LLM GUIDE Student Blog: Oxford MJur/BCL 2015-2016
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on Aug 30, 2015Welcome to this blog! I’m a law graduate from Germany, and I have joined the Magister Juris (MJur) program at Oxford University. In Oxford, clocks still run at a different pace. This is why the Oxford law graduate programme is not called LLM but – for students with a common law background – BCL and – for students who come from civil law countries – MJur respectively. Also, Oxford University is organised in a collegiate system, meaning that students are members of one of the colleges or private halls as well as members of a department or faculty (e.g. the law faculty). This makes possible what I consider one of Oxford’s unique advantages: Even though you are studying towards a law degree, you will also meet lots of fellow students from different disciplines in your college. This blog aims to provide insights from my year on the Oxford MJur programme for those interested in Oxford/Law/Graduate studies in general. It also aims to compile useful information for future MJur/BCL students (on diverse issues such as the local pub scene, social events etc.) by combining my own experiences with those of fellow students. My blog is featured on LLM GUIDE, a global, online community for prospective graduate students, and a directory of programs offered worldwide.
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on Oct 03, 2015Coming from Germany, I have to admit that travelling to the UK is not too much of a hassle compared to what other students from places further away actually have to get through to travel here. That said, I thought it useful to have a car in the first days of travelling here (which turned out to be true). What I didn’t take into sufficient consideration when booking a rental car at Heathrow Airport was that the British drive on the left. However, except for nearly causing an accident literally right after leaving the rental agency’s parking area, it was totally manageable to travel to Oxford this way. On the highway, I found it to be calming to find a truck and stick to it’s rear so you can focus entirely on driving on the left. I would recommend anyone new to Oxford to rent a car for the first days. It will give you the opportunity to do all the things necessary to settle in: Depending on your accommodation, you might have to buy furniture, bedding, a bike and groceries etc. More importantly, it will give you the opportunity to see the beautiful English countryside (to be continued). For more about the MJur program, please see the Oxford's Full Profile on LLM GUIDE.
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on Oct 11, 2015The first few days of my stay in Oxford have now passed by. Somehow however, I am still finding myself in the organisation-process. Apart from getting your university card and moving into your residence, you will have to navigate through the huge ocean of possibilities and events that are inherent to the collegiate system. Induction and social events are presented to you by either the law faculty, your college or the university itself. Suffice it to say that the number of new faces you’ll see, the social and professional backgrounds you’ll hear about and the names you ought to memorise (or just ought to try to) is overwhelming. Judging from my first days, it is highly recommendable to buy a bike. I guess, the sooner, the better, since undergrads and other graduate students will begin to settle in and empty the market for used bikes. I found this wonderful thing on www.gumtree.com: Biking seems to be easy around Oxford. Drivers are probably used to both cyclists in general and foreign (read: continental-style) bikers. After some days, even the roundabouts are manageable. For more about the MJur program, please see the Oxford's Full Profile on LLM GUIDE.
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on Oct 14, 2015Amazingly, the English sky has been blue and the sun has been shining for the last five days at least. That gave us the opportunity to take our rental car out for an outing into the English countryside, namely Broadway. Broadway is a village in the county of Worcestershire and is part of the Cotswolds, an area of rolling hills. Justifiably called the „Jewel of the Cotswolds“, it is a lovely place to spend a sunny afternoon strolling through small medieval streets or having a beer in the various pubs. To give you an idea of the surrounding countryside, it looks like a mixture of New England and the Hobbington we know from Peter Jackson’s movies. I think it is actually fair to assume that it has influenced and inspired artists and writers like JRR Tolkien and JK Rowling. But see for yourself: Starting from Broadway tower, you may satisfy your wanderlust by following the pathways leading you through woods, fields and herds of goats and sheep. Even those who are not that much into walking: It is worth the effort (and it is easy to walk back after an hour or so). For more about the MJur program, please see the Oxford's Full Profile on LLM GUIDE.
