pu O A bl S n ic P at L io n
The insiderâ€™s guide to life as an Oxford Fresher
With thanks to: Tony Fox, Andrew Mawer, Stephanie Smith, Magdalen College and Christ Church College
2. Oxford Dictionary 4. Entertainment in Oxford 5. Bops 6. Clubbing 9. Crew dating 10. Shopping 11. Alternative entertainment
Food & Drink
12. The Game of Oxford Life 14. Pubs 15. Cocktails 16. Restaurant guide 18. Eating in college & College bars 19. Kebab vans
Clubs & Societies
20. Map 22. Oxford clubs and societies 23. The Union 25. Journalism 26. Drama 27. Music & Charity 28. Sport
30. Oxford University Challenge 31. Libraries 32. Tips on lectures & Reading lists 33. How to survive labs & Tutorials 34. Subject stereotypes
36. Colour my subfusc 37. College families & Fashion 38. Relationships 39. Coming out 40. Living out
Surviving the Oxford Social Scene Eleanor Bley Griffiths Hertford History
he much repeated mantra for Oxford life is “work hard, play hard”. Most of you will strike a happy balance between the two. By which we mean, you will try to do everything, never quite do it well enough, and never get enough sleep. So here are a few tips for surviving eight weeks of socialising and studying. First, when to go out: while in the real world it’s more typical for clubbers to paint the town red on Friday and Saturday nights, enter an Oxford club at the weekend and you will find barely a student in sight. It’s not that we’re locked up in libraries living ascetic lives devoid of fun; it’s really just that we’ve found a way to extend two nights to five - one clubs on weeknights, and weeknights only. There’s certainly a tribal aspect to Oxford clubbing: Brookes have their own nights, and Town and Gown tend to keep things strictly separate. Oxford students go to Oxford club nights, flashing Bod cards at the door. Different colleges also have allegiances to different clubs, which can occasionally spill over into unhealthy devotion. You’ll spend your night surrounded by familiar faces, which is great until you realise that anyone you get with will inevitably turn up later as a tutorial buddy or friend-of-afriend. Of course, Oxford wouldn’t be Oxford without its oddities (where else do you sit exams dressed as a penguin, or celebrate May Day by staying up all night to hear a choir sing?), and so, naturally, the university has developed specific rituals for socialising and drinking. This guide
will help you navigate your way through the potential confusion, explaining the joys and dangers of bops, crew dates, sconcing, and all other manner of strange new phenomena. It’s not just booze and vomcanoes, however. You could easily fill up your time with plays, sports, debates, ice-cream parties, talks, casual evenings at the pub, choir practices, gigs, and lazy nights in the JCR watching reruns of Friends and eating chips in gravy. These evenings can be the most memorable of all. Oxford is actually pretty good for entertainment, and there’s always something you’d probably like to be doing. Unfortunately everything seems to happen at the same time and always sounds more interesting than a night of solid academic reading. At some point you will no doubt find yourself writing an essay smashed out of your skull, having stocked up on coffee on the way back from Camera, via McDonalds. One of the most important tips for getting on in this whirlwind is to know the right people. The world of Oxford University is really quite
tiny, so it’s worth being nice(ish) to everyone. Bitch about someone in a café, and the person sitting behind you will almost certainly be their best friend; in fact you’ll have mutual Facebook friends with an entire city-ful of students. It’s often a worrying thought that some of these people may one day attain great positions of power. However, right now you ought to look to those people who have a direct influence on your life in the present, and that means porters, club reps, kebab vendors and bouncers. These are the figures who see you at your most vulnerable: drunk, hungry, stressed, broke, disgusting and locked out of your room wearing only a towel. These are the people with the power to help. Porters are a brilliant and generally eccentric bunch; take care not to exasperate them because they are the ones you will have to beg for your spare room key at 4am. It’s also worth befriending club reps and bouncers if only for the chance to reap the benefits when it gets to 11pm on a stone-cold winter night and the queue for Wahoo snakes for what seems like miles. Finally: kebab vans will feel like the food of the gods whether you’re staggering home from a night out or dashing out for emergency sustenance during an essay crisis. Their owners will be a ray of friendly light in your life and once you’ve truly bonded they might be willing to accept IOUs when you’re reduced to craving their w a r e s like an incoherent junkie.
Bop till you drop
ops: aka official college parties filled with cheap drinks, fancy dress and wet sticky floors. If that doesn’t sound appealing enough, they are often accompanied by a killer hangover and a frantic de-tagging session on Facebook the next day. Bops are usually held in each college every two or three weeks and are a great way to forget about impending essay crises, get creative in the costume department and totally embarrass yourself in front of some hot second and third years you haven’t actually met yet (and thanks to your drunken dance moves, probably won’t). But it’s not all horrific memories, pounding headaches and wrecked shoes - college bops have their advantages. It’s a great way to hang with friends,
and they make a great talking point. When in doubt, just remember, less could be more. One group of particularly inventive young men attended a ‘Beach’ bop dressed simply as, well, sand. Some costume basics that you may want to invest in are a cheap white tshirt, felt tips, card, sticky tape, a glue stick, feathers, face-paint and string. Primark, Poundland, and Celebrations (party shop on Turl Street) are the most useful places to hit (the latter being the expensive alternative when all other options have failed!). Not having these bits and bobs to hand is not an issue - no doubt someone around you will and it’s generally more hilarious to attempt to make your outfits together (potentially during pre-drinks) before you go to the bop. Asking the neighbours to safetypin/staple your outfit together can indeed be an excellent way to break some
“Bops are official college parties filled with cheap drinks, fancy dress and wet sticky floors and followed by a killer hangover and frantic de-tagging session on Facebook the next day.” it’s cheaper than going out-out, and your bed is only a short stagger or crawl away. Each bop will come with a theme, the quality (and tastefulness) of which varies from college to college. Previous examples have included ‘Cocktails’ at St John’s, ‘Fairytales’ at Christ Church, ‘Pokemon’ at Pembroke and ‘90’s’ at Catz. Regardless of the choice of theme they should all offer the benefits of free entry, ridiculous outfits and terrible music. After a year of first-hand experience, I can offer some top tips on surviving your own college bops... 1) Always wear clothes you don’t mind getting ruined, and when I say ruined, I mean sick-covered, booze-covered and sweat-covered. The advice from all quarters is to especially avoid wearing shoes that you actually like. 2) It’s all about the costume. You don’t have to pull off the most creative and beautiful outfit ever - often the controversial and funny ones go down the best,
ice. You’ll soon find that boundaries previously thought to be unencroachable somewhat fade over the next few years. There are fancy dress shops in Oxford, but if you have anything at home bring it with you. 3) To prevent the hangover of the century on all the variously named cheap drinks (‘bop juice’ or ‘bop-tails’ being amongst some of the more appetising) do remember to drink water and have something to eat before you to go bed. Not everyone gets free pizza like St John’s. Most people tend to go for the toast option, pop their bread in the toaster, walk off to check their friends’ level of consciousness and forget all about it. This leads to the wonderful call of the fire alarm at 3am. Trust me, the post-bop look is not a pretty sight. 4) Put your Bod card or accommodation access fob in a safe place (your bra doesn’t count as safe in the amorous atmosphere of the bop venue). Even without any night-time dalliances,
Laura Hill St Catz History of Art banging on doors because you can’t get into your block is not an advisable way to keep the college awake. 5) Watch your step! As in clubs, bop floors, as you may as well have guessed by this point, can get very, very slippery. Avoid stilettos ladies (and gents) - no need to make it any more tricky. 6) Change your Facebook settings. Cheap drinks, drinking games and drunken friends can only lead to people snapping less than attractive photographs of you in incriminating circumstances. These will of course be broadcast on Facebook, with your face handily tagged so that all your friends and family back home are instantly informed of your debauched antics. Our parents didn’t have to deal with this shit. There will always be some slick individual who manages to take 300 photos every bop and upload a slideshow of shame before you’ve dragged yourself out of bed and into brunch. Just because you don’t remember, doesn’t mean that everyone else won’t find out! 7) Have a good time! After all the work that Oxford throws at us, we all need a break and this is THE perfect time to go a little bit crazy without even having to leave college. Especially if you don’t fancy the walk into town on chilly winter nights. And to top off your potentially dreadfilled anticipations of your first bop (or maybe you’re raring to go, shot-glasses at the ready?) here’s a quick heads-up on other college bops. I’d definitely recommend you check out other offerings if you get the chance. You can get in as long as you sign in with a member of that college and it’s a great way to meet new peoENTERTAINMENT ple whilst snooping around in a college which is perhaps more Harry-Potter-esque than yours.
Park End (Lava Ignite)
When you were taught as a child that cows go “moo”, sheep go “baa”, and dogs go “woof”, you should also have been told that Park End goes “Spleaughh!”. This club, arguably Oxford’s finest, is not so much a club as a venue that’s sufficiently loud and poorly lit to enable you to wander around blindly on drunk auto-pilot, pulling various people you bump into before waking up fully clothed on the floor of your room the next morning. The club is the largest in central Oxford by quite a way. It contains a number of rooms, each of which specialises in a different genre of music. The ‘cheese floor’ is probably the most popular, followed closely by the sparkly R&B (and occasionally EDM) room. However, if the choice of having either Bon Jovi or Rihanna shouted into your ear by a gyrating rugby player feels a little constricting, I recommend the thoroughly underrated Reggaeton/dancehall room. The drinks are cheap and the place is located around the club-covered station area on the street that bears its name. There is occasionally a bit of a queue so make sure to get there a bit early if you think its going to be a big night. Whilst it is seldom referred to as anything except Park End, the club’s title actually changed to Lava Ignite a couple of years back. It is unclear whether the name is actually urging the earth’s supply of molten rock to suddenly combust (“Lava, ignite!”) or whether the owners simply found the title’s two words next to ‘laser’ and ‘intercourse’ in their Oxford Big Book of Exciting Words. Either way it’s a stupid name and if you call it that you’ll probably be shunned from society and thrown into the wilderness, and you’ll deserve it too.
Sports bar by day and comedy venue/club by night, Wahoo is probably Oxford’s most popular Friday hangout. Another Bridge street regular, it shares student night prices with its Varsity/ Shuffle comrades. I find the layout of the lower floor quite problematic. For some reason there is always a huge, impenetrable crowd trying to get to the bar which means the only space to dance is the narrow, raised area around the edge. The upstairs, by contrast, is open-plan and spacious, though they seem to keep it really dark for some reason. This makes it extremely difficult to find people if you happen to wander off from the group or just turn around for a few seconds. The club also has a very large smoking area out front so you can have fun mocking people in the Bridge queue which stretches up the road and round the corner.
Monday Varsity night @ Bridge ENTERTAINMENT
Until fairly recently the London-Underground-themed Junction was the tiki-themed Kukui. Amusingly the contractors seem to have interpreted “change the decor from Hawaii to the tube” as “leave the thatched roof and stalls and stuff and just paint a huge underground logo on one of the walls”. The result of this combination is that being inside is rather like tripping balls by the smoothie stand in Victoria station. As one of the station area clubs it shares similar student night drink and entry prices with the other Park End and Bridge street establishments. And, in keeping with its Polynesian roots it still serves a handful of almost exclusively rum-based cocktails. Whether this new incarnation will survive is yet to be determined, but if does shut down again who knows what bizarre combination of themes will emerge once it reopens? I’d pay good money to go to a Hawaiian/London Underground/Space Cowboy bar, wouldn’t you?
This is the Bridge Street version of Park End - prices, drinks and atmosphere are almost identical. Unlike Park End it has two floors which each play the same mix of mostly generic club fodder. It is also fairly large. The upper dance floor is complete with a shiny, coloured, light wall thing, as well as a pole, just in case your afternoon tute has left you keen to try out any skills that might be useful if you drop out and become a stripper. Because its popularity outstrips its capacity, Bridge has a huge queuing problem. In fact if you do not arrive early on its designated Oxford student night, expect to be handed a numbered ticket and ferried into Anuba, a nearby bar/holding pen, until the number on your ticket finally appears on the bar’s TV screens and you can actually enter the club. Not only is this system irritating but it also means that the clientele, trapped in Anuba with nothing to do but drink, tend to be exceptionally unsteady by the time they actually get into the club. I once saw a man in a suit projectile vomit into a corner and then saunter back to the dance floor as if nothing had happened. It was so smooth (the execution of the chunder, not its consistency) that if James Bond swapped martinis for vodka Red Bulls then it could well have been 007 himself.
Varsity night @ Camera
Shuffle night @ Park End
Poptarts @ Baby Love
a.k.a. Shark End
Oxford’s busiest gay night
Varsity night @ Lola Lo Brookes night @ The O2 formerly Fuzzy Ducks
Named after its ludicrously impractical circular layout, Camera has blown up in popularity since its inception two years ago. People load up on cheap drinks while decent DJs play a mixture of R&B and club classics that slowly transitions into fist pumping brostep as the night wears on. Unlike most other Oxford clubs Camera often suffers from overcrowding. The narrow, winding layout of its bagel-shaped upper floor can make it very difficult to navigate at peak times, and finding adequate space to execute your elaborate, arm-flailingly sophisticated dance moves can sometimes prove tricky. It also has a reputation for being a bit posh, presumably a result of its unnecessarily large (and poorly guarded) VIP area. Emma Watson once reserved a table there and now everyone keeps going on about it. The result of this poshness is that you see an unusual number of people in black tie, which isn’t normally a problem unless, like myself, you can’t be around people in dinner jackets when blind drunk as you become convinced that you have somehow travelled back to Edwardian England and the entire population are pompous assholes. Nonetheless, if you can avoid days when it is likely to be more crowded (go on a Friday rather than a Tuesday) Camera is probably one of the better clubs in Oxford.
Perhaps it’s the name, perhaps it’s the dungeon-like layout, the regular gay nights, and the popularity with Wadhamites, but for some reason Baby Love is where all the cool kids go when they want to party. Here’s where the Dalston massive meets Oxford. In fact, Baby Love’s biggest student night, ‘Supermarket’, has recently been exported to a club in Shoreditch. With its self-reinforcing hipster reputation, Baby Love can be a nice break from the relentless cheese and crew-daters throwing up in your hair that can tarnish other Oxford student nights. The club serves a decent range of marginally overpriced cocktails and plays a slightly, but not very, eclectic mix of music. And, while it could just be the ketamine in everyone’s fashionable veins, the atmosphere tends to be pretty good. The club does suffer from one serious drawback: its underground dance floor has quite a limited amount of space and can easily get impregnatingly tight. In the summer you may be better off hanging out in the cooler, ground-level bar area lest you drown in the sweat dripping off of somebody’s ironic moustache.
And all the rest..
Lola Lo is an underground, tiki-themed club/bar on Magdalen St. It’s very well decorated and hosts one of the major student nights but I’m not giving it its own section because it’s fairly small and uninteresting, and I don’t like it. The Cellar is an underground music venue both literally and figuratively. It hosts live hip-hop nights, drum ’n’ bass, and popular dubstep night Freerange every other Wednesday. This is somewhere for people who actually go out to enjoy music. It’s really brilliant. The Purple Turtle is an underground former wine cellar that belongs to the Oxford Union and is free to all of its members. The drinks are cheap and the music slightly old-school. It attracts an odd crowd and the poor ventilation can turn it into a bit of a sauna. Situated way down the Cowley road, the O2 Academy is much the same as the various others dotted around the country, hosting weekly indie pop night ‘Propaganda’ and regular live acts. Until this year it held the famously debauched Brookes night ‘Fuzzy Ducks’, and though local pressure may have forced the tragic end of Fuzzies, whatever new musical orgy replaces it (Fluffy Cormorants? Furry Cocks?) will definitely be worth checking out. Rappongi, named after a district in Tokyo, is totally not Japanese themed and occupies a very tiny club/bar on George street that is normally almost empty. Entry is always free and it has good drinks promotions. It is a place to get really, really drunk and then jump around the empty dance floor like a mentalist. Would recommend. Thirst is a bar with a dance floor directly opposite Park End. It sells cheap fish bowls and is actually pretty good. For whatever reason it tends to be almost exclusively filled with locals rather than students but if you’ve got a group together and want a change of scenery it’s worth popping in. Clem’s is an OK bar and a grimy club situated near Magdalen bridge. It’s not bad but not worth the considerable journey unless you live in Cowley or the Queen’s accommodation nearby. Carbon is a newcomer that was famously forced to abandon plans to have a live zebra at its May Day party earlier this year. It does interesting electronic music and has a really cool, big interior. Definitely one to watch out for.
