“You are running short of time.”
“I’ve got a plan.”
“Serla, let me repeat this once again, you are running short of time.”
I was two-and-a-half weeks away from my thesis deadline, and I was
slightly behind in my progress. Sitting in my supervisor’s office, I was surprisingly calm for someone who only had 2,000 out of the 12,000-word requirement that I was supposed to churn out to graduate with my Master’s degree.
As for my supervisor, he was freaking out.
The good man, bless him, was so convinced that I would become the first student he supervise to fail the Master’s thesis. Yet, no matter what he said to jolt me awake, he simply couldn’t invoke that sense of urgency that he so hoped to see in me.
“Why don’t you tell me what your plan is for the coming week then?” he said.
“Well, I’ll be working at my part-time job three full days next week and…” I stopped as I watched his eyes widen in horror. “And I assure you I’ll have 6,000 words ready the next time I see you,” I blurted out quickly.
What I had wanted to say was that apart from my three days of work, I had also planned a trip to Oxford on that coming Saturday. But I was pretty sure if I had told him that, he might have disowned me as his student right on the spot, so I decided that it was best if he was kept in the dark about it.
I don’t dispute that travelling while you have a MAJOR deadline looming is irresponsible, but it was necessary. Because you see, my dear readers, thesis writing can be such a chore. After several weeks of sitting in front of the computer, words simply couldn’t flow anymore, and wouldn’t it be even more irresponsible had I done nothing to get rid of the writer’s block?
That was why my friend C and I decided to spice things up a little. What started out as a mission to try out all the different libraries in London turned into something slightly more ambitious. We decided that sticking to one city was not enough and we needed to try out libraries outside London as well.
We picked Oxford for several reasons. First, because even we were realistic and we knew that going all the way to Edinburgh wasn’t an option. Second, my friend C had not been to Oxford previously and I couldn’t let her leave the country without seeing the place. And third, because Oxford is full of intelligent people, we were hoping some of their brain cells might rub off on us – we clearly needed all the help we could get.
Plus, come to think of it, it wasn’t as if we would be spending so much more time getting to a library in Oxford. The journey from Paddington took just over an hour. On a bad day in London, your commute could take as long.
Or so we thought.
When we got off the train, we realised immediately things wouldn’t be as simple as we had predicted.
First of all, we did not know what the University’s main library was called. Whenever I googled “Libraries in Oxford University” several options popped up, and I couldn’t possibly visit every single one to see which one was meant for us?
Luckily, we figured out pretty quickly that it was the Bodleian Library. However, a second problem immediately occurred to us – we did not actually know whether students from other universities were allowed to use the facility. We had just assumed it was open to all students from other universities.
Once again, we got lucky. After cajoling the librarian, we were allowed to make a one-day pass to use the facility.
These unexpected logistical problems had certainly set us back by an hour or so. By the time we were done getting ourselves admitted to Oxford University for a day, it was time for lunch.
It was well after noon and we had not written a single word for our thesis. However, since the idea of working with an empty stomach was out of the question for us, we decided to explore the nearby streets for some quick lunch.
We settled at a cosy looking cafe called the Missing Beans and ordered a smoked salmon bagel and a cup of chai tea each.
The bagel came with a generous spread of cream cheese and salmon and it was absolutely delightful. We ate as quickly as we could, but by the time we started burying our heads in our laptop screen, it was already 2 30 pm.
I shall not bore you with what happened over the next four hours when we tried to type out as many words as possible before the library closed at 7. As an incentive, we promised ourselves to go for a nice hot meal at night before catching the train back to London.
You can clearly see food makes the world go round for us. Still, the Turl Street Kitchen was certainly worth the wait at the end of a not-so-long day of thesis writing. The interior was beautiful and the food delicious.
One of the must-see places in Oxford is the Christ Church Meadows. Since we had our priorities right, we decided to have a look around Oxford after our stomach was content and there was some time left before our train.
By the time we were out of the restaurant, it was dark and the entrance to the meadows were closed. Yet, the exit path was inexplicably wide open albeit with a huge road sign that I was sure meant ‘DO NOT ENTER’. That did not stop us from entering – after all, the whole premise of the trip had been somewhat rebellious, so why not continue the streak and just sneak in from there?
We got in without anyone noticing. At dusk, the area exuded a mysterious charm, and I wondered, not for the first time, if I would ever be brave enough to live in such a haunted-looking compound.
Still, it was a beautiful and peaceful stroll considering the circumstances.
Satisfied, we took the train back to London, feeling accomplished for having fit in this rebellious day while trying to meet an impossibly approaching deadline.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say students under time pressure should take travels out in the weekend on a whim. But one thing was for sure: for us, the trip to Oxford was definitely worth the ensuing panic that hit us in the days that followed.
Oh, and it certainly didn’t stop us from going to Cambridge the weekend after, five days before our deadline. 😉