Credit: Madeline Spivey


Finding home

– Madeline Spivey –

Michaelmas Term, 2017


Upon heading to Oxford, I was anxious, unnecessarily intimidated, and deeply afraid I would travel all the way across the Atlantic to find myself utterly alone. I was the only one attending from my university, and while I had traveled alone before, the span of four months seemed an eternity. After I arrived in Headington, I stepped off the coach and found my way to Pullens Lane with only a suitcase and small piece of paper telling me how to locate my new place of residence: the Vines. While I don’t remember exactly when I started referring to the Vines as “home,” I do believe it was not incredibly long after first arriving in Oxford, a place full of seemingly foreign landmarks and people.

The Vines was not merely a place of residence, a place to store clothes in dressers and food in cabinets; rather, it was a place of respite for my entire being. Amidst busy days of thought-provoking tutorials, various lectures, and pleasant bike rides throughout the city, the Vines provided a constant and endearing conclusion to my daily narrative. I was able to go home, and I did not have to board a plane to do so.

The main common room in the Vines was host not only to lively conversations and debates, but also to the occasional and entirely necessary dance party. The kitchen, while smaller in size, was similarly a place for connection. I’m not sure when it began, but there came a point in the term when I would spontaneously bake cakes. On those particularly stressful essay-writing nights, I recall announcing to those in the common room that I was embarking on a baking adventure. My peers were always supportive. “I have 2 eggs you can use!” “Feel free to get a stick of butter out of my fridge!” “I’m sure our food group wouldn’t mind losing a cup of flour.” After a quick collaboration, a bit of mixing and measuring, and a quick bake in the oven, the steaming result entered the common room. No time for plates, only forks and friends who did not mind circling around a small baked good to partake in a sweet break.

In considering such fond memories, I would be foolish to attribute my strong sentiments solely to the physicality of that space. It was the people, my housemates, my friends who gave the Vines its lively pulse. It was their welcoming demeanours and caring spirits that allowed me to learn best, that allowed me to thrive both as a scholar and as an individual. C. S. Lewis, the author I studied through my primary tutorial (who was himself once a resident of Headington), speaks on the nature of friendship in his book The Four Loves, saying that, “friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.” The Vines became a very physical manifestation of this well-articulated idea. The comradery built at the Vines continues in spite of the many miles that separate us.

Now, looking back to my semester, when I speak of “the Vines,” I refer not only to the brick walls and lush back garden with a view overlooking the spires of the city, I think, rather, to the entirety of my experience in Oxford. My new-found definition of home, as developed through the friendships made within the mansion on Headington Hill, will accompany me wherever I go. As I complete my final undergraduate semesters and look to the future, I consider my growth through the SCIO programme invaluable.

Madeline, MT17