Ben Deaner Regent’s Park PPE
Varsity night @ Bridge
Shuffle night @ Wahoo
Propaganda @ The O2
Shuffle night @ Junction
Varsity night @ Camera
Varsity night @ No.9
Supermarket @ Baby Love odd weeks only
Shuffle night @ Carbon
Crude dating T
he Oxford phenomenon of ‘crew dating’ is a curious affair. Should you have the misfortune to wander into ‘At Thai’ or ‘Bombay’ after sunset you will see the bizarre ritual unfolding. A ‘crew date’ is just that. Two ‘crews’ - sports teams or drinking societies from different colleges - will ‘date’ each other en masse. A rowdy dinner followed by a club night – Park End and the Bridge being the most popular – will lead to many drunken fumblings and banterous misdemeanours. Fancy dress is optional. Excessive drinking is not. Some crews are more in demand than others. St Catz and Hertford are raucous company at dinner, as are minnows like Regent’s Park. Wadham boys dress florally to impress, while Pembroke men are known to lavish their lady guests with champagne. By contrast the work-absorbed colleges (you know who you are) understand crew dating as frivolous, crass and unhealthy – which is wholly accurate. In search of that elusive commodity known as a ‘social life’ however, most of us soldier through it, regardless of what our better nature tells us. Diligently, you will have already facebook stalked the members of the opposing team. This is all very proper, though be careful not to know their names before they are given; that can be awkward. Similarly, do remember their name once they tell you it, though amongst the noise and prodigious quantities of wine you’ll probably be forgiven for forgetting. Ensconced in between two buxom beauties or handsome fellas, the fun begins. Ideally you will flirt with both of them, tactfully playing one off against the other. Far more entertaining however is watching your single-sex schooled friend across the table attempt to make
conversation. As a mark of how you’re doing, if you don’t know what undergarments your neighbours are sporting by the time the main course arrives, then you’re failing. ‘Sconcing’ deserves a special mention, because in one way or another it is responsible for most of the broken hearts, ended friendships and general debauchery that crew dating is blamed for. A ‘sconce’ or ‘fine’ is made by one member of the
date in challenge to all the others; ‘I sconce anyone who has...’ Guilty parties are expected to drink. As you might guess, the sconces will be of a strictly sexual composition – deviations from this theme are only permitted if they successfully humiliate another member. At times, sconcing can descend into an extremely mortifying experience. Confidences once kept are haphazardly broken in a drunken
haze. Occasionally two over-enthusiastic and inebriated participants, knowing all the grisly details of one another’s lives, will engage in a bitter war of attrition
Tom Beardsworth Brasenose PPE – firing sconces across the table in an exercise immensely entertaining for the audience. There are two solutions to this: (a) refrain from disclosing anything to friends that involves your sex life or (b) find out as much as possible about theirs, information you can needle them with if provoked. Students of the Cold War will be familiar with the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction. The same principle applies. When two crews gel – that is, they each regard the other as ‘fit’ and having ‘good chat’ – crew dating is a great way to enjoy Oxford’s otherwise tame social scene. Chances of copulation increase significantly, I am told. Sometimes things go wrong. I recall stumbling into my tutor on the High Street, port in hand, having just pleaded for and secured a deadline extension via email. It was immediately revoked. Worse, I know of one poor chap who woke up the next morning like the baby Jesus, naked in the stables of Blenheim Palace. But generally, the only costs are to your wallet, dignity and sexual health. If this all sounds undignifying, it is. But if it doesn’t seem like fun either, then that’s okay. Crew dating is a contrived, winesodden attempt to have a Good Time. Many people prefer the more casual, spontaneous socialising that – contrary to the Oxford misconceptions – there is ample time and opportunity for. But as part of a rich and varied social life, crew ENTERTAINMENT dating can really jazz up the Oxford experience. Just don’t take it too seriously.
Shopping around Sophie Jamieson St Hugh’s English
he most important thing to learn when it comes to shopping in Oxford is: don’t shop. What on earth are you thinking even turning to this page? You’re a student, ergo you’re penniless, and those few pennies you do have should indubitably be spent in the reduced section of Tesco and in hitting the tiles in Park End. Any frivolous purchases should be reserved for the vacations, when you have that all-important accessory, the parental credit card. But if you’re a shopaholic, a rampant kleptomaniac, or in possession of generous relatives, it pays to know the best places to go. Oxford city centre has its drawbacks - so you’ll have to hop on the Oxford Tube to London if you find yourself yearning for the wares of H&M or a Topshop that’s not the size of a thimble - but as long as you don’t attempt to navigate Cornmarket on a Saturday, shopping here can be quite a pleasant experience. An easy mistake to make is to expect to find standard British high-street fare on the High Street. Most chains and budget brands are located in and around Cornmarket, the Clarendon Centre, Queen Street and the Westgate Centre. The Westgate now boasts a Poundland alongside the cheap-tat heaven that is Primark, which is a compulsory destination when bop costumes are required. Much more inventive outfits can be created for under a fiver here than can be sourced from overpriced party shops. Queen Street, which leads to the Westgate Centre, is home to Topshop, Miss Selfridge and mum faves M&S and BHS. Linking Queen Street and Cornmarket, you’ll find the Clarendon Centre, best loved for its winning combination of Millie’s Cookies, Ann Summers and Claire’s Accessories. Exit onto Cornmarket and you’ll be greeted by buskers, thronging crowds and a chain-lover’s
dream, including all the staples: WH Smith, Waterstones, HMV and an oddly high concentration of phone shops. If you’re looking for more individual retailers, head to Broad Street, the High Street and the Covered Market. It may seem like every other shop is selling Oxford University branded tourist paraphernalia, but if you look hard enough it’s possible to find some gems. The Covered Market can be accessed from Cornmarket, the High Street and Market Street. It’s well known for its delicious treats (you can’t beat Ben’s Cookies and Moo Last m inute e Moos smoothies) as well as ssentia ls... P IN S AND B its boutique shops. Presents LU-TACK y o u : r if p hotos an you’ve b for the whole family can be d poste but forg rs to pu rought all found here: with florists, a otten th t on the e to Ryma walls pet shop, numerous jeweln’s on Q essentials, get down ueen Str lery and clothes outlets and eet for th bargain PRINTER e best s. more besides. If all else PAPER: a n n e in ssential g of the fails, there will always be fo academ ic year a r the beginsomething to tempt you in nd alwa snip at The Wo ys a KITCHEN rks. the amazing cheese, cake and pan WARE: you’ll fi n s d and chocolate shops. you nee d at Bos all the pots well’s o The High Street is n Broad A LAUN S treet. DRY BIN the prime destination : when it parents hits you are no lo for those with supethat you nger on washing r hand to , you’ll ne rior sartorial tastes Head to do the ed to ge Argos to t o and wallets to suit its rganised pick one GREETIN . GS CAR up for ju classy establishments. DS: for st £4.99 and to s a ll . e y n o u d r to the a If you’re looking to check o nxious g new friends u t ra th n splash the cash on an e great M&S – b stamp c dparents, uy six c ard dea amazing ball dress, a rd l at s (ev and get one free en the £1 ones this may be a good ) , of any price. place to start (try Karen Millen and Coast for example), although you might prefer to jump on a Clarendon Street, bus to Bicester Village and revel in the vintage shop Uncle Sam’s is a favourbargainous prices of the many designer ite, and on Walton Street you’ll find a outlets. wealth of cycle shops, worth bearing in Otherwise, the multiple Varsity shops mind when you get a puncture. Finally, on the High Street are a good place to on Thursdays you can indulge any desire pick up your obligatory college hoodie you have for crafts at the Gloucester and scarf - not to mention mug, tie and Green Antiques and Collectors’ market, cufflinks - and one for all the family if held from 9am to 4pm. you find yourself at a loss for Christmas Wherever you shop, make sure you present ideas. check whether they offer student disIf you’re willing to venture a bit out- count (don’t bother with an NUS card: side the city centre there’s plenty to everywhere in Oxford will accept your make it worth your while. You’ll find bod card) and do try to remember to some cheap deals down Cowley Road and save at least a little bit of money for some unique shops in Jericho. On Little food.
And don’t forget to... A
fter a four-day freshers’ ‘week’ - spent attempting to take mental notes through your hangover it’s possible you’ll have begun to tire of hitting the clubs night after night. Never fear: there is far more than sticky dancefloors and neon cocktails on offer at Oxford. Here are some of my favourite alternatives.
First, an old Oxford tradition which you wouldn’t be able to indulge in at most universities and which you won’t be able to avoid at this one: punting is the most relaxing way to spend the day with friends, once you’ve mastered the ability to steer the boat and can avoid taking ‘detours’ into the bushes. Head to the Cherwell Boathouse or the Magdalen Bridge punts with a flask of pimms and some strawberries. In particularly warm weather a dip in the Cherwell - whether planned or not - can be very refreshing. Though I’d advise you to keep your mouth firmly closed. For most colleges you will have paid a fee in your battels to use the college punts; if not you can always rent one for an hour or more, or find some friends at a college that has their own. If you want to go all out (and can afford it!) you can even hire Opera on Punts, to sing and chauffeur for you. If you don’t fancy getting wet, Pimm’s and a picnic can be equally enjoyable on dry land. University Parks and South Park are particularly nice; the latter is a bit of a trek, but worth it for stunning views of the Oxford skyline. The Botanic Gardens are also well worth a visit: they’re the oldest in the world, with an impressive collection of plants, making for a peaceful haven in the centre of the city. There’s free entry for Oxford students, so grab your most pretentious poetry and head on down.
Film buffs have plenty of choice in Oxford. As far as big chains go, Odeon dominates in Oxford, with two multi-
plexes on George Street and Magdalen Street. These cover most new releases and a student ticket will set you back around £6.20. However, Oxford really shines when it comes to smaller picturehouses. The Ultimate Picture Palace on Cowley Road is an independent cinema so hipster it doesn’t even show adverts. What it does show is a great mixture of mainstream, classic, arthouse and foreign language films for around £6 apiece. On the other side of town, in the middle of Walton Street, you’ll find the Phoenix Picture House: with two screens, an upstairs bar and a great programme of films and events, the Picture House is a firm favourite with Jericho residents and students alike. Magdalen Film Society is open to all and offers a variety of films of different genres, from Monty Python to Midnight in Paris, A Prophet to 2001, Space Odyssey. For £3 entry this is a perfect way to spend an evening and save cash - you even get free juice and wine. Most films are viewed in Magdalen College’s very own auditorium, but, if you’re lucky and the British weather decides to play nice, some screenings take place under the stars in the college’s beautiful quads. Blankets are strongly recommended, as the stars may not be enough to keep you warm even on the mildest of British evenings.
There’s plenty of live music around in Oxford if you know where to look. The O2 academy in Cowley plays host to well known artists and DJs on tour and has ticket prices to match, whilst the Jericho Tavern’s more intimate music room offers a great range of local artists, with regular nights such as Sunday evening’s ‘Communion’ always pulling in a good crowd. If you enjoy a bit of fancy footwork the Itchy Feet nights are sure to get your toes tapping. Keep an eye on the website and Facebook to see when they’re bringing their dancefloor-filling electroswing to town. It’s worth getting tickets early because they often sell out. For
Tiber Karadag St Anne’s Physics an Oxford version, check out the Swing Nights at St Anne’s College: whether you fancy yourself as the newest member of Diversity, or just enjoy stumbling around the dance floor with your two left feet, everyone is welcome. Held once a term, it’s a great way to spend an evening with friends listening to some fantastic musicians and shaking your booty. Entry is free and refreshments and snacks are provided. Finally, if you want to see some original musicians and performers, or fancy trying your hand at a live gig yourself, the legendary open mic night at The Catweazle Club should definitely be your first port of call. Currently held every thursday at the Cowley Road community centre, Catweazle has been hosting Oxford’s finest local talent since it opened in 1994, and can claim alternative pop group Stornoway amongst their previous performers. You’ll find musicians, comedians, poets and storytellers galore as well as a really welcoming mix of locals and students in the crowd.
You’re never short of theatre in Oxford and you’ll find something to suit every budget. Head to the New Theatre on George Street for popular musicals, dramatic plays, opera and ballet and big name comedians, or over to the Oxford Playhouse on Gloucester Street to catch touring companies and some of the most ambitious student productions. There’s also The Burton Taylor Studio next door, where you’ll mainly find student comedy and drama as well as some performances by small theatre companies. Whatever takes your fancy, the most important piece of advice before you dive into Michaelmas is to spare yourself some time to relax! It’s far too easy to get caught up in the Oxford bubble, believing that every moment not asleep should be spent studying. This is wrong. If you didn’t ENTERTAINMENT want to have any fun at uni you should have applied to Cambridge.
12 Matriculate Matriculate and Matriculash
Learn to survive alone...
Matriculation is an odd Latin ceremony which all new students must undergo in order to officially become part of the university. Equally compulsory is the ritual which follows it: matriculash. The city will be full of drunken students in subfusc, with the first colleges to go through hitting the pubs from 10am.
Learn to use that washing machine/ iron/ oven/ bike NOW. The more weeks that go by the more awkward it will be when you’re forced to admit you still don’t know how to clean your sheets.
Visit every pub in our guide Doubtless one of the greatest accolades an Oxford student can achieve. Not recommended the day before a 9am lecture, highly recommended at any other time.
Get involved in some activism 21st century students got a taste of the seventies spirit during the student fee protests Hey its worth a go. You never know, last year and we rather the residual dinosaur knowledge liked it. Find a cause you from that socially awkward phase in really care about, grab your childhood might finally come a placard and get out there. in handy. Besides, anyone who’s anyone has been made a fool of by Jeremy Paxman on national television.
Audition for University Challenge
Be a tourist
You’re never gonna beat ’em so you might as well join ’em once in a while. Take the day off from work, go to a museum, admire some architecture and take far too many photos.
Earn some money
Have sex in a library
This is something of a rite of passage. For beginners the college library is probably your best bet, and no doubt second and third years will have some helpful tips (CCTV blind spots etc.)
Take on a tutor
Hear someone amazing at the Union
Love it or hate it you can’t deny the Union gets some incredible guests. Recent highlights have included Sir Ian Mckellan, Lang Lang, Bill Nighy and Johnny Depp.
In order to fit in some festivities before everyone buggers off home around the 3rd of December, Oxford students give Asda a run for their money in the Christmas keenness stakes. Just go with it: Oxmas is just like Christmas - only with lower budgets and even higher alcohol consumption.
There’s not exactly a lot of time You’re getting pretty good at this left over for earning your fortune. academic stuff now, you’ve learnt a But money making at Oxford isn’t lot in the last two years and you really completely impossible: look out for think you’re right this time. So go for shifts in college bars and at balls, it! Tell her what’s what! You can take the chance to become a club rep, her, right? Wrong. Your tutor is right. local tutoring or - if you’re feeling Just stand there in your wrongness lucky - there’s always opportunities and be wrong. (It was worth a try). to rent out your body or mind in the name of medical research.
