Michaelmas…sub-fusc…matriculation…on top of my modern languages degree, this time last year I had to learn the oxford lingo and prepare myself for one of those special ceremonies that remind you just how damn superior you are supposed to feel to the rest of the world, and widens the town/gown divide. Once you get over the initial shame of parading through the streets looking like a Harry Potter reject, it’s actually quite fun once you get into the swing of things. Most of the morning is taken up with the college photograph, where you’ll undoubtedly be squashed between two complete strangers who have nothing more in common with you than your height.
After a couple of hours of posing in the cold, for it will inevitably be freezing, you get herded into the Sheldonian, past the paparazzi tourists who by this time are circling in a frenzy of unintelligible excitement like a flock of carrion crows, and you settle down to enjoy the show. The show is difficult to enjoy because it’s read out by the Vice Chancellor of the University in Latin, not hugely relevant to those of us who weren’t born and bred at Eton. But it does add to the feeling of sacred other-worldliness that makes up such a large part of our weird and wonderful institution (as it does Hogwarts, admittedly).
The words themselves are unlikely to register but Google tells me that they involve promises on our behalf to generally behave and refrain from leading any cattle or livestock we might own onto the fields of Christchurch. You are not officially a member of the University until this ceremony, and once over, you can emerge into the light feeling cleansed and godly while the uninitiated others flounder in the mud. This feeling of civilised supremacy will no doubt soon deteriorate into a debauched and potentially messy pub crawl that will probably include the Turf and the King’s Arms somewhere along the way. Meanwhile, the rest of Oxford’s residents look on and mumble something about how young people today have too much money and not enough sense. I wish.By Victoria Lazar Graham