Saturday, March 17, 2012

Educating Selena

You know how when you learn something new and you are embarrassed because you probably should have known that already?  I hate when that happens.  And the frequency of that occurrence has increased since the move.  I've even started covering up my lack of knowledge.  As we are exploring, the Englishman will often lean over to point something out to me.  I'll roll my eyes and mumble "I know. Duh."   Later, I'll google it for clarification.  (Don't tell him.) 

We decided to go to Oxford last weekend, so I hit up Tripadvisor to get some ideas on what to see.   Obviously, close to the top of the list is Oxford University.  Of course, I know about Oxford.  It's the Uni that Hugh Grant attended.  I bet he looked cute in those black robes they wear.  Anyway.

In the top 50 attractions there were also 15 other colleges listed.  I thought... "Uhm, I wonder why there are so many other colleges in Oxford.  They must be like the community or business colleges that are springing up all over the U.S."  I quickly removed them from the list of things to see in Oxford.  Who wants to go visit a business college?

You see, in the US, colleges and universities are pretty much the same thing.  It's a school you attend to get your degree once you graduate from High School (they don't do that here) or like me, when you are 40 and having a mid-life crisis restructuring (I'm sure they do that here).  As we explored Oxford, I quickly realized that I had the wrong idea.

The University of Oxford has been around for over 1,000 years.  Can you imagine?  It is one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world.  Throughout its distinguished history, countless world leaders, artists, scientists and religious leaders have studied at Oxford.  What I didn't know was that, in addition to the University, there are over 40 separate "colleges" or "halls" that are a part of the Oxford University system.  

The colleges are actually home base for the students.  So, if you attend Oxford, you are the student of both the University and a college.  They are similar to dorms or a sorority house, but on a larger scale. They are self-governing and each have their own identity.  They each have their own residence halls, dining hall, chapel and libraries and are the center of student social life. 

Lectures are held centrally at a "faculty" (which is a location not a group of people) such as the School of Maths (they say "maths" here, not "math"). Students from all of the colleges will attend the lectures.  Smaller group studies or "tutorials" supporting the lectures are conducted at the college level. 
The day we visited was the last day of term, so most of the colleges were closed to visitors, but we were able to tour the grounds of Trinity College.  What a gorgeous setting to gain an education?  I can just imagine living in one of these historical buildings with 100 or so other students.  We were both wishing we were young again and had it all to do all over.  What a privilege it must be to attend this school.

You will see from the pictures below, the dining hall we visited was very Harry Potter-esque.   A note on the bulletin board listed the meals for the week.  It also reminded the students that they had to wear their formal academic gowns to dinner and grace would be said in Latin.  In fact, some of the scenes in Harry Potter were filmed at Christ Church College Oxford.

Here are a few more interesting notes about Oxford.  The academic year lasts from October to June and is made up of three 8-week terms.  At Oxford, they are called the Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity Terms.  It takes three academic years to get a Bachelors Degree with Honors.  And did you know that seven years later, at your request and with a fee, the University of Oxford will upgrade that degree to a Masters with no additional study? 

My understanding is obviously elementary.  And to those of you who know this system well, I apologize for my oversimplification and any errors.  Oxford was a beautiful city to explore on a Saturday afternoon.  And I received an education along the way. 


Per usual, I took several hundred pictures, but I've narrowed it down.  Here are some from the colleges. I will post more pictures of the city in a separate post.  These pics were taken with the Nikon D90.

Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church College Oxford
Christ Church College
Christ Church Chapel

Christ Church Cathedral
Trinity College

Trinity College

Trinity College Chapel
Trinity  College Chapel

Trinity College Dining Hall

Trinity College

Trinity College


  1. Hi, Very interesting about the university and colleges. I also did not know. I would love to visit Oxford one day. Beautiful photos.

  2. Gorgeous! Interesting the things we learn along the way :)


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