Monday, October 5, 2009

Lessons from Day One at Oxford: Don't Skip Orientations, Bedding, and Porters

I arrived to mass undergraduate confusion at Lady Margaret Hall.  No one quite knew what to do with me, and, other than the very sweet Katie who helped me with my bags into my room, was left to my own defenses to find out how to get online, to find the bursar's office to find out that they thought housekeeping was in charge of bedding, to find that housekeeping knew that the Porter's lodge was selling bedding, to find a very friendly, helpful porter who wanted to sell me bedding, to find a shop in town (Boswell's) that could sell me attractive bedding, and then to (finally) find a local outfit (Argo's) that would sell me reasonably-priced, attractive bedding. 

Lessons learned:

* Don't skip graduate orientation, where they teach you college layouts, introduce staff ("college servants") and faculty ("dons"), and how to get settled.
* Don't skip international student orientation, where they teach you where the best shops are.
* If you fly into England and expect to sleep at Oxford on the day of your arrival, make sure you leave yourself enough time to find bedding.  I recommend Argos.
* Be nice to porters.  They are unique creatures.  They are a combination security officer, concierge, know-everything, bag carrier, mail director, and sympathy-giver that keeps the culture of each college fitly tied together. Similar to taxi cab drivers in New York City, I think very good books about Cambridge and Oxford could be written just about porters.   

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