It’s safe to say that a thirty-minute trek to lectures in the pouring rain is not what comes to mind for most people when they envisage studying at Oxford. For the benighted denizens of such far-flung locales as Hilda’s, Anne’s and (whisper it) Hugh’s, however, such torment is a daily reality. Consigned to the outskirts of the city by the vagaries of the pooling system, their joy at the spacious grounds and freedom from tourists turned to despair as soon as they realised that getting to a nine am lecture on time would necessitate getting up before they’d actually gone to bed. While the purchase of a bike initially seemed to resolve this issue, the first rainy day highlighted the flaw in the plan with painful clarity. Incapable of cycling whilst carrying an umbrella, the unfortunate student must choose either to make the weary trek on foot, or to attend their tutorials in a state of dampness more befitting to an Olympic swimming team.
Not only the student’s academic career, but also their social life is hindered by the insurmountable misfortune of their college. Going out in the evening requires a level of organisation akin to that of a space mission: if even one component of the holy trinity of flat shoes, taxi company number and dependable friends is forgotten, it will be a miserable night indeed. The student will either tax the patience of their city centre friends by crashing on their floor yet again, or spend the evening fretting about saving enough change for the bus home. And if they manage to pull despite being already exhausted from their arduous journey, no words will crush the fledgling romance quicker than the dreaded ‘I’m at St Anne’s’.
All this would be bearable, though, were it not for the abuse that students of more far-flung colleges must endure at the hands of their coursemates. Reactions are typically threefold: incomprehension (‘I didn’t even know they built colleges that far out’), mockery (‘Bet you never get laid, mate’), or, worst of all, pity (‘Oh, I’m so sorry. Not quite the Oxford experience, is it?’) Still, there is perhaps one consolation for the desolate St Hugh’s student. Within a few terms, all that cycling will have made you fit enough to snag a boy/girlfriend at one of the posh city centre colleges, and with a bit of luck, you’ll never have to go back up to Summertown again.