As we begin to approach the ‘Oh my gosh, I actually have to grow up a bit’ time of life aka UCAS applications, the head of my sixth form decided it was high time we had our aspirations raised. Hence it occurred that, on one of the coldest days of the year, twenty intelligentish, though half asleep, 17 year olds were bundled onto a coach bound for the ‘big’ world of Oxford.
The school had been invited by New College, Oxford University, to bring some prospective students to get a taste of Oxford life; the college is closely linked to our school, having helped found it over 400 years ago. I had been on a similar trip last year and thanks to encouraging and witty talks by a first year law student, Matt (part of which involved what to do in the case of Joe Bloggs who had been hit round the head with a spanner, what an exciting world law is), fell in love with the college (not to mention the food), and so decided it would be fun to return.
Not wanting to be late we set off at nine o’clock, and as always happens when you’re
too prepared, arrived an hour ahead of time. This turned out for the better as it gave us time to explore the city (as a friend and I did) or alternatively, to hit Primark (the more popular option). Tanya and I went for the “Let’s just pick a random road and walk down it” approach which took us through the covered market then past Queen’s to Magdalene. We attempted to find a path past but the only way seemed to be by getting our feet soggy in a small thing going by the name of the Thames, so we turned around. Here we came to the highlight of our exploration, Long Wall Street. Unsurprisingly this consisted of, well, a long wall. I don’t recommend trying to cross it; we were stood for a good five minutes with limited vision waiting for a break in the flow. I was considering initiating a conversation with our fellow road crossers across the way when eventually our opportunity arose and we made a dash for it.
With limited time we decided we should start heading back to the meeting point. Simple in theory, we just had to turn left somewhere. But was there
a single road turning left? Of course not! After ten minutes stumbling through bushes and car parks we took to power walking. Up until this point we’d been trying to blend in as students (easier said than done as the majority of students seemed to be alone), but now we had to blow our cover. On our rather rapid finale of the tour we passed New College Sports ground, the Chemistry department, the International Relations department, the Bodleian library, the Radcliffe Camera and the Sheldonian Theatre so our route was fairly successful. (Tanya wants to study Chemistry and I hope to work with NGOs.) We particularly liked the look of Mansfield College, it meeting our criteria of general prettiness, but on later inspection we realised it offered neither of the courses that we would like to study.
As it was we arrived ahead of our teachers, and a fair bit fitter too. We sat through a talk on admission to Oxford, which most of us had heard once or twice before on trips. Then who should enter but Matt the, now second year, law student, sporting a fetching salmon ambassador hoody. This caused great excitement for Tanya and me
(Matt, not the hoody). I was thinking of asking how Joe Bloggs was getting on but evidently things have moved on in the Law department, this time we had the example of someone being hit round the head with a rock then pushed off a cliff, nice. And yet this was told in a light hearted humorous manner. Accompanying Matt was the ultimate pride of our teachers, Kieran, a maths student who used to go to our school, plus two students of history and engineering.
Next on the schedule was a tour of the college in two groups, ours lead by Matt and Kieran. Unlike the year before we were able to look in Kieran’s room which was up a very steep, narrow staircase (we all agreed that would be fun to navigate after a night out). We skipped the library (as Matt said “Well, it’s basically a lot of books”) and headed for the JCR (Junior Common Room), which was thankfully normal. Two years earlier we had visited Corpus Christi college to find a hairy creature (apparently a student) asleep on the sofa and posters saying “Have you seen this sock?” which had somewhat put me off Oxford.
The JCR was followed by the mound which is surmounted by steps. When you clap from a certain spot at the bottom your clap is echoed back but sounds like a squeaky bird call. Then we were given a history of the buildings of New, Matt having memorised the entire contents of Wikipedia. Apparently the old city wall runs through the college grounds and is inspected every three years by the mayor or Oxford. After this we headed to my favourite part of the college.
The cloisters are some of the oldest in Oxford and as my mum said on a recent trip to Oxford, look like they belong in Hogwarts. And indeed they do! The scene in ‘The Goblet of Fire’ in which Mad-Eye Moody turns Draco into a ferret was filmed in New College cloisters. This news was met by mass humming of the Potter theme tune; Tanya and I were ready with our wands. We weren’t the worst though, I heard several whispers of “Daniel Radcliffe walked here.” and “Robert Pattinson was in that scene!”
Then it was the time I’d been looking forward to, lunch in the college hall. I was filled with high hopes after my experience the year before. That was until I set eyes on a tray of tomato pasta. Tomato pasta does not get on with my stomach so I started to get a little apprehensive, but knowing there should be other options I craned my neck to see what was in the next tray along. Spaghetti with tomato sauce. Great. Not giving up hope yet I eagerly looked to the next one; yet more tomato pasta, things were not looking good. Luckily I was saved by a dish of cauliflower cheese and chips, not my first choice but it actually turned out pretty good (when I wasn’t dripping cheese sauce down myself). Pudding looked promisingly like chocolate cake; not so. It was something that hinted at the remains of Christmas pudding cut into squares and chilled, nevertheless very nice too. Whether the food genuinely is of a high quality or if the setting of the, again Hogwarts like, hall makes it taste better I don’t know. New College hall had been the chosen location for Dumbledore’s rule, but the college refused to take down the portraits of past masters (half of whom our Wikipedia buff guide could name), hence filming was moved down the road to Christ Church who are reaping the benefits with the highest visitor charges of all the Oxford Colleges.
After lunch we put some current students on the spot with mock interviews in Human Sciences (didn’t seem too bad) and Physics (left us we our mouths on the floor and brain ache for the next few days) which concluded our day at New.
New had caught me once again and I can say our teachers were successful in their aim of inspiring us to aim high so we can have a chance at living and studying within the beautiful colleges of Oxford.
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