Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas in Cataluyna: Caga-tios and Xmas Fun!

Christmas in Catalunya (Catalonia) is definitely different to the Canadian  (click here) or British experiences in Oxford, London, and the Cotswalds (click here, here and here) I've had the past few years, or even the first Christmas blog post I had in Singapore (here). The weather here in Barcelona is beautiful - it's like a Canadian autumn, or a British autumn minus the rain!  The streets are lit up, although not as much as London. In fact, Barcelona at Christmas is quite empty

Caga-tios & Mangers

Cagatios - bcn.cat
The strangest and funniest tradition I have heard of is the Catalonia's Caga-Tio  (the crapping uncle). Basically, it's a wooden log that parents fill with small toys and candies (like a stocking). Kids "feed" the uncle by leaving him food and then have to beat the "uncle" every day with a stick until he "craps out" toys. Bizzare, huh?!

Traditionally, they don't have Santa Claus here. Instead, the Reyes Magis (the 3 Kings that brought Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh) show up on January 6th and give kids presents instead. They even sit on their laps at the mall and tell them what they want for January 6th!

The Catalonians also LOVE their mangers - in the centre of the city, they have a massive one, but that display was also taken down just before Christmas! My Spanish teachers told me that every household normally has one in their entrance hallway, too. 

Unfortunately, I didn't realise that the Christmas market in Barcelona only ran until December 23rd - so we just missed it. I guess I'll have to buy my caga-tio and my manger next year!  

The Caga-tio at the school I teach After-School English at

Placa Espana

Christmas Dinner

Sean is visiting for Christmas (from Paris) ! To make another unexpected "Singapore connection" to my blog, one of our friends, Kristin (who was in Singapore with us) has a friend, Christian, who happened to be in Barcelona for the week.  He joined us for a lovely couple tapas dinners out at my favourite places - El Nou Ramonet and Bar Jaica  - and  also for Christmas Day Dinner at our place. Thanks for joining us, Christian - it was fun!

Christmas Eve was also interesting, as we walked around the Gothic area before finally finding a cafe that was open late enough for us to hang out there until Midnight Mass at a cathedral called Catedral de Barcelona in Citutat Vella (the old city). The music was beautiful - but I wish the Mass  would have been in Spanish, not Catalan (then at least I could have understood  my very first mass experience!) Check out the GIANT Bailey's (and lattes - beer for Christian!) we had before Mass :)

Christian, Sean, Sapna

Bailey's before Mass!

Santa pup!
Other than that, I've mostly been avoiding my PhD work (oops!), enjoying the Christmas spirit, spending time with Kiara, running errands and super-cleaning my house (Thanks, Sean!).  We don't have too many plans for New Year's Eve tomorrow, but hopefully we'll figure something out. Stay tuned for New Year's Eve in Barcelona (with a very interesting grape-related tradition!), and a New Year's Day winery tour! 

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Pam's Wedding: A Beautiful Celebration in Punta Cana, Spanish Wedding Cards, & My First All-Inclusive Resort Experience

Pam - beautiful bride!
On November 12th, 2014, Pam and Cody were married in a beautiful, small, ceremony in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.  I travelled there for the in-all inclusive week, and the ceremony was on Wednesday.  Pam looked absolutely stunning, and while I don't have photos of my own, here are a few that the photographers took.

The ceremony was small and beautiful; there were about 20 guests, so we had a chance to get to know each other well. The bridesmaids wore lilac dresses, and the decor at the wedding reception was impressive. The Jellyfish, the restaurant off the resort where the wedding took place, was a unique venue...the wedding dance was on a tent in the sand! Cody composed a song for Pam - which was played at the first dance; so romantic!  The playlist that followed was definitely the best wedding playlist I have ever listened to.  What a wonderful event!

Note: A few of the pics below were taken from the pile of photos we took together and shared, so photo credits go to everyone who shared a photo in the wedding folder on Dropbox ;)

The Happy Couple

Dance floor

A Backpacker on an All-Inclusive Resort

For Teresa, Des and I, this was our first time at an all-inclusive resort.  The wedding was really beautiful, but I think backpacking is still my travel style. As I said above, the food at the wedding was delectable and the cake (gluten free and vegan) definitely the best I've had, but at the resort...the chickpea salad was definitely my go-to. I won't start to describe the drinks...let's just say that their target market is definitely people who want to get REALLY, REALLY, DRUNK and don't care about the quality of the alcohol (or the way the "cocktails" are made...) There was one, hidden, bar on the resort that made some decent drinks, but we didn't find it until the last day!)   I will always remember our "apple martinis" and my favourite  quote of the trip ...