Order a ridiculous book from the Bod The Bod has all of the books: Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens... Mills and Boon, The Famous Five, 50 Shades of Gray, Spot the Dog’s Sticker Adventure...
Venture further afield
Go on a formal-hall-crawl An excuse to get dressed up, drunk, well-fed and nosy in a load of other colleges - what’s not to like?
Coming up to Oxford can do strange Just before I came up I met a things to your distance percepwoman in a bookshop who told tion: within weeks of arriving you’ll me that her Classics finals at consider attending a tute at St Oxford had been more painful Hugh’s akin to trekking across the than the birth of her first child. Siberian Wastelands. Nevertheless, But don’t let that worry you breaking out of the bubble is worth finals are a LONG way off and it. There’s some great village pubs you’ll get through them: with within easy reach. friends, caffeine and determination, and - failing that - an epidural.
13 Develop a hopeless attraction to a lecturer
Go on a crew date
It’s going to happen at some point and you might as well get it out of the way early on. Whether its their towering intellect, their aloof unavailability or perhaps more physical attributes, your desire for a don is as inevitable as it is unfeasible.
They’re loud, messy, vulgar and a lot of fun. Not the sporting type? Don’t let that hold you back - simply find the Pembroke Ladies’ boules society, go forth and date.
See or make some student drama
Thesps are rife at Oxford and they often do a very good job. There are few better ways to spend a summer evening than under the sunset at a garden play - whether you’re in front of the stage or on it.
Celebrate May Day This involves staying up all night to hear children sing hymns from a tower in the early hours of the morning. We know what you’re thinking, but trust us, it’s a compulsory experience there’s a certain May magic to the whole bizarre occasion.
Go on holiday with friends
It’s sad but true: in real life nobody gets three months off for their summer holiday. Make the most of it before you’re chained to a desk 47 weeks a year. Grab an interail ticket, brave some Ryanair flights or befriend someone with a ski lodge in the Alps and a yacht in the
Write for a student publication
Everyone loves to get their name in print and its never going to be easier than now. Add ‘published writer’ to your CV while you can.
Fork out the cash for a really great ball
Acquire an unusual ‘deaning’
If you’re going to get fined make sure you get a good anecdote out of it. Thought about keeping chickens in your room?
Watch some rowing
Definitely worth doing, provided you follow a few rules. Do: go in the summer; come with non-rower friends; drink plenty of Pimms. Don’t: attempt to understand the rules or the lingo; under any circumstances become engaged in conversation with a rower about their tactics or training.
Be a Trasher and a Trashee Despite the proctors most totalitarian efforts, ‘trashing’ remains a brilliant tradition. Greet your friends as they exit exams armed with glitter, silly string and champagne. You’ll be sparkly for weeks but once you’re free of finals this will seem entirely appropriate.
It’s remarkable how much you can get for free as a fresher in Oxford. Simply sacrifice any political loyalties, feign interest in a number of obscure causes, sell out to any corporations giving away logo-ed products and generally be a society whore. Canapes and cheap booze are yours for the taking.
This is a simple one: Get in punt. Drink excessive amount of Pimm’s. Fall out of punt. (Repeat to taste.)
Work in all of the libraries
Oxford has one of the highest concentrations of libraries in the world, so make the most of them. It’s not easy to spice up revision sessions, but doing them in the room where Harry and Co. looked for books on Nicholas Flamel is a good start.
Exploit the freebies
The tickets don’t come cheap but, believe it or not, Oxford colleges really know how to party. Oxford balls can include big name headliners, carousels and dodgems, unlimited food and alcohol, stunning locations and - to top it all - chocolate fountains.
Get a job or some work experience
Although it may seem an eternity away, one day we will all have to leave the student life behind and do something that really benefits society - you know, like management consultancy. An internship or work experience placement is an ideal way to test the waters.
Graduate! Preferably, as the saying goes, with a first, a blue or a spouse. But even if you don’t manage any of those we reckon if you’ve ticked off everything else on this list then you’ve not done too badly.
Picking your pint Gareth Langley Corpus Christi Chemistry
ost Freshers’ Week nights see some secondor third year trying to sell you tickets to some dark barn with music so loud you can still hear it next morning and with drinks that are either freezing cold or fluorescent. They may even come in a bucket, perhaps the grimmest container for anything you’re planning to consume. You are doing yourself a major disservice by spending all your evenings going to such establishments, especially when Oxford has a marvellous selection of pubs that cater for almost every taste… We’ll start with the cheapest bars in town. The Three Goats Heads next to the Oxford Union on St Michaels St is run by the Sam Smith’s brewery and hence, like all of their pubs across the country, the cheapest pint comes in at around £2.40. The small and quirky two-level pub is popular amongst students but the beer is all from pressurised kegs and the other offerings tend to be a bit more expensive. Round the corner, on George St you can find The Four Candles, the largest Wetherspoons in town (the other is towards the castle) which, like all other Spoons is soulless, classless, cheap and therefore a prime pre-lashing location. Just up the road on George St you have the not-so-cheap The Grapes, which has recently been taken over by Bath Ales and has a good selection of beers and lagers, including some interesting Belgian and German offerings, as well as being a rare outlet for properly dark beer. The location (opposite the New Theatre) means that the nice atmosphere and quality offerings don’t come cheap. Around the corner, next to Gloucester Green, you find two pubs which almost certainly don’t share the same clientèle. The Gloucester Arms is best described as a rocker’s pub with loud music, dark walls and heavy metal karaoke on a Monday. Almost directly opposite is the Far From the Madding Crowd, named as such
FOOD AND DRINK
since it is often viewed as a quiet retreat from the boisterous bars of George St. Popular with locals and reputed to be full of thesps, you will regularly find real ciders and perrys available. Not a cheap place to drink, but the quality, very much like The Grapes, makes it well worth a visit (or two). Head up St Giles past St John’s to find The Lamb and Flag - a pub that oozes quality - with three distinct sections, Old Peculiar and ‘Lamb and Flag Ale’, officially known as Palmers Dorset Gold. Near the science park and Classics Faculty, it provides a nice venue for an end-of-week pint or two. Opposite is The Eagle and Child, which like the Lamb and Flag, is owned by St John’s, but unlike the Lamb and Flag, is sublet to the pubco Nicholson’s. Like the other Nicholson’s pubs in town it’s a tad disappointing and the literary links to Tolkien mean you are likely to be sat next to tourists as well as paying more than £3.25 for a pint. Head back towards the middle of town and you’ll find three of the most famous pubs in Oxford. All are very popular with tourists and hence the food and drink prices are inflated (well in excess of £3 per pint, more like £3.30+). The White Horse, which can be found in the middle of Blackwells bookshop is very small and almost always busy so it’s not a great place to go with a large group of mates or a sports team, unless you’re the sort of person who finds the Central line at 6pm a pleasant place to be. The large pink building on the corner is The Kings Arms, a rather pleasant Youngs pub where you can get a good pint of Winter Warmer, provided that you’re there when it’s quiet. Unfortunately, it generally isn’t. Avoid on Sunday evenings unless you want to spend it with sozzled members of a certain controversial, non-affiliated, right-wing political organisation. The equally large Turf Tavern has most of its seating outdoors, albeit under cover, and has the most hand pumps of any pub in town as well as a number of dubious claims to fame: Morse, Clinton, cock fighting and quizzes to name a few. The pub relies on a reputation that it somewhat fails to live up to. The Turf isn’t a bad place to go, but like the building
itself, it’s only 18th century. Scratch beneath the surface and you’ll realise that the place needs a little bit of a lift to realise its full potential. If you want a truly old pub, then head to The Bear just off Oriel Square, a Fuller’s pub with low beams, a bizarre number of ties on the wall and a good pint of ESB (though again at tourist prices). Expensive is also the name of the game at The Head of the River, where you’ll pay dearly for the location on the banks of the Isis and the chance to sit outside next to lots more tourists. One thing that links all of the pubs highlighted so far is that, with the exception of the Wetherspoons, none of them has a TV, so where do you go when there’s a major event on the box? In the middle of town, there is the Eurobar on George Street as well as the The Duke’s Cut on Park End Street which both have Sky Sports and show major football fixtures. Eurobar is effectively a large sports bar, whilst The Duke’s Cut is more of a classic pub. If you want to watch a sport that isn’t football, then your best bet is The Royal Blenheim on St Ebbes St (opposite Camera) thanks to the policy of the slightly eccentric Welsh landlord. Always very busy on international rugby match days, the pub has a strong mixture of local and student regulars. There’s a wide selection of vegetarian and vegan food to go with the pretty good pub food, which with the well kept beer (the pub is the brewery tap for the White Horse brewery) and wide range of spirits, particularly single malts, makes the Blenheim one of the best pubs in town. Finally, don’t forget that there are plenty of places outside the city centre that are well worth visting: The Angel and Greyhound, The Isis Farmhouse and The Mason’s Arms to name a few. Oxford CAMRA have produced a pub guide to Oxford and the surrounding area, so if you want to find out more about these places and more, then it can be found for £5.99 in a number of pubs across town and online, or you can just take a walk and find out for yourself… N.B. All prices are approximate and correct at time of writing. Prices are for a pint of real ale or equivalent.
Mixing it up I
know it may seem a little strange that this publication is dedicating an entire feature to the consumption of cocktails. “I’m a fresher,” you’re thinking. “The most complicated drink I’m anticipating imbibing over the next three years is a Jägerbomb, and even waiting for the barman to make that is going to bore me enormously.” For those barely bloomed 18-year-olds among you, it’s true that you need to get your fair share of disgusting supermarket spirits down you during the next few weeks, and being trusted to drink from a receptacle actually made of glass is probably an experience still in the midto far distance. I know: I used to be like that too. But then two eye-opening revelations changed my mind. Number one: I realised that the Oxford Union card that I had mistakenly spent a triple-figure sum on was actually a kind of magical free pass to half-price cocktails in at least two central Oxford bars, both of which will happily sell you drinks which are literally on fire. The second epiphany came as I sat in Cowley’s Lan Kwai Fong and looked down at what I expected to be just a mojito, but what was instead a complex arrangement of fruit, suspended over my drink by a system of toothpicks. Oh, and all the pieces of fruit had faces drawn on them in chocolate. “Do I ever want to drink anything which isn’t on fire and which doesn’t have a smiling strawberry sitting on top of it again?’’ I asked myself. The answer was, of course, no. In Oxford ‘cocktails’ is a paradoxical byword for both ‘a quiet drink’ and ‘an evening which ends with you doing headstands in Wahoo with only the vaguest memory of downing that final Absinthe Orgasm’. Either way they’re cunningly designed to cover the taste of the two (or three, or four) different types of strong liquor they contain - in exactly the way your Tesco Everyday Value lemonade doesn’t. Below are my pick of Oxford’s cocktail offerings. All of them are within a ten minute walk of all non-ridiculously located Oxford colleges, all have drinks offers that cost less than a Pret lunch and all are far, far better to visit on a weeknight than a weekend, unless you fancy waiting for a drink for forty minutes near people who actually work for a living.
Lan Kwai Fong
Location: 95 Cowley Road (Translation: not far from the Cowley roundabout, opposite Atomic Burger). Deals: 3 for 2 on cocktails and shooters from 4pm to 7pm daily. Most drinks are under a fiver anyway.
Verdict: You’ll feel like you’re in a cross between a pub and Chinese restaurant drinking a cocktail, because, well, you are. You’re not here for the decor though – you’re here for the selection of 30+ bizarrely named cocktails and shooters, the karaoke, and because you can get spring rolls as a bar snack. Last but not least, you’re here for the aforementioned fruitface sculpture served atop every drink. Re c o m m e n d e d drink: They all have hilarious names, so just choose the funniest. Failing that, the absinthe cocktails are killer. Possibly literally.
The Grand Café
Location: High Street (Translation: right by Univ). Deals: Happy Hour 7-11pm Mon-Sat, all cocktails half price (around £3-£4). Verdict: While this is a favourite haunt of many, the drinks here have never blown me away. Worth it, though, for the weird disembodied arm light fittings and huge, wall-sized mirrors where you can check your Park End slap. Not very big, so not one to take all fifty of your new best friends to, and not very dim, so not one to take a date to unless you want them scrutinising your every blemish. Recommended drink: The Elderflower Collins - tastes as posh as it sounds.
The Duke of Cambridge
Location: Little Clarendon Street (Translation: in Jericho, near G&Ds and Somerville). Deals: Happy Hour 5-9pm Sun-Thurs, 5-7.30pm Fri-Sat, all cocktails £3.95. All cocktails £3.95 with a Union card every day. Verdict: No sign of His Royal Highness, just low slung booths with low lighting, European barmen and arguably the best chandelier in Oxford. No loud music so it’s possible to have an actual conversation. Best place to go to feel like a grown-up. Recommended drink: Their Bloody Mary is the size of a serving of tomato soup, but sneakily strong.
Location: Blue Boar Street (Translation: down that side street next to Christ Church). Deals: Happy Hour 5-9pm Sun to Thurs,
Barbara Speed Wadham English
5-8pm Fri-Sat. All cocktails half price with a Union card any time, any day. Verdict: The main room is a bit like a corridor, so fans of The Bridge (the similarly latitudinally-challenged nightclub) will feel right at home, though it can get busy quickly. Nice and dim, with a second room upstairs that has a pool table. It also has some novel and oddly classy plastic couches out back in case you need some fresh air. Drinks dip in quality and strength during happy hour, but are usually good. Recommended drink: The aggressively named Raging Bison packs a punch: Zubrowka vodka, vanilla schnapps, mint and lime. So, even if you’re planning on drowning yourself in cheap booze for the foreseeable future and can’t imagine spending over £4 on a bottle of vodka, let alone a drink, hang on to this page and keep it for a rainy day. Your infinitely more sophisticated second-year self might just thank you later.
FOOD AND DRINK
Student life. Those two simple words have a tendency to strike gastronomic fear into the hearts of most, as they envision half conscious zombies dribbling onto their makeshift mattresses of Domino’s boxes. Make no mistake, the chances are you will see a fair bit of this during your time at university – but for the more adventurous type, Oxford holds a vibrant scene for foodies. For those intrepid young freshers hoping to avoid a three-year pizza-induced coma, read on…
Fast Food Chez Hassan, Broad Street
Romantic Date KazBar, 25-27 Cowley Road For a touch of mid-range elegance that won’t break the bank on your night out with that special someone, walk down the chic Cowley Road to the even chic-er KazBar. The tapas are there to be shared, and if you can’t create an intimate vibe here, then God help you. The quirky Mediterranean decor is classy without being corny, although the opening sunroof on starry evenings might just add the perfect touch of cliché to your special night. If dinner is a success there’s also a couple of conveniently located cocktail bars where you can carry on the evening. Try Cafe Coco next door or Cafe Tarifa slightly further down the road - both share KazBar’s intimate atmosphere and are open late in case you’re struggling to close the deal without some dutch courage.
Ah, the unwitting, innocent enthusiasm of the fresher. They think they know everything. I know I did. But one thing you probably don’t know yet is about the Kebab in Oxford. The market for them is saturated in more than one sense, with outposts on every major road in the city centre, every day of the week until the wee hours. Within a few days, I’d gleaned that a) this was to become a staple food, and b) that kebab vans are the subject of a tribal inter-college territory war. Everyone from every college will tell you that their local is the best; I’ll tell you now, for free, that unless they say Chez Hassan’s, they’re delusional nutters. Situated on the corner of Turl Street and Broad Street, Hassan’s should find you soon after you arrive. It takes a great deal of patience for the staff to put up with a clientele that ranges in general from mildly tipsy to prone in the gutter, whining for a Big Mac, so make sure to have a chat with them and see that they’re lovely guys. Finally, overcome your pride and never go near the hot sauce. You have been warned.
