The Oxford Experience
Merton College, Oxford, viewed from Christ Church Meadow
My sister, Christine, is the smart one of the family. Little did we think, however, that she would attend the University of Oxford. Well, at the age of sixty-seven, she did, and so can you for a mere $3000.
Christine lives in Vancouver and has, for a couple of years, been Covid deprived of travel. She loves the UK, and being somewhat of an academic, was seeking accommodation in either Oxford or Cambridge. Her google search led her to ‘The Oxford Experience’; week long, live-in courses.
The Oxford Experience has been a thing since the early 1990s. You get to live on campus in student rooms (vacated by the real students during summer) with all meals provided, and attend tutorials on your chosen topic for the week - over the course of a summer there are over eighty to choose from. The tutorials are all in the morning, and there are no exams, so there is no compulsion to swot.
Afternoons and evenings are yours for the enjoying. If you wish to, you can take part in paid excursions to areas outside of Oxford, or a host of free activities - pub crawls in the town, recitals, college walking tours, an evening game of croquet (with champagne!) on the Master’s lawn, or simply exploring the fascinating city of Oxford on your own. Also, offered to all students during the week, are some optional formal lectures given by Oxford scholars on their recent research.
The Oxford Experience takes place at Christ Church College. Oxford University is made up of thirty-seven colleges, and Christ Church is one of the biggest and best resourced. It is home to the grand dining Hall that you will recognise if you watched the Harry Potter films. Hogwart’s ‘Great Hall’ is a replica of the Hall at Christ Church
Oxford is a tour de force of delights for anglophiles. If you watched the detective series ‘Morse’, ‘Lewis’, or more recently ‘Endeavour’ (filming of the final season just wrapped in June), set in and around the university and city of Oxford, you will know what I mean.
Repeat custom attests to the delight in the Oxford Experience. Students keep coming back, year after year. Seven or eight times was normal. One lady had been twenty-seven times. Christine felt like a newbie. One of the repeaters assured her that the thrill never pales. Every time, upon arrival, he experiences the same ‘Wow’ feeling. On day one, Christine heard an American student, also a newbie, upon her first sight of the Great Quadrangle (aka, ‘Tom Quad’) and its surrounding buildings, exclaim in delight that seeing this alone was worth the whole cost of her trip.
QUADRANGLE (‘Tom Quad’)
Courses range from ‘Tzars and Commissars: The rulers that made Russia great’ to ‘Life in Ancient Rome’ to ‘The Beatles, popular music and sixties Britain’. The courses are taught in small group tutorial sessions, where your tutor is an actual Oxford professor who specializes in the topic. There are seven intakes over the two summer months, but no course is repeated in a summer. That perhaps explains why the professors take joy in delivering their week of tutorials, as they are doing it just once in any year.
If there was anyone among the students who was not delighted with their tutor, Christine did not meet them - and she met plenty of people, as she made a point of sitting in a different part of the Hall for every meal. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served in the Hall, and the food is excellent. For breakfast and lunch, it is served buffet style, and you can literally go the whole hog or vegan. As well, for the more formal evening meal, every student receives an invitation to sit at the head table once during the week.
Christine was very lucky with her spacious, gracious, and spotless room. It had a chandelier, huge sash windows and a small separate, single-bed bedroom. She opted for a shared bathroom but, because the other nearby rooms were vacant, she ended up having the wonderful facilities all to herself.
Her room was on the second floor, just right for regarding Oriel College next door, but not with the multiple flights of stairs better handled by Oxford’s typically younger, full-time attendees during term.
In Christine’s opinion the Oxford Experience thrashes any other British or European excursion you can think of. It feeds the mind, has great encounters, is relatively affordable and, most summers, Oxford and its surrounds is a green and pleasant land. ‘The Experience’ is not widely known about, but those in the know, keep coming back again and again.
To find out more simply google ‘The Oxford Experience’, or go to www.conted.ox.ac.uk/about/oxford-experience .
After her blissful week, things rapidly unravelled for Christine. She arrived at Cambridge just in time to collapse with Covid and, still washed out with its after-effects, ended up returning home to Vancouver having had only one scant day of her planned week to explore the area.