"Is that a cherry in your apple martini?"--Teresa

We did go on an excursion to experience "life outside of the resort", but I felt that the trip was a bit too packaged for me. Holding a starfish was interesting (see the pics of Teresa below), but I was annoyed when the tour guide told us not to buy items from the vendors at the first stop (presumably because the second "better" shop, (which was much worse!) was giving him a commission. I purposely bought two bracelets from the vendors and spoke Spanish to them, even though he tried to stop me,  even as we were making a transaction - take that, tour guide!  

On the contrary, the beach we visited at the second stop was beautiful!

 I can understand the appeal of having everything taken care of for you, I suppose - but the lack of discovering the native culture of a country you have never been to is something I craved. One of the girls in my Spanish class, Cristina, is from Florida, but her family is originally from the Dominican - she says I should go back to experience the other towns nearby.

More importantly, the wedding was a beautiful event and I am so glad I was able to attend.

Sandy beach on the excursion trip

Teresa with a starfish!

Sea turtles
Teresa and Des at the resort
A millionaire's house on the island of poverty

Local island shopkeeper

The Spanish Wedding Card Fiasco

So, before I left Barcelona, I wanted to buy Pam and Cody a wedding card.  In a big, metropolitan city, that'd be easier, right? Nope! It turns out the Spanish celebrate everything by saying "Felicidades!" (Congratulations). All I could find were Happy Birthday and Congratulations cards, no matter how hard I looked. The shop owners gave me the STRANGEST looks when I asked (in Spanish!) where I could find a wedding one.  One shop lady told me she had never in her life given someone a wedding card!

So, I improvised and found a blank Felicidades card and a few Spanish quotations about love online ;)

CONGRATULATIONS Pam and Cody!! Here's to your life long happiness!

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Happy Castayana! (Spanish Halloween): Chestnuts, Panellets, History & All Souls Fun!

One lovely part of being an English as a Second Language teacher, in a country that's not my own, is that I have the great job of explaining North American traditions and holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Halloween. This year, I'm teaching several classes and individual tuition students, so I taught many Halloween lesson plans and learned a lot myself!

My students taught me that, instead of Halloween, the Spanish celebrate Castayana, which is a festival where you eat warm, roasted chestnuts castanyas (available at many street vendors), and panellets, a glorious Spanish calorie-bomb made from pine nuts, powdered, sugared almonds and syrup (available at many bakeries, in October only). Yum!

Did you know?...
  • Halloween originated in Northern Europe, primarily in parts of England and Northern Ireland. When the Europeans immigrated to North America, many of the traditions were kept (and some adapted)
  • October 31st - All Hallow's Eve  was considered to be the night when all the dead souls came to live and the spirits came to haunt the living. People dressed up to look like dead people to trick the spirits into thinking they belonged (and to avoid being taken away by them)
    • Jack-o-lanterns - are a new version of the candles that people would leave in their windows to guide the spirits away from their homes (and back to the land of the dead)
    • Halloween candy - is the new version of food offerings that people used to leave spirits, also to guide them home
  • November 1st - All Saint's Day was considered to be the day to celebrate the dead. Many Spaniards (and people of other European nationalities) visit cemeteries on this day.
  • November 2
    nd - All Soul's Day was created by the Catholic Church much later to celebrate the living souls

Mikael & Ayana came over for Temparillo,  tapas and panellets (and a farewell to Ayana who is returning to Germany). Mikeal is also leaving to go home to Sweden soon :(  We all had a wonderful last night hanging out together, though!
Wine night!

Happy Castayana & Happy Halloween, everyone!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Gönn-dir Wochenende: Bar Jaica, Tapas, Gelato, Puppies & Beach Time!

This was my most relaxing weekend in Barcelona yet. After coming home from my jam-packed week,  a meeting with my professors that went surprisingly well (they are so relaxed here!), and my tutoring job Friday night,   I did no work at all!  I spent the weekend hanging out with Ayana and Reuben (friends from Spanish class) and Ayana's roommate Mariana.

Ayana taught me a German expression - Gönn-dir -  which (as I understood it) loosely translates as "do it for yourself, because your heart desires it, without worrying about the money/time, etc...". Ayana and her friends have extended the expression to Gönn-dir Tag, a day devoted to "me time" and fun.  Hence, my extension and blog title of Gönn-dir  Wochenende!  

Here is what my weekend was comprised of:

Puppy Daycare!

