Life at The Vines

In This Section:

Students tell you how they found their time living in Oxford at The Vines.

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 SCIO 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

A seat at the table: The Vines

Life at The Vines is like an Oxford essay, in the best possible sense. At SCIO, 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

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