Oxford restaura Meal with Mates Hi-Lo Café, 68 Cowley Road
FOOD AND DRINK
Caribbean food is not exactly a novelty, and has been assimilated into our national cuisine to the extent that you can buy patties in ASDA, jerk sauce in your local offie, and that bloke with dreads from Dragons’ Den has made millions off the very same cultural bandwagon. Oxford’s undisputed king of this scene is the Hi-Lo Café in Cowley, which has been around since 1981, but found fame recently after it transpired that way back when, none other than David Cameron was a regular punter in this eccentric haven of left-field food, drink and folk. Everything is homecooked and organic, if that floats your boat; but what makes the Hi-Lo a gem is the 2am license, so it’s a perfect place to spend (or start) one of those nights with your mates. Drop by for a pattie, a pint, or a go at one of their intense Jamaican rums as classic reggae wafts out from the sound system. Authentically Jamaican? I’m not quite qualified to answer, but the Hi-Lo is something of a landmark in Oxford; the hours you lose here are ones to (try to) remember.
Hangover Cure Mick’s Cafe, Cripley Road When eating out, the food alone is never everything; a limp atmosphere can make an otherwise fine meal as enjoyable as the first glance down your thirty-page reading list. In fact, when you’ve woken up with a pounding head, a furry tongue and a room filled with assorted types of traffic cone (as you inevitably will at some point), the atmosphere served up with your breakfast is pretty much all that matters. Let’s face facts, you won’t be tasting much for a couple of hours at least. Mick’s Cafe is, as the name might suggest, a refreshing antidote for those already sick of dreaming spires and formal halls; in fact, architecturally this tiny wooden shack would not be out of place in a desert outpost in Sub-Saharan Africa. Always remember that, oddly enough, there is life beyond Oxford University in Oxford, and this is a local favourite, with no pretensions and no chance of a skinny gingerbread latte to accompany your grub. Embrace it as a taste of the real England, the England of Old, the England that was before reality TV, multinational sushi conglomerates on every street corner, and Russell Brand warbling sweet nothings into our ears from inside the Idiot Box. It’s got fry-ups and f**k all else.
Joe Cock French & Linguistics St Catz
Pub Lunch The Perch Inn, Binsey Lane
’s best nts for...
One of the real highlights of living in a place like Oxford is the number of traditional pubs. Most take pride in real beer and real food, which makes a change from Oxford’s clubs, which to be frank, are not worthy of the effort to describe them on that front. Popular watering holes around the city centre like the King’s Arms and the Turl are well worth a visit, but the best experience I’ve ever had in an Oxford pub is at the Perch Inn, a bike ride across the river from the picturesque Port Meadow. Hidden down a rugged dirt track, the pub itself, with its thatched roof and enormous beer garden, is surreally handsome. Inside is a proper French bistro-style restaurant – not quite foie gras mousse and moustachioed chefs juggling flaming truffles, but not too far off. If you fancy a real treat they also do hot bar snacks, and in the summer months the outdoor barbecue is the main attraction, and is a great reinvention of the “pies, bangers’n’mash” school of pub food. That’ll do nicely, then.
Dinner with Parents Al Shami, 25 Walton Crescent Picture the scene. One groggy, post-freshers morning, you wake up to a text from your entire brigade of golden oldies saying that they’re driving up for a surprise visit/sneak attack. But Carpe Diem and all of that, because there is such thing as a free meal. Head over to Al-Shami, Oxford’s finest Lebanese joint. It has a real buzz, quality food, and will at least make you seem wise and cultured in front of the fawning parents as you knowingly recommend the mixed mezze for the meek and the lamb brains for the clinically insane – it’s also a top spot for the discerning vegetarian. With a bit of luck and a stiff upper lip the folks will never know you’ve spent the last two weeks in a state of perpetual hangover.
FOOD AND DRINK
Hallowed halls Xin Fan St Anne’s History and Economics
kay. So you’ve probably had a flick through this guide, picked which Blues sport you’re going to dominate, settled on your night-time hotspot of choice, and decided which of Oxford’s greasy poles (OUSU? The Union? Cherwell?) you plan to scale. But you can’t do any of that on an empty stomach. Food will fuel your ascent to greatness, whether it be on the dance floor, the river, or the weekly meeting of the Pimp-My-CV society. So read on. Colleges let you buy food in hall through the battels system, where you can load up cash on that all-important sliver of plastic - your Bod Card. Food quality varies between colleges as do opinions on it, making it hard to pin a badge on the ‘best’. That said, Lincoln’s head chef is so popular he has a portrait
in their college hall, and Merton, Mansfield, and St Anne’s are pretty much universally recognised to have decent grub. The high point of the college culinary calendar is what is generally known as Formal Hall, bookable in advance. ‘Formals’ can lead some to assume the pretension of an acerbic food critic, but with enough wine inside you you’ll be able to overlook this and enjoy the general merriment. They generally involve following some etiquette, such as waiting for the ‘high table’ at the front to start before tucking in and reciting a Latin Grace. Some colleges, however, are deliberately relaxed, for example gown-free formals at St Anne’s and non-existent formals at Wadham. College formal food can be a revelation. Word has it Worcester can give the Randolph (the Ritz of Oxford) a run for its money. Other places though, like
Christ Church, rely on you not really noticing what’s on your plate because you’re too in awe of the fact that you’re sitting at the Griffindor table. Some people with a serious time surplus have made it their mission to get noshed at each and every college, so if you have an insatiable appetite for formals you can sign up to join them at www.hallsurfing.co.uk. That then, in a nutshell, is college food at Oxford. I’ve only wiped the surface, but best to just go forth and conquer your appetite. Feel free to leave a tip.
Behind (college) bars Mischa Frankl-Duval New College English
hat’s the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens, you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens, you drink to make something happen.” – Charles Bukowski. For every essay-burdened English student, problem-sheet pisshead, and – if you can find one – socially functional casual drinker, college bars provide a warm, beery sanctuary, and a temporary reprieve from the vicissitudes of student life. Yours is likely to act as your local while you’re here, providing a cheap, sociable environment in which to drink surrounded by friendly They tend to serve a sufFOOD AND faces. ficient (if modest) range of laDRINK gers and ale and a good range of wines, soft drinks and snacks, all at student-friendly prices.
They also tend to become more popular throughout the academic year, as students tire of pricey, repetitive club nights. Drinking in Michaelmas centres on rushed pre-club drinks, but the improvisational pleasure of combos like Schnapps ’n’ wine can only last so long. The bar provides a less innovative but far more reliable and comfortable alternative. Events at your college bar will most likely be controlled by student reps, and vary widely from college to college. Some fixtures – pool, darts, open mic nights – are more or less universal; others, such as the annual meetings of the New College Hat Club (where hats, either traditional or improvised, are compulsory, with the best headgear earning its owner a prize) are far more unique, and help to give each bar its own character. Visiting friends at their own college bars is a fantastic way to meet new people and explore colleges which might otherwise remain unvisited. Most are worth a visit, but some are particularly noteworthy. St Peter’s has perhaps the best in Oxford:
friendly student staff, walls plastered with ‘St Peter’s’ road signs, plush leather sofas and, in the ‘Cross Keys’, one of Oxford’s most lethal and delicious signature college drinks. Univ is similarly welcoming, and has a proud recent tradition for fun themed nights and afterdinner student entertainment. There’s no doubt though that Balliol bar remains the daddy of college bars, playing host each week to the legendary ‘Crazy Tuesdays’, when drastically reduced drinks prices attract students from all over the University. If you manage to squeeze into the college’s cosy cellar, shove past manically exuberant table footballers, and survive the bar’s inevitable queues, buy in bulk: you don’t want to do it more than once. They serve pints of ‘cocktails’ in garish colours which taste far better than they should. The ultimate choice is a Balliol Blue: it has lots of vodka, lots of sugar and it’s very, very blue. The best legal (for now) kick in Oxford at the most sociable pre-drinking night.
Oxford’s Kebab Vans welcome you!* A
s Freshers’ Week and Michaelmas Term come upon us, the average student’s thoughts turn to Park End, UV Bubble Parties, and similar scenes of debauchery. But no Great British night out is complete without a greasy snack to cure the belly rumbles after a hard night’s drinking, lusting and dancing (the last of which, we claim, burns enough calories to allow for a bit of gluttony). I’m off to chat with three Kings Among Men, men whom I can justly call the Dons of the Doner, the Fellows of the Fryer and the Masters of the Mayo. They are: Mr Hasan, from Hasan’s on Broad St, Mr Ahmed, from Ahmed’s on the High St, and LJ, from Branos of Gloucester Green.
with the added novelty that we’re not just a van, we’re in a shop! Well, a metal shack actually, but it all adds to the charm.
RM: Evening gentlemen, I trust all is well in the world of kebab-van-ery? Ahmed: Very much so, looks like it’s going to be another good night for us as well. LJ: Damn right, a clear evening is always a bonus. RM: Never really thought the weather would come into it. Hasan: Shows what you know, buddy.
RM: And for veggies? Or do they avoid your vans? HA: No, they flock to us. Veggie burgers are very popular. Usually with houmous. LJ: Not many round us, to be honest. Although, we’ve been known to give out a sliver of lettuce with people’s cheesy chips. That’s pretty good, right?
RM: Uh, yeah. Anyway, let’s get started. To begin with, tell me a little about your food outlets. HA: Well, I reckon we’re the best known and best loved in Oxford. All the Turl Street colleges come to us. New and Wadham as well. We’re all about gourmet dining. Well, you know, compared to the other kebab guys. AH: Bit of a show off, isn’t he? We sit on the High Street, looking after Oriel, Corpus, Magdalen and others. We provide your true kebab experience – doner kebabs, burgers, cheesy chips, the lot. LJ: We’re a little bit special, I think. Tucked away on Gloucester Green
RM: OK, so what are your specialities? LJ: Worcester Special. Cheesy chips and chicken (spicy or normal), covered in your favourite sauce. [RM: I’m here to tell you, they really are good] HA: Yeah, well, that’s pretty basic compared to what we’re offering. I’ve got one word for you: houmous. We’re very aware that that’s what you posh Oxford guys are in to. AH: Our speciality? Can’t go wrong with a doner kebab and spicy chips. Nom nom.
Rolf Merchant Worcester History RM: How do you deal with drunken revellers? HA: Like my hero Gordon Ramsay says, you can’t upset the customers. So, if they’re stumbling a bit, I let them lean against the bar and gather themselves. AH: Hearing orders properly is achallenge when they slur their speech. It’s a language I’ve learnt over the years. Quite often they can’t remember what they ordered so can’t be disappointed. LJ: I’ve got a long broom to shoo away the guys who try to take a leak on the nearby wall. Usually does the trick. RM: Best part of the job? LJ: I like it when a couple of students pop round during an all-night essay crisis. It’s like being a barman, you know, consoling them and keeping them going. I’d like to think I’ve personally contributed to some of Oxford’s finest work.
RM: Very impressive. So what are the toughest nights? Wednesdays after Park End? AH: Jeez, yes, they often are. Thursdays can be bad too. Oh and Saturdays when the town folk come out. You know what, most nights are tough.
RM: Plans for the future? LJ: Um well, ask again after Freshers’ Week... if we’ve survived the rush! AH: We’re thinking of going organic. Ha! Only joking! HA: Staying Oxford’s Number 1. And serving more houmous.
RM: Right, and I guess winter must be pretty bad? LJ: No, cos I’ve got a really good hat and mittens combo. Also, the heat of the kebab warming apparatus is pretty good. HA: Mate, you should see the size of my hob. It once kept four of us toasty in -7°. No bull!
As I head home, the first hungry drunkards stumble into view and I reflect on what I’ve heard tonight. You can say what you like about McDonald’s or Burger King, but they are not a patch on those independent vendors, noble and brave, who keep us satiated when no one else can. Kebab van men of Oxford, I salute you. *Interview may not have actually taken place.
FOOD AND DRINK
1. Balliol 2. Brasenose 3. Christ Church 4. Corpus Christi 5. Exeter 6. Hertford 7. Jesus 8. Keble 9. Lincoln 10. Lady Margaret Hall (LMH) 11. Magdalen 12. Mansfield 13. Merton 14. New 15. Oriel 16. Pembroke 17. The Queen’s 18. Regent’s Park 19. St Anne’s 20. St Catherine’s (Catz) 21. St Edmund Hall (Teddy Hall) 22. St Hilda’s 23. St Hugh’s 24. St John’s 25. St Peter’s 26. Somerville 27. Trinity 28. University (Univ) 29. Wadham 30. Worcester
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Bodleian Library English Faculty Library & Law Library History Faculty Library Taylor Institution Library (Modern Languages) Music Faculty Library Philosophy Faculty Library Radcliffe Science Library (RSL) Sackler Library Said Business School Library Social Science Library (SSL) Theology Faculty Library
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Carfax Tower Rad Cam Train Station Bus Station Phoenix Picturehouse Covered Market Ashmolean Museum Natural History Museum The Playhouse New Theatre Oxford Union Ice Rink
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Join the club Madi Maxwell-Libby Teddy Hall English
ou’ll soon find out, if you haven’t already, that Oxford students are blessed with a bewilderingly vast array of clubs and societies to join. Clubs are a way to broaden your social horizons, pad out the all-too-empty CV, and take a much needed break from the intensity of academia. Thought you were the only one who liked Krav-Tardamet and French jazz? Think again. There are over 400 different societies to choose from, ranging from sport, drama, journalism, music and charities, to slightly more eccentric groups like the Assassins’ Guild (don’t ask - if I told you, I’d have to kill you...). Your first encounter with the wonderful world of niche clubs will come in Freshers’ Week as you enter the chaotic whirligig that is the Oxford Freshers’ Fair. Prepare to
be overwhelmed as you work your way through room after room of stalls offering activities you never knew existed, as well as a plethora of free pens, badges, stickers and other delightful plastic memorabilia. The best thing to do is to sign up for anything and everything that vaguely takes your fancy - although be prepared to spend the rest of the year trying to persuade the president of the Icelandic Flute Orchestra or the Underwater Croquet Society to stop sending you daily emails. Oxford wouldn’t be Oxford without a whiff of controversy around it, and while there do exist such charmingly benign clubs as the Chocolate Appreciation Society (aww), for those who like some ideology with their extracurriculars, there’s also a thriving political scene. OULC (Oxford University Labour Club) and OCA (Oxford Conservative Association) are favourite stomping grounds for those aspiring to be the Boris Johnsons/ Ed Milibands of the future. If you yearn for the Oxford of Brideshead Revisited, probably the closest thing nowadays is
the weekly booze-up hosted by OCA, known as ‘Port and Policy’ (emphasis on the former). For those with less mainstream political views, the Socialist Workers Party hosts frequent talks and gigs. If you like running for office but aren’t so keen on national politics, you can always run for your college’s JCR committee: positions typically include JCR President, Secretary, Treasurer, and so on, but colleges quite often have wackier, less serious positions too, ranging from Cinema Curator to Poet Laureate to Tortoise Keeper (for colleges lucky enough to have their own tortoise!) But don’t worry if you’ve yet to discover your political leanings and you’re not quite au fait with the rules of polo. Getting involved with student societies at Oxford is as serious a commitment as you want to make it, and there’s no obligation to turn up past the first gathering if you realise it’s not for you. Make the most of all the free freshers’ drinks and if you can’t find a society that interests you, set up your own!
ord society should you joi Which Oxf n? YES
Are you hungry for power?
Do you like following instructions?
Do you want to meet famous people? Do you like to be the centre of attention?
N Would you appeal to voters?
Y Oxford Union
N Are you a morning person?
Are you a good Facebook stalker?
