We can't say it often enough: St. Bonaventure's Oxford Program is not a visit to England. It is living in England. For the rest of your life, you’ll be able to begin conversations with, “When I lived in England and studied at Oxford ...”
Living at Trinity College
At Trinity College, St. Bonaventure students live in the same rooms regular Trinity students live in during the school year.
The rooms are pretty nice, pretty comfortable. Most of them are private rooms. A few will be doubles or shared suites.
Dorms aren’t called dorms. They’re called staircases. When you get there, you’ll see why. It actually makes perfect sense.
Bathrooms and toilets (they’re separate rooms in England) are shared by everyone in a staircase, just like a dorm in the U.S.
Love your scout
Every staircase has a "scout," whom you will come to love. The scout keeps your room and staircase tidy, makes your bed every day, and once a week changes your linen. She is not a maid and would probably be insulted if you called her one.
Scouts pride themselves not only on keeping things ship-shape but also on getting to know the residents and looking out for their welfare. They are friendly and approachable and are excellent sources of information about local customs, manners and ordinary life in England.
Professors are called tutors. Most tutors will not live on-college at Trinity, although the director and junior dean will. (Can’t say “live on campus” at Trinity. The word “campus” is just not used.)
The junior dean will be your best buddy while you are there. She will be your liaison to the directors and tutors, not to mention the one who organizes events, addresses minor problems and hands you tissues when you’re having a crisis.
Dining and (very moderate) drinking
Your Oxford fee includes most meals, and each day starts with a full English breakfast.
English breakfasts are called “full” because of the quantity of food heaped on your plate. You’ll almost always have your choice of cereal, yogurt, fried eggs, poached eggs, scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, bacon, sausages, occasionally haggis or black pudding (Google them), baked beans, sautéed mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, potatoes, pastries, bread, fruit, coffee and tea. Breakfast is served cafeteria style.
Except for High Table evenings, dinner is also served cafeteria style. The menu varies every night, with several main courses (one of which is always vegetarian), numerous side dishes and salads, and a nice variety of desserts.
On Sunday afternoons, there is always a barbecue on the lawn.
Morning and afternoon tea are served every weekday, a lovely break between classes.
You’re on your own for all lunches and for dinner on Friday and Saturday. There are burger joints and sandwich shops but also excellent restaurants, including Japanese, Thai, Korean, Chinese, Italian, Turkish, Moroccan, Arab, Caribbean and on and on.
Late-night munchies mean Hassan’s, the food truck which parks opposite Trinity’s main gate every night until the wee hours of the morning. Chelsea Clinton was a regular when she studied at Oxford. Definitely habit-forming.
One night every week, there will be a formal banquet called High Table: a formally set table, coats and ties for gentlemen, cocktail wear for ladies, the blessing in Latin, extraordinarily fine wines paired with perhaps the most exquisite gourmet food you will ever have eaten.
High Table is a ritual and an experience you will never forget. You will be surprised by how quickly you become accustomed to dining at this level of elegance and sophistication and come to take it for granted as a normal part of your life.
After High Table, you will never again worry about attending a formal dinner, so even the banquets are educational and good training for your future.
Since you’ll be living as Englishmen and Englishwomen do, you will doubtlessly find a pub where you feel especially welcome and comfortable. You’ll call it, as the English do, your “local.”
Pub culture doesn’t encourage or even allow excessive drinking. Rather, you go to a pub to have a couple of pints with your buds (your “mates”), maybe play darts, maybe watch a football match, maybe just enjoy good talk with friends, new and old.
One pub you’ll also visit regularly is the college bar, Trinity’s own excellent Beer Cellar located beneath the dining hall. It’s a warm and welcoming place a few feet from your room and run by some the nicest people you’ll ever meet. St. Bonaventure holds its occasional student meetings in the Beer Cellar. A St. Bonaventure crest hangs over he bar year-round.
Walkabouts, sightseeing & travel
Trinity is located in the center of the city. Right across the street from the main gate you’ll find small restaurants and coffee shops for a latte. One block away is the city’s main shopping street, cobblestone Cornmarket Street, also pedestrians only.
It’s a short walk to the bus station, train station, the public library, the Ashmolean and the University Museums, three shopping malls, and dozens of other shops, restaurants, pubs and theaters.
Within two blocks are a grocery store, a drug store, cell phone shops, bank ATM machines and several boutiques and gift shops.
While there’s a tiny workout room with rudimentary equipment at Trinity, you can purchase a summer membership at a gym in town. Bicycles are more common than cars in Oxford and can be rented at any number of shops around town. Rowboats and punts (a special kind of nutty boat propelled by poles) can also be rented if you’re in the mood to spend an afternoon on River Thames, which flows through Oxford.
The University Parks, with several miles of beautifully landscaped paths along the river, are nice for running, sunning or funning.
Wonderful and wonder-filled weekends
The night you arrive in Oxford, you’ll join your classmates and your tutors for a pub grub dinner. The next day, you’ll have a guided morning tour of the historic sites of Oxford and an afternoon tour of the fun spots.
At the end of your first week, there will be a day trip to London. Your train ticket and a day pass on the London Underground (subway system) are covered by your fee. The rest of the day, you’re on your own to do anything you want in London. There’s a lot to do!
There will also be a day trip to the beautiful and historic town of Bath. You can visit the ruins of the Roman baths and take in the beautiful architecture from the days when the royal court summered in Bath. On the way, you’ll stop at Stonehenge.
Another field trip later in the program will take you to the studio where the Harry Potter movies were filmed. Very simply, it is magical.
One long, four-day weekend is set aside for private travel so students have the opportunity to see other parts of Europe. In the past, most students have opted for Paris, Amsterdam and Dublin but many others have visited Prague, Berlin, Rome, Copenhagen or the beaches of Mallorca or the canals of Venice. Save your pennies to make this weekend an unforgettable adventure with your friends.
Adults only, please
If you are one of the students fortunate enough to live in Oxford next summer, the university and the directors will expect you to conduct yourself as a responsible adult and will treat you accordingly.
No one will babysit or monitor you. Unless you give them a reason to think otherwise, they will consider you to be ladies and gentlemen fully capable of making your own decisions and taking care of yourself.
The drinking age in England is 18. Pubs are everywhere. English beer is stronger than American beer. Nonetheless, do NOT enroll in the Oxford Program if it is your plan to go to England to drink. If that’s your plan, please stay in Allegany and go to the Burton.
Anyone who abuses alcohol during the Oxford Program may be expelled from the program on the spot and sent back to the States at his or her own expense. This is not negotiable.
The same assumption of responsibility will apply to your academic work. You will be expected to handle much of your learning on your own, working with your student colleagues in “learning communities.”
In short, living in England and participating in the St. Bonaventure Oxford Program is for adults only.