Ten years ago at home in Dubai, I would imagine myself walking down the streets of Oxford as a student. Back then, I would not have believed it to be more than a dream.
A decade, and a Master’s Degree later, I now find myself about to graduate from Oxford, ready to take the next steps in my career. Yet, living in Oxford still feels like I am living in that dream.
My year at Oxford has been exceptional, characterized by every emotion and experience that can be listed by the alphabet.
What were these experiences, you might wonder? Read on, follow my thoughts, an interior monologue on my top 10 experiences at Oxford.
1. Nights in White Satin at the Radcliffe
Oxford has given me my first experiences of super moons and haunted rooms. Cycling through Radcliffe Square in the wee hours, on the night of the super moon was a magical experience.
Just imagine the Radcliffe Camera bathed in crisp moonlight, illuminated so you felt you could almost reach out and grasp it.
Perhaps it was my imagination (or the lack of sleep!) that led me to believe that I could see shadows of other-worldly readers in the upper Reading Rooms. Just the super moon playing tricks with shadows perhaps, or…?
2. Paradise: Spring Time in Oxford
I first arrived in Oxford in the Autumn. Marked by brightly coloured trees and the crunch of their leaves beneath my feet, I knew from the get go I had to make the most of the four seasons.
Having lived in the desert all my life, I was unfamiliar with the changes in the seasons, the vastly different colours they bought on. It wasn’t the colours that got me, it was how starkly different the people of Oxford were in each season.
The months of March to May stood out the most. Spring came after a very dark, wet winter and seemed to bring back the spirit of the people I had glanced at earlier in the year.
“Bright and chirpy” was what I was expecting. “Unusual” was what I hadn’t read on the packaging. Early spring saw me walking past Viking warriors doing their victory dance in a church yard (Vikings in the 21st century?) and people in grass skirts (eco-friendly?).
To add to that, spring also saw converted boats being driven down Cowley road at full speed, and live opera performances at the local chippy in Jericho. The list goes on.
2. A Hard Day’s Night: Robes and the Master of the Internet
I came into my Master’s Degree expecting it to be a roller-coaster ride. I now admit I had underestimated the vast volume of work that could be packed into the space of a year.
55,000 words, 183 articles, 14 books, and 8 exams later I remember each gruelling experience being punctuated by walks around town in ancient robes.
Donning these robes meant pulling through unusual academic traditions such as trashing (being smothered in confetti, eggs, flour, and more at the end of exams), and pub crawls and nights around town in “sub fusc” (Oxford’s academic robes, straight out of Harry Potter).
Happy to say that I am now walking away as a master of the Internet (quite literally, as my degree is titled “MSc. Social Science of the Internet). Must admit the robes add to the theatrics.
4. Going on an adventure: May Day Tradition in Oxford
Come Spring and Summer, and there is so much to do in Oxford.
From May Day singing, to Morris dancing next to All Souls College and tortoise races, working in the library with so much happening was quite the challenge.
5. Weather to Fly: Hallucinating in the Duke Humfrey’s
The Duke Humfrey’s Reading Rooms are situated in the heart of the Bodleian library. Well-placed above the Divinity School, the reading rooms contact manuscripts and books that are centuries old.
So, curious as I was and being a student of the Internet, I found myself in the medieval section, gazing down at my computer screen, while ancient maps pointing to Atlantis stood above my head. Despite trying, I could not help drifting off, and imagining what a journey to Atlantis would be like.
Talking to the librarian later, I learnt that because they manuscripts were prepared spirits centuries old, they released fumes into the library. These fumes usually caused hallucinations amongst the readers in the library, helping them work. I leave the rest to the your imagination.
6. House of Cards: Thesis Writing in Museums and Libraries
Writing a thesis document is often like trying to build a house of cards. Precarious, challenging and delicate. I experimented with writing a thousand words in a different library, or a museum around Oxford.
15,000 words later, I had a draft of a thesis, and a trail of great days spent gazing at shrunken heads, or as I wrote earlier, getting intoxicated by books.
7. “Curiouser and Curiouser!”
Spotting Alice and the Mad Hatter walking hand-in-hand, talking about the Cheshire Cat and a tea party in Christ Church meadow shouldn’t be unusual, right?
8. How to Disappear Completely: Secret Passages
Oxford is famous for its narrow alleyways, meandering roads, and curves that turn into corners.
It was in these secret passages (read: away from the tourists!) that I discovered that Oxford was like walking through a hall of mirrors.
What you see, was often not what you would get. My walks, runs and bike rides were often punctuated by disappearing windows, doors that became rabbit holes, whispers around corners, and people floating past. Magic, I would say.
I just need to get myself a wand.
9. Beam me up Scotty: Studying the Internet in the Old
Studying something as “new” as the Internet in a place as “old” as Oxford was perhaps the best way to juxtapose my experience at Oxford.
It has been mind-boggling, walking into colleges that were centuries old, to lectures such as “Gutenburg to WordPress: What’s Different?”
10. Stand by Me: Making Friends
Being in Oxford has allowed me to meet and interact with people I will remember as friends for the rest of my life. My year at Oxford would not be complete without the friends I made at lectures and at work here at Cicada. Together, we have been to see the wizard, and it is to them that I dedicate this blog post.
Oh, and do let me know at the end of the blog post if you picked up my favorite literary and musical references. Being a digital analyst, I thought it would be an interesting experiment to see if my blog post picked up some searches for songs and books.