We didn’t know what to expect setting out on the Red eye from Pearson International to Heathrow. Groggily I squinted into the 8am sun as we were shuttled from Heathrow to Oxfordshire where a full day of orientation at Worcester College lay ahead of us. Little did we know what awesome adventures would unfold studying abroad at Oxford University.
Anne was the only one fully awake after the flight, she was the first person I met on the way to Worcester beaming in our first photo of the journey together. I loved her energy as contagious as it was, excitement bubbled up inside me as we made it to the grounds.
“First and foremost DO NOT. CHALLENGE AN ENGLISHMAN TO A DRINKING CONTEST. You will lose or die trying as these gents were born to drink! That being said, don’t rent a car, and don’t bring any outside guests back to your dormitories!” These words were the only warnings that made it through my mind, save for one ludicrous rule brought to our attention.
“As you may have noticed there is a pristine patch of lawn at the centre of the Quad near the Great Hall. ABSOLUTELY DO NOT, I REPEAT DO NOT STEP ON THE GRASS as only graduates and fellows of the College are allowed to walk this sacred grass. Anyone who fails to comply will be shipped back to Canada immediately. UNDERSTOOD?” Laughter and the murmur of disbelief sounded throughout the room. Honestly how beautifully manicured could one patch of grass be?
After a rather lengthy orientation, our first walking tour of Oxford commenced. Walking through the courtyard past the orchard of wild apples and pears, we cut across the Provost’s Drive and ascending the stairs up to catch our first glance of this sacred Worcester College Quad. Smack dab in the centre was an immaculately manicured expanse of lush grass. Cut to amazing precision you could see the checkered squares of each perfectly trimmed row and college, uncut and reverently sacred.
The urge to run through the pristine patch of grass was overwhelming as we all marveled and toeing the edge of the green daringly. Shortly thereafter we were escorted into the awe inspiring recess of the Chapel before gawking at the high ceilings of the Great Hall and it’s high table dinner settings that would soon greet us with English Breakfast each and every morning. It almost felt like living in a scene from Harry Potter, but Christ Church College was a bit a ways away.
Exiting the main Worcester Gate on Worcester street we turned left towards Beaumont street before hanging a right where we were greeted by our first glimpse of the Ashmolean Museum.
Spotting the spires of Magdalen College we continued along Cornmarket Street until we reached Broad Street. Exhaustion melted into extreme excitement as it finally began to sink in we were here at Oxford as the Blue and Gold lettering of the Oxford Campus Stores gleamed in the sunlight.
Pausing here, a few of us posed in the first Telephone Box, indulging our bucket list tourist fancy.
We walked along the bustle of Broad Street before beholding our first sight of the Bridge of Sighs before skirting the iron gates surrounding the vestiges of Radcliffe Camera.
Overwhelmed by a sense of awe I drank in the beautiful sight before me, surrounded by the splendour of architecture and the rich history of academia in every square inch around me.
In a daze we made our way towards Christ Church College, meandering through the cobblestone paths through gold embossed gates and amongst the towering spires of various Oxford University colleges finally arriving at Christ Church Meadow.
The English literature nerd inside me squirmed in delight feasting my eyes on the college where Lewis Carrol wrote Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland and Through the Looking glass for the daughter of the Dean I felt like I was walking on sacred literary ground surveying the scene at Christ Church College. I felt like as a student of literature I made my own pilgrimage to the birth place of literary ideas and written masterpieces as Lewis Carrol, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien and other great writers traipsed through these meadows, haunting pub halls and roaming this vast Oxford Campus.
We came across the site of Alice’s Sweet shop, where the daughter of the Dean was often seen purchasing sweets as a child.
Walking up High Street we continued towards the city centre, taking in local culture. I couldn’t help but swoon at the sight of Posting Boxes and the quaintness of the sprawling campus at large.
Stopping off at the Crown Pub my fellow students and I indulged in our first English meal.
I chose a classic Steak & Kidney Pies wonderfully smothered in gravy along side chips and peas which filled me up for the next leg of our orientation day journey. Continuing to walk along High Street we peered over the bridges lining the River Cherwell crowded with empty punting boats that were ever so inviting.
Upon returning to Worcester College we divided into groups competing in a rather ambitious Photo Scavenger hunt, fighting for the coveted price of Ben’s Cookies.
Little did I know that out of this largely unfamiliar group of victors, some of these amazing people would become lifelong friends, and favourite partners in crime in future adventures in London, Toronto and later New York City.