On Saturday morning, we took the train to Residencia Hostal Mascotas, to check out the daycare where Kiara will be spending 10 days while I go to the Dominican Republic for Pam's wedding. It took us forever to get there, only because there was no clear tube map (surprise!) for the suburban lines, some of which don't go to Santa Colomba on the weekends! We made it though, and it looks like Kiara will have a massive room, park to play in, and doggie friends. Now, we just need to go to the vet (en español, naturalmente) to get K's annual vaccinations...

Beach time with Kiara

After the daycare, we headed to the beach to meet up with Ayana and enjoy the sunshine. Kristina, Cosmo and Lily met us there...it's so funny to watch puppies in the sand. Kiara was a bit tired from the morning, so she was very chilled out on the beach. I love my pup! Every time I go to the beach, I am SO happy that we live here. (Apologies for the terrible photography; it is SO difficult to see the mobile phone screen in the sun!)

Ayana and Kiara
Kiara Chilling at the Beach
Cosmo chilling at the beach
Kristina, Cosmo and Lily

Bar Jaica - My Favourite Tapas Place

As I mentioned in my Barceloneta post last weekend,  Bar Jaica has the best tapas I've tried so far. Ayana had never been, so Ayana, Kiara and I went there after the beach.  We enjoyed a glass of wine (Ayana had beer with lemonade (that's Sprite to North Americans), which I will definitely try next time). We shared the patatas bravas and I had my usual - pimientos padron and tortilla (Spanish omelette).  I loved it!

This is how exhausted Kiara was on Sunday morning:

Exhausted Kiara
She slept until 1:00 pm, but was perfectly happy and excited to go for a run at 2:00 pm. What an energetic girl :) After my run with Kiara in beautiful weather, I went  back to the beach to read my Cosmo magazine in Spanish, and meet up with Ayana, Reuben and Mariana.


Gelataria Italiana is a chain here in Barcelona (much better than the chain called Dino's!).  There's one on the main street in Barceloneta (I can't find their webpage, for some reason). The ice cream tastes like it does it Italy. Mmmm...what a marvelous Sunday food! We have found the Italy in Spain :)

Cafe Alsur

Ayana, Mariana and I topped off our Sunday with a coffee and a shared piece of cake at Cafe Alsur, a beautiful venue in El Born, the Gothic area. Actually, they have locations in many places, but I think this one seems like the perfect spot to catch up on PhD readings next weekend (when I actually do some work...)

Having said all that, I do need to spend the few remaining hours of my Sunday lesson-planning, to avoid an incredibly stressful week ahead. Since the majority of my teaching experience has either been one-on-one with kids or teenagers that listen to me, or full classes of respectful adults, I have my hands full with 4 hours per week of school-aged children. 

Stay tuned for next week's posts --Kat and Philipp will be in Barcelona next Saturday for a week, so be prepared for some touristy fun!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

How (Not) To Get Robbed in Barcelona

So, you've probably heard that Barcelona has a huge petty crime problem, right? Hang on to your wallet, clutch that handbag, keep valuables in a zipped pocket, wear your backpack the wrong way around...

So, anyone who gets their phone stolen from right in front of them must have been really stupid, right....

Well, um. That was me. 

Thieves are incredibly tricky here.  Micke and I were studying for our Spanish A1/A2 exam (two weeks ago) and we decided to study at a Subway location (yes, the American sandwich store). We chose it because it was COMPLETELY empty, near the university and had free wifi and a corner on the top floor where we could study in peace. 

Here is what happened:

  • We were there for 3 hours, studying in peace
  • A man suddenly rushed up the stairs and pretended to be a beggar "por favor, por favor...." blah blah
  • We shooed him away and tried to yell at him to leave.  
  • I grabbed onto my open laptop with one hand, and my wallet and bag with the other, thinking he may be a thief.
  • Instead of leaving, he shoved a piece of paper in front of my face, and, without me or Micke noticing (Micke was sitting RIGHT in front of me), he swiped my phone, which was on the table, since we had been using our phones as dictionaries.
NEVER EVER PUT YOUR PHONE ON THE TABLE. Even though you are sitting right there. Even for a second. The Vodafone guy the next day said the same thing happened to his friend, so this is not only advice for foreigners.

Luckily, I managed to speak in Spanish the day next and get a new phone (and convince the Vodafone guy to give me a good deal on the phone and adamantly explain that I was NOT going to change my number, after having just sent out CVs and posted my tutoring ads everywhere). I ended up with a Samsung Galaxy Express 2, which isn't quite as good as my S3, but almost. The battery is different in every phone (seriously, Samsung, WHY?!), which means my amazing external battery charger does not work (and I can't find one that fits here in Spain).

