Monday, July 9, 2007

Oxford - City or Town...?

Time and time again I have been requested to write referral letters for students who are applying to Oxford. The irony is that I have never set my eyes on the place before.

The first impression that Oxford gave me is that of a buzzing town teeming with tourists. I was told by my friend (who guided us around) that Oxford is actually a city largely due to the presence of a cathedral. Ok... but it still gave me the feeling of a town regardless.

For the uninitiated, Oxford University is made up of 39 colleges (on the last count) and they are scattered around the 'city' grounds. It has a rather interesting history though. Apparently, foreign scholars settled in Oxford in the 1300s and had a tense relationship with the townfolks then. After some fatal riots with more than hundred casualties, more than half were students, King Edward III actually ruled in the scholars favour and ordered the town to pay the University a yearly fine.

Well, the King was wary of the influence of the University as well and the University was split up into many colleges as a result. After a few hundred years, each college develope it's own character and culture.

My friend was very eager to bring us to Christchurch College where she showed us the dining hall. I came to understand why the moment I stepped into the hall. I've attached the pic I took of it. Well, it is in this hall where students of Hogworts have their daily meals. Ok ok... it looks more spectacular in the movie. But you get the gist, yah?

One more interesting observation. In view of the trumatising past of Oxford scholars, each college is built with the structure of a fortress with a huge centre square and high surrounding walls. They must have looked rather imposing back in the 1300's...

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