Fourth Estate/Alexis McCaffrey

A Semester Abroad: Oxford University


From the perfect tiny cup of espresso to endless options of cuisine and bookstores on every corner, life around Oxford University is full of surprises that capture your eyes, heart, and belly.

After being accepted into the Oxford University program it felt like just the beginning of the excitement and new adventures that were heading my way. 

The Oxford University program offers chances for you to be fully immersed in the “uni culture” and lifestyle at Oxford. And yes, it varies quite a bit from Mason.

Uni students here at Oxford don’t believe in the American “grind lifestyle.” They are very much in “airplane mode,” meaning life moves at a much slower and more enjoyable place here in the United Kingdom. Uni students like to be present in moments and value taking breaks or going to events (balls, debates, protests, tea time, etc.). 

An important part of the uni culture is the formal dinners which are held on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. They offer insight into the social sphere at Oxford while having an elevated dining hall experience. 

The formal dinner has a “posh” atmosphere that invites study abroad students to mingle with current students at Oxford and a three course meal served by waiters at a level that Southside or Ike’s could never compete with. In short, Mason needs to up their dining hall game.

Students can also join clubs and societies based on their personal interests. The Oxford Union is a popular society due to having famous speaker events, an incredible library and debates. 

One of the speakers was spiritual mentor Gaur Gopal Das. While visiting the Oxford Union, he spoke on the importance of “disconnection” and finding one’s true passion, and the importance of taking breaks especially when studying. 

“Our generation is always on the “go” and we must take breaks or else we break down,” said Das.

This talk with Das created an atmosphere of inspiration that can also be found in activities around Oxford. 

Oxford has an abundance of activities that are free or low-cost with the help of a student discount. 

The first activity is the abundance of libraries on campus (26 in total) with each containing a unique aesthetic appeal that transports you back in time. 

Off-campus there are also amazing bookstores nearby that offer unique reads and a calming atmosphere. A few of my favorites are Blackwell’s, Waterstones and the Last Bookshop. All of them provide amazing sections that will satisfy any “bookworm” need!

The second activity I recommend is getting in touch with nature. Although it is significantly colder and rainy in England the outdoor activities are incredible.

 Many students gather at the University Parks to play basketball or “football” (soccer) on the weekends. The University Parks is also home to the famous J.R.R. Tolkien bench and Sunday parkruns

The third activity I recommend is trying lots of nearby restaurants. Oxford has an incredible range of diverse food. There is everything here: Sri Lankan, Caribbean, Thai, and Lebanese!

Below are some of my recommendations coordinated with the times of day the restaurants are open. Certain restaurants in Oxford cater to brunch or dinner only and won’t be open all day compared to places in the United States. 

Breakfast/brunch: Handlebar cafe, Oxford Brunch Bar (OBB), and Love Coffee

Lunch: Franco Manca & Comptoir Libanais 

Dinner: Pho, The Coconut Tree, and Chiang Mai Kitchen

Late night: Yifang Fruit Tea, Heavenly Desserts, and Knoops

The fourth activity I recommend is getting freshly cut flowers at the Covered Market and checking out the museums nearby. The entry fee for the museums is either free or highly discounted since you are a uni student. Some of my favorite museums are Ashmolean Museum, Pitts River Museum and Modern Art Oxford.  

Although this program may put you to the test and challenge you academically the reward lies in the adventure aspect of the semester. The Oxford Study Abroad Program can be for anyone who is willing to put in the hard work and dedication that is necessary in order to secure this wanderlust adventure abroad.