There's no denying that an Oxford degree is time consuming. But when your eyes start to glaze and your bed looks way more appealing than your desk, it's time to open your curtains, unlock your door and venture outside.
Once you've shuffled out of the porters' lodge (the main entrance and exit for the college), where do you go and what should you do? Oxford is an enchanting city for full-time students, city-breakers and interviewees alike, so here's a jam-packed guidebook to the Oxford life and making the best use of your spare time.
Oxford life: let's start with museums and libraries
Okay so museums full of things that have long since died or dried may not be your idea of fun, but stick with it.
The Ashmolean often holds brilliant exhibits, showcasing all the stock which is usually locked in storage, so lots of unexpected material can be put on show.
The Oxford University Museum, opposite Keble college, focuses more on natural history. The spooky stuffed fox is guaranteed to give you nightmares for weeks.
If you manage to squeeze past all the keen school children, the Pitt Rivers Museum can be accessed through the back of the University Museum. This anthropological collection is a bit more haphazard and the gloomy lighting and creepy shrunken heads will definitely make you pause and think.
Time for some tea or lunch
Looking around museums is thirsty work so grab the chance to test out some of Oxford's quaint tea houses or lunch spots. Whilst many of the big name lunch places like Pret and MacDonalds claim prime territory along the high street and tourist trails, some of the smaller independent tea and lunch spots can be found nestled among the colleges and alleyways.
Most of the cafes and shops dotted around Oxford are bursting at the seams with students settling down to do some work. This can be a lovely way to tackle that essay whilst still being in the hub-bub of city life.
Some of my favourite spots include:
- Barefoot Cafe
- The Vaults and Garden
- The Handlebar Cafe
- The Rusty Bicycle
- The Missing Bean
- Cafe W – above Waterstones
The Gloucester Green market is also a really funky place to grab some more unusual food including Tibetan momos, spicy curries and Moroccan flatbreads. Unfortunately the only time I've ever been, I dropped my melt-in-the-mouth momos minutes after buying them so I think a second trip is in order to make up for lost food!
Spot of Shopping
Westgate shopping centre opened in 2017 but some shops are still migrating inwards. This makes for an exciting change when I see new shops every time I visit!
The covered market is also a lovely spot to pick up a vast array of things including food (deer head for supper anyone?), flowers and jewellery. In particular, Ben's cookies in the covered market are sensational.
Sports and Socials
There are so many different Oxford sports and socials on offer across the University that there really is no excuse not to get talking or moving. Many sports are offered at both University level (more serious) and collegiate level (more relaxed), but you can give them both a shot if you fancy.
Underwater hockey, Ultimate Frisbee and Quidditch all have high turn-outs.
On the social scene, there's a whole bunch of different groups and clubs you can get involved with. Charities and volunteer work are supported through the Oxford Hub and you can sign up either for just a single event or as part of regular session.
Societies celebrating subject, ethnicity, diets, music, hobbies and so much more are also on offer.
I myself helped handing out water bottles at the Oxford Half-Marathon, which was a nice way to give something back to the running community.
Work Experience and Internships
Oxford Careers Connect is a really useful website to find internships, jobs and work experience both in the UK and overseas.
Going to career fairs and internship talks is a good way to think about your future plans and ideas. I currently have no idea what I want to do, so attending some of these will definitely be helpful!
Dinner in Oxford
Oxford has lots of great places to grab some dinner with chains including Zizzi's, Pizza Express and more formal dining experiences including Pierre Victoire and Victors . If you fancy some after-dinner cocktails, head over to The Alchemist where they mix some magical alcoholic potions to produce colour changing, steaming glasses of glory.
If you're part of the University, see if you can get invited to another college's formal dinner. Every college has slightly different traditions and food so doing formal hall swaps can be a fun way of getting the 'full Oxford experience'.
After dinner you can hit the pubs and clubs. Snug pubs including Turf Tavern and the Kings Arms are popular spots, but deservedly so. The mulled cider in Turf is the best I've ever tasted.
Conclusion: Spending your spare time in Oxford
So whether you're just in Oxford for interviews or if you're a full-time student in one of its colleges, Oxford is a thriving city to roam around and explore. Take a look at some of the museums, eateries, socials and career opportunities on offer. It can really show you how to make the most of your spare time when you're in Oxford.