After a year of lock-down with my family, I looked forward to spending this year with people my own age. If I had been at Amherst, I would have been reunited with my friends in Val, Frost, or my dorm, but as a study abroad student, I knew that I would have to make all new friends. Luckily, three wonderful kids from Amherst are at New College with me, and there are quite a few others throughout the university – a huge benefit to studying abroad at Oxford any year. Starting in Fresher’s week (or 0th week), I met tons of kids excited about starting university and making friends. I knew that I would only be able to make a limited number of friends in my classes (read my post on academics for more information), so I looked forward to joining clubs and societies, the most important of which, for me, has become Cherwell.
My extracurricular research started last summer, and I took meticulous (read slightly crazed) notes about all of the options. That was important in my case, because I had to apply for my position as the Fashion editor of the student newspaper, Cherwell, which celebrated its hundredth anniversary last year. Rather than being owned by the university, Cherwell is one of the publications run by OSPL, a company operated by students that publishes a number of periodicals, including the noted literary magazine Isis (named after the river in Oxford). For my application, I had an interview where we discussed my background at Amherst, working on The Circus in my first year and then founding Bolt, a fashion and arts magazine on campus.
Through late night editing panics and long meetings at the Cherwell office (very cool and overlooking the river), I’ve been able to meet so many interesting people from the other colleges and subjects, but my favorite experience on Cherwell was my delivery date. Once a week, a group of students work with a man who has been doing the paper route for twenty years. We drove around to every college, some of the faculty (subject) buildings, offices, and the student union to drop off a stack. It’s a crazed rush fueled by cookies and stories (both of which he supplies). Our group of three met at 9 by Christ Church (the Harry Potter college) and were done before noon (though most groups apparently finish about one). It has been one of my favorite memories about the term.
There are more than one hundred student organizations at Oxford (a definite benefit of coming to study here), many of which like Cherwell have been around for decades, others, like the very popular Taylor Swift society, just started this term. At the beginning of the year, we all attended a massive extracurricular fair at the parks, where I also joined Oxford Filmmaking Foundation (which distributes funds to student films) and Media Society. My Amherst friend Anna joined frisbee, which has been the highlight of her time here. It’s been a way for her to meet other students not just from other colleges, but who are studying abroad like her (this is unique to frisbee, so if being around other study abroad students is important to you, I would definitely consider it). Like Cherwell, Frisbee has been a huge time commitment, something you have to consider when you join any club, especially in a culture like Oxford’s where people are passionate and perfectionistic about what they do.
The most popular clubs are sports teams, but there are no recruitments at Oxford (a cultural shift I really enjoyed, but definitely a change to keep in mind). Instead, people try out in the first few weeks for sports like football, rugby, and, most importantly, rowing, which is at the center of Oxford culture. Another student from Amherst, Ethan, is in one of the (best) boats, so, yes, you can definitely join as a visiting student. About 50% of the students row, and there are tournaments every week with some sort of practice nearly every day. However, like many clubs and societies at Amherst, the major time and effort commitments have been really helpful in making friends, and I look forward to continuing to take part next term.