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on Nov 05, 2015After some weeks of settling in (read: having beers with new friends, organising myself and attending several induction lectures), classes have finally started. There are a great variety of classes, ranging from „International Law of the Sea“ and „Company Law“ to „Law and Medieval Society“. The faculty often recommend attending an undergraduate option (though only MJurs are allowed to, BCLs not) to get a firsthand-look at the „real“ common law. I am more intrigued, for my extra options, by the rather specialist courses of „Corporate Finance Law“, „Comparative Corporate Law“ and „Principles of Financial Regulation“ and „International Law and the Use of Force“. "The Cube" is arguably our nicest class room. While lectures will introduce the topic and alert students to which topics are important, seminars are where actual participation and discussion take place. Students receive reading lists, which they ought to prepare for seminars. Likewise, debates revolve around a list of questions given to students beforehand. Also, each class will have four tutorials. In those, a professor will meet up with groups of two to four students and discuss a particular topic in detail. I have to admit: This seems to be a very tough and time consuming schedule. This holds even more true, if you consider that you constantly get bombarded by interesting events and activities to attend and participate in Oxford. I will keep you posted on how this actually works out!
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on Nov 15, 2015I am finally an official member of the University of Oxford. In other words: Matriculation took place last weekend. Matriculation is another peculiar event from the perspective of a continental European law student that produces plenty of opportunities to take Facebook-suitable photos. The event’s idiosyncracy bascially draws on the „subfusc“ dress, that is mandatory and consists of the following elements:
- One of
- Dark suit with dark socks, or
- Dark skirt with black tights or stockings, or
- Dark trousers with dark socks
- Dark coat if required
- Black shoes
- Plain white collared shirt or blouse
- White bow tie, black bow tie, black full-length tie, or black ribbon.
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on Nov 22, 2015One of the great institutions of Oxford is the Oxford Union. And we are not talking about an institution that organises labour but the world’s most famous debating society. Although independent from the University, the Union claims students as the overwhelming majority of its members. For the amount of around 230 pounds (!) one can become a lifetime member. That is obviously a huge amount, especially for MJur/BCLs who stay for only a year. Judging from my experience so far, it may be worth it though. Founded in 1823, the Union’s magnificent facilities are centrally located in Oxford. These include a bar for members, a beautiful library, pool tables and – of course – debating chambers. Main events are either debates or talks with distinguished guests. Debates take place every Thursday and are fought between one side of three debaters proposing a motion (e.g. „This House Believes the State Should Not Recognise Marriage“ or „This House Believes the UK Has Surrendered Too Much Liberty in Pursuit of Greater Security“) and an opposition comprising an equal number of speakers. Eventually, the audience decides whether the motion will be accepted by leaving the chamber through a YEA or NAY door. Talks are less contentious, although some speakers have have indeed stirred controversy in the past (e.g. Marine Le Pen). Notable guests include big names like the Dalai Lama, Albert Einstein, Shakira and Kermit the Frog. This term brings us a speaker who would probably love to be mentioned in the same breath as these. Being German I will only reluctantly do him this favour: Yanis Varoufakis. For more about the MJur program, please see Oxford's Full Profile on LLM GUIDE
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on Dec 02, 2015When you tell your friends or family you are coming to Oxford as a student for a longer period of time, sooner or later there you will certainly be asked one question: Are you going to row? Well, it’s just one of the things that ordinary people just expect Oxonians to do. Rowing conjures up images of you beating the guys from „the other place“ (read Cambridge University). You will be told you have to get up at 5.30 am to get on the boat by 6 am even in winter and that your body will ache after four/five sessions on the Isis (read the Thames) a week. But don’t be fooled by that (although you probably won’t be given the opportunity to beat Cambridge): Rowing is actually quite fun! Yes, a tiny part of the preparation also takes place indoor (the "tank") Firstly, basically everyone else in your boat will be new to rowing. So don’t be frightened by your lack of experience. Secondly, rowing is organised at college level. This is why it will give you the opportunity to get to know your fellow students from college even better. After all, there’s nothing more fulfilling than jointly getting that eight-seated beast moving with coordinated strokes. Thirdly, you will get up at 5.30 am to be on the boat by 6 am even in winter! While others still sleep in their cozy beds, you are taking on the real world. This means that come 9 am, you will be one of the few students attending the Corporate Finance Lecture who is actually right in thinking he is master of the universe. For more about the MJur program, please see Oxford's Full Profile on LLM GUID
