...College, that is.
Over the last few weeks a few people from my college, Pembroke, participated in an exchange with Jesus College - I really liked the last exchange I went on at Green Templeton College that I wrote about here, as these events are a great chance to see the inside (and sample the cuisine) of some colleges that I probably would never get the chance to go to otherwise. Jesus especially felt this way, as I don't know anyone at the college so the chances of me getting in for a regular meal seem pretty slim.
After hosting (in my humble opinion) a cracking home leg the first week and getting primed on all the 'Coming to Jesus' type jokes we could think of (seriously, how can you go to a college with a name like that? So ripe for irreverence), we set off to Turl st.
The hall was beautiful, tiny, and imposing: paneled in dark wood and filled with portraits of British royalty (and most notably, Queen Elizabeth I, who was the college's founder). We stood for an unusually long (even by Oxford's standards) Latin grace, and then sat down for our elegant, formal meal...
...of chili and rice, served family-style. Wait what? I'm all for good old fashioned comfort cuisine, but I can't get over how out of place it felt to be passed a lovely china serving tray filled to the brim with yellow spanish rice and then topping it off with a glop of sour cream scooped from a delicate white porcelain bowl with the judgmental eyes of Queen Elizabeth I staring down at me. It was a truly surreal experience.
(The Faerie Queen herself, daring me to complain about her college's bizarre meal choice)
But, the conversation was still lovely, ranging from learning about the research topics of the Jesus contingent of the exchange (tracing the literary heritage of witchcraft in France and some incredibly complicated sounding particle physics were the two topics that stood out most to me) to getting into a genuinely thought-provoking discussion on the nature of nationalism in the US versus Europe that was sparked off by my unabashedly patriotic American flag iPhone cover.
Of all the things about Oxford, these types of witty, often hilarious, but truly stimulating conversations have been by far my favorite. I often feel completely left behind, but it's so inspiring to be surrounded by people who are so clever and so passionate.
So the dinner was a success... even if I'd skip the chili the next time around.