Do you enjoy correcting people’s N grammar? N
You want to run the world, and you’ll stop at nothing on the path to greatness. You know how to butter up the people who matter, and you like nothing more than mixing with the great and the good.
Are you good at making speeches?
Could you stab your rivals in the back?
CLUBS AND SOCIETIES
Do you look good in lycra?
You always have your eyes and ears open, and are constantly on the look-out for a whiff of scandal or a juicy piece of gossip. You also feel physically sick whenever someone misuses an apostrophe.
Do you prefer the culture section to N N the sport?
(Oxford University Dramatic Society) You always have to be centrestage. Literally. Ever since you starred in the nativity play at nursery school, you just can’t get enough of the limelight.
Y College Boat Club
You’re up at the crack of dawn every day. You enjoy repeated, rhythmical motion and your clothes always seem to be slightly too tight. You enjoy using words like ‘rate’, ‘split’, ‘erg’ and ‘squeeze’.
Power. Prestige. The famed Oxford Union seems to have it all. But is it worth it? Before you fork out the steep membership fee, take a look at the pros and cons...
The Oxford Union:
to join or not to join?
Tom Beardsworth Brasenose PPE
epending at what stage of Freshers’ Week you’re reading this, you may already have heard a lot about the Oxford Union. Many older students will insist that the ‘hacks’ are reason enough to stay away, expressing deep remorse that they ever bought into the self-serving institution. Critics regard the ‘life membership’ as more of a life sentence, as you’re signing away your right to peace and quiet on Friday of 7th week (election day), when you’ll be frogmarched into the voting booth by whoever’s running from your college.
“The Union debate chamber assumes the character of an amphitheatre. Good speakers exude charisma and the cut and thrust is riveting.” I don’t buy into these assertions and nor, in my view, should you. Elections are a regular (arguably too regular) occurrence in the Union but they are not its raison d’être. Hacking is annoying, no doubt. Do Union hacks seek election for their own advancement? Sure, and you should endeavour not to vote for anyone who claims otherwise. But put it in perspective. With the multitude of clubs and societies on offer, hacks are a presence in every society, and you’ll struggle to find someone who isn’t busily working their way up something. The vital difference with the Union is that hacking is democratic: to run the society you have to be elected. And given the expense of membership I would rather, despite the irritation, have a say in who runs the Union than see the positions passed through friendship groups, precisely as they are in other societies. Then there are the debates. The first one I attended in Michaelmas last year – the annual ‘No Confidence’ debate, – completely bowled me over. For those like me, who’d followed politics keenly but had only previously understood it through a TV screen, seeing Paddy Ashdown, Alan Duncan and Hilary Benn lambast each other across the despatch box was something quite special. On a busy evening, the Union debate chamber assumes the character of an amphitheatre. Good speakers exude charisma and the cut and thrust of debate is riveting. Some speakers are better than others, but the Union rarely fails to secure big names. If you’re interested in debating yourself, opportunities abound. Every Thursday night debate includes the ‘Emergency debate’ on a current story and time for ‘floor speeches’ at the end, in which you can cultivate your public speaking skills. For really eager beavers, the Union also maintains a large debating team. Make the cut and you could be sent around the world honing your talent. The membership fee, nearly £200, is no bargain, but half of the undergraduate body are members – so it is very much not the fringe society others characterise it as. Think of Union membership as just like joining your local gym: great value and immensely rewarding, as long as you use it.
Edward Nickell Exeter PPE
he Union doesn’t have to be a bad thing, as long as you don’t join it. Without it, the pages of Cherwell would be devoid of a salacious source of scandals and headlines. No JCR would be complete without a love-to-hate hack. But take at least a term before you start paying for it. There is a certain prestige to the Union, with its impressive history of producing cabinet ministers and the like. But if you’re planning to follow in their footsteps, getting elected is difficult, and many hacks retire without ever making Seccie’s committee, the bottom rung of a tall political ladder. You have to put in long hours of networking and character assassinating to climb the greasy pole, skills which don’t necessarily equate to good governance of the Union. Seeing members wearing their coat tails and bow ties makes me feel like I’m on stage in a bizarrely sinister production of Bugsy Malone. Or the Muppet Show. What about the debates? Though a society renowned for its speakers, it has recently sunk to inviting page three models and pimps, and the really big names are few and far between. Student life, and joining societies, is all about getting value for money. You may well find yourself attending LawSoc, not because of any budding legal interest but for the unlimited drinks events. And the fact is, there are far better-value alternatives to the £200 (or thereabouts) you pay for Union membership. For those with a genuine law interest, then the Bar Society is for you. A political animal? Meet Ed Balls at the Labour Club. If you want some debate, dine with Richard Dawkins through the Oxford Atheists, Secularists and Humanists. It’s rare for societies to require you to join or pay much to see the speakers, so you can just turn up to the best events of each. Other minor selling points are the Union’s subsidised bar, free entry to the Purple Turtle nightclub and the Union library. It’s a decent bar, but not significantly better or cheaper than any college bar and with a much more specific social scene. The library is a gorgeous building, but when the full back catalogue of Playboy is available in the Bodleian, there isn’t much you won’t find in Oxford’s other libraries. Most students who join the Union hardly ever use these resources, and end up subsidising other people’s drinks with their membership fee.
“There are far better alternatives to paying Union membership - most societies don’t require you to join or pay much to see their speakers.” The brand power of the Union leads many freshers to sign up as soon as they arrive. Many think - mistakenly - that they won’t get a proper ‘Oxford experience’ if they don’t join. But the reduced membership cost will be reinstated at the start of each academic year, so taking some time to see how much you will get out of the Union will not cost you anything.
CLUBS AND SOCIETIES
Read all about it... S
tudent journalism is really fun. I don’t know how better to sell it than that, because that’s been the overriding tenor of my two years of experience in the murky world of print hackery. Sometimes it’s intense, sometimes it can be hard work, and occasionally it makes you want to take people’s faces and squeeze them until they meet their deadlines, but, in the end, it’s just really fun. I have interviewed actors and activists, stood guard while my colleagues were photographed climbing the railings of the Bodleian in broad daylight, been sent free books, CDs, risotto and meal vouchers in the name of ‘reviewing’, spent hours learning how to do pointless tricks on Photoshop, and whiled away more evenings making in-jokes in Jamal’s (Oxford’s famous ‘crew date’ joint, see p. 36) than I’d really like to count. Working for a student publication means getting to write, film, photograph or draw in a forum that looks good on your CV and will also be seen by a good proportion of your fellow students. It’s like being famous, but nobody’s trying to hack your phone (well, someone did try once, but that’s another story). Here’s a guide to the biggest and best publications Oxford has to offer...
Cherwell : The old one
Some might say that I am a little biased towards this particular publication (I’m one of the editors), but my high levels of journalistic integrity allow me to state objectively that this is the best paper in Oxford and the best place to work. Founded in 1920, Cherwell is an Oxford institution on the level of the Union or OUSU. An independent, studentrun operation, it gets its money from advertising and college subscriptions. Participation in the Fit College or Blind Date features arguably offers the greatest level of fame and/or humiliation available to students at
Oxford, and the paper’s strong investigative news team have in the past scooped world exclusives including Diana and Charles’ engagement. The paper will be run in Michaelmas by two exceptionally talented editors – email them at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested, or check out cherwell.org/ recruitment.
know, you may even learn something. Email email@example.com to get Bang!ing or visit bangscience.org.
The Oxford Student: The one with all the scandal
OTR : The one where you get free tickets to stuff
The Oxford Student was set up in 1992 and has been causing trouble ever since. Unlike Cherwell, it is not independent but funded by OUSU (hence the shiny Macs they use to lay out the paper). First on the weekly paper’s list of favoured targets are the Oxford Conserva t i v e Association, who owe their recent disassociation from the University almost entirely to the efforts of one tireless OxStu staff member. Irreverent and sometimes a little slapdash, expect a banterous office environment in OUSU HQ. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to get involved or log on to their shiny new website at oxfordstudent.com.
The Isis: The arty one
Published termly, the Isis magazine is always really pretty and has a particular emphasis on graphic design and featurelength and investigative pieces about an eclectic range of topics. Impressive alumni in the magazine’s 120 year history include Nigella Lawson, Evelyn Waugh and Sylvia Plath. If you’ve ever wanted to report on a child Elvis convention or write about the weird eating habits of 15th century monks, this is the place for you. Email email@example.com to get involved and check out isismagazine.org.uk/.
Bang!: The one where science goes to look cool
The enthusiastically named Bang! offers popular science titbits and boasts selfproclaimed ‘gorgeous graphics’ in its termly magazine. It has a dedicated graphic team alongside the staff responsible for content, so studying science is not compulsory, and you never
Barbara Speed Wadham English
Oxford Theatre Review somehow manages to get two reviewers along to the first night of every student production in Oxford (and there are a lot) and get reviews online by midday the next day. A good way to see all your friends’ mediocre dramatic turns for free. The only downside is that one venomous review can alienate e n t i r e swathes of socially powerful thesps in one fell swoop, but then there’s always the option of a pseudonym… Email the editor at editor@oxfordtheatrereview. com if you want to contribute, or check out oxfordtheatrereview.com.
Oxymoron/Oxford Fox: The ones that laugh at everybody else
In a University where student journalism plays such a prominent role, it’s no wonder that the number of satirical publications nearly equals the number of semi-serious ones. The Oxford Fox website (oxfordfox.co.uk) was launched last year, shrouded in mystery, while the Oxymoron (theoxymoron.co.uk) appears in most JCRs termly. I know from experience that there is nothing scarier than approaching people with the sentence ‘I think I’m good at writing/photography/etc., please can you show my writing/photographs/etc. to all your readers’. But we’re all students and all amateurs, and we always want fresh blood. It’s well known in Oxford newsrooms that freshers are the best staff members as they have limitless enthusiasm, and if you ask them to write 400 words CLUBS AND on the pig exhibition in Didcot SOCIETIES they’ll do it on time and be grateful for the ‘opportunity’. So sign up and you won’t regret it.
Drama Ksenia Harwood Oriel Philosophy and French
he drama scene in Oxford is lively and intense - indeed, it may seem a little daunting. With such a vast number of shows on each term and a variety of venues and roles to take in, it is difficult to know where to begin! What’s more, whether you are a total amateur or have been treading the boards since your first primary school nativity play, it’s hard to know what being in a play in Oxford is actually like. Here’s the team behind Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music to share their tips and experiences.
Acting: Aleks Cvetkovic - playing Count CarlMagnus
Having been here a year now, I can say with all confidence that the drama scene in Oxford is, quite frankly, the cat’s knackers. It allows me to indulge in one of the things that I’m most passionate about - performing, and has also been a great way to meet some fantastic people. Every show brings together a completely different cast and crew, and you always become very close over the rehearsal period. Be prepared though fun as they are, rehearsals are also a big time commitment! Yet I find it’s entirely worth it - it’s not every day that you get to play an almost painfully macho, walrus-moustached, philandering Edwardian dragoon, is it? I’d say, if you want to get into acting at Oxford, just audition for as much as possible - there’s always an opportunity out there. Half the parts I’ve been cast in so far I’ve just kind of fallen into - so there’s nothing to be lost by giving it a shot!
Directing: Griff Rees and Jack Noutch - CoDirectors
Griff: I’ve directed over 8 plays during my time at Oxford, and it’s among the more megalomaniac endeavours a person can undertake your cast gives up huge amounts of time just to realise your crazy idea! It can, however, be stressful work and quite frustrating for people used to acting: you don’t get the cathartic pay off of performance, but rather a nail CLUBS AND biting 1-3 hours where you feel SOCIETIES every triumph and failure more than anyone can ever understand. It’s a bit like sending your kid off
to school for the first time, and having a camera follow them around all day. Some simple advice: be kind to your team by being professional - the more organised and prepared you are, the more they will respect you. And while it’s terrifying to get started, just find a play you have a strong connection with and let that push you through - and seriously, make sure you and the people you work with have fun! Jack: Unlike Griff, I’ve never directed before and A Little Night Music is my first project. What it has proven to me is that if you want to put on plays in Oxford, the only thing you really need is an idea that you love. That’s exactly how I got started on this production, with a desire to put on a big musical in the Playhouse and some frantic bid preparations. Now, seven months down the line, we have a production team of dozens, and a wonderful cast that we spent three weeks combing through Oxford’s best actors and singers to get hold of. It’s very exhilarating to be staging a show at the Playhouse but there is a lot to consider – finding rehearsal spaces and fitting them around everyone’s schedules in particular is notoriously tricky. But what you get in return is free rein to run riot in a professional theatre and create a stage full of waltzing, duelling Swedish aristocrats… like I said, all you need is an idea!
Music: Jonathan Soman - Musical Director
Musically directing is a meaty task: it’s my job to rehearse and conduct the orchestra, work on vocals and singing with the cast and liaise with the directors and creative team on the look and delivery of the show. The best part of my role is definitely working with so many brilliant peopleafter all, theatre here is about relationships and imagination. As an MD, I have a great chance to explore and be creative with the cast and crew. A highlight was one call-back audition in which we had four female auditionees singing the role of the rejected housewife Charlotte while chasing a male auditionee round Mansfield Chapel in a desperate attempt to win his affection. The ‘Charlotte-off’ was an unforgettable sight!
Producing: Ksenia Harwood - Producer
Producing is one of the less obvious roles in drama, yet I can assure you that it’s one of the most interesting and challenging. The play basically becomes your baby: the work is very time-consuming and at times painfully stressful, but the feeling you get when it all works out is indescribable!
If you’re thinking of producing, bear in mind that it is not as creative as most of the other things you can do. While you do have a say in casting and design decisions, your job is organisational: you coordinate and oversee everything in the whole production process. You also bear all the financial responsibility for the play: you have to secure the sponsorship and deal with the play’s bank account. Thankfully, there are plenty of funding bodies to help you do that - as long as your show has potential and a sound budget, of course! There’s not really a set way to get into producing, but I’d recommend starting with Cuppers and giving it your all. I find this works as a general rule for Oxford drama: loving what you do and commitment is vital.