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on Dec 15, 2015Suffice it to say that as a German, I think I know how to properly celebrate Christmas (after all, we invented the Christmas tree). However I must admit that the British do quite a good job as well in this respect. On the island, Christmas seems to be not only about „Gemütlichkeit“ (cosiness) and winding down; it’s also taken as a opportunity to party and be with your friends. Christmas parties are happening everywhere. Be it in restaurants with friends, in the boat club or with your fellow students and professors in college, traditional turkey dinners, Christmas crackers and mulled wine are omnipresent. I definitely recommend buying Christmas jumpers. The supply is wide-ranging and quite playful. For instance, I got myself a jumper and these complementary pairs of socks. Even the city is decorated Christmassy. While the „Winter Wonderland“ in London gives you a nice impression of how an actual German Christmas Market (that got crossed with the Oktoberfest) might look, Oxford has a smaller and arguably nicer market. Oxford Street (in London) Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on Jan 07, 2016The first term (Michaelmas) has now come to an end. That means one third of the programme is already over. Needless to say, time went by quickly. Also, the weather was surprisingly good for the last three months. Looking back, I totally underestimated the workload and ended up working more than I initially planned doing readings and preparing for seminars and tutorials, especially during the last weeks of the term. Speaking of which, I have now completed three tutorials. In these, you discuss particular topics in small groups of three to four students in the professor’s office. It is expected that you prepare for tutorials by writing and handing in papers (four pages, double spaced). Obviously, a lot of work goes along with this. Nevertheless, I am confident I have taken away a lot from them. And although I was very nervous before the actual tutorials, all three turned out to be fine in the end. Rathing than grilling you on specific issues, professors try to get a discussion going and involve all students. Nerd that you probably are (to a certain extent that seems to be a requirement to be accepted in the first place), you might even find joy in a friendly talk about mandatory disclosure rules in IPO scenarios. A tutorial situation might look like this (Photograph: Dan Waite, cherwell.org) I am pumped for the next term (Hilary). I have met a number of great people that I am looking forward to seeing again (for instance my wonderful housemate Emily, who needs to be mentioned here due to her formidable task of correcting my terrible writing). However, it appears that things will get even more intense. A fourth course will be added to my schedule. As I continue rowing, my mornings are about to become even earlier. Also, I want to finally visit all of the great coffee shops that are spread over the city! But firstly I’ll enjoy my remaining two weeks of Christmas holidays.
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on Feb 11, 2016Not too far from the City of Oxford is Blenheim Palace. Built in 1722 in the „English Baroque“ style, it is named after the German river of „Blindheim“ and was given to John Churchill, First Duke of Marlborough as a reward for winning the likenamed „Battle of Blenheim“ against the French and Bavarians. Fans of the TV show „Downton Abbey“ will definitely find themselves at home here (the real “Highclere Castle“, however, being located in Hampshire). What’s more, Blenheim Palace is the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill (the First Duke being one of his ancestors). It is quite hard to imagine this adventurer, gentleman and larger-than-life politician growing up in such a calm, beautiful and wide place. Even today, the estate is owned by the Spencer-Churchill family. Tickets are between 15 and 25 pounds, so make sure you have plenty of time to spend at the premises. Discover the (both French and English) gardens and the estate itself. There are also several exhibitions to visit – obviously one about Winston Churchill for instance. Next to Blenheim Palace lies the sleepy town of Woodstock which is definitely worth a visit. I would suggest having dinner or at least a beer here before you come back to Oxford. From and back to Oxford you can easily take a bus from/to Blenheim Palace (Gloucester Green Station to Woodstock).
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on Feb 18, 2016One thing I would like to do more often is to sit in coffee shops and read the newspaper. The fact that I only do this very rarely, though, is probably on account of my great roommates, who gave me the glorious AeroPress Coffee Maker for my birthday (only to be recommended, see www.aeropress.com). Fortunately, I am writing a blog that gives me the opportunity to try out some of the local cafés for a blog post. The Missing Bean The Missing Bean is a chain of coffee shops in Oxford. One is even located inside the law faculty. While the latter is rather ugly, the one on Turl Street is very popular among students and actually offers a nice and relaxed atmosphere. However, as I am totally into filter coffee (and always have been, even before it became hip), I find their Americano way to lush. Everything else seems to be great though. (credits to http://www.lucentimagery.com/) The Quarter-Horse This one is located in Cowley and is quite cozy. They have a wide variety of different coffees and their cake is just delicious. However, it can be crowded at times. So don't even bother visiting on a Saturday afternoon. It is worth going though, since you can tell these guys just love coffee. The Handle Bar (Formerly Zappi's Cafe) I ran in here by accident because I needed a coffee for my International Law seminar. A week after, someone wanted to sell it to me as a secret treasure. The coffee is good and the place itself is very special: It is located inside of a bike shop. However, even on a regular week day, this place is really crowded: Starbucks Well, sorry for including this one, but I happen to like Starbucks coffee. Sometimes, their stores are nicely located, offer you superb views on whatever might be interesting and a cozy atmosphere. The (central) Oxford one not so much. It’s totally generic and likely to be crowded by tourists anyway.
