Wednesday 27 August 2008

A Visit to Oxford

Last weekend I went to Oxford, taking advantage of the long weekend (Monday was a Bank Holiday here). I had long wanted to visit this city, curious to walk the cobblestones streets that J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis must had walked on as these two beloved writers spent most of their lives in Oxford. I was not disappointed. I enjoyed every bit walking around the city, breathing its aura, sipping a cup of coffee with the backdrop of amazing historical architectures around me and just basking under the sun – yes surprise, it was sunny! Lucky me.

I booked a walking tour and it was a good decision because not only I was able to visit every college, it was a fun learning experience. I guess a walking tour is all you need to try in Oxford. After that you can just explore the whole city at your own pace, without worrying of getting lost. It's interesting to learn the colleges' histories, the notable people that studied there and absolutely a blast visiting the places that were featured in films (i.e. Harry Potter and the Golden Compass). I have simply fallen in love with Oxford. It’s truly breathtaking. I will definitely go back!

It's also fascinating to learn some facts about Oxford. The University is believed to exist as early as 1096. It has 39 colleges. The richest college, the one with the most income is St. John's College - Tony Blair studied there. J.R.R Tolkien studied in Exeter College. Lewis Carroll was a professor in Christ Church College, the second richest college. Bill Clinton, as well as his daughter Chelsea, studied in the University College. C.S. Lewis was a fellow in Magdalen College. Hugh Grant studied in New College and Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) studied in The Queen’s College.

The University has 17,000 populations. Usually out of 4 applications that the colleges receive from all over the world, only 1 is given entry... that tough! So imagine the honour of being accepted! Average annual tuition for English and EU students is £2,000 per year (multiply that with 80 to convert to peso), excluding accommodation fee. Average annual tuition for non-English, outside EU students (like from the Philippines) is a whopping £15,000 - £20,000, still excluding accommodation fee... That’s roughly 1.2M PHP - 1.6M PHP! So if you’re planning to study in Oxford, try to get through by passing the Rhodes scholarship, like what Bill did, so you can have it lowered to £5,000...

View my pics.


Alice in Wonderland

As a child I was not an Alice in Wonderland fan. I remember I found the Disney movie creepy. Alice growing and then shrinking countless of times, the trigger-happy Queen of Hearts always shouting “off with her head!” and the malicious grinning of Cheshire cat weren’t to my taste. Those scenes of the movie actually scared me. And because I hated the movie I never had the inclination to read the book. But last week I happened into a copy of it in Staines library and got curious enough, I don’t know why, to borrow it. I’m so glad I did because the book that did not appeal to me before now I find interesting and has become a favourite.

I went to Oxford last weekend and discovered that most of the scenes in the book are based from actual places in Oxford. In fact not only that, the book as you might say was born in there. Charles Dodgson was a Mathematics professor in Christ Church College in Oxford. He was a close friend of the dean and loved to spend time with the dean’s children. The youngest of these children was a girl named Alice Liddell. Dodgson would spin fantastic stories to entertain the Liddell children and one story he regaled them with he used Alice as the main character. The children were very delighted with that story that they persuaded him to write a book about it. Under the name Lewis Carroll, he penned Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alice Tiddell did grow up, married, had kids and died of old age. But she’s forever immortalized as a child, thanks to Carroll’s genius.

The following is the conversation between the Cheshire Cat and Alice – my favourite lines in the book:

“Cheshire Puss,” she began, rather timidly. “Would you please tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t care much where –“ said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

“– so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.

“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

I had thought in my youth that all I needed to do was to graduate, manage to land a good-paying job, and everything would be fine and dandy. As it turned out life after graduation is more complicated. Back then being a student, I had a fixed goal (to graduate and get a job), it was simple, and I knew which way to go. Now it’s frustrating when I can’t even answer the simple question “where do I want to get to?”... as to what to do with my career. Oh yes for now I do enjoy my job, especially the perks of travelling. But 10 years from now will I still be fulfilled doing this? If I will change career, what will it be? What can I imagine myself getting passionate doing? I honestly don’t know. I really do envy those people who have their goals, complete with timelines, set in their minds. I on the other hand am perhaps lost in my own wonderland. But at least I know how to get to somewhere. It doesn’t matter which way I go, I only have to walk long enough.