It’s all in the context…

My first week at Oxford has been absolutely amazing.  I’ve met some very interesting people who have come from many different places around the globe.  There are people studying all sorts of things in the college – some things that I’ve never even heard of.  It’s pretty common, when eavesdropping on conversations to hear an exchange like: “What do you study?” “I study …….” “Oh, cool.  What is that!?”

I still feel giddy every time I leave my room and see the beautiful buildings around me – I can hardly believe that this is where I live, at least for now.  It all still feels very much like a vacation.  Not because there aren’t things I need to be doing for my course – there are – I’ve already been given a reading list.  But rather because it has not sunk in that I am actually here.  It’s been a dream so long that even as a reality it has a dream-like quality.

In the first week the University held an international student orientation.  This was carried out in what is called the Examination Schools – the name given because it is where all students from all subjects write their final exams (at different times of course!).  The exams here consist of a three hour essay on a topic given to you at the exam (and not before), where you are meant to essentially put in words your understanding of the topic.  If the adjudicators believe you do in fact understand, you pass.  If not, well…. I won’t get into that!

 

The Examination Schools

The Examination Schools

This photo is of the front face of the examination schools.  It is a magnificent building, and quite large as well.  

This comes from inside the exam school.  That is literally just a regular door leading from the main hall into the room where I – and all my fellow students – will be writing an exam.  It is a good example of the sort of opulence Oxford has in just about everything.  This building is designed solely for people to sit and write for three hours a few times a year, and yet immaculate carvings and beautiful paintings adorn each room.

Yet another doorway leading to (or from) one of the exam rooms.

As beautiful as they are, I’m sure this building and the rooms inside will take on an entirely new characteristic when I am entering them not as a fresh faced international student, but a weathered one about to engage in an exam!!  I suppose it is all in the context.

I should also mention that if one were to visit Oxford, they would only see the front of this building as it is closed to visitors.  The same is true of most buildings.  The school seems very protective, some would say secretive, about its buildings and procedures.  Everyday there are hordes of tourists who take walking tours around the city, snapping photos of the facades of buildings.  Perhaps this is a little sick, but I take pleasure in being able to flash my student card and walk past them into the insides!

Matthew