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on Mar 18, 2016Everybody thinks of Oxford as a small and green university town in the English countryside. This would arguably be more accurate for „the other place“. Although the University dominates not only Oxford’s image but also ist cultural, social and probably economic life, we are talking about a city with a population of around 180.000. For instance, did you know that Oxford is home to the Mini-factory? To be sure, there are a lot of pubs, coffee shops and restaurants to be found in the inner parts of the city close to University. But that’s is nothing compared to what can be found in the neighbourhood of Cowley. On the one hand, this is one part of the city where ordinary people live (and attend quaint pubs at the corner of their streets like in the movies). On the other, it is very multicultural and vibrant. From Lebanese to Mexican, Polish and Indian food – every taste can be served here. This is the place to be if you want to have a drink and go out. Understandably therefore, undergrad students, when moving out of their college residences, often choose to move to Cowley. As a consequence, this part of the city seems to experience the advantages and disadvantages of „gentrification“. Who would have thought that such a modern phenomenon would take place in the old city of Oxford?
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on Mar 30, 2016Some weeks ago, a German law firm invited all German students currently enrolled in postgraduate programmes in the United Kingdom for a weekend out in the countryside. We were picked up in our respective locations and brought to Tylney Hall in Hampshire. If this place does not look like Downton Abbey, I don’t know what does. Wooden walls, a vast park, rooms as huge as presidential suites... After being served afternoon tea and scones, we were given a short introduction to takeover regulation in practice. This was followed by a great dinner and an open bar all night. The next morning was devoted to activities one would associate with the English upper class. First, we played Cricket. Although it took all of us around half an hour to understand the rules, it was good fun in the end and even a little bit exhausting. Second, we went clay shooting. Very exciting at first, but got a little bit boring after some time to be honest. My favourite activity was visiting the falconry. Here, we were introduced to hawks, buzzard and – most importantly – OWLs! You would not believe how fluffy the latter were. I just had to kiss one. And she didn’t seem too reluctant after all to be honest.
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on Apr 04, 2016One of the most beautiful colleges is Magdalen College. Pronounced <Modelayn>, it is also the name giver of the nearby Magdalen Bridge and – somewhat less spectacular– Magdalen Road. Btw: This is the view I get every morning on my way to school As an Oxford student, I have the privilege to be allowed into all of the Colleges, even in non-Visitor times (plus, I can bring more visitors). Magdalen was founded in 1458 and we can clearly see its’ cloistral heritage. Now this does really look like Harry Potter, right? Also, Magdalen College has its own deer park (find the deer by zooming in on the left hand side of the photo). Magdalen meadow can be accessed from the college site and the designated path takes around 20 minutes to walk. I always wonder where all of this place comes from all of the sudden. Looking from the outside, you would never expect to find it here. Unfortunately I know of no graduate student in the law program who is in Magdalen College :(
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on Apr 12, 2016I know I am repeating myself, but about the closest you can get to Harry Potter in Oxford is taking part in a “Formal Dinner”. These are held in the colleges, mostly on a weekly or more than weekly basis. In general, this is a dinner that – unlike other dinners – takes place in a more formal (who would have thought it?) atmosphere. Lights are dimmed, candles are lit and the three-four courses are brought to your place. Behave well though (for instance, our students were told off for taking selfies; rightly so as far as I am concerned)! (newliturgicalmovement.org) Usually, there are seats and dining tables for ordinary students and their guests on the one hand and for professors and college officials (the “High Table”) on the other. Only after the former have taken seats will the latter enter the dining hall. Students will then get up and wait for the High Table to be seated and a prayer and the college grace to be spoken. We were the first to enter hall on this occasion at University College Dress codes differ between colleges. I think it is safe to say that in most cases an ordinary suit (not necessarily a tie) will be sufficient. Oxford students are expected to wear their gown. Some special dinners (or in my college’s case “Formal Formals”), however, require “Black Tie”. While this may feel a bit strange at first, it is definitely great fun to dine with all of your college dressed up. (aiesecinoxford.wordpress.com)
