I have been scouring my computer and my camera in an attempt to find pictures from my trip to Oxford, but all to no avail. I’m hoping that they will miraculously pop up at some point so I can share them, but suffice it to say that each picture depicted the picturesque town of Oxford blanketed in snow (like the one above that I salvaged from my iPhone). If you were alive/coherent during the last few weeks of December, you’re probably aware that the UK was insanely cold and snowy. I’ve heard time and time again from my British friends that snow is not standard in Great Britain, but my experience tells a different story. I’ve been in the UK during the past three winters and it snowed each and every time. This year was definitely more intense than I remember, though, and Oxford got it much worse than London.
I purchased a return ticket to Oxford by train for about £20 and left London at around 11AM. With the train ride scheduled to take about an hour, I figured that would leave plenty of time to explore the city, check out the university and get a bit of a feel for the town. Note to self (and to others traveling in the UK during the snow): nothing works properly during inclement weather. About half way through our train journey, we stopped due to ‘engine issues’ and, after switching trains (and being delayed), arrived in Oxford about two hours after departure. I hadn’t expected sunshine and blue skies, but I certainly didn’t expect the ground to be blanketed in sheets of snow. It was absolutely freezing (even with my three shirts, leggings, pants, two pairs of socks, knee-high boots, scarf, gloves and coat). I am a wimpy West Coaster and, as such, it took me a while to acclimate and get used to moving my limbs in 20 degree weather. Soon enough, I was exploring the town, hitting the little shops and checking out the university.
Admittedly, it wasn’t a fair representation of the town. Students were gone for Christmas break and many stores were closing early due to the crazy snow. Despite the freezing temperatures, my overall feeling of the town was that it was quite… exquisite. There is a certain je ne sais quoi that you don’t get in a bustling metropolis like London. There’s a quaint feeling. While it’s comfortable and represents a community, it also exudes a scholarly aura. Even with school not in session, the university is the hub of the town and the old buildings give it an amazing feel; rather majestic. A primary objective for me was to decide whether or not I liked the town enough to live there for three years (or however long it would take to complete a PhD). My conclusion? I’m not entirely sure. It was quaint and amazing and beautiful and scholarly and all of those attributes that your mind conjures when you think of a prestigious university town, but it was also relatively quiet. While I’m sure it comes to life when students are present, it definitely doesn’t have all of the offerings (theatres, restaurants, lounges, etc. etc.) that London offers. I’m definitely happy that I made the trip there. Regardless of whether or not I have an opportunity to study at Oxford in the future, I did gain one extra bit from my day trip: the knowledge that my year in London was really an amazing/unique experience. If I had to go back and choose between LSE and Oxford for my MSc, I would choose LSE again in a heartbeat — not only for the education, but for the experience in its entirety. Conclusion: There’s really no city like London.