PMing: Hannah Groombridge, Production Manager
Ever seen a play and thought about how amazing the floor was? Or thought that the fact they managed to track down two life size skeletons for free was pretty impressive? Probably not, but that’s what the Production Manager does. They make sure that all of the technical and production side of things happen – from sound to scenery, from the back wall to the lighting desk. It’s a great chance to combine practical and creative elements into one role and its pretty good fun. It’s also one of the easiest things in drama to get into, even if you’ve never done any before. You just need to sign up to the mailing list of TAFF (which stands for Tabs Are For Flying) and keep an eye out for opportunities…
Designing: Anouska Lester, Designer
My role is to create visually the world of the play – using set and costume. One of my favourite parts is researching the world we’re trying to bring across. This can involve everything, from the type of corsets people wore to how they would have sent and received invitations without breaking one of the myriad of etiquette rules! If you want to get involved in design at Oxford, don’t hesitate. It requires nothing more than some organisational skill and lots of imagination. You’ll liaise with directors, haggle with costume stores and try to create a coherent aesthetic from the creative input of designers, directors, and scriptwriters. There will be tears, missed essays and sleepless nights, but there is no greater feeling than watching the curtain rise on a world you helped to create.
our first stop for getting involved in music will be your college. Most colleges will have some sort of practice room, allowing you to nail those high notes without souring relations with your new neighbours. Several have their own instrumental groups which are non-auditioning, including orchestras, swing bands and wind bands. Even if yours doesn’t have what you’re looking for, there’s nothing to stop you joining another college’s group. Several of the traditional university-wide ensembles are run by Oxford University Music Society. Their flagship ensemble is Oxford University Orchestra, considered to be one of the best student orchestras in the country - run by a professional conductor. OUMS also oversees a range of eight ensembles: from symphony orchestras to brass bands. The Jazz scene in Oxford is also vibrant, with a dedicated society. If singing’s your thing, almost every college chapel has its own choir - ranging from non-auditioning groups with only one service a week, to choirs performing and recording to the highest standard, singing up to six times a week. If you don’t fancy draughty chapels, there are plenty of other ways to exercise your vocal chords. For large scale
n my third night at Oxford, our college’s president (who used to be chair of the UK Statistics Authority) told all of us: “Some of you are going to be very rich.” Now buying your college a new quad in 30 years (as he suggested) may be one way to ‘give back’, but there’s a lot of opportunities to do so before you’ve made your fortune. In the two years since that talk, he’s retired, and I’ve become a president myself (albeit of the Oxfam society). And I’ve had a lot of fun and made a lot of friends along the way. There are a surprising number of fantastic charities that you can work with whilst here, and you can commit to doing as much as you want. RAG, a student-run, university-wide fundraising team, puts on a range of events which require only a few hours of your time, supporting a wide variety of charities. These include ‘raids’ (one-day city-centre fundraising events) and hitchhikes to locations such as Marrakesh and Prague. If there is a particular charity that you’re interested in supporting, firstly, check the
choral singing, the Oxford University Student Chorus is a good place to start - conducted by a student, it welcomes everyone, regardless of musical experience. There are plenty of non-classical choirs too, including The Oxford Singers, who perform a variety of popular music. A cappella singing is also very popular and Oxford is home to several nationally recognised groups, including
Out Of The Blue (pictured above), The Oxford Gargoyles, In The Pink and The Oxford Alternotives. These all audition, so get practising. The hours of rehearsals are definitely worth it: international tours, sell-out Oxford shows and critically acclaimed Edinburgh Fringe runs await. You’re unlikely to find people reOUSU website – there’s a good chance that there might be students doing stuff for it already. Alternatively, your JCR will have charity reps, who can support one-off events (pub quizzes, gungings), and may even throw money at your cause, if you ask nicely. Lots of international charities (Oxfam – based in the city – as well as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, among others) have an established presence in the University already and you’ll be able to find a lot of them around at the Freshers’ Fair. Recently, more and more students have got involved with groups such as the Free West Papua campaign, and the Oxford Burma Alliance. Oxford is a great time to join up with inspirational people who will change the world – and who are doing so already. Big groups like these tend to have a committee, which decides on termly activities. Oxfam has regular club nights, Amnesty hold relaxed letterwriting sessions, and HRW put on lots of interesting talks. Getting involved gives you instant friends, as well as fantastic campaigning/ fundraising experience. If you’re keen to do
Olivia McDermott Hertford Chemistry
cruiting for a metal band at Freshers’ Fair, but you will find societies to help you set up your own, or simply to meet others who share your musical tastes. RockSoc offers members discounts to specialist club nights and gigs, and also has a directory of musicians in Oxford - so you can track down that elusive band member. The Oxford Indie Music Society, better known as ImSoc, hosts a similar mix of conversation and live music. They’ve previously hosted Mumford and Sons and Noah and the Whale; plus an annual ‘Battle of the Bands’ competition. Oxford is also a hive of musical activity outside the university. With bands like Stornoway, Radiohead and Foals all harking from the local area, Oxford has a fine tradition of producing brilliant bands, as well as academics.
Charity Philip Coales St John’s English something with a local impact, aside from saving up for that quad, there are groups like Oxford Homeless Project (a huge concern in Oxford), KEEN (putting on activities for children with special needs) and Jacari (tutoring children who don’t speak English as a first language). The Oxford Hub is a great place to start getting involved: they connect students with great causes, and have a lovely space above the Turl Street Kitchen. Their team know what’s going on across Oxford, and can tell you about the work of local and international groups. They even run an ethical internship scheme in the summer. Though you may not know your cause or your schedule yet, CLUBS AND one thing to be sure of is that SOCIETIES you can have an impact while you’re here. Get involved, and see what you can do.
Be a good sport... Ollie Tomlins St Peter’s French & Spanish
xford has a huge variety of sports to choose from, at college level and university-wide. Here’s an introduction to some of the most popular...
Rugby Based at Iffley Road, Rugby Union is the most popular code at Oxford and represents one of the most prestigious sports at the university - not least because its founder, William Webb-Ellis, studied here. University team places are dearly coveted with the Varsity Match being held at Twickenham, Eng-
camaraderie. While rowing may look distant and elitist to those who have never tried it, the setup at Oxford offers brilliant opportunities for newcomers to the sport. Christ Church regatta, held in Michaelmas, is exclusively for first-timers and acts as a platform for the fresh talent to show what they can do. In line with Oxford’s general eccentricity even the river has a different name: this part of the Thames is called the Isis and it could be your second home for the next three years. If you can handle the 5am starts, the jargon, the possibility of having your regatta ‘klaxoned’ (cancelled) after months of training because of some obstacle in the river - sometimes a swan – then you could make 7½ new best friends (the ½ being the cox, the pint-sized, voice-like-a-foghorn character who steers the boat). If, however, that doesn’t appeal to you, then you could always enter a college ‘beer boat’
“Croquet captain is a role ironically revered in Oxford” land’s rugby HQ, making it the biggest arena for any university sporting clash in the UK. Unless you’re serious about it though, your experience of rugby at Oxford is much more likely to take the form of casually competitive weekly college rugby. Almost every college has its own team, meaning that rugby caters for a range of levels. In reality, teams are often filled with ‘ringers’, non-college players sometimes recruited over a drunken Big Mac the previous night. Socially, college rugby provides you with a pretty solid base within college – but this generally results in invoking the scorn of other well-meaning freshers whose evenings will now be tarnished on a weekly basis by a group of personality-devoid, testicleflashing monkeys who profess to be sportsmen.
Rowing Rowing at Oxford is something of a paradox: while rowers are often subject to ridicule for their maniacal training regimes and ultratight apparel, there is also a tacit respect for their commitment, the quantity of food they CLUBS AND are able to SOCIETIES c o n s u m e , and their s q u a d
- a casual crew which keeps training to a minimum, and only competes in Trinity Term when the sun is shining.
Football Football comes in all forms at Oxford. From the Blues down to the lower echelons of the JCR Reserve 4th Division, football is the biggest of all the University sports clubs. Colleges typically have up to three men’s teams and you’ll quickly learn that there is great fluidity between squads (this basically means that anybody plays whenever they
are available with scant regard for skill level). Women’s football boasts several strong college outfits and uptake has been on the rise in recent years. Both men’s and women’s teams may assume the airs and graces of a professional squad, but in reality football at Oxford accommodates a mixture of decent footballers, overzealous wannabes who protest at any hint of a foul throw, and other players who are more aware of their limitations. Perhaps most thrillingly of all, if you play football at Oxford you will be granted a profile on
the OUAFC website where your career appearances, goals, minutes and bookings are logged to make you feel like a true pro.
Croquet Croquet is perhaps the most quintessentially ‘Oxford’ of sporting activities. In fact, such is the seasonal popularity of croquet that the 2011 inter-college tournament had over 1,800 participants, making it the largest sport-
ing event in the University. Most colleges repeal their strict Keep Off The Grass policy from at least one quad for Trinity Term, opening the lawn up to every JCR’s favourite exam-term procrastination activity. College croquet captain might not score you great points on the CV, but the role is ironically revered in Oxford. Almost every Oxford student has a tinker with a mallet at some stage in their degree, usually involving some heated roquet-croquet disputes and copious amounts of Pimm’s.
Netball The netball scene at Oxford is a far cry from your school days. For a start, required training is next to zero (although I’m sure a few colleges will have something to say about that...) What’s more, you can wear your trackie-Bs on court. If you can turn up for an hour on a weekday afternoon, then your college will happily dress you in an initialled bib. Matches are often squeezed in back-toback to make it more convenient for you. Half-day Cuppers tournaments can serve up some feisty encounters, with the crowd often playing an active role. Many of the games are played at LMH or Worcester owing to court availability (although Emma Watson viewing season is now over). And while it may have been a glaring omission from the London 2012 agenda, netball is taken seriously at Varsity level where the Blues have had decent success in recent years. And as for the guys who can’t get enough of their cross-dressing bops, whip out your skirts and roll up - one male is permitted in college B teams! Ask nicely but prepare to be embarrassed...
...or do a weird sport S
o, all fired up from a summer of armchair enthusiasm for bizarre sports (who knew that trampolining was an Olympic event? And what exactly is Boccia?), you’ve made a decision: you’re going to take up a new sport and discover an amazing talent that you never knew you had - and have a bit of fun while you’re at it. But alas! Oxford is clearly the wrong place for that. All they do is rowing, right? Wrong. There’s a vast and at times rather confusing array of sports clubs at Oxford, from the obvious to the rather obscure. Think Oxford’s all about privilege and elitism? Go along to a training session with the cross country team. “Oh no!” I hear you wail, “they used to make us do that at school!” But banish any hellish memories of slogging around a waterlogged playing field with a teacher blowing a whistle at you. Whilst long distance runners might seem a bit mad, there is something surprisingly relaxing about escaping an essay crisis to go and run along the river with the wind blowing through your hair and the sun on your face… If cross country sounds a bit tame for you, then perhaps try orienteering. The team might occasionally struggle to find the start of events (mainly down to a habit of setting off with little more than a compass and an OS map, neither of which is of much use in getting on the A34 in the right direction), but once that minor obstacle has been overcome, they convert into checkpoint-finding machines. As a beginner, you may find yourself wandering round a forest wondering why on earth they decided to hide all of the flags in ditches behind trees and explaining to confused dog walkers that no, you’re not lost... well, yes you are... but no, you don’t want help - but that just makes sighting the finish even sweeter. That, and the knowledge that the rest of the team will be there, stuffing their faces with cake and ready to compare scores. For those who would rather enjoy the
scenery of Oxfordshire in a less puzzled manner, there’s always the Walking Club, which organises weekly expeditions usually involving a short train or bus journey, as well as a couple of longer weekends each term. Pick your expedition carefully and you might even find that a pub lunch is on the agenda. The amazing thing about sport at Oxford is how inclusive it is.
Want to try yachting or taekwondo, ‘real tennis’ or rifle shooting, Eton Fives or gliding? If you turn up with enough enthusiasm, commitment and willingness to learn, they’ll welcome you with open arms, and before you know it you’ll be running the committee. This is an ideal opportunity to meet
Alison Walsh St Anne’s French & Spanish
new people, discover new talents and try something completely different. If you’re more of an adventurous spirit, then why not give caving a go? OK, so they dress up in what look suspiciously like surplus boiler suits from an American prison, but their ‘expeditions’ basically consist of squeezing through small gaps in rocks, swinging on ropes, getting very wet and muddy… and exploring and mapping huge amounts of the still uncharted underground areas of the country. Cheesy tourist tour through the Blue John mines it isn’t. Unfortunately, they haven’t yet worked out a way of holding a Varsity match in a cave (at least, not one the universities will agree to), so have replaced it with a series of slightly esoteric caving-related games to gain their Half Blue status. The ensuing hilarity is inextricably associated with this club, renowned for its socials as much as its ‘serious’ sporting endeavours. If you’re looking for something really different, or fancy embracing some niche culture along the way, check out one of Oxford’s newest societies: Oxford Indian Classical Arts Society (OICAS). Go along to the performances this term at college arts weeks and the Oxford Diwali Ball. Take beginners classes in one of the ancient forms of classical dance, singing and music. Find them on Facebook. OICAS symbolises the broad variety of stuff you can dabble in at Oxford which you simply might not get anywhere else; classical Indian dance is CLUBS AND a dynamic, powerful and exSOCIETIES citing art form, which more or less nobody has heard of. Why wouldn’t you give it a try?
Riding SOLO O
xford’s libraries are amongst its most beautiful buildings, and, unfortunately, amongst the most used. They’re (usually) very pleasant places to work, and together contain over 11 million printed items, as well as vast quantities of materials in other formats. Of course, this does mean that you never have the option of claiming you cannot find a book on SOLO (the Bodleian Libraries online search facility). No doubt your tutor will point this out to you in due course, wearing a smirk worthy of Severus Snape and a gown to match. But with such a huge selection to choose from, how do you decide which library to use*? Here are some of the pros and cons...
Your college library
Cosy, and with the benefit of not having to travel far from your bed. They’re open later than the main libraries for those seeking to burn some midnight oil (many are open 24/7), and tend to be quite pretty and situated in the older parts of colleges (Catz students exchange awkward glances). You can even make a home for yourself here, if you so desire. They can be jealously guarded by finalists during exam season, who will follow you with disdainful eyes as you attempt to browse the shelves.
The (old) Bod
The key advantage of the Bod is that there are always tourists in the main quad, allowing you to stride smugly past flourishing your Bod card in as flamboyant a manner as you like/dare. It doesn’t allow you to take books out, which is irritating, but does mean that the book you want will always be available - and not enough people tend to work there for it to be likely that it’ll be in use at any particular moment. Don’t forget your Bod card though; they won’t let you in without it. Also in the building is Duke Humfrey’s library. Featured in Harry Potter, this is the oldest reading room in the Bod with sections dating from 1487. Intimidatingly beautiful, it makes you feel about as small as the pencil you’re allowed to write with.
The Rad Cam
Much of the above applies in relation to the Rad Cam. You’ll find over the course of your degree that making Japanese tourists jealous brings a certain degree of vindictive pleasure to your life. Note that not only can you not get in without your Bod card here, but your bag will also be searched and you will have to pass through the suspicious glare of
library ‘security’. Upstairs in the Rad Cam is beautiful and old, with rickety spiral staircases as you move into the upper working spaces. The silence can be oppressive, and any accidental rustling of paper will cause an entirely disproportionate sense of guilt.
The Gladstone Link
This is a mysterious underground library that links the Bod and the Rad Cam. It has the aura of a disused nuclear power station, complete with a whirring sound that flits in and out of human hearing range. Some say it’s a portal to another dimension, others that it’s purgatory. It’s certainly very well stocked, albeit with a weird reference system that appears to be based on Nazi Enigma code. Definitely useful, if you have the nerve for it.
Nupur Takwale St John’s PPE
a union member - the Oxford Union’s main library really is a stunning room, with a high domed ceiling, and a kind of mezzanine balcony level round the side. There isn’t a huge amount of workspace, but if you’re there at a quieter time it’s very cosy and a great change of scene. It’s reasonably well stocked with humanities books too, and lends to union members. Worth bearing in mind if some bastard in your year has nabbed every volume on your reading list from the college library.
The English Faculty Library is found unsurprisingly - in the English Faculty, a hideously ugly building shared with the law faculty on St Cross Road. The EFL is very well stocked with periodicals as well as books, allows you to take books out and tends to have multiple copies of the most in-demand volumes. It’s worth knowing that the Law Library just up the steps is far nicer and allows you to order Bodleian books there if you can’t be bothered to walk up the road to the Rad Cam. Just prepare for lawyers to cast the odd withering look over the top of their dusty tomes as you settle in to enjoy your Austen.
*even if a certain library doesn’t stock your subject’s material, it’s still worth library-hopping. Just to spice up your working life. Also worth checking out are Rhodes House, the Taylorian Institute and Vere Harmsworth.