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on Apr 17, 2016In times of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders the issue of elitism is often discussed among members here: Is Oxford University as it stands today representative of a class system or are its institutions a mere relict of the latter sticking to some traditions, but open to all social groups and backgrounds? To begin with, the elitist image of Oxford students is often conjured by popular culture, for instance movies like “Riot Club” (which alludes to the real “Bullingdon Club”). Needless to say, the extreme portrayed in said movie has so far not been representative of my life in Oxford. A recent article in the Independent, however, raises this issue. The author argues that although there obviously exist no formal class barriers, social life does indeed establish differences between the rich and poor students. The author illustrates the point by referring to ball tickets that are sold for as much as 300 pounds: And indeed, the many social gatherings and respective formalities and traditions seem to offer plenty of opportunities for distinguishing social backgrounds. Also, we haven’t even spoken about the tuition fees yet. www.guardian.com Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters However, I assume it makes a huge difference whether you are a graduate or undergraduate student. Fellow students in my (graduate) programme seem to be coming from all social classes and backgrounds. This could be on account of our applications not including interviews in person (which are said to be a gateway to the impact of social backgrounds). But even the undergrads I know don’t seem to be especially posh to be honest. Actually, just the opposite: Everyone seems to be super tolerant and voting for Labour (and its current leader). I once asked a good friend from another university here in the UK why he didn’t apply to Oxbridge. It just had never occurred to him that he would ever stand a chance to get in because of said social barriers. It seems, however, that Oxford University is increasingly working against this perception. To conclude, it might well be the case that class matters more in terms of college-choice. Some of the colleges traditionally have an „aristocratic“ student body (Christ Church apparently being the most conspicuous example) and thus are richer than other colleges. In this, Oxford University might somehow be representative of a class society indeed.
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on Apr 23, 2016One of the most pressing issues for prospective applicants to the MJur/BCL is the question of admission. I have talked some issues through with other MJur/BCL students and will present my insights in the following paragraphs. Suffice it is to say that these are obviously biased and maybe not to be generalised. Besides the usual CV and transcripts you will have to hand in the following three important documents: • Statement of Purpose • Essay • Three letters of recommendation The first is supposed to be about one page (300 words). I assume that this is an opportunity for you to give a compelling story of why you desperately need to study at Oxford University. No babble here. Be precise, specific and credible. Overall, the essay seems to be the most important part of an application. So put a lot of effort into this one (and don’t neglect the other parts of course). I think it makes sense to hand in a paper that could theoretically be published in a journal (= academic!), although you only have around 2000 words for this. Needless to say, contentwise it makes a lot of sense to match your interest expressed in the statement of purpose. As concerns the letters of recommendation, it seems to be highly recommendable to have people in academia write all three of them. Legal practitioners are not necessarily bad, but considering that you are applying to university I have the impression that letters by academics promise a higher rate of success. These should probably best be professors. Again, this is only my own assessment: Find a personal “story”, hand in a really good paper that matches the latter and get three letters of recommendation from people in academia. And most importantly: you need a good portion of luck. Fortunately, graduates do not have to sit exams to get into Oxford University. (Photo: GETTY, telegraph.co.uk)
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on Apr 27, 2016Although dead for more than a hundred years, Cecil Rhodes is one of the most fiercely debated personalities in Oxford and the UK. Being one of the greatest benefactors of the university, his role in the exploitation of South African workers raises the issue of whether he should still be commemorated in present times. The movement “Rhodes must Fall” originates in South Africa and has now arrived in Oxford. Its most prominent achievement was to bring down the Rhodes statue at the University of Cape Town. In 2015, the movement took hold in Oxford. Its self proclaimed goal is to take down the statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oriel college. To begin with, only a few people do actually see positive effects of Rhodes’ role in Africa (see the video of the debate at the Oxford Union below for example). Assuming his actions would likely constitute gross violation of human rights and international law by today’s standards, should one deny his beneficial role for Oxford University? Should one do this by removing his statue? (photo: www.bbc.co.uk) Personally, I am not convinced that there is a significant benefit in removing the Rhodes statue from Oriel College. If one actually believes the statue celebrates and consequently encourages racism in society, removing it would probably not bring about any change at all. After all, only a symbol would be removed. What is really needed, and in this point most people agree I think, is a commemoration of the people who suffered and died. Unfortunately – but understandably so – the debate is very emotional. As such it is emblematic for current movements at British and American universities fighting symbols of racism. More elaborate and thought-through arguments are given in the video of the very interesting panel discussion hosted by the Oxford Union to be found here.
