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Student stories

Oxford Life: Banging Kebabs, a BNOC Publication and some Serious Superstition

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By Shivi Gupta – 14th March 2024

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One of our legendary Oxford Ambassadors Shivi Gupta has taken some time out to give us all the key info for navigating Oxford life. Shivi talks to us about the best kebabs in town, the published list of campus BNOCs and some very important termly superstitions to uphold!

What is THE student eat spot at Oxford?

Many people would say the best spot to eat is Najar’s – they’re probably not wrong, as you can get a really filling wrap for under £4 but do be warned of long queues and cash-only service! But you can’t go wrong with a cheeky Hussain’s – whether that’s after a long night out on the Atik “cheesefloor” or a long night in your College library crisis-ing, their cheap prices and friendly service will surely cheer you up!

Student meme unique to Oxford?

So many Oxford memes are born on Oxfess – the informal Facebook page for student confessions.

Probably the most popular one in recent times was the “Christ Church puffer guy”. It started off as people reporting that they’d seen a guy in a Christ Church puffer* doing heinous activities in the 'Glink' library but spiralled into loads of satirical exaggerations such as someone reporting that they saw the Christ Church puffer guy launching squirrels out of a trebuchet over the Rad Cam late one night.

*[puffer coats embellished with your college crest and your initials are very popular at Oxbridge]

Best thing about UoO?

Easily the collegiate system (and as a result of that: tutorials). I guess this is pretty hit and miss depending on your College, but for me personally I LOVE Worcester. The collegiate system allows for there to be such a nice community where you get to know so many people, across subjects and across year groups.

I feel that at other universities you could be easy to be confined to only making friends almost exclusively with either your course-mates or your flatmates, unless you make a real effort to find new people through clubs and societies. However, at an Oxford college, you don’t have to worry about this. There are always so many events and things going on at college – from ‘bops’ (parties) to college traditions or even just a night at your bar – you kind of get to know everyone!

But as I say, I imagine this depends on your college – some may be more ‘cliquey’ or generally quieter than others. More academically, the collegiate system allows for you to have weekly tutorials with your tutor – usually a global expert in their field. That’s an opportunity you don’t get at many other universities…

Worst thing about UoO?

Again, easy answer: the term length and the moving in/out system. The term times at Oxford are a double-edged sword, with both edges being endless frustration. Firstly, terms are INTENSE as alllllll the teaching is cramped into just eight weeks – this would be rough at any uni but honestly I think the increased workload at Oxford compounds this stress.

This also means that our ‘vacs’ (holidays) are suuuper long! That might sound like a good thing but personally for me, a three-month summer holiday is too long and boring, especially once my home friends have gone off to their unis.

But also! If you live in college accommodation, you’re required to move *all* your belongings out of your room for each vac, as rooms are let out for tourism/business over the vac to increase college revenue (and theoretically subsidise your rent…). This means, if you live in College for an entire three-year degree, you’ll move in/out EIGHTEEN times – I imagine this is a lot worse if you live far away as well, as colleges (Worcester at least) don’t offer storage over the vac to Home students.

Any Oxford traditions we should know about?

There are quite a few Oxford superstitious traditions, mostly to do with exams. This includes making sure not to wear your mortar board (degree cap) before your graduation ceremony as this is apparently bad luck for your exams. Another tradition is wearing carnations to your exams for good luck.

Has Oxford got any BNOCs?

One of the student papers here, Cherwell, actually puts out a yearly list of campus BNOCs so feel free to peruse that however bear in mind that it is actually decided by the newspaper’s readership voting and therefore is subject to ‘hacking’ (see the slang terms defined below!).

Cringy activity you have to do once?

Again, there are so many Oxford-specific activities you can do but not many of these are that cringe, but I guess that depends on your definition of the word, as well as how pretentious you are.

Everyone goes punting in Trinity but I think one activity you shouldn’t go through your degree without doing is ‘May Day’. This is when basically all of Oxford (townies included) gather on High Street outside Magdalen College Tower at 6am on 1st May to hear the College choir sing, to welcome the spring season in. Many students brave this after a night of clubbing but that is obviously optional.

Honestly hats off if you can manage that. Although I’ve only done it once, I did really enjoy it – it just had a great atmosphere and it was nice to participate in a centuries-old tradition first thing in the morning with the entire street packed with thousands of people. Not that cringe!

Biggest uni rivals?

I guess Oxford’s main rival is obvious really – “the other place” is a term commonly used to refer to the (inferior) University of Cambridge. However, there are also many inter-collegiate rivalries, usually between Colleges which are in close proximity to one another such as Balliol and Trinity.

These rivalries usually realise themselves in sporting competitions.

What is a piece of slang that gets used daily at your uni?

There is so so so much Oxford-specific terminology, and while there are lists out there, I think you can only truly learn most of it once you’ve been a student for a couple of terms – even as a second year I often hear random terminology which I have no clue about. These weird words can be actually from the University – e.g. ‘prelims’ or ‘mods’ which are first-year exams, or ‘sub-fusc’, which is the silly outfit you have to wear to said exams or ceremonies such as Matriculation. Or, they can be terms that students have made which are commonly used, here are some examples:

  • Hacking: when people who are not your friends all of a sudden become very chummy, especially when there is a society election coming up in order to try secure your vote
  • Bop: basically a clubnight but only for your college, usually with very silly themes
  • Sconce/Crewdate: a crewdate is when a society (usually both the men and women teams in a sport) get more-than-a-bit drunk together and ‘sconce’ each other (basically tell super embarrassing stories about their mates to the group). It can also include other games such as ‘pennying’ which is apparently a 500-year old tradition, as well as games which end up with people drinking out of their shoes…
  • Scout: a person who the College hires to clean and tidy accommodation
  • ‘The Bod’: short for Bodleian library, similarly ‘Rad Cam’ being Radcliffe Camera
  • Trashing: covering your friends in all sorts of rubbish (silly, string, flour, etc.) after their last exams of the year

And there's so many more…

Cheers for that Oxford lowdown Shivi! If you're keen to see more our what Shivi has got up to as an Oxford Ambassador for us, check out our YouTube channel to watch him compete in the Great Ambassador Race. If you want to learn more about Oxford, we have loads of masterclasses on collegiate life + even how to bag a place there. Head to our Community to learn more.

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