“Mummy, I made the grades!” but next: ten lies you have been told about Oxford

After feeling disgustingly smug about meeting your offer and engaging in all manner of dissolute debauchery to celebrate clamping that elusive A*, the cold light of day finally sets in, and, with it, the paranoia. Suddenly, the ridiculous rumours which never caught your attention before have become dislodged from the back of your memory. You think twice about the hallowed institution which was once naught but a distant dream on your UCAS form. Oxford… isn’t that where… people burrow into libraries for three years…? Will everyone there have a voice like Sheldon Cooper? …Will I be missing out on the “uni experience”?

With its divine wisdom, Google has pointed you to this article, just like a dodgy Ouija board points to the truth. And, Fresher, I hear you. Do not be afraid. This conclusive list will dispel the rumours, soothe your fears, and, moreover, quench that admirably intellectual (and painfully Oxonian) thirst for knowledge. Here are the ten things about Oxford that are simply not true.

PHOTO/Exeter College & GRW Photography
PHOTO/Exeter College & GRW Photography

1. There exists no nightlife at Oxford

Simply not true. The Daily Mail article about Oxford students entitled “Beware the chundergraduates!” (classy, I know) is telling. Do not fear, Little Fresher, the words “Bridge, Park End and Camera” (all nightclubs) shall become as ingrained into your vocabulary as “Bodleian, sub-fusc and Prelims”. I cannot emphasise this enough, though I know you will only believe me one year on, when the words “down it Freshah” ring in your ears like tinnitus… and you have at least twenty three snaps of you, thoroughly slozzled and grinning next to Ahmed of the local kebab van. YOLO.

2. State school students do not fit in at Oxford

Although you are probably right to assume that the prevalence of double-barrelled surnames at Oxford is more down to daddies being rich than mummies being feminists, it is worthy of note that 57.5% of those in the year above you are from state schools (and, unless things have changed dramatically, the same will be true for your year group). The weird and wonderful traditions of Oxford are not intended to make the privately-schooled feel any more at home than the state-schooled. What is more, like at any university, you will find yourself mingling and mixing with those of different backgrounds like vodka and coke. Yum.

3. Going to St. Anne’s, LMH or any other college “Up North” will be a problem1

It is true that sometimes revealing to the lucky lad or lass you pulled that your college is on the outskirts of Birmingham can put an end to the predatory enterprises you may decide to engage in during your first year. (On the bright side, however, this is potentially a way of sorting the committed wheat from the non-persevering chaff; not everyone has the gall/stamina to do the Walk of Shame all the way down Woodstock Road2). Whilst students of such colleges have been known to suffer from altitude sickness on their way up home, the distinct chill that sets in on heading towards said colleges is often said to be a welcome relief from the hotter climes south of St. Giles in the last few weeks of Trinity term. The fabulous invention of bicycles (or taxis post-night out) mean long-distance learning need not be a problem. Also, rumour has it that LMH know how to party.

4. Oxford students are weird

Hmm… debatable. You may have worried about this since that cute guy chatting you up on the night out after results did a vanishing act as soon as he found out your HED (Higher Education Destination). Most Oxonians are normal. However, it would be fair to say that many of those who have been admitted to Ox had to, out of necessity, pass a significant number of their formative years in the library, thus missing out on social interaction and, also, that all-important Vitamin D (hence the pasty skin). However, do not fear. Now, Oxford admission under belt, the former geek is ready to become chic, aided by some old-fashioned Dutch courage, bien sûr, and also a razor (excessive facial hair). Think Daniel Radcliffe-esque transformation. Mmm…

5. You will meet the love of your life under the dreaming spires

There is a probably something like a 52% chance you will meet the person you marry here, but I use the term “meet” loosely. Rather than under the Bridge of Sighs or somewhere equally picturesque, it is most likely that it will be in a hazy encounter in a dingy corner of Junction that you lock lips before learning each others’ names. A somewhat less romantic encounter than you might have hoped, true, and that when Shakespeare said music was the food of love he was not thinking of the Cheese Floor at Park End (Park End is a club. Cheese Floor is, unfortunately, self-explanatory, along with “Shark End”, its quasi-affectionate nickname). However, you can get away with answering that “so how did you meet?” question with the answer “love at first sight”, (at least until the best man reveals all at your wedding).

6. Oxford involves a lot of work

I will venture to admit that Oxford degree obliges those little grey cells to be used more than during A Level Geography, (the same, alas, cannot be said for colouring pencils). However, in truth, said cells need only acclimatise to short sprints rather than to marathon-like undertakings. That is to say, whilst you may have to work extremely hard for those four hours the night before your essay is due in, the other six days of your week may be devoted to the equally honourable pursuits of clubbing, sleeping and procrastinating (I’m looking at you, History students). N.B. This is not applicable to Science students and/or Finalists. N.B.ii Worthy of mention that at this time of year that it really is not worth picking up anything on your reading list before (or arguably during) Michaelmas.

7. Oxford students do nothing scandalous.

We’re in the top third for engaging the most partners in naughty stuff according to studentbeans.com. Need I say more? However, should be noted that we are most notable for our unscandalous deeds – we steal more books than students of any other university except Bucks (yes, you heard that right: books, not beer).

8. Rowing is cool

No, no, no. Common misconception. Rowing is uncool. Of course those who participate in said sport would tell you otherwise (rowing team is a bit like a religious cult; they also have their own secret language called “rowing chat”, incomprehensible and excruciatingly boring to other Oxford students and full of strange sounds such as “erg”). However, like any religion, once you become part of “rowing”, you don’t leave, and the non-believers (i.e. non-rowers) will never be able to understand why they decide to throw themselves onto the freezing cold Isis at 6 a.m. each morning and “stroke” with all the fervour of a radical. If you are in search of “lads” – jock-type fellas – look for the chaps who kick a funny shaped ball around a field (I believe it’s called “rugby”); go not to the river.

9. It matters what college you go to

It is true that all colleges have their stereotypes; Merton is where fun goes to die, Christ Church is where sublimity bathes in its own glory and St. Hugh’s is, err.. (actually, what/where is St. Hugh’s?) However, within every college there are a group of people who will be your niche, be it “Lads (lads, lads)”, “Workers” (seen once at Matriculation before disappearing, never to be seen again) or just “Normal”. Best of all, thanks to small subject groups, sometimes, unlike at school, people talk to people that *gasp* aren’t in the same social group.

10. Oxford is just like Cambridge

There is a reason why we say “Oxbridge” and not “Bridgeox”, my friend, and a very good one too. Oxford, famously referred to as the “City of Dreaming Spires” is infinitely superior to the City of Perspiring Dreams. We are the alma mater of 60 heads of state, all but one of the post-war prime ministers and Nigella. Cambridge graduates include a paltry 40 heads of state and Nick Griffin. Oxford also boasts a better nightlife than Cambridge and, most importantly, obscene amounts of the Harry Potter films used Oxford as their backdrop. ‘Nuff said.



1 See map of Oxford to understand why such colleges could create a problem: https://maps.google.lk/maps?q=central+oxford+map&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-GB:official&client=firefox-a&gws_rd=cr&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&sa=N&tab=wl

2 A very long road. See link on footnote above.