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Oxford University: Beyond knowledge
By Divya David October 21, 2014
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It is my very first time out of India and the very first visa to be stamped on my infant Indian passport is a British student one that will let me pursue a postgraduate course in Contemporary Indian studies at the University of Oxford.

In fact, I’ve just stepped out of London’s Heathrow Airport to be met by a rather brutal onslaught of cold British weather which I imagine will take some getting used to. The bus however, I am pleased to note, arrives on time at exactly 7 am in true British style and soon enough, with my three gigantic pieces of luggage nestled comfortably in the lower part of the bus, I embark on a comfortably warm journey to the quaint and historic town of Oxfordshire where many a noble drink was drunk in the name of scholarly enterprise. I sleep through most of my journey though (must have been the jetlag!) and catch only fleeting glimpses of the picturesque British countryside that we were rapidly zooming past. I wake up when the bus stops at the Gloucester Green Bus Station to be sucked instantly into a vortex of administrative, logistical and dare I say soporific activities that ensured that all my paperwork, bank work, tenancy issues and what not were all sorted out before the sun had set on my very first day at Oxford! This indeed is quite telling about the efficiency and productive modus  operandi of the people around here and over the next few days, I would learn to attempt, at the very least, to apply some of them to my own lifestyle.

Setting up shop, so to speak, was quite a daunting and rather Herculean task but it was also an edifying one. I’ve never lived by my own before and I suppose I’ll have to grudgingly admit to being, more often than not, mollycoddled back at home. Suffice it to say, however, that within just a few days of my arrival at Oxford, I learnt quickly from my own mistakes, especially in matters concerning money, acquiring a sort of halo of thrifty wisdom within the very first week itself. What was perhaps most surprising for me, was that the university isn’t actually a campus – 38 colleges and 6 private halls pepper and dot the landscape of dreaming spires and merge seamlessly with the aspirational, scholastic and halcyon ecosystem that is the defining character of this charming little town. This is not to suggest that Oxford doesn’t have an active night life though and I’m certain that this claim would go uncontested by students like me who live in the centre of town, battling the onslaught of noise and the lure of having fun while trying very, very hard to study.

I am moreover, delighted to note that I’ve made all kinds of friends here and I’ve made plenty – especially at Kellogg College which is a graduate one, which I am a student of. The Middle Common Room of my college has a rather enthusiastic and internationally diverse committee that attends to the social and welfare needs of all its graduate students, while the administrative staff ensure that everything goes smoothly, offering you toffees and chocolates every time you meet them. The MCR committee also plays an active role in hosting a range of events like the Oktoberfest guest night dinner (there were plenty of drinks, of course AND a German band!) to pizza nights with plenty of free pizza and board games to boot. There are also several groups and societies functioning within and out of the confines of one’s college, so the opportunities to meet different kinds of people are ample and frequent. I for instance, have signed up for the Oxford Poetry Society, the Oxford Union’s Women Campaign and the Oxford Ukulele group to appease my creative, musical and social sensibilities and sensitivities. It’s only been a week since I moved in here but Oxford seems to be growing on me – I can feel it and I quite frankly can’t complain. I love the richness in academic enquiry, the reverence and research administered to the growing pool of knowledge, the constant pursuit of excellence, the international flavour of cultures and experiences and of course, the spellbinding beauty that never ceases to overwhelm and surprise you.

So every time someone asks me about Oxford, here’s what I tell them: that quite like any new place that you go to, it is pretty much what you make of it, and hopefully it’ll be for the best and hopefully you will add as much value to this learning experience as I am certain it will to you. This has been my journey so far, but it would be incomplete without those new friends that I have made, whose narratives are closely entwined with mine, and here is what some of them have had to say: 

"Oxford is a charming city and I am amazed by the beauty of the old buildings where my lectures and seminars are held. My college is surprisingly open-minded and welcoming and it is not what I expected before going to this top world university. I also find that it is easier for me to be friends with other international students who share my expatriate experience and the fact that English is not our first language."
• Alice D, France
(MSt Women's Studies)

"This is my first time abroad and Oxford so far has been about responding to one situation after another with whatever is handy at the moment – instinct or intellect."
• Sampad Patnaik, India
(MSc Contemporary India)

"I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful place to study at, a more exotic crowd to study with and more career versatility to study for.
There's something in ​the​​​​​ air ​here ​which drives you to push yourself a little harder every day!
There's something about the lectures and the faculty​ that ​assure​s you ​that you​ are ​​ indeed headed in the right direction!"
• ​Kriti Sharma​​,​ India
​(​MSc Law and Finance​)​

​"​I am very delighted with the fact that I am going to spend a year at such a prestigious and globally well-known university like Oxford. So far I have met ​a ​variety of people with different cultural backgrounds and they all seem very nice and friendly. ​W​hil​e ​I have networked with some of them, I have also​ made some ​very ​good friendships​ that I know are permanent and true​. I might struggle a little bit with my studies, however tough times have never ​seemed as​ sweet as​ they do​ now. I do really enjoy being here and I am very proud of all of us, who ​have ​made it so far ​to ​Oxford.​"
• Nariman Namazov, Russia
​(Foundations of Diplomacy​​​) 

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