It is safe to say that Oxford is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. It is amazingly rich in history and culture. The University was first founded in 1096, so every stone in the street feels like it has been there for centuries. Every shop and pub has its own unique charm. So many people have walked these streets including the likes of President Bill Clinton, authors C.S. Lewis and Oscar Wilde, 26 British Prime Ministers including Margret Thatcher, actor Hugh Grant, Stephen Hawking and many, many more.
I felt awestruck as I first entered the gates of New College, one of Oxford’s oldest colleges on my first day of class. They do not let anyone step on the grass in the quad except for Oxford graduates on graduation day and Oxford Fellows (aka professors). The grass is a perfect green color and an even one-quarter inch thick throughout. It mirrors the perfection of the surrounding architecture. The buildings are perfect examples of Medieval and Gothic architecture with huge windows and gargoyles galore.
New college was built on the land that the English people living around Oxford dumped the deceased during the Black Death. It is astonishing to think that even while Oxford University was open, the Black Death killed about one third of its population. The founder of New College asked to build a college on this land and the one condition he had to follow was to keep the old city walls intact and make sure that they are inspected year after year.
The city walls inside of New College exemplify what Oxford is all about. It is about maintaining tradition and showing that, after all, this time the walls still stand. Every year, the Mayor of Oxford and the inspectors go to check the wall and maintain the promise made years ago and to restore relations with the University and the town. The city walls used to keep out the Danes and the Vikings and had to withstand numerous attacks. Just gazing upon the wall and knowing it is older than almost everything in America is shocking and a bit hard to grasp.
In England, people walk almost everywhere. I think it is the best way to get to know the area as a local. I find myself just wandering the streets of Oxford and getting lost among the buildings and rivers.
One of my favorite experiences so far has been visiting a famous Pub called the Eagle and Child. It is an old 17th century pub where regular guests were writers C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. As you walk in the crammed doorway, you can see the dark wood that covers the walls and the intoxicating smell of what they call chips (fries in America). I found myself sitting where these famous writers first began writing their works of “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “The Lord of the Rings.” I can easily see where they get their inspiration from the lush greenery that engulfs the town and large cathedrals that look like royal castles.
I cannot wait to explore this place even further and see what other hidden gems are around the streets of Oxford. I absolutely love soaking up the history of this city and I feel so honored to have the opportunity to study at one of the oldest and well renowned universities in the world.
Paige Severson is a marketing IMC senior majoring in interdisciplinary studies. This summer, she is traveling to England and studying at Oxford University