A fascinating, beautiful, and historically important place, the University of Oxford is the alma mater of everyone from Sir Walter Raleigh to Stephen Hawking (and Hugh Grant). Infrared remote sensing was created at the school and Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a.k.a Lewis Carroll, taught mathematics and wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland there. That being said, it is also an extraordinarily weird place to be if you're not attending school there. Oxford is in (surprise!) Oxfordshire, a place where the town and gown divide is sharp — and also, it's not a gown, it's a subfusc, thank you very much (more on that later).
Oxford looms large in the Western world's consciousness — as does Cambridge, but we're not talking about Cambridge, because it's sacrilegious to talk about Cambridge when talking about Oxford. Seen by many as the epitome of academia, the University of Oxford was founded in the 11th century — before the Aztec Empire, the Magna Carta, Timbuktu, Genghis Khan, and Notre Dame Cathedral existed. Because of all this, we may think of it as a very serious place where people walk around with solemn expression, clutching heavy tomes and possibly wearing monocles.
But though it started out as a religious place of learning, and was occupied by men of faith for centuries, it is now a university like many others. Yes, there is an incredible faculty. Yes, there are amazing lectures. But it's still a place where teenagers and twenty-somethings go and get their degrees, which means it is inhabited by these teenagers and twenty-somethings, and you know what teenagers and twenty-somethings like to do? Have fun. And so, Oxford is a place where standard collegiate fun and almost 1,000 years of history meet. Does that make it a unique place? You don't know the half of it.
1. You're Sick Of Tourists Asking You Where The University Is
There is no ONE place— the University is all around you. “The University of Oxford” is an umbrella term for 38 colleges, each of which is housed in its own building, plus a bunch of research centers and religious halls. If you're asking, you're probably already there.
2. You’re Still Mourning The Closing Of Baby Love
Even if you’re a fresher, you’ve heard of Baby Love, the best queer nightclub around. You've also heard about how it closed and how much that sucks, even though Baby Love was kind of...gross. It was beloved for its amazing Tuesday night party, "Supermarket," which played terrible/ amazing '90s music and was always packed to bursting. The walls would sweat and there wasn't always room to do more than drunkenly grind, but it was the safe haven for many (and a cheap night out as well).
3. Your Weekends Aren’t For Partying
During the week, you attend lectures and meet your tutors, and believe me, it's easier to do those things hungover than it is to actually study. Unlike the typical American college experience, partying happens during the week at Oxford. When and why the tradition began, nobody seems to know, but it's a given: bars and nightclubs run their special parties on weekdays, and it is the rare student who goes out regularly on a Saturday night. No, the long, uninterrupted weekends are for studying after all that partying during the week.
4. You Wish You Could Afford Membership To Oxford Union...
...so you can attend for free when cool people, like Joss Whedon or Calvin Klein, come.
5. ...Or You Wish You Hadn’t Spent All That Money On Oxford Union Membership
Because no one cool ever comes, and when they do, you’re inevitably either hungover or studying.
6. You Know When To Capitalize College And University
If you’re referring to the University of Oxford, capitalize the U. If you’re referring to Wadham College, capitalize the freaking C. It’s not that hard, right?
7. You Pledge Allegiance To The Cherwell Or The Oxford Student Newspaper
And you stick by your allegiance until some drama (usually involving romance, sex, slander, or all three) happens and you leave to join the rival paper. (And if you’re part of The Tab, well, you’re just way ahead of the curve, aren’t you, with your online-only thing? It’s your fault print is going out of style.)
8. You’ve Bought Food From Hassan’s Before
Especially after a night out at a club. Especially if you felt like you needed to puke beforehand.
9. You Know Wadham Is The “Gay College”
Because it is. Queerfest happens at Wadham. Wadham was the first to fly the rainbow flag during Pride Month. The College now wears its reputation for open-mindedness, acceptance, and social justice proudly (its current Warden — every college has a different term for what is essentially its president, and this is Wadham's, ironically — is also well-known for his activism fighting against the death penalty).
10. You Know That Christ Church Is The Harry Potter College
Because it is. Doesn't that hall look familiar?
11. You Know The Word "Subfusc"
Because that’s what the formal outfit you wear to debates and exams is called. And yes, you also know it’s a silly sounding word.
12. You’ve Wanted To Rusticate At Least Five Times During Your Last Year
Because it’s exam time and the pressure is ON (and "rusticating" means taking a few terms off to figure out if graduating Oxford is actually what you want to do).
13. You Totally Don’t Want An Invitation From The Bullingdon Or Piers Gaveston
Because drinking societies are dumb, and who cares if Cameron was in the former and Hugh Grant was in the latter?
14. You Will Also Totally Pay £80 If You Get Invited To A Bullingdon Or Piers Gav Party
Even though admission is expensive, even for the invited, these parties are crazy and you’re going to have fun and you’ll tell your grandkids about it (if they’re cool grandkids who want to hear about your sexy-times).
15. You’ve Attended At Least One Ball
Because College balls are beautiful, over-the-top, and old-fashioned excuses to wear amazing clothes and drink a lot of very expensive liquor.
16. You Have A Love/Hate Relationship With The Turf
It’s the place to go for a casual drink before a big night of partying, but it’s also too damn full most of the time for your casual drinking needs.