Although I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked in Oxford due to the coronavirus pandemic, I certainly did as many activities as possible during my time at St. Clare’s. I was lucky enough to meet someone from my college who had studied in Oxford a year earlier and made some recommendations. To drive this friendliness, I am writing this post to share some of my favorite places and activities that I discovered in Oxford.
First of all, it is important to note the easy accessibility of public transport in Oxford. There are public buses that run throughout the city, and no matter what time of day there is usually a bus around the corner. The longest time I ever had to wait for a bus was 20 minutes, and that was rare. It is usually 2-10 minutes, more than 4 on average. There are also buses and trains that can take you from Oxford to any other part of England, or taxis if you prefer. When I was studying abroad, my roommate took me straight to Gloucester Green bus station to get a 3-month bus pass for almost every bus in Oxford, so I could get almost anywhere without having to pay the driver every time.
An essential part of studying abroad is to try all local foods. While I was shopping for all of my groceries at the local Tesco in Summertown, I also spent a lot of meals with my friends in local restaurants. First I found two fantastic places for Italian food. The first of these was near my dorm in Summertown, called the Mamma Mia Pizzeria. They are traditional round pizzas that taste like they are straight from Italy. They also serve pasta and other appetizers, but there’s nothing like a big old pizza on a Friday night. The second is in the heart of Oxford, right near the Gloucester Green bus stop, Pizza Stazione. I loved going there for lunch with friends because the pizzas are individually large but sliced so you can combine them with your friends. You can tell that the ingredients are all super fresh.
For the famous fish and chips meals, I was advised to go to the coast of England and get something fresh. I didn’t stand a chance, but it sounds like solid advice to me. Still, there are small pubs all over Oxford serving great pub food, and fish and chips are no exception. My personal favorite for this special meal was The Kings Arms, right near the city center, but almost every pub will do it right. However, make sure you salt these chips – England is very economical with their salt.
There are many on the subject of pubs, and I’ve tried pretty much all with my friends. While I’m only 20 and know next to nothing about alcohol, there were definitely some that were particularly entertaining places full of life. On one of my first nights in Oxford, Ricky, the activity coordinator at St. Clare, took us all to a pub called Harcourt Arms, where he played live music for a few nights. While the crowd is generally older and a bit of a walk from the city center, the music is worth the trip. Another great pub is the Turf Tavern, a historic attraction and a great place to sit outside and have a drink with friends. There is always a lot going on and I have been told by many of my teachers that Shakespeare went there even during his stays in Oxford. If you’re looking for something unique, the Mad Hatter is the perfect place. They have karaoke and the drinks are themed Alice and Wonderland. It is definitely a great place to go with friends.
If you are a club visitor or want to get to know the club scene, there are many fun places. The students from St. Clare flock to Cirkus to celebrate themed evenings like the Latino Music Night on Thursday. It’s a small club, and all of St. Clare’s students go together on weekends and occupy the entire dance floor. If you’re looking for a larger club with people from the other Oxford Colleges, Atik and The Bridge are also fun. Different music stages are set up in each building to suit different tastes. For one night in the city, each of these three locations has something unique to offer.
Oxford has many beautiful university campuses, and on certain days you can go in and look around the universities. There are also many professors in St. Clare’s who also teach at the colleges and they can take you to their libraries and to special school dinners. Each of the Oxford Colleges has hidden gems within its walls; Some have centuries-old architecture, some have special parks and gardens that are home to unique wildlife, and some have even inspired famous films, such as the Harry Potter set!
Aside from exploring the colleges, there are various tours in Oxford. If you want to play tourists abroad, be sure to check out some of the tours available. You can explore some of the places that inspired the Harry Potter films, go on historical tours and visit Oxford’s oldest buildings, or leave town to visit the Cotswold villages or the Blenheim Palace. Or just walk the streets and explore yourself! There are many cafes, shops and attractions that cater to all interests.
I was lucky enough to explore Oxford firsthand, and I can honestly say I’ve never seen a more beautiful place. It is amazing how I felt at home immediately after moving in, but at the same time in awe and amazement at its beauty. If you’re lucky enough to pay a visit, explore every inch of this beautiful city! There is so much to see and do, it’s like a little world of its own.
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