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on May 01, 2016Spring is finally coming to Oxford. Considering it is May already, this was long overdue. This might explain the following spectacle taking place in the early morning hours (from about 0530 on) at Magdalen Bridge and the rest of the City on May 1st: "Mayday". The entire town seems to gather to listen to the Magdalen Boys Choir singing from Magdalen Tower. Some of the people stayed up all night partying until finally coming here (mostly undergraduates, most postgraduates just get up early). On account of this, there is an ubiquitous smell of booze. After the singing is over, the crowd moves downtown to either get breakfast or dance in the streets. The atmosphere in the city is awesome on a Spring morning like this. Especially in quieter streets. The sun is out and we're finally beginning to see some green trees (coming here in fall, I've never seen Oxford trees in green). Most of the events are over at about 0730 and people are finally going (back) to bed.
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on May 06, 2016Unfortunately Easter Break is now over. Although the University expects you to work a lot during this time (in German, we use the rather annoying term “lecture free time” for this), six weeks is enough do travel around the UK. Also, this is the perfect time: you have a good shot at having great weather while not many people are travelling. From Oxford, you would drive for about 5-6 hours until the land ends (in Land's End), so you could arrange to drive two hours each day for three days and stop at same of the places named below. So, my wonderful girlfriend and I seized this opportunity and went to Cornwall. The mythical birthplace of King Arthur offers beautiful landscapes, an infinite number of quaint villages and – on account of the Gulf Stream’s impact – very good weather make this place the most attractive tourist destination. It is definitely worth renting a car for your travels. First, it gives you the obvious possibility to go wherever you want. And second, it is a thrilling experience to drive on the country roads. These are literally just one sided and buried in the earth so you don’t see upcoming cars. (Yeah, our shoes got wet so we had to dry them in the window front) Penzance is a great place to visit. There is a great hostel here: EasyPZ. Nearby is a quaint village named “Mousehole”, definitely worth a visit and in walking distance from Penzance.
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on May 09, 2016Spring is finally coming to Oxford! I know, talking about the weather is rather dull. However, this makes such a difference. Oxford was beautiful in Winter already. But now it’s incredible. Sometimes, I am close to tears because my time here is over soon. Especially getting up early is definitely worth the effort (cp. my post about Mayday). For rowing training, I sometimes get up at 5.40am. And if there is one priceless experience I am taking away from my year here, it is sitting in a boat on the river when the sun comes out and looking at Christ Church Meadow. The same holds true for outings in the evening. Croquet is quite a thing here. Most colleges set the hoops up in their quad. Apparently, playing croquet is the only time you are allowed to step on the college’s grass (or at least a rare exception). This is a typically British game: Slow, relaxing and pretty tactical. The rules also seem to be a bit complicated. But definitely good fun. If it wasn’t for the damn exams in a few weeks, this would be heaven on earth. But still, studying in the sun is better than studying in the rain I guess : /
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on May 14, 2016During Easter Break, our Boat Club organised a “Rowing Camp” in Wallingford, a 45 minutes bus ride from Oxford. Practising rowing on the water for 5 hours a day, for more than a week. Unlike on the Isis river in Oxford, you are not interrupted by other spinning boats or the need to turn after 10 minutes due to the shortness of the stretch but can row on for up to 30 minutes. This gave us some time to focus on technique and throw in some longer and faster pieces. The big “Summer Eight’s” races are coming up. Everyone wants to excel in these. Apparently, it is going to be a hell of a spectacle with up to 20.000 people coming to see the races. Also, Wallingford itself is another quaint and beautiful village in the English countryside. As such, it is definitely worth a visit from Oxford. I also found that it was representative of English villages in general. Several elements can be identified in this respect: Naturally, we find a lot of old churches with beautiful graveyards and gardens. The marketplace, where people meet up. It always strikes me as remarkable, that even these small villages have small and “funky” (independent) coffee shops (not referring to Costa here). Needless to say, there is a post office and several pubs around.
