After today, I can officially say I’ve been to Oxford University! With an early morning wake up and a quick snooze on the 2 hour coach ride (it’s just a bus, I know the British term sounds fancy), we arrived in the very beautiful city of Oxford.
The first site to see was the Martyr Memorial, which was created in memory of the 3 people that Queen Mary, also known as Bloody Mary, had ordered to be burned at the stake. In those times, many Protestants were killed for their religious beliefs and for failing to convert to Catholicism. One of the people she had killed was the Archbishop of Canterbury, who had even signed a recantation of his beliefs. After he realized that it wouldn’t save him from being put to death, the first part of his body that he put into the fire was the hand which he had used to sign the document. Quite a symbolic move if you ask me!
We also had the chance to learn a lot about Oxford University. Sit down, because this is quite a complex one! Oxford University is made up of 39 colleges, and you have to matriculate from one of these colleges to get your degree. The oldest of all the colleges is Bayneal College. Fun fact: Oxford has produced 29 prime ministers! Walking around, we had a chance to see the Sheldonium Theater, a building modeled on the theater of Marcellus in Rome, where a lot of university ceremonies were held. When you graduate from Oxford, all degrees are a BA, no matter what subject area you study. But the best part? As long as you are alive after 4 years, your degree will turn into a MA, which is the level required to be able to teach at the institution. (If you were wondering, an actual Masters degree is a Masters of Philosophy- MPhil).
The next place we had a chance to visit was the Bodleian Library, one of the oldest libraries in Europe. This library is not the type of place where you lend books from though, but instead full of original source material. A lot of students can go there to find really old texts and study in the basements of the building. The architecture was also beautiful, as each of the 5 floors was decorated differently. The designs became more intricate as you went upwards, starting with a simple first floor and ending with carvings on the top.
We were also lucky to have the chance to take a tour of Christ Church! Founded by Thomas Wolsey in 1525 and then again by Henry VIII, this is the largest of all the Oxford colleges. I could not imagine going to university in a campus this large. The quad was beautiful, but after every turn I felt like I would get lost! The campus was formerly a monastery, which is why the chapel was so large. A couple fun facts! Although women were only admitted in 1980, more than half of the student population are women now. In addition, the building has been in both Harry Potter movies and X Men: First Class. In the quad is a clock named Great Tom, who runs on Oxford time, so it is 5 minutes behind GMT.
After our tour of Christchurch, we had an amazing lunch at The Covered Market, a place that reminded me a lot of the stalls you would see in Boston and parts of NYC. I ended up enjoying a panini from a small French store. In the free time, I bought more tea to take home for my family.
The final stop of the day was Bleinheim Palace, the place where Winston Churchill was born. There was so much to do that I couldn’t fit it all in only 2 hours. We took a tour of the palace, which had so many beautiful pieces of artwork and murals. I also had a chance to learn about the history of the Churchill family. I found it so interesting that because the Duke had 4 daughters and no surviving sons, Queen Anne had a special act of parliament written which allowed the title to pass to the eldest daughter. We also had a chance to walk around the land, which had its own lake, bridge, and even a tree used in the Harry Potter film.
While our trip is coming to an end, I am so excited to explore London tomorrow. I can’t wait for you all to come along!