While Hogwarts may not have been on the tour itinerary, we were able to visit a
school that at times did look similar to the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the
University of Oxford.
The University of Oxford, located in Oxford, England, is one of the most prestigious
universities in the world and ranks fifth on U.S. News’ list of the “World’s Best Universities.”
Therefore it comes to no surprise that admission to Oxford is competitive and highly vied
for. The University does not contain itself within a single campus, but is instead spread out
in a number of buildings throughout the city center. We were able to have some free time
to walk around the city, and see the different markets and shops located between academic
buildings. Like most college campuses, biking seems to be the main form of transportation
and our tour guide repeatedly told us horror stories of near misses and collisions between
bikes and tourists to warn us to keep a careful eye.
The Radcliffe Camera and the Bodleian make up just some of the buildings of
Oxford’s immense library collection. It is the largest university library in the U.K and has an
underground tunnel connecting the various library buildings together. Another famous
building on the campus is the Sheldonian Theatre, used for graduations and congregation.
We were not able to enter at the time, because a graduation ceremony was being held. It
was definitely more exciting to see the faculty march out of the exit and the crowds of
graduates filing out. There was, however, an animal rights protest occurring during the
ceremony targeting Oxford University. Animal rights activists have had a history of conflict
with the University, especially during the opening of the animal research lab in 2008.
Just across from the Sheldonian Theatre is the Bridge of Sighs. Connecting two
academic buildings together, the bridge was named for its resemblance to the Bridge of
Sighs located in Venice. It was actually never intended to be a replica, and actually bears a
closer resemblance to the Rialto Bridge in Venice.
Aside from dodging bicycles, one can also spot the various filming locations and
movie inspirations at the school. The hospital wing in Hogwarts was filmed on the ground
floor of the Bodleian Library, and the library shown in The Sorcerer’s Stone was the Duke
Humfrey Library. Various scenes were also filmed in Christ Church College. C.S. Lewis,
writer of the Narnia stories, wrote his novels while he was a professor in Magdalen College.
Though many are not sure which one, the lampposts near his room became the inspiration
for the lamp post in his novels.
The U.K. seems a bit far for me to consider as my next step in education, but visiting
Oxford was more than an educational experience. It is not only a school campus, but also a
town living within a fairy-tale like place. Oxford is a beautiful place full of history and
corners desperate to be explored, just watch out for those darn bikes.