My cousin is in her third year at Oxford University. While I awaited the start of the World Tour Finals in London, I stopped by for a long weekend. This was my lone chance to live out a fantasy spawned by Dead Poets Society, Oxford Blues, and too many English romance novels. I didn’t get to go to classes but who remembers their classes anyway?
Upon waking from my first night within her 3-room dorm, which includes her own private bath and sitting room, I stumbled outside into this gorgeous sight.
Her college has a formal dinner every night and while she only partakes in it once in awhile, she thought I’d enjoy it, so she reserved two seats. Ladies are required to wear formal dress and men are to wear a suit and tie. Luckily, I had packed a dress and as we wore the same shoe size, I borrowed her heels. She also arranged to get me a black gown, which all students are required to wear. Now the gown isn’t quite like the ones we wear at US graduations. Those are reserved for the high achieving students and are called Scholars Gowns.
The one I wore is the style of a turned-over collar called the Commoners Gown. It has no sleeves, but has a streamer on each side with square pleating that hangs to the full length of the gown. It covered my dress to my knees.
After making sure I had the proper attire, we sat down for a lovely three-course meal, pictured below:
While the meal itself wasn’t spectacular, I appreciated the chance to sit down next to someone I didn’t know and engage in conversation. The order and structure was initially a bit off-putting, but I saw its value in the end. How many times have I lamented that our girls didn’t take the time to sit down and eat their meals at the local all-girls high school I worked just a few years ago? We had to set time aside to teach them a dining ritual that is offered to these students daily. I think the Jamaican school-girl in me was feeling nostalgic!
The following day, I went for the less formal lunch around the long table again. This time I chatted with a lovely young girl about her love of comics and film adaptations. I can’t remember the last time I sat with a group of strangers and enjoyed my conversation as much as I did these past few days. This brief taste of university life was great and just as I started to imagine going back to school, I saw my cousin hunker down with a stack of books for an essay she had to write.
Later, she pointed out this moody structure below where students report for exams in their very formal gowns.
It was then that I thought my time was best served just fantasizing about school life!