SOS: I am a freshman again.
Two years after my initial freshmen orientation (and one year after being on the other side of it as an RA), I am again in the same position of attending well-meaning, if a bit forced, social events, getting lost in the (admittedly small) campus, and making the acquaintance of so many people whose names I will inevitably fail to remember.
But the traditions! Oxford, as one of the oldest schools in the world, obviously is full of these slightly bizarre, undoubtedly unique proceedings. There’s the “Hall Dinner,” in which you are served a three-course meal by a team of nervous-looking waiters in a room I can best describe as Hogwarts’ Great Hall had it been built by a Japanese architect in the 1960s. While St. Catherine’s (affectionately known as St. Catz) is Oxford’s largest, newest college and thus we are not required to wear formal robes to the meal, there are still some oddities that arise. The large tables are divided by seams, and one must not cross the barriers to, say, pick up a pitcher of water. And some of the older students seemed to do otherwise, but apparently leaving the hall for any reason before the dinner has finished is a big no-no?
Perhaps the strangest Oxford tradition is the “Oxford Parents.” Each freshman (“fresher”) and visiting student is assigned to a family, a collection of two to six new students and two “parents”—second-years who are supposed to help you integrate into the community. (Most schools outside of the US don’t have RAs, so think of the parents’ roles as kind of a replacement.) But, as a Junior (or “third year”) student, I must say that it’s quite odd to be older than my assigned "parents."
But beyond these quirks, St. Catz is kind of amazing. My dorm room is a suite, has carpeting, and in general is so much better than the ones at my home school in every way (except for a strange lack of traditional clothing storage). Everyone is incredibly friendly here, from the staff (the Director for Visiting Studies might be one of the most delightful people I’ve ever heard speak) to the students—even the second and third years go out of their way to befriend you.
After spending the last four weeks in a program with eight people, it’s been kind of overwhelming. But a good kind of overwhelming. Like a getting-your-letter-to-Hogwarts kind of overwhelming.
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<p>Scott Abrams is an English Literature major at the University of Rochester and is attending Oxford through IES Abroad Direct Enrollment in the fall semester of 2016. His favorite things include warm woolen mittens and celebrity Twitter feuds. He hopes you won't judge him too harshly.</p>