Studying abroad has been one of my dreams since I was a little kid. This past summer, I FINALLY did it. Plus, I was able to study in one of my favorite countries – the UK! I took two classes at the University of Oxford at Somerville College (Margaret Thatcher’s alma mater!) and just completely fell in love with Oxford. It’s an amazing city, so if you’re visiting England soon – GO THERE!
One of the best things I did while studying abroad was journal every single night. So I have lots of fun things to share on here, plus a beaten-up black notebook with hundreds of memories in it to keep forever!
Oxford is the quintessential British college town. There’s a church on practically every corner, there are flowers everywhere, and literally hundreds of things to do. Festivals, bookstores, boutiques and tourist shops, museums, you name it. It’s the home to thousands of years of history – C.S. Lewis lived in Oxford, he and J.R.R. Tolkien regularly met with their literary group in the Eagle and Child pub (which I walked past every single day!), 3 Protestant bishops were martyred right in the city centre, and so much more.
Restaurants + pubs to try
Obviously, one of the best parts of traveling is trying new food, and are you even in England if you don’t go to a pub at least once a day? 😉
The Eagle and Child
Oh the Eagle and Child. I’ve wanted to go here for years, and it actually became so commonplace to see it everyday. My friends and I got dinner and drinks here after visiting C.S. Lewis’ house, the Kilns, which was very fitting! Plus, I got a free gin and tonic on my birthday so I’d call that a win!
The Bear is the oldest pub in Oxford – it dates back to 1242! The owner of the pub in the 1950s had a habit of snipping off the ends of his customers’ ties if he liked the pattern in exchange for a half pint of beer. There are about 4500 snippets of ties on the walls and ceilings!
The Trout Inn
You can get to the Trout Inn from the city centre of Oxford by taking a lovely 4-mile walk through the Port Meadow, which is a fun tradition. The food here is great, and so is the beer, of course! 😉
Leon is a chain, but they don’t have it in the US, so it was still new to me! It’s fast-food, but it’s all natural and absolutely delicious. There’s one in the Oxford city centre, and I think it’s worth it!
Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK)
GBK is so great that my friends and I went there multiple times for good burgers, sweet potato fries, and my favorite: strawberry and elderflower tea!
Anyone who knows me well is aware that Thai food is my favorite thing in the world. So obviously, for my 21st birthday in England, I had to go to Thai-coon! This place has such a cool vibe and their Panang Curry and coconut mojitos are awesome. A few weeks later, my friends and I also got takeout from Thai-coon and had a picnic in the park. I miss this place!
The Turf Tavern is another of those restaurants that you just have to visit if you’re in Oxford. There’s lots of local legends surrounding the Turf Tavern, including one involving Bill Clinton, which is just hilarious.
Things to do
There are just about a million things to do in Oxford, including just walking around the city centre and exploring all of the streets and shops. Here are a few of my favorite things that you need to see!
The Radcliffe Camera
There’s always approx. a million groups of tourists gathered around the Radcliffe Camera but it’s fantastic and one of the most well-known landmarks in Oxford. Once you’ve seen it once or twice, I recommend avoiding the square that it’s located it because it’s SO crowded!
Evensong at Christ Church Cathedral
You absolutely. must. go. to Evensong at Christ Church. The cathedral is incredible and the worship service was like nothing I’ve ever heard before. The whole experience was like traveling back a thousand years in time.
The Covered Market
The Covered Market is wildly convenient if it’s a) raining or b) you need good food! The ice cream is great and there are a ton of fun shops in the market! I definitely would check it out if you’re there and need a snack.
Punting seemed a little crazy to me at first, but it’s a tradition so we had to do it! And turns out, it was one of the most fun afternoons I had! Punting is surprisingly relaxing, and the river is lovely!
The Ashmolean Museum
This museum is pretty famous – and with good reason! The Ashmolean is right in the center of Oxford and houses many incredible collections – a few of my favorites were the Egyptian mummies and the Greek sculptures.
The Museum of the History of Science
I stopped in here pretty quickly to see the chalkboard that Albert Einstein used during a lecture at Oxford and take a picture of it for my dad! I think it’s worth seeing if you love science, and like every building in Oxford – the architecture is beautiful!
The Port Meadow
The Port Meadow is a lovely 4-mile walk along a tributary of the Thames that runs through Oxford. There’s houseboats, fishermen, cows, rabbits, and a beautiful thousand-year-old ruin of a convent. I went inside and it actually gave me chills!
C.S. Lewis’ house + grave
My friends and I walked about 9 miles round trip to get to C.S. Lewis’ house and grave in the outskirts of Oxford. If you call ahead, you can get a private tour of his house from the people who live there now. It was an incredible experience – seeing one of my favorite author’s library of books, the room where he wrote The Chronicles of Narnia and many of his other works, his bedroom, and the room where he died. Behind the house, there is a forest that is commonly thought to be the inspiration for Narnia and it’s just beautiful. One of the men who lives in the house now gave us the private tour and he was incredibly knowledgeable about Lewis’ personal life and works. Finally, we walked over to Holy Trinity Church to see Lewis’ grave, which was strangely surreal.
I’m planning several more posts on my study abroad experience, but I think I’ll intersperse some other types of posts in between each one. Be on the lookout for a recap on my time in London!