A seat at the table

-Megan Burge-

Michaelmas Term, 2017

Life at The Vines is like an Oxford essay, in the best possible sense. At Oxford, the tutorial essay is a space for exploring yourself and ideas, a space for failure, thinking out loud, and rigorous questioning. Life at the Vines is like that, except it happens not on a page but in a house, not between you and your tutor but between you and thirty-five or so of your peers, each in his or her own way uniquely driven and uniquely hospitable to what you bring to the table.

Literally, some of my dearest memories of life at the Vines happened around the dinner table with my food group. Whether it was a new dish or a new idea, everyone was willing to share and everyone was excited to partake. Dinner with my food group each weeknight was a rejuvenating home base, very grounding as well as stimulating.

The quintessential phrase “doing life together” is thrown around often in college settings, but nothing encapsulates it quite like life at The Vines. Some of my favorite Vines memories are of taking much-needed study breaks to have spontaneous, very involved conversations, or to tackle half a tub of ice cream with a friend – equally spontaneous. Friends would often offer each other sustenance, like coffee, on long nights, and I can remember instances of this that were not only a godsend but also deeply bonding. Life at The Vines offers ample opportunity to be generous and to receive much needed generosity, to engage in myriad human transactions of grace in the day to day.

For me, this grace was needed as I learned to cook. I remember a friend advising me on how long to sauté my pork chop, and another friend standing and talking with me as I hand-beat a meringue, just to keep me company and watch my progress. My food group cooking partner taught me so much, so joyfully, and we had much fun together. The marvelous person with whom I cooked most, who is now my husband, certainly helped me be a more adventurous chef. So cooking, which once caused me anxiety, became a favorite hobby. I use cooking as an example because it is a prominent way of bonding at The Vines, and also because it represents, for me, those hesitancies in all of us that we are forced to face and master when we choose to go abroad to study. The Vines provides a perfect environment for transforming discomfort into growth, amidst other scholars who thrive on creativity and applied intellect, and who together create an atmosphere of continual affirmation.

There are countless other memories I could describe from my term at The Vines. But perhaps the most unforgettable aspect of living there was the steady rhythm of scholarly life with friends, as it was cultivated day in and day out, on the fringe of the most extraordinary city in the world.