The Social Sciences Library is situated simply miles away (right next to Catz and a few minutes walk from the High Street). The library is large and oddly clinical, with whitewashed walls and supermarket-style book aisles. It has areas for those who wish to work in silence, those with laptops, those who want their own room, and those few darkages folk who are actually content with desktops. It is also conveniently situated in the Department for Politics and International Relations building, meaning that there is a very decent café just above it for sneaky work breaks. This is the centre for Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology books, located on St John Street right by the Ashmolean. You need to swipe your Bod card to get in, and the Sackler has a particularly eccentric sensor, so don’t be surprised if you have to walk sheepishly over to the library desk and ask them to do it for you. Once you’re inside, volumes are arranged in a dizzyingly circular formation intersected by a network of paths, such that the act of looking for books can leave you faintly nauseous. That said, it’s a more informal place to work than the Bodleian proper, and unlike the Bod is a lending library. Lending periods can be quite short though (sometimes 1-2 days), and the fines are hefty if you’re forgetful.
The Union Library
Definitely one of the best perks of being
32 James Marriott Lincoln English
Barbara Speed Wadham English
Sam Hodgson St John’s Medicine
Madi Maxwell-Libby Teddy Hall English
How to survive...
For the science student, the following does not apply. Your course is a rigidly focused one, so lectures probably will actually teach you what you need to know. For the arts student, on the other hand, the situation is dramatically different. Allow a cynical second year to enlighten you. It’s a common misconception on the part of freshers that lectures are going to form a valuable role in your educational experience. Inevitably, on the first day of term, your entire subject group will gather in the lodge to dutifully trek down to the Exam Schools or your respective faculty. But give it time.
Reading: You will have discovered by now, in your magically delivered Freshers’ pack, beneath the pieces of brightly coloured paper and jolly pictures something unusually badly photocopied, shoddily formatted, and not fun to read. Your First Reading List. This list will, like all the worst things in this world, be long, difficult, timeconsuming, and potentially very expensive. But fear not. For while there are few tricks to get round this scary institution of Oxford life, what tricks there are I have laid out below. 1. NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO, there will be people who have read more than you, and people who have read less. There will be people who say they have read everything Tolstoy ever wrote, but who have in fact spent the summer reading ‘One Day’ over and over again, sobbing convulsively into their pillows. There will also be people who don’t appear to know how to read at all and who only got in because they are magic. Don’t let any of these people put you off. Ignore them. 2. IF YOU ARE A SCIENTIST, a quick glance at the list- or the fact that you don’t have one at allwill show you how lucky you are. Anything that says ‘may benefit
Eventually no one will go to lectures.
Here is why: 1) Arts courses vary significantly for each student depending on tutor and student preferences, and so lectures rarely follow exactly what you’ll be studying in tutorials. Either they border on total irrelevance or due to the ridiculously broad range of material they have to cover, they find it difficult to go into enough depth to make that hour worthwhile. 2) The university picks its very weirdest/socially ill-adjusted members to lecture. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule; some lecturers are extraordinarily engaging and thus worth going to see. For example, English students do go to see Geoffrey Hill’s termly pofrom reading’ or ‘we suggest for those who are interested’ means you don’t have to read it. Enjoy it while it lasts - once term starts, you will be spending four hundred hours a week doing stupid experiments while arts students are asleep, drunk, or watching boxsets of Peep Show. For now, it’s a good idea to refresh your misty memories of the chemistry/maths you’re already supposed to know so when the time comes, you know your times tables. 3. IF YOU ARE AN ARTS STUDENT, the bad news is that you are going to have to read something. Every week. But that’s what you signed up for, right? The unfortunate truth is that during term time, you don’t have a lot of time for reading - with an essay a week (or more) on up to three primary texts, plus background reading, plus recent journal entries, it’s often a bit of a rush. Prioritise reading to primary texts and one or two background books. Skim as many as you like (and reference as many as humanly possible in essays) but reading all the texts referencing or related to your weekly subject will be a surefire way of having a mental breakdown in your tute. 4. DON’T rush out and buy everything on the list. Using the criteria above, work out what you actually need to have copies of yourself - usually, primary texts/novels, and maybe one background/overview book. Look on Abebooks and Amazon marketplace, because believe me, nobody wants to hold
etry lecture. The man is a living legend. The best thing to do is to ask students in the years above which lectures they found useful and be selective in those you attend. 3) Your tutorial work is always more important. I spent a lot of time last term agonising about missing lectures to do essays. Always do the essay: the tutorial system is the point of your education here. Lectures are more of an optional extra. 4) You don’t need to go to lectures to do well - the most they can provide is a useful overview or context in which to place your tutorial work. The sensible thing to do is to catch up on useful and relevant reading. 5) You have to get up early to go to lectures. Why bother? onto these things when they’ve finished studying them and secondhand copies are cheap. They might even have useful annotations in the margins. A lot of stuff is also available online: check googlebooks, and have a look at the Oxford library system’s ebooks and journals. And don’t forget that in the Oxford libraries, they have all the books in the world. Even Twilight. 5. DON’T get too ahead of yourself. While it’s every studious fresher’s dream to be three weeks ahead of essays to ensure finishing in 5th week, in term time, this proves simply impractical. Partly because you’ll miss any potential benefit of lectures or previous tutes when writing your essays, and partly because by the time three weeks has passed you’ll have forgotten the topic of the week, let alone the finer points of your argument. Read what you need to, when you need to. 6. BE SENSIBLE. I know Oxford Admissions don’t exactly focus on taking people full of common sense - the cleverest person in college is always that girl who doesn’t know how to make toast or how to brush her own hair - but by reading the list carefully, it is usually quite obvious what you need to have read. Look at the major topic for each week and give yourself enough grounding to know roughly what the title of the essay means. Beyond that, you can bluff and waffle yourself through most tutorials.
Labs: It’s 9am. It’s cold and grey outside. Your mouth still tastes like vodka and that (probably not so) special someone from Bridge, and all you want to do is hide away from the world under your duvet. What you probably don’t want to do is spend three hours in a halogen-lit room, handling liquids that smell like last night’s toilets, looking down microscopes at things that are surely too small to be important, and desperately trying to get results which tell you things you already know - just so you can return to the comfort of your room where you can wallow in self-pity in peace. Standing between you and this cherished goal are the demonstrators, the people responsible for running your lab session, who must sign off your work before you can leave. You will no doubt come to hate these heartless postgrads and lecturers, who seem to be paid on some sort of commission based on how miserable they can make your life. Allpowerful individuals, invariably immune to flattery and physical intimidation, they must nonetheless be overcome. Sadly, the only known method for persuading them to give you their blessing to go home is (heaven forbid) actually doing the science. Yes, labs are a source of pipette-ual annoyance to even the most hardened and inquisitive of scientists, and it seems
Tutorials: Essential tips for surviving tutorials: 1. Pretend To Know Thy Shit 2. Know Thy Shit These two steps are the backbone to surviving at Oxford. If you’ve actually done some work: well done, go in there and shake it like you want a First. If you’ve not quite managed it this week/ are offensively hungover, then whip out the blagging guns. Firstly, ascertain danger level. Have you just done ‘not that much’ (Oxford slang for ‘enough to pass an exam and impress everyone in the pub, but not enough to beat the senior tutor in a quiz), or have you literally done nothing? If it’s the latter, a strong avoidance strategy is key – i.e. ensuring the tutor on no account pounces on you. The best way to do this is to seem engaged and keen, as you would if you knew what you
the only way to avoid them is to trade in your future prospects and switch to an arts degree. Still, you can make your life that little bit easier without such drastic action: simply follow these do’s and don’t’s, keep your head down, and it will all be over faster than you can discount a career in research. DO: Read through any prep material before you go. The people that have done this finish faster, and have even been reported to have understood what is going on (a rare occurrence in any lab). DON’T: Make eye contact with a demonstrator, or worse, with a wandering lecturer in the practical. If you do catch their eye, take a deep breath, stare straight back and appear competent nothing says “come and pick on me, I know nothing” like a furtive glance at the floor. DO: Sit next to someone who looks like they know what they’re doing when pairing up (note – this will probably only work for, at most, half of the group, so act as fast as your fuzzy morning head will allow).
this might be. As memorable as the ‘putting the blue stuff in the purple stuff’ experiment seems now, it’s extremely unlikely that you will remember the details in four months. DON’T: Answer questions asked to the class as a whole. You may think you know the answer, but this probably means you either a) have misunderstood the question, or b) will be immediately destroyed by a follow-up question more challenging than your hungover crawl to the shower. DO: Ask questions. Not only does this open up the possibility of you actually learning something, it is an excellent way to keep demonstrators on the back foot, and prevent them asking YOU any questions. DON’T: Be afraid to ask stupid questions. Nobody will judge you, and it’s always better to look a little bit silly for one minute than to be the reason everyone has to wait outside for an hour, in the rain, waiting for a biohazard team to arrive.
DO: Fill out books/reports/write-ups as you go along, not the night before they’re all due in in Trinity - tempting as
Follow these basic instructions, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t breeze through your lab work. Find a friendly demonstrator and make them your own, befriend someone who seems slightly less inept than the average person in your class, and you’ll be reunited with your bed before you know it.
were talking about. If you’re a scientist, and therefore, making up formulae seems an unlikely route, just ask a lot of questions. Under no circumstances remain silent and look guiltily at the clock. They can spot this a mile off. Instead, really go to town on your pretend knowledge – imagine you’re in a film, ad-libbing a teaching scene. Namedrop anything you do actually know, nod knowingly in agreement, squint your eyes as if you’re trying to understand something immensely complex, go “Yes, I thought that!” and do that thing where you sort of echo what the tutor says but in different words, as if the whole time you’ve been totally on the same wavelength! Do be careful though, as the faux-enthusiasm trick can backfire. I took it too far once, accidently making something up that was actually slightly relevant, and the tutor asked me excitedly, “Exactly! What did you think of the PearlMaiden’s ending? Why did she deserve it?” Having not the faintest idea what she was on about, or who indeed the Pearl-Maiden was, I had no option left but the Last Resort Note Fumble. “It’s
funny,” you say, “I had some notes on that exact point! Let me just have a look in my file – it’s a bit messy, sorry! Ha ha!” If you spend enough time ‘looking’, pray to God, the tutor will tire and move on. Luckily for me, this worked, but you’re screwed if they sit there and really wait for you to find those imaginary notes. Also, this trick has a once-per-tutor shelf life. Use only in the worst case scenarios. Note also, that this does not work for times when you are meant to be reading out that essay which you definitely brought with you. Try the printer excuse or feign a strong belief it was your tute partner’s turn this week. So, even if you have not read a single page of the book in discussion, delivering these subtle performances with confidence will, hopefully, ensure that the tutor leaves you alone and picks on someone else. This is your primary aim if you just need to survive one hour without being rumbled, before heaving a huge sigh of relief as you walk out of the door going, “Never, ever doing that again”. Until next week.
DON’T: Look like you know what you’re doing (see above).
Subject Stereotypes A day in the life of...
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Useful phrases for Frenc h and Spanish linguists [and Classicists]:
I’m going on my year ab road. Je vais passer mon an née à l’étranger. Voy a pasar un año en el extranjero. Id quod disco ad multo plurem pertinet quam linguas antiqu as. [My degree is about so much more than ancient languages] I’m so lucky because I ha ve a year abroad. J’ai beaucoup de chance, parce que j’ai une année à l’étranger. Me siento muy afortuna do pasar un año en el ex tranjero. Annum externis in regnis, mih i crede, degere numquam volu i. [I never wanted a year abr oad anyway]
m: Use s for yo toy radio counts Classic ur new a fm). radio (s s a degree. 1pm: Th ponsore e (ir)rele d by vance o the 21s f your tr t Centu ry: ‘How an radio us BBC iP sistor radio in eless’. layer m ade you r 9am: Th e intrica cies of r 11am: W ein h concrete y you should lo forced concrete ve conc . done fo rete: ‘W ry 1pm: Fiv hat has e unexp ou?’ e 3pm: Y our cha cted uses for co nce to a ncrete. still hav sk a e about concrete ny questions y ou may . 1pm: H ow to h o t3pm: W wire a c ar hy 5pm: W wheels are rou . nd. heels o awesom n brid g e ideas prove im es: Why so metime practica s l.
I’m on my year abroad. Je suis en train de passe r mon année à l’étrange r Vivo un año en el extra njero. Malo Oxoniam. [I prefer Oxford] Where is the nearest ba r? Où est le bar le plus proch e? ¿Dónde está el bar má s cerco? [N/A]
Henry Baker Lincoln History
Colour my Subfusc Insert face here Insert face here
The wearing of subfusc and academic dress is one of those slightly (!) archaic rituals that Oxford students have to go through come matriculation and exam-time. It’s been around for a while, and will probably be around for a good time to come, so you might as well get used to it. Subfusc consists of a dark suit (most people wear black), or dark trousers/skirt with black socks or black tights. On your (white) shirt/blouse you can wear either a white bow tie or a black ribbon. Tying the ribbon in a non-ridiculous way is tough, and the university doesn’t really give much help. Just try and avoid making the bows too flouncy, or tie it as if you were tying a tie. On top of this you wear your gown. This makes some of us feel like we’re at Hogwarts, and others just faintly ridiculous. Don’t wear your mortarboard – carry it. Wearing it is a privilege reserved for the graduated. A couple of words of warning: don’t attempt to sex up subfusc (girls…). Exam Schools can be quite strict and have been known to dish out fines. Also, if you’re wearing subfusc for prelims, buy everything from Primark because you will without fail undergo the ritual of trashing upon return to college. See the dictionary for more info, but your clothes need to be able to withstand everything from eggs to Cava. Finally, it is tradition to wear a different colour carnation pinned to your gown during each stage of exams. You start off with white in the first, and then pink for the subsequent ones and red for the last one. Colleges treat this differently, but generally carnations are bought for you by your college parents (you do the same for them when it’s their Finals) or your JCR will sort it out.
A family affair W
hile most other expectant parents seem to spend the few weeks before their baby arrives frantically buying nappies, baby proofing their homes and dreading that due date (I’d imagine), I decided to take a more zen approach. I focused on relaxing and enjoying the last few days of my summer, safe in the knowledge that my delivery would involve nothing more than a few awkward silences and too many questions of the ‘where are you from? Do you know [insert name here]?’ -type. I did find ample time for ultrasound scans of the Facebook-variety - flicking through the grainy pictures of my future bundles of joy, picking out toes and hairstyles, fingers and gap-yah tragedy photos – we’ve seen it all before, but it’s just that bit more special when they’re yours. I felt a parental surge of pride as I came across a photo of my son in a bikini. He’ll fit in well.
My husband and I pride ourselves on being a modern family: I’ve had very little to do with preparations for the kids’ arrival whereas he has been working tirelessly to make sure their first week goes smoothly (yes, I’m the proud wife of a Freshers committee official). I intend to leave the nappy-changing and middle of the night disturbances to him, and my first interaction with them will probably be the family dinner towards the end of Fresher’s week. Don’t think I’m a bad mother; I fully intend to support and love my children, just not before they can walk. Blame it on my rough upbringing: I never met my dad (aside from one drunken introduction), but I’m determined to give my kids the stable home life I never had. Most of my fellow first-time parents seem to be as genuinely excited as I am to meet their kids, with Facebook comments ranging from ‘So nice to meet
xford style is something of a conundrum. It’s almost guaranteed that by second week you will have been running around the city centre - probably with something alcoholic in hand - in a gown; done some late night pyjamaclad reading in the library and been required to wear something formal to dinner simply so that said dinner can justify being called a ‘formal’. How existential. By the end of the year you’ll probably have dressed up in everything from a leotard or just full body paint (well, at least at Wadham) to a full-length-proper-ball-dress or a tailcoat. (Well, at least at Christ Church).
