Studying in a Harry Potter Setting
Letter from the UK! Helena Winterhager is delighted by British college life.
Oct 16, 2015
It takes just 90 minutes to get from London’s Heathrow airport to Oxford. The bus trip via the M40 motorway to the picturesque university town always offers me some downtime, which I enjoy before plunging back into college life. The bus travels down the busy High Street to the city centre, passing some of the most beautiful colleges along the way, before finally arriving at its destination, Gloucester Green bus station. Nothing is very far apart in this town; in my opinion the compact city centre is one of the great advantages of life in Oxford. Almost all the university buildings and shops can be reached in a few minutes on foot.
My own college – Lincoln College – is located right in the middle of the city centre. Among the nearly 40 colleges in Oxford, Lincoln is a medium-sized one, with over 600 students and a proud tradition stretching back to 1427.
But why divide a university into colleges in the first place? What might seem antiquated and inefficient in some ways – each college has its own administration and libraries, which means high costs that have to be covered in part by high tuition fees – also has major advantages in others. All students are assigned to two levels: Academically, you are a part of the department where you study (in my case, the Faculty of History), but socially speaking, you are – regardless of department – a member of a college, where you are more or less “at home.”
As a result, people meet others beyond those who are studying the same subject. Physicists meet linguists, and music theorists rub shoulders with economics students. Within the college, each student is part of a vibrant community with a full schedule including everything from formal dinners in historic settings reminiscent of Harry Potter to pub quizzes and karaoke. I have studied in Oxford before, so I know that a year of college life is packed so full of experiences that one could go straight to work as a screenwriter for Gossip Girl.
And speaking of full schedules, before the academic year kicked off with Freshers’ Week, I spent a couple of days enjoying the calm before the storm and met up with friends at Oxford’s many pubs and cafés. Freshers’ Week is truly an intense period – but more on that next time!
In our campus.leben series "Letters from ..." six students, two doctoral candidates, and an apprentice are reporting on their experiences abroad. Here we introduced the nine travelers.