Studying at Oxford is a potentially stressful experience – with several hundred pages of reading assigned per day and at least one 2,500 word essay due per week. And, if one joins a social or cultural organization outside of class, that is another set of demands…
I haven’t found my time at Oxford in the least stressful, maybe on account of my temperament, the fact I chose not to join any clubs or societies, or simply my selection of tutorials this term.
I bike several miles per day – out of the need to travel several times per day the distance between lecture, class, and St. Catz. Sometimes on weekends, I bike out of the curiosity to see and explore more than I otherwise could on foot. My favorite weekend bike ride is to the nearby medieval village of Wytham and back – about six miles round trip. On the way, I ride by bike over the scenic River Thames and the idyllic barges that dock the riverbank, under the rail trestle of the train to London, and then under the overpass of the M40 highway – finally arriving at the rolling countryside of Oxfordshire and Wytham Woods – the University’s nature preserve.
On other weekends, I take the bus to London, Cambridge, or Canterbury – often spending several hours at a time in the medieval churches of these cities. This weekend, my professor has sent me to the nearby village of Dorchester to examine the medieval church and monastery therein. The ride is 20 miles round-trip by bike – and will hopefully be a scenic journey. For me, being ‘assigned’ to visit a church is not so much an assignment or chore as much as an activity I would do anyway – with or without Oxford.
I’d like to think that frequent exercise lightens the demands of academic work and alleviates stress. With fresh mind and full awareness after a good ride, I can study more effectively and write faster than otherwise possible. Maybe college is all about finding the healthy balance between personal and academic pursuits, work and play. Or, ideally, as I sometimes find: work and play are one and the same at Oxford as the texts I read here are texts I would read anyway, and the writing I do here is writing I would do anyway. I just happen to be at a place that values the kinds of work and activities that I enjoy most.
Life is less stressful when I do what brings me joy – all else be darned.