The rivalry between Oxford and Cambridge is as alive today as it was when Cambridge was founded in 1209 after a dispute between scholars of Oxford and the townspeople. The fierce competitive antagonism between two of the oldest universities in the world has quite literally influenced and directed the course of history, academia, technology and science. Despite being cast as polar opposites, the trip highlighted that just as light and dark blue (Cambridge and Oxford’s emblematic colours) are merely different manifestations of the same shade, Cambridge and Oxford are more alike than they are different.
Off to Oxford
The day began with a 2 ½ hour journey, leaving the narrower town-like streets of Cambridge for the broad roads of Oxford that give it its definitive city-like feel. Alighting on Aldates Street and met with the astonishingly beautiful buildings of Christ Church College, the students were ready to soak up more of the stunning architecture and dreaming spires.
After time for independent exploration, groups from across all three Immerse Education colleges converged once more for an in-depth walking tour of the greatest sights in Oxford. Beginning with Merton College, (which fosters a rivalry of its own to be named the oldest college in Oxford University), the students were taken around the quiet streets behind the examination halls, still littered with confetti from post-finals celebrations. The Bridge of Sighs connecting the two sites of Hertford College struck obvious similarities with Cambridge’s equivalent bridge in St. John’s College, although as the Cantab mentors were keen to point out, Cambridge built theirs first.
The afternoon continued with a choice of museums; the Ashmolean for the art enthusiasts, the Pitt Rivers for those interested in the weird and wonderful, and the History of Science Museum that contained wonders of Enlightenment tradition. Particular highlights included robes worn by Lawrence of Arabia in the Ashmolean and a blackboard upon which an Einstein had scrawled an equation in the History of Science. There is, however, as many Oxford professors like to remind the public, a single mistake in the equation, proving that geniuses are certainly far from perfect.
Time for a Picnic
Needing a break after a day of sightseeing, the whole group headed to University Parks to enjoy the scenery with a sit-down and a lively game of rounders. Feeling bellies rumbling, the troupe then made the short walk to Somerville College for formal in their grand, spacious hall. Having had dinner at St. John’s only last week, the stakes were high to see whether Cambridge or Oxford would come out top in the dining arena.
After a long drive home, the students needed a slower-pace for the following day to recover. The day was scheduled as normal with two academic sessions and was topped off with a tour of King’s College Chapel by some wonderful tour guides. Some lucky engineering students were taken to the manufacturing engineering department in Cambridge where they got to try out some cutting-edge virtual reality technology. The law students also went on an interesting trip to the courts in Cambridge to see the law in action.
With a lot of work and projects due for the final days at Immerse, the students were provided with a period of private study after dinner, where they finessed short stories, finalised presentations and flourished projects. Those who had a few hours to spare were taken on a Spy Tour of Cambridge, a nod towards the city’s involvement in espionage, particularly throughout the cold war.
All photos by Catarina Rodrigues.