you bought that year has come in useful. It needn’t be colourful, either. Nobody seems to give a monkey’s about what receptacle you use to transport your possessions, so comfort can definitely be a priority. Give me a backpack over separate handbags any day.

Dress for the occasion. If you’re going to have to step on the gas to make it into college, pick a carefree yet elegant (attitude is everything with this) outfit to accompany you. That way, when you arrive looking like you’ve been through several hedges backwards, your flustered appearance will seem to marry perfectly well with your attire. Think long and baggy. What’s more, the weather does matter; if you’ve been following the forecast this week then you’ll know we’re in for a temperamental week of gales, showers and odd patches of sunshine. That backpack will be big enough, so make sure you’ve got all bases covered with a brolly, something warm and space to store extra layers you might suddenly whip off.

Just a few living-out-related pointers. Bring it, Oxford.