Graphic credit: Grahamhunt.com
Can you believe Vodafone wanted me to cancel my contract, switch to a different company for one week, and switch back, to get a cheap phone as a "new" customer?  With all the bureaucracy and paperwork involved with everything here...no way!

On Friday, I found out that the  thief racked 65 euros in charges in the half an hour before I  notice it was gone and blocked the number  (and the fifteen minutes it took me to explain the situation in broken Spanish to the Vodafone customer service team).  I wish I could have elbowed him in the face. I was SO angry. (However, I calmed down after I told my story to many people and found out that I know people who have gotten a much more expensive phone, or their passport, or their wallets or purses stolen). That would have been a nightmare, especially with Canadian, British and Spanish cards in it.

 Of course, as this is Spain, Vodafone can't refund me over the phone, and although my case has been opened, I need to wait 7 days for the billing team to call me back.I really hope 7 days is 7 days, and not the same "7 days" (ie: 30 days), it took to install my internet.

Anyhow, other than the bureacracy, this has been the only negative aspect of Barcelona so far. It's not violent, but it's full of pickpockets. It makes me SO glad I live 7 metro stops away from the tourist centre!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Barceloneta Park: Homemade Tapas & Our New Puppy Friends!

On Saturday, we attempted to visit Canino Resort Can Jane Aquapark for their last day of the season (and so I could scope out their dog daycare for my upcoming trip to the Dominican Republic). Dogs are allowed on the metro (yay!), but only with a muzzle (boo), a rule which they actually enforce. I had some fun yesterday trying to keep Kiara from ripping off her muzzle every five minutes! 

However, it turns out dogs are definitely not allowed on the buses, or most taxis. Uber, the new taxi company that allows you to book and pay via their app, does, but the estimated fare for a 20 minute ride turned out to be between 21 and 25 euros. Eek! 

So, we headed to the beach. Technically, dogs are allowed on Barcelona's beaches now (October is low season), but as this is Spain, the rules aren't always reality. 

We weren't the only ones that thought the muzzle rule was ridiculous....thanks to Kiara (and her lovely backpack), I got into this discussion with Albert and Christina, a German and Equadorian couple who had come to the beach with Cosmo, their puppy, hoping he could swim, too. We ended up following them to a lady's house where they were picking up Lily, another puppy!  Cosmo looks like he could be Kiara's son....I didn't manage to snap a photo of Lily (a brown and white cutie), because she was running so quickly!
Cosmo (reminds me of mini-Kiara!)
Kiara at Barceloneta Park

Other than that, my intensive (20 hours/week) Spanish class at Speakeasy Barcelona is going really well! Thanks to Janice, for helping me make the connection between Spanish's mysterious "fourth past tense" and French ----it turns out the Spanish actually speak using the tense that the French only use in literature or very formal speech (passe simple, or preterito indefinido in Spanish).  There I was becoming paranoid that I had somehow missed out on a tense on all my years of French grammar classes.... Ha! I get it now! 

Oh, and I've been attempting to make tapas at home....pimientos padron and a feeble attempt at patatas bravas...
My attempt at pimientos padron and patatas bravas

Also, I've been lucky enough to find a tutoring job, work as an English teacher for companies (business people come to work an hour early to learn English), and have an official contract with a language school that both contracts me out to a primary school 4 hours per week, and allows me to work at their tutoring centre.  I only need a few more hours a week (hopefully editing university papers) to be good to go! Speaking of which, I should head back to my lesson planning (I'm trying to make a schedule for the month to help make my daily lessons flow a bit more smoothly).  

Hasta luego, blog readers!  Stay tuned for next weekend's posts on Bar Jaica (my favourite tapas bar so far), beach time, and hopefully an artsy venue or two!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hola Barcelona! : Paradisical City, Delicious Food, Spanish Slowness & Setting up My New Life

Hola, Barcelona!  It's been almost a month since Kiara and I left Oxford, England and made the move to Barcelona, Spain, so I can pursue my PhD here. Getting an internet connection in Spain is ridiculously slow (surprise...), so I'm living off the my generous neighbour's Wifi connection until Vodafone decides what day "mañana" actually is.