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on May 25, 2016On a recent journey through the east of the UK, we ended up driving to the middle of nowhere. Since we were quite hungry and sick of sitting in the car, we made a stop in this small town situated on the river “Cam”. What a mistake. To start with, the weather was quite bad – something that, coming from Oxford, we were not really used to. Also, people were quite rude. Somehow emblematic of this is, they did not want us to walk on their, frankly spoken: not that green, grass. Whereas this would be socially unacceptable in Oxford as well, we are usually not so blunt about it. The place was strange in other ways: In general, there was a certain familiarity in the air. The kind of similarity you experience when you look at shoes that remind you of a really nice pair you once owned only to find out that the one at hand is merely a cheap copy. Confirming this assumption: Not even the bridges (mathematician’s bridge) are for real. We also found tons of fake art. The entire town seems to want to conjure the image of being really old. The houses seemed a bit wonky and the churches quite dull. In a nutshell: There is no reason to come here. Visit Oxford instead!
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on May 31, 2016This weekend, the most important rowing event in Oxford, “Summer Eights”, took place. From Wednesday to Saturday, 171 boats and around 1500 participants are racing against each other. [caption id="attachment_468" align="alignnone" width="660"] OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA[/caption] Our boat closing in at Somerville II To allow for such a high number of crews to race every day for four days and due to the narrowness of the river, a special mode of competition is used: the "bumping race". Instead of crews racing each other one on one (that is, next to each) other, boats are lined up in a chain. In order to “win”, a crew has to bump the crew in front of them without being bumped by the crew behind them at the same time. If a bump occurs, the bumped as well as the bumping boat stop racing. While the latter will rise in their division the following day, the former will descend a starting place. Our boat bumping Oriel III (note their coxswain conceding) By bumping four days in a row (and consequently rising 4 places in Summer Eights), a crew can win “blades”. This means that they get to take away a (fake) blade with their names, bumps etc. on it. (FYI: we even bumped five times and won blades) Job done The whole tournament is a massive spectacle. Around 20.000 viewers are expected in total. Their cheering pushes boats to their limits. To be honest, a boat race is one of the most intense experiences you can have. An entire day boils down to the maximum of two-three minutes your races takes.
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on Jun 14, 2016One of the hottest topics in Oxfod cafés and pubs at the moment is of course the upcoming referendum on the UK’s membership in the European Union. It is impossible to underestimate the importance of this decision as regards the European Project’s further development. After all, the UK is not only a huge economic, but also a political and cultural force in Europe. I doubt that there are many other places where the impact of the European integration and its importance for our generation can be felt more than in Oxford. Although a lot of the foreign study body comprises US citizens, people from all over Europe study and live together. Among the postgrads, 21.7% are from non-UK EU countries. Oxford is a hub for European excellence. As a lawyer, one can only wonder what would happen to the influence and expertise the law faculty currently holds in European Union law. Funnily enough, the exam on EU Law will take place some days after the Brexit Vote, possibly rendering it a legal historic paper. The media does its part to influence elections (to be fair, also for the other side, e.g. the Financial Times arguing for Remain). As a prospective applicant from the European, you should keep your fingers crossed. If the “Leave” campaign actually wins, chances are that your tuition fees will rise to the level of non-EU members.
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on Jun 18, 2016Two weeks until this year’s MJur/BCL class have to take its first Oxford exam. Needless to say, the entire procedure is set to be stuffed with Oxford traditions and peculiarities. First, students have to take exams in the subfusc (see my earlier post about matriculation). This means we have to wear suit and bow tie plus gown. This, however, is only mandatory for crossing the threshold of the examination schools. Tie etc. can be taken off when sitting down but have to be put on again when leaving the premises. Unlike some fellow students who are on the hunt for pyjama pants that resemble suit pants, I am quite optimistic about the dress code: Maybe, by making me feel important, it induces important thoughts in turn? Given that the weather is turning really warm in the next weeks (and have always felt important so far anyway), this is rather unlikely. Second, students have to wear a white gilly-flower for their first exam, pink ones in their second and third, and a red one for their final one. Since I love the smell of flowers, this could be a real game changer as regards exam enjoyment. Third, for your last exam, your friends are picking you up to “trash you”, that is they will put funny things (confetti, shaving cream..) on your head and maybe throw you into the river.