At Oxford, it’s not always easy to gauge what style suits the occasion. Pyjamas to exams? No. Subfusc to exams? Yes. Smart clothes to lectures? No. Pyjamas to breakfast? Yes. Nakedness en route to the shower? No. (Semi-)nakedness to Bops? Yes. Despite this apparently dysfunctional relationship between garment and event, there can be a curious harmony to Oxonian dress codes. In exams, for example, uncomfortable and officious outfits feel entirely appropriate. The library will become a second bedroom to you and your library wear should reflect this: think slouchy sports luxe with a hint of underwear as outerwear. Hoodies are a staple, slipper boots a great investment piece and why not go all out and wack on a velour tracksuit. Buy them in a variety of tones for a pick ‘n’ mix effect and smash some Oxford stereotypes as you do. This outfit is coincidentally also appropriate for most meals, lectures, supermarket shops and, of course, late night chip trips. In fact, when leaving college is vastly unnecessary (i.e. if you’re an arts student) this look will suffice about 80% of the time. The one group not partaking in this most joyful of Oxford traditions will be those that do ‘sport’. Doing ‘sport’ allows the wearer to replace the abovelisted items with anything emblazoned with their college, their chosen ‘sport’
Immy Beecroft Hertford English
you, daughter! Let me know if there’s anything I can help with!’ to ‘I’ve forgotten our kids’ names. Do we have one or two? Does this make me a bad father?’ appearing across most walls. So it’s lovely to meet you at last, and welcome to the - highly dysfunctional and extremely incestuous - family fold. College families are taken with varying levels of seriousness at different colleges - Hertford insist that all proposals occur at the Jazz and Cocktails event at the end of Freshers’, while I’m informed that St John’s had a black tie ceremony last year. Regardless, most view it as a (beloved) compulsory activity, and will be only too willing to share whatever pearls of wisdom they have managed to gather. So enjoy being a kid while it lasts. In about a week it’ll be you getting married, and before you know it you’ll be looking to settle down and start trying for your own.
Grace Goddard Wadham English or some skewed and hilarious version of their surname. Because then everyone will know that they DO SPORT. The only exception to this being rowers whose lithe, lycra-clad bodies are kept under wraps (literal and metaphorical) until those two summer rowing events when people who willingly wear lycra are gloried from boat house to boat house. And what to wear when you break free of the week’s work? Cast those books aside, bring on the beers and dress somewhat informally! Oxford’s nightlife scene is not that of Geordie Shore. There will be no fake tanning, heels or false eyelashes. A man who veets his chest is not welcome here. Instead you will have to perfect the dressed-downbut-I’m-going-out look, i.e. jeans/skirt ‘n’ a top. The only occasion on which these rules don’t apply is, of course, at Park End on a Wednesday. Here, for strutting your stuff on the Cheese floor or dutty winding on R’n’B, you can finally go for that BIG dress (obviously, physically actually quite little) and heels. So here you have it. A quick guide to the sartorial requirements of an Oxford lifestyle. I hope that you and your bizarre collection of comedy costume items will PERSONAL be very happy here. One more thing: please leave the red trousers behind.
That loving feeling... Immy Beecroft Hertford English
s you wave goodbye to your tearful families, it can be all too easy to find yourself overwhelmed by the myriad of new and exciting possibilities at your feet, and to watch your common sense and intuition head home with your parents. This, for some reason, seems to be especially true when it comes to one’s sexual common sense, but if you do find yourself at a loss in Freshers’ Week, absurdly attracted to every person you’re forced to speed date, don’t panic. Here’s the lowdown on Oxford dating. It’s important to decide which romantic camp you most identify with on arrival at Oxford. There is a clear divide between those in a relationship, now most likely to be a longdistance one, those who abandoned their (once) true love in order to pursue new conquests at university, and those simply looking for their first thrust into relations with the opposite (or same) sex. We mustn’t be naïve though; the unattached won’t always be feeling frisky and ready to plant their proverbial wild oats throughout this city of creaming spires, whilst there’s no guarantee that the professedly attached won’t be willing to do just that. Key is knowing which group you belong to, and honing your ability to discern others’ affiliations. Without being too cynical, there are few pre-Oxford relationships which can handle the burden of the changes that university brings. Michaelmas term has quite a lot to throw at the most stable of partnerships. If you do survive the festivities of Freshers’ Week; sultry glances across exam schools, whispered banter about Latin matriculation, the inevitable - and deeply romantic G and D’s trip, then you might just be able to leave the first bop of term with your relationship intact. Many will find they cannot say the same of their dignity. You may scoff at this supposed threat to your commitment, AL SON PER but there’s a surprising allure to someone clad entirely in bin bags or dressed as a pokemon.
If your relationship emerges unscathed from Freshers’ Week, you’ll then have to decide how to integrate your loved one into your new circle of Oxford oddities (aka freshersfriends – probably quite unlikely to be your friends come third week). There is one way of avoiding the pains of repeated introductions and forced banter that will come with bringing an outsider into your Oxford bubble. Simply have your other half here so often that people assume they’re part of your year group, and you just moved really quickly. Not a bad plan. If it all goes wrong you can just claim rustication. This does,
however, require your loved one to have a surplus of free time, and some acting talent. All of this might lead you to think that those of you arriving without a boy/girlfriend to consider have an easier, simpler, time of it all. But Fresher’s Week ‘dating’ is a complex business. On the one hand, a certain level of care is needed: don’t get with anyone unless absolutely sure that this won’t be something you’re still being sconced for in third year (a personal plea to my friends: enough is enough). On the other, let’s be frank; the college pool is probably quite small so if you don’t move quickly your chance might be gone forever. In general, warn you as I might, likelihood is you will find yourself in a compromising intra-college position. Just go with it – by the end of Michaelmas your college group of friends will be as incestuous as Team GB apparently was. If you do manage to successfully avoid college romance (which you won’t), it’s worth knowing the second best places to find that special someone to spend the next ten minutes/few hours/three years with. This is where the libraries
come in. Our tutors and parents like to believe that Oxford is so full of these in order for us to read, learn and generally expand our already-blooming brains. In fact, these are cleverly disguised eyesex brothels. As with most sexual encounters, a clear protocol exists. Be smooth on entry, don’t hesitate when choosing your position, and try not to get overexcited too soon. The librarygame is a session, not a quickie. If you play your cards right, you could be going for coffee with your bodbuddy in six to eight weeks. If this kind of timeframe isn’t exactly what you were hoping for, you can always go straight to the crew date. Here, by contrast, there’s likely to be very little eye-sex as everyone is more focused on guarding their glasses from stray pennies or getting their fair share of substandard curry, but the potential for actual sex is much higher. The art of judging whether a crew date is going well, and you’re going to be able to snare your prey is highly complex and sophisticated: if your target doesn’t disappear as soon as you leave the restaurant where you’ve been forced to sit together and banter, you’re golden. You should also be aware of certain dating catastrophes which may befall you during this precious, naïve, first term of university life. There are a few groups of people which, without stereotyping, it’s probably best to avoid romantically: rowers. Well, that’s it really. Rowers, quite simply, don’t have time for anything apart from rowing, and unless you enjoy being awoken at 5am most mornings and incessant ‘stroke’ chat (not as fun as it may sound), it’s best to steer clear of their oarsome banter. I’d also make sure you tread with caution in a couple of other areas: in the event of being courted by anyone with Union aspirations, you should know that you are likely to be subjected to endless hacking. Physicists are also a risky choice. You’ll understand. The final thing to bear in mind on arrival at Oxford is that university is the time for experiences and experimentation. So keep your minds, hearts, and other orifices open. And now go get with your college sibling.
Coming up and coming out T
here are a lot of clichés about going to university, usually regurgitated by tiresome relatives: “It’s a time of self-discovery”, “Starting at uni is starting with a clean slate”, “You’re so lucky, getting the chance to reinvent yourself.” Loathe as I am to join their irritating ranks, there’s a lot of truth to them, which is partly why so many people choose to come out at university. Oxford is certainly no exception to this, and few would even so much as bat an eyelid at a coming-out. It’s not nearly such a dramatic experience as it can be at school. In fact, since the peers who knew you for the past seven years, who remember your bespectacled, puppyfat-laden, 11 year-old self, are notably absent, there’s not even too much need to come out at all. You’ll find quite a lot of people simply rock up to university and decide to just be themselves. If and when it becomes relevant, people will just assume they missed the memo. Oxford’s an incredibly diverse place to study, full of people from all sorts of different backgrounds. Consequently, one has the option of diving headfirst into its gay scene, or just dipping one’s toe, taking one’s time and slowly working towards being confident and happy. To my mind, there are two major benefits to this plurality of LGBT students. Firstly, the high occurrence leads to an atmosphere of inclusion and acceptance, and secondly, there’s always plenty of “totty”. For evidence of the former, one only has to look at the recent developments within the university
in relation to LGBT issues. For instance, in a university-wide campaign during this year’s Queer History Month, many colleges made an exception to standard practice and flew the rainbow flag, with even more doing so at the boathouses during the summer eights races. Another great step forward this year saw a change to exam regulations, allowing students free choice between ‘male’ and ‘female’ subfusc, where students previously had to wear the subfusc appropriate to their biological sex. Let’s face it, there aren’t many cities where one can wander round at night in drag without running into trouble, but Oxford feels a very safe, welcoming place. Apparently, there is double the national average LGBT population in Oxford, and whether or not that’s rubbish, there are definitely a lot of openly gay students at the uni (as anyone with grindr will quickly realise). Because of this, there’s bound to be plenty of likeminded people in the same position as you. Should you be looking to explore your sexuality, or just be after a shag, there will be plenty of second years and finalists looking to shark during Freshers’ Week. However, the LGBT soc and OUSU also provide plenty of opportunities to come to terms with things slowly and without judgement, boosting your confidence and getting to know other LGBT students from around the university. With their full term-card of events, don’t be shy of signing up at freshers’ fair, or if you miss that, check out the website and get added to the mailing list. Of course, you can’t forget the LGBT crew dates organised each term (for me, being strongly averse to sporting endeavour, I don’t get many other opportunities to crew date). With many LGBT reps having a budget and little to spend it o n , crew dates a r e also often
Josh Booth Jesus German accompanied by free-flowing wine. So, once you’ve ticked the coming-out box, being gay in Oxford can be a lot of fun. However, I would suggest some general rules of thumb. First of all, any gay worth their salt is intimately acquainted with the formidable Baby Love Bar. It’s a safe-haven for all those too alternative for the likes of Park End and its “etage du fromage” and you’re unlikely to be directed there during Freshers’ Week, but as a devoted patron, I urge you to experience this sheer force of an establishment. On Tuesdays it opens its doors for Poptarts, a gay night which is always busy, with bangin’ tunes and, frequently, the revellers from an LGBT crewdate. There’s also Wadham’s Queerfest, a lavish, annual, LGBT mega-bop. This is a fantastic night, which is very popular amongst a lot of straight people as well. Gay venues I would personally shy away from include The Castle Tavern and Plush club. The former, whilst having a pair of very impressive drag-queen waitresses, is awkwardly small and largely frequented by old, letchy gay men and aging lesbians. Plush might be worth experiencing, certainly being an “interesting” venue. But just the once. Finally, take note of the welfare reps in every college, who flit about the pigeon-holes dispensing free lube and condoms (discretely packaged) on request. And as a last word to the wise: if, whilst sampling the sexual smorgasbord Oxford Freshers’ Week offers up, you decide not to go back to your place, make sure your paramour lives centrally. The last thing you need is to be getting fruity in a compromising spot in college or trekking out to deepest, darkest Cowley for the privilege. So, I suppose all that remains is for me to wish you a happy comingout and an excellent first year – enjoy it!
Round the houses Ben Deaner Regent’s Park PPE
o your cheap-ass college refuses to subsidise your upkeep for the full duration of your course and is fobbing you off to the real world for a year? Don’t fret. Whilst living out is admittedly pricier and generally less convenient than living in, it has some great advantages. For most people it’s their first stab at real independent living, a chance to pretend you’re an actual grown-up. You get your own personal space for the year with no requirement to move any stuff (or yourself) out during the vac. And most importantly, prepare for more freedom than you can shake a stick at. Or even a sword at: after all they’re perfectly legal in the UK and your college’s policy can no longer prevent you from keeping one lying around. But before you wander off dreaming about all the massive house parties, raves, orgies and satanic rituals you’re going to host, there are some important things to consider. First of all...
How the hell do I decide who to live with? If you want a decent choice of housing, and you do, then you’ll need to get a group together and start hunting early. Most people will have found a place to live by the end of Michaelmas, and this means choosing who to live with about five weeks into your first term. At this point you’ll likely still be getting to know people and it may not be at all obvious who you’d like to spend the entire following year with. But that’s too bad, because you have to choose. If you do fall out with your future housemates in between choosing a place and moving in, you should seriously consider m o v i n g around and/ or swapping with people: a little shortterm awkPERSONAL wardness is worth it to avoid long-
term oh-my-god-I-can’t-stand-livingwith-you-I-want-to-punch-you-in-theface ...-ness.
How the hell do I decide where to live? Jericho:
Much like a little chunk of Islington or Hackney stitched into the Oxford scenery, Jericho resembles a trendy, ex-industrial North London suburb, with the disadvantage of North London prices. Rows of tall, well furnished, terraced houses line clean, straight roads. At the heart of the area, on upper Walton Street, lies a mass of fashionable bars, great pubs, some posh restaurants (as well as some very not-posh ones) and an alternative cinema. Travel up past Walton Street and you’ll quickly be greeted by the vast expanse of beautiful flat grassland that is Port Meadow. Travel down past Worcester and you’re right at Oxford’s student clubbing district. Amongst students Jericho has a reputation for being a bit posh. And not entirely undeserved too. Houses in Jericho are the priciest in Oxford, and although there is a lot of variance, rents are generally quite high.
If Jericho is Islington then the area around the Cowley road is Shoreditch. Inhabited 24/7 it is a colourful mass of Chinese supermarkets, ethnic eateries, large graffiti-esque murals, and (usually drunk) students. It is as gritty as you can find in Oxford (which is to say not very gritty at all), and whilst it has a reputation for a greater risk of crime, this is only by contrast to the rest of the city, which is essentially a giant padded play area for students. All the cool kids live in Cowley. The area is host to some of Oxford’s best pubs which range from the posh and shiny, to the twee, to the let’sget-fucked-up-on-shots-til-4am variety. Swanky, middle-eastern themed bars serve tapas, shisha and moderately expensive cocktails. It is the home of Oxford’s O2 academy. Rent prices in the area vary. Generally, the further along the road you go the less you’ll be forced to cough up: such is (literally) the price of convenience.
With easy access to the train station and the cheapest and best value student housing in Oxford, Botley has its advantages to the student on a budget. The downside however, is that there
is absolutely nothing to do in Botley. There is a Halfords and an Aldi. Which means you can spend a great night fixing your bookcase with some newly bought power tools whilst getting as mashed as a potato off a crate of Aldi own brand cider (94p a litre!) But that’s pretty much it. It is not far from the clubs (which are spread mostly around the station) but it isn’t all that near either. If you decide to live in Botley make extra sure you bring a bike, because you’ll spend a lot of time socialising elsewhere in the city.
How the hell do I go about finding a place? Unless you are either very rich or very well connected all your house hunting is done via a student letting agency. There are a number of these in Oxford. Most operate only in certain parts of the city. Do some googling based on the area in which you wish to live. Then look around for available houses on the letting agency’s website.
How the hell do I deal with my landlord? Your landlord hates you. Do not forget that. Read your contract. All of it. And do some googling about your letting agency to check out other people’s experiences (positive and negative) so you can work out how to stop anything bad happening to you. Some agencies can be tough to deal with - talk to people who’ve had previous experience. Remember that whilst getting some landlords to fix a problem can be as difficult as teaching the Sonata in C-sharp minor to a paraplegic gorilla who hates Beethoven, much like in the gorilla example, anything can be achieved with enough harassment. If you have a problem that needs fixing, keep calling until it gets fixed. It’s your right, so be insistent, but don’t be rude.