Remember my Hiya, Oxford! post from 2012? Here is the Barcelona version, in which I describe my first impressions, obstacles, and waves of culture shock arising from moving to a new country. Despite the fact that I'm incredibly grateful to call this city home, there have been quite a few challenges:
    Barceloneta Beach
  • Moving somewhere where you do not speak the language is an immense challenge. Thank goodness for intensive study abroad language schools! I've paid for 8 weeks of 20 hours a week of Spanish class. That should get me (supposedly) through the B1 level (lower intermediate). At the moment, although I can understand bits, once they start speaking at me rapidly, I'm just lost. Especially if they're speaking Catalan. I'm even going to put up mini sticky notes in my house labeling items in Spanish (and in French so I don't lose my vocabulary)
  • Misinformation is the norm.  This is my biggest annoyance here yet.  "Go to this office". "Fill in this form".  "Oh, wait, no, that one".  "Why did they tell you to come here? You should go there (all the way across town). Tomorrow. Because everything only opens between 10 am and 1pm." Even the information the consulate gave me in Toronto was not correct - To anyone getting their NIE card - go to the National Police (Comisario) and book your appointment online here. The other two police divisions (Guardia and Mossos d'Esquadra) will have no clue what you are talking about 
  • Slowness- It's not just a stereotype! The amount of time I have spend the last four weeks in government and university offices (and queues for the same) is ridiculous. Just on Monday, I waited 3 hours for my 1:30 "appointment" to hand in documents for my residency card. I pick that up in a month (at a different office).  I am not even officially enrolled in the university. The "doctoral stamp" just came on Friday, so now I have to have my supervisor fill out one more form. Applying for grants the last couple weeks has been quite a similar experience....*breathe*....

So, what about all the great stuff? 

  • Opening hours - Yes, most things close for siesta (2pm to 5pm), but that means they are open late! I live in a very safe neighbourhood and people are always up at 11pm or midnight.
  • The People! -  They are SO friendly. Even though I'm speaking a very beginner level of Spanish to them
  • The Food! Even as a vegetarian, I have been enjoying the tapas! Pimientos padron, tortillas (omelettes) and patatas bravas are a must try!
  • The Beach! - I live in a city with a beach!!!! 
  • The Second Language Acquisition environment!  (That's what I study in Applied linguistics, so it's amazing to me that I am here in that position myself)
  • My Home! I live very close to the part of the city (La Bordeta) that turns into suburbia (L'Hospitalet). This means that I'm 7 metro stops from the centre of the city, but also a 10 minute walk (the other direction) to a massive shopping mall and IKEA
  • Kiara will be allowed on the metro next week! (It's official .... Barcelona transport has decided dogs are allowed on metros from October 1st! Yay!!!!) They are not allowed on intercity trains though. Now, if only I can find a way to get here to Can Jan Resort's Aquapark with her!

Check out my slideshow of my lovely new apartment (all furnished and decorated when I arrived), and a couple snaps of the city. (Remember to click "Show Info" if you want to see the descriptions). Hola, Barcelona!!! I can't wait for our 3 year adventure together!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Festes de la Mercè - Barcelona's Biggest Annual Cultural Festival

As this is an unorthodox month of blogging, I'm going to skip past my first couple weeks here (coming in my next post!) and proceed to tell you about the past two days of the fiesta (La Merce)!  Howard, who I met in Singapore, happened to be in town with his friend Maurice, and so we had a mini-Singapore reunion and hung out at the festival.

Festes de la Mercè is Barcelona's biggest annual cultural festival. Barcelona is the capital city of Catalonia, a region in Spain that was once its own sovereign state.  They speak Catalan (and Spanish, but they are very regionalistic and prefer Catalan. At the moment, to my naive eyes,  it seems like a linguistic mix of French, Spanish and Italian...). According to (the oh-so-credible) Wikipedia, the festival originally celebrated the Virgin Mary and according to the city's website, is now the official transition from summer into autumn. (Autumn at 25 degrees celsius and 85% humidity? Great!) 

Oh, and remember when they say "fiesta" in Spain, they mean all night. Literally. 

Here are a few highlights of the events we chose to attend:

  • The fire-breathing dragons parade (SO cool) on Saturday night. Most of the dragons had little kids riding on them 
Merce Dragon!

