I continue my travel adventures around UK with a visit to Oxford last weekend.
Lonely Planet described it as such:
Bookish, conservative, closeted and elite, Oxford is a privileged place, highly aware of its international standing as one of the world’s most famous university towns and yet remarkably restrained for a city driven by its student population. It’s the kind of place where the pursuit of excellence, the weight of academic achievement and the whiff of intellectual ideals is palpable as soon as you get off the bus.
I couldn’t have described it better myself.
I’ve been trying to get my head around that day’s experience in true Atikah style – thinking too much and overanalysing things. But you see, up until reading the above extract earlier tonight, I couldn’t exactly place a finger on how to describe exploring Oxford.
On one hand, I felt as if I was spell-bounded the whole time, in absolute awe of the history and prestige of the crème de la crème of universities. On the other, I had such clarity of thought of the elitist atmosphere suffocating me.
I’ve always believe there’s a difference between elite and elitism. The former is a status whereas the latter is an attitude.
I have no qualms with striving to be an elite. It’s a potent driving force in society & in individuals to be their best in whatever field they’ve immersed themselves in. I do have a problem with elitism though. It’s a malignant disease that eats up society from within, when people don’t question the social status of things & (perceived superiority/inferiority of) groups of people. I couldn’t help but feel, with all its dignified scholarly character and heritage, Oxford is still a breeding ground for elitism.
And I’d say, the fact that I felt so utterly in awe & perhaps even inferior while walking through the grounds, meant that I’ve subconsiously subscribed to it.
I don’t think it’s surprising though. Growing up in a competitive academic environment that has its compass pointed towards the British education system, it’s only natural to perceive Oxford and Cambridge as the pinnacle of academic success.
It’s a place where only the elites gain admission and well, if you’re not in it, then hey, you’re not good enough.
That’s how it felt walking around – like there’s a weight on my shoulders reminding me that I wasn’t good enough to deserve the much-coveted spot. The old buildings, the alleyways, the young people walking around me… All served as a reminder that I do not belong.
But of course, these are all post-trip thoughts. Depressing thoughts don’t sit well with me, thank God, so for most of the trip, I pushed aside the cynic in me and lived up the day! (This, despite the weather’s attempts to give us an authentic English experience – wet, gloomy and cloudy.)
This time round though, I wasn’t alone…
Hey, I do love travelling alone but once in a while, when I get the opportunity to meet someone compatible with me, I love travelling with someone else. Shared joy is double joy right? 🙂
I’ve got to end this here now to get a decent amount of sleep for school tomorrow but I promise the second part (with lots of pictures) will follow up really soon! ❤
Till then, take care and live you life! 🙂