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on Jun 28, 2016Summer is (better: should) be here. This is (should) be the perfect time for garden partys and balls in Oxford. My college had a ball in February and it was good fun already back then. However, the fact that you can actually use the college quads during this season to socialise, dance and eat makes it even more fun. Photos here are taken from the wonderful Balliol MCR Garden Party last weekend. The dresscode is usually “Black Tie”, although sometimes only “smart casual”. For the really fancy balls, everyone even wears “White Tie”, that is with a (mostly hired I think) tailcoat including white gloves and bowler hat. It basically feels like you are thrown back into the 1920s (<= note how I am avoiding the “Downton Abbey” analogy here). Balls are usually quite expensive, ranging between 90 and up to 200 pounds. However, you are given unlimited food and drinks. Every ball and garden party has a photo booth, that’s a classic. Others offer laser tag and other fun stuff like for example auto scooters. Obviously, a number of dancefloors, live bands and "silent disco" are essential to a great ball as well. Silent Disco, everyone dancing to their own choice of music (indicated by the colour of the headphones here) Quite emblematic of the sheer limitless creativity of ball committees (and competitiveness concerning other balls) is be the example of Sommerville College. Aiming at delivering a night of ‘decadence, debauchery and indulgence’, the ball committee initially sought to get a shark in a bowl until their principal stepped in.
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on Jul 04, 2016My time in Oxford is slowly coming to an end. And although this city isn’t that big, I haven’t seen and done as many things as I wish I had – this being proof of the fact that there is a lot going on here. Besides the obviously pretty and numerous colleges, there are some fine places that belong to the University of Oxford, the most conspicuous example here being the City’s landmark Radcliffe Camera. (wikipedia.org) Second to this surely is the Bodleian Library, which in its current shape dates back to 1602. It is the United Kingdom’s second biggest library. The “Old Schools Quadrangle” is particularly impressive. Here, we find the entrances to the “Schola Moralis Philosophae” or the “Schola Ivrisprvdentiae" (I wish, our lectures were here instead of the ugly St Cross Building). The closest you can get to the stereotype of an Oxford library is probably the “Duke Humfrey” library, which can also be accessed from the Quad. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to touch most of the books and to bring backpacks, a rule which officers here seem keen to enforce. Even older than the “Bod” is the Divinity School (15th century) that is adjacent to the Bod. Again, a number of scenes for the Harry Potter movies were filmed here. I, however, find this chair made of lumber of one of Sir Francis Drake’s ships more intriguing. And since I am not sure I put the "Bridge of Sighs" – another Oxford landmark – on this blog, here we go: It connects the buildings of Hertford College.
By Oxford Blogger 2015 on Jul 09, 2016At some point, we all experience it: the feeling that life is actually quite short, certainly shorter than we imagined when we were young. Well, these days I feel pretty old. My time in Oxford is coming to an end. I will keep the remaining lamentation to myself. Instead, I will reflect on some issues that have made this year especially great. Maybe you young people with all your MJurs, BCLs and LLMs still ahead of you might benefit from this. Let me first start with a commonplace: “It was the people I met here that made this year so wonderful”. But it’s true, they played a huge part in this respect. And Oxford is special here: Due to the collegiate system, you not only meet an incredible number of people, but also from all kinds of backgrounds. In fact, I probably hung out more with friends from college than with lawyers. Second, I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to learn something totally new: rowing. In hindsight, I cannot appreciate enough that I have not only used the year abroad to make academic progress, but also on a personal level. I highly recommend prospective Postgrads to find something that they might have never considered to do while at home – try to stretch your boundaries a bit. To those who might fear for their future employability: Isn’t it a bit cooler to say you learnt how to do Improv / played Quidditch (it is a real thing, guys) / went hillclimbing than to brag about your “Distinction” in Trust Law? To be fair, however, the MJur/BCL gave me the amazing insights into my subjects of choice. I would have never imagined – honestly – that I could be so intrigued by studying the Law. I feel that this year has greatly expanded my horizon even in subjects I thought I knew about fairly well. Should you take something totally unfamiliar to you? Yes, but only if you are genuinely interested in the subject and not because you are afraid to appear boring. I actually enjoyed the more familiar subjects more than the other because I had something to build on. I hope (and I am sure) you all have a great year, wherever you will go. Thanks for following this blog! Many thanks also to those who have given me the opportunity to blog about my experiences in the first place. It was great fun. Best, Lukas or xxx (as the British do, although I am still unsure about the appropriate number of X for the varying contexts)
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