  • Fireworks that were honestly the best I've ever seen   - including palm tree shaped ones!
  • Late night (1 am) salsa concert in Placa Cataluyna (locals watching the concert started to salsa in the streets!)They looked SO good, it makes me want to learn!
  • Tapas, of course (these are pimientos padròn...more on food in my Hola, Barcelona! post coming up this week!
pimientos de padron
  • Human pyramids this afternoon (Sunday from 11:30 am until 2:30 pm --it was incredible!)  The pictures here just don't do it justice, as Howard, Maurice and I were way at the back to begin with. We advanced forward every time people left the square, but only had our cell phone cameras with us (mine is awful). 
  •  Basically, the premise of the tower is that they start with a small human pyramid and get taller and taller, eventually having small children (5 year olds) with helmets on scale 4 to 8 metre high human towers to stand at the top.  It is incredible. We saw one pyramid/tower topple and the whole crowd screamed (eeeek!) 
Human Pyramid!
Human Tower
La Merce Instrumentalists
  • Oh, and there were anti-abortion demonstrators that were making a big fuss before and during the first part of the show. Tons of us were booing them for trying to ruin such an amazing event. The police had to kick them out! So random!
Demonstrators at La Marce

Sunday, September 07, 2014

The History of the University of Oxford - My Oxford Farewell/Did You Know...? Post

So, this post is quite delayed (getting internet in Spain is sloooow), but I thought it appropriate to have a final post to commemorate my time both at the University of Oxford (as a student and employee) and my life in the UK before moving on to the next stage of my life (my PhD in Spain). 

A few months ago, I took a seminar at the Oxford Learning Institute on the history of the university I had spent the last two years at (one as a student, four months as a frantic international graduate searching for work, and six months as an employee of the university). Here are some interesting facts I found out:

  • The first remains of Oxford date back to the 8th century. The town development followed the foundation of a monastery
  • The university operates on a "federal" system (with Oxford University being the central hub and the colleges operating within it)
  • Oxford was very much a completely private institution until 1919, at which point the British government gave it 30 000 British pounds
  • For 100 years, it was the UK's only university

Oxford in the 1100s

  • Followed the Paris model of education (run by teachers), not the Bologna model (run by students)
  • The University itself has never been wealthy; its colleges, which came later, were
  • The Vaults & Gardens Cafe was previously the site of the "Pledge Chest", where university professors would need to leave a "pledge" (a valuable item) in the chest in order to borrow an original version book
  • Until recently, university employee paychecks came addressed from "The University Chest"
  • The first professors rented rooms in houses 
  • Colleges were originally set up to support a small number of graduate students (small, privileged institutions) 
  • Oxford was a major commerce town (wine, clothmaking, etc.) It took 400 years to switch its focus from industry to university

The Invention of Cambridge

  • There were often clashes between the "town" (industry people) and "gown" (educated university people)
  • In the year 1200, there was violence in the streets of Oxford, and a townswoman was murdered. The ringleader fled and a few students were hung for supposed participation in the murder. 
  • A group of students fled the town in fear and went to hide at one student's family home, which was a rich estate. 
  • There, they founded Cambridge in 1209
  • Several townspeople vs. scholar riots occurred over the next 300 years; Oxford was even the Royalist Capital of England in 1642 and Oliver Cromwell was the University's Chancellor

The Church, the University's Organisation and Colleges

  • The town won a row against the industry supporters and with the backing of the church, established an organised structure 
  • This is when the Chancellor, Vice Chancellors and Pro Vice Chancellors were implemented
  • New College was the first college to admit undergraduate students
  • The colleges were set up through endowments by England's wealthy elite
  • Colleges administer academic, financial, pastoral and social aspects of the college
  • Women were allowed to join the university from 1920, but were only awarded degrees in 1948 (28 years later!)  St. Anne's, St. Hilda's and Lady Margaret Hall (my college!) were the first three to admit women and for a time, were women's only colleges

The Role of Education...theoretical or practical?

  • Students did not all go to university to get a degree
  • Many were admitted to a Guild of their trade and used the oratory skills they learned in university (Think: Aristotle's Rhetoric) to get themselves a job
  • Is the role of university to gain a broad education or technical training to prepare you for the job market?  (the age old question...)

Modern Oxford

  • After WWI, the growth of car factories in Oxfordshire expanded the industrial areas of the town
  • Tourism and publishing have become two main industries
  • Oxford Brookes was established (the other university in Oxford) and Oxford is, of course, host to many language schools and tutorial colleges
  • Many science and technology companies begin as spin-outs from University of Oxford's research
Okay, so it was a BRIEF history...but hopefully some of it was interesting! I'd definitely recommend taking an hour to attend OLI's History of Oxford seminar lectured by an Oxford Emeritus history professor (book in advance!)

Farewell Oxford....and stay tuned for my upcoming posts on life in Barcelona, Spain!