Life at The Vines and the North Wing

In This Section:

Students tell you how they found their time living in Oxford, either at The Vines or the North Wing at Wycliffe Hall.

Moments of connection: The Vines

My second week in Oxford – when I was still grappling with the realities of living with thirty other people, afraid of taking up too much kitchen space, figuring out a meal plan beyond peanut-butter bagels, deciding when and when not to say ‘hello’ to my fellow housemates in passing – I had a conversation about church traditions with a new friend, our heads hanging out the kitchen window. It was the Sunday afternoon lunch rush, and the kitchen was full of people and the smell of pan-fried meals gone wrong. When our conversation was interrupted by smoke-induced coughing and choking, we found the most obvious source of fresh air, and continued discussing the Anglican faith leaning over the kitchen sink, our heads above the garden below.

I still smile when I think of that moment, with its combination of earnestness and absurdity. Life at the Vines had a rhythm all its own, and it was punctuated by those moments of connection, sometimes with the extra touch of the humour that comes with so many intelligent, curious, thoughtful people living in a 19th century building.

The Vines, with its hallways, common rooms, window seats, nooks, and occasionally surprising doors, is a living space and a social space. There are much-needed corners and rooms for solitude and focus, but always, wonderfully, the opportunity of community and connection. These opportunities are as varied as the people sharing the space: shared meals with your food-group, which often feel like family dinners; group conversations in the common room; the fellowship of late-night essay-writing at the kitchen table. I had serious academic conversations against the backdrop of the color-coded bookshelves and laughed uncontrollably with friends over a jar of Nutella in the kitchen.

Life in Oxford is full, between the academic focus which brings students there in the first place and the adventure of exploring all that Oxford has to offer. At some point in the term, you might find a homey-ness in the Vines when you return at the end of the day (especially if it’s a night when your food group has made dinner). And whether you go to bed early and get up in time to see the sunrise, or fall asleep when the birds have started singing with your essay just finished, you are sure to have company if you need it (and sometimes freshly baked banana bread, if your friends bake to relieve stress). The Oxford program is a unique opportunity in and of itself, but the chance to live with fellow academics, as curious and interested as you, is a gift all its own.

– Rachel Zimmerman –

Hilary Term, 2017

Just what I needed: the North Wing

During my second month at Oxford, my friend and I were exploring all the crevices of Wycliffe Hall, finding new areas we had access to in search of the perfect study spot. What we stumbled upon was a treasure like no other. We had finally managed to find the elusive basement to the Wycliffe Library, a section previously known to all but a place we always had issues finding. The room was just what we needed, two desks and floor to ceiling bookshelves lined with books in our area of study. It was like finding Wycliffe’s own Room of Requirement. But the part that made it so special was that we found it by accident in a sort of game, one that was meant to entertain but wasn’t expected to yield such fruitful results.


There were a countless number of times where Wycliffe provided me with just what I needed. A space to study after the university libraries closed for the night, a large eating space where both food groups could enjoy a meal side by side, a friend or two to talk to in the common room when I was craving company. When I wanted to go out and explore Oxford, there were always people who were willing to join. When I needed a quiet space to work alone, I was always able to find an empty room. And whenever I look back at my Oxford experience, I always think of Wycliffe not only as my place of rest, but a location where I connected, learned, and thrived.

When provided with the choice of preferred accommodation for my term at Oxford, I immediately picked the location closest to the center of town. For me, an ideal location is always the primary goal for living, and I enjoyed being able to work all morning in the Rad Cam, walk back for lunch, and return to the Rad Cam in only short fifteen minute walks.

What I didn’t anticipate was how much more Wycliffe has to offer than just its proximity to class, libraries, and a multitude of coffee shops. It offers a place to return to after a particularly tiring day in the stacks, a home cooked meal every evening with your food group. It offers a never-ending supply of interesting conversations with SCIO and non-SCIO students just as interested in their academic work as you are. It gives you a home with a wonderfully diverse and interesting group of people to share it with. And there is never a lack of entertainment at Wycliffe. Whether exploring new winding passageways previously untouched by your SCIO term-mates, turning off all the lights and playing a game of Murder in the Dark made all the more terrifying by the old architecture, or going for a late night ice cream run at G&D’s, you can always find a fun activity to enjoy with friends. And along the way you may be reminded that your time at Oxford is about much more than just essays and tutorials.

– Hannah Kaiser –

Hilary Term, 2017

A seat at the table: The Vines

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.

Scio Blog Photo Megan 1

-Megan Burge-

Michaelmas Term, 2017

Three English majors, an art historian, a psychologist, and a theologian walk into a pub: the North Wing

Buildings in Oxford are old, often shaped over centuries as necessity demands. This gives rise to architecture that is unique, intricate, and—for a group of hungry SCIO students in search of the kitchen—baffling.

As we climb the stairs, we encounter another wayward pilgrim, empty mug in hand. So, bound together by a collective dependence on desire for caffeine, we join forces. Perhaps by divine aid, we stumble into the kitchen and find new life in scrambled eggs and black coffee.

And then, on that first full day in Oxford, we began to know one another, and our fates were sealed together.

Nathan Tudor Headshot

We had come from California and Japan, from Texas and Hong Kong. Our home schools were by the seas and under the snows. And somehow—perhaps by the same divine aid that led us to the kitchen—we had all found our way to live in the North Wing of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford.

Whenever someone asks how I’ve been at Oxford, I always say I love it here. From the bold majesty of the Radcliffe Camera to the time-spanning treasures in the Ashmolean Museum, from the soft birdsong in the University Parks to the divine swell of Evensong at Christ Church—I have found a home in Oxford.

Living a few minutes’ walk from the city center is a consistent benefit for matters practical and pleasurable. Whether I’m headed to a tutorial, coffee shop, or food truck (Hassan’s garlic cheesy chips will change your life), the ability to get there on my feet makes life remarkably straightforward. Nowhere in Oxford ever feels out of reach. So, location-wise, living at Wycliffe Hall is invaluable. But more important than the places are the people.

Before I arrived in Oxford, I had been uncertain whether I could put down roots somewhere I would live for only a semester. I also felt uneasy about whether I would be able to make friends here. Thankfully, the residents of the North Wing quickly bonded together, and our camaraderie fills the glories of Oxford with ever greater meaning.

Scholarship at Oxford is, by nature of the curriculum, a largely solitary endeavor. The independence this allows for is wonderful, but it also means you often have to make an effort to cultivate friendships. I was surprised to realize that after only a month here, I had come to count some of fellow North Wingers as dear as friends back home I’ve known for years. As eclectic as we are, we inhabit common lifestreams.

We were stricken with wonder when we first explored the RadCam together. We’ve gone on 1AM food runs to stay cheered during late nights writing essays.

We’ve also been reduced to tearful laughter by moth memes, but maybe that’s just a manifestation of the sleep deprivation.

We cook together and eat together; we go out on the town and stay in from the rain. We live in the beating heart of one of the world’s greatest university cities, and this city is ever more our home because we dwell here together.

– Nathan Tudor –

Michaelmas Term, 2018

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