What I’ve learned from Oxford Jailbreak

Student Life Travel

Nobody really expects success on Jailbreak, do they? Only teams who have been lucky enough to wangle some sponsored flights in advance are guaranteed to make it out of the country; for those who start on the Saturday with precisely no plans in place, Jailbreak is tough, as my two team mates and I, together the New College Nomads, learnt this year. In 36 hours, we somehow managed to make it all the way to a small town just outside Budapest, and it was undoubtedly one of the best and most surreal experiences of my life…but it was not without its hiccups. We learnt many lessons over the course of the weekend:

1. College porters really love and value their students. Going to the Porters’ lodge for a team photo at 7.30am escalated into hitching a lift all the way to Folkestone with Paul, one of New College’s porters. I quote: “It’ll only cost me 30 quid in petrol.” What a hero!

2. Looking absolutely ridiculous can be advantageous. Our onesies (a crocodile, a banana, and a cat-zebra hybrid thing) were useful when it came to hitchhiking; it could not have been more obvious that we were doing a charity event. They were also blissfully warm in the snow of Germany, Austria and Hungary. Thank you Primark…and Alan, who took pity on us and drove us from Folkestone to Dover.

3. Hitchhiking is hard. We got lucky with Alan, and God knows how long we would have been stood outside the ferry port if an unsuspecting Slovak, Jan, hadn’t come along, mistaken us for officials (how?), and only realised his error when we were firmly in his car. Oh, and he didn’t speak English, so I’m not sure he really understood what we were doing. His driving was terrible, but we stuck with him for the 600km drive from Dover to Frankfurt.

4. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. From Frankfurt to Budapest, we blagged our way onto five trains for free (shout out to Sophie for urgently translating our explanation into German). Admittedly, our onesies panicked expressions probably helped, but people were far more willing to help us than we expected. Although…

5. You have to pay if you want to make it over a border. We hadn’t realised that train staff swap over when the train enters a different country and the second lot were never as accommodating as the first. We were very firmly told to get off trains on two separate occasions, with the terrifying Hungarian ticket inspector, not at all pleased that we’d been allowed to get on for free in Austria, being particularly memorable.

This is what makes Jailbreak so great: it raises loads for charity, and gives participants a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I would urge anyone even slightly tempted to do it next year to go for it; you never know where you might end up!


PHOTO/ Holly Clarke


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