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Jun. 12th, 2010 @ 03:01 pm Where to live?
Hello,

I'll be starting an MSt in English at Oxford this fall and am looking to rent a room in a shared student house. I'm an international student and won't be able to check any of the places I'm looking at out in person. I also know next to nothing about Oxford as a city. So my question: what are considered nice/desirable areas for postgrads to live? Any neighborhoods you'd recommend avoiding? Ideally I'd like to be within walking distance of the city center, but I'm open to anything!

Thanks in advance for any advice; I know this community isn't very active but thought I'd give it a try.

ETA: I'll be at Pembroke.
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losemeontheway:
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From:bopeepsheep
Date:June 12th, 2010 06:59 pm (UTC)
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Which college? (e.g. if it's one of the North Oxford ones you probably don't want to live in East Oxford; if Hilda's, then the far end of Jericho's a bit of a slog...)

Edited at 2010-06-12 07:00 pm (UTC)
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From:losemeontheway
Date:June 12th, 2010 07:03 pm (UTC)
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Pembroke, although I'm not sure how much time I'll actually be spending there as a postgrad.
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From:bopeepsheep
Date:June 12th, 2010 07:06 pm (UTC)
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Sure, but when you do want to be there it'd be good not to start at completely the wrong end of the city. Pembroke's central so you're good almost anywhere.

I'd go for the Plain end of East Oxford (St Clements, Iffley Road, Cowley Road) - easy access to the English faculty by bike or on foot, reasonable walk into town, good studenty neighbourhood inc. Tesco & some of the best pubs and restaurants IMO. But I've spent most of my time this side of the city so I'm biased.
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From:losemeontheway
Date:June 12th, 2010 07:11 pm (UTC)
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Thanks, I will check that area out - near grocery shopping and restaurants is always good!
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From:bananrama
Date:June 12th, 2010 07:27 pm (UTC)
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The most students who live out are in the Cowley Road/Iffley Road triangle in East Oxford. Other major area is Jericho (north west), it's a bit more upmarket and quieter, but is much more expensive than Cowley. Another place to consider is Botley, which is close to the station and less expensive, although not so well connected for supermarkets, restaurants etc. To be honest Oxford is so small that very few places will be miles from your college/faculty, especially if you have a bike, you can get from East to West Oxford in 10 minutes.
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From:losemeontheway
Date:June 12th, 2010 07:38 pm (UTC)
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Thanks, I will take a look at the areas you mentioned.
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From:erstwhiletexan
Date:June 12th, 2010 07:30 pm (UTC)
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I actually just finished that degree a year or so ago. Which strand are you doing?

Also, feel free to send me an email or IM me (info's in my profile) if you want other tips. :D
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From:losemeontheway
Date:June 12th, 2010 07:42 pm (UTC)
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I'm doing 1800-1914. I take it you did the medieval strand?

I would love some tips! Will definitely be getting in touch with you.
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From:erstwhiletexan
Date:June 12th, 2010 08:17 pm (UTC)
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Yes, I did the medieval strand. Feel free to get in touch -- I lived in Oxford for a year and then just south in Abingdon for a year, which is a great town to visit for a day, but ALSO a great cheap town to live in if you don't mind a 30 minute bus commute into town.

I was at St Peter's and lived on Cambridge Terrace (just south of Pembroke). :D

I'm not going to disagree with everyone's recommendations about East Oxford, but you should think about where you're going to be most. For me, I spent most of my living/research time in west Central Oxford and so even though classes at the English Fac were a 20 minute walk/10 minute cycle away, it was better to me to live closer to my college where I spent most of my time. My MCR was very active and very close-knit. If you think you're going to spend most of your time in your college hanging out with friends in your MCR, then you should think about living in south Central Oxford off the Abingdon Road, around the river. It's a gorgeous area and very convenient for Pembroke and the city centre.

But feel free to IM me or something and pick my brains. I'm planning to be back in Oxford as soon as I can. :D BTW, my gtalk isn't on my profile, but it's erstwhiletexan @ gmail . com
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From:losemeontheway
Date:June 12th, 2010 09:17 pm (UTC)
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I think a 30 minute bus commute is a bit too much for me, but I will definitely but Abingdon down on my list of places to visit.

The thing is, I can't really say yet where I'll be spending most of my time or whether I'll make friends more with people in my MCR or people from my course. I suppose it probably does make more sense to live near Pembroke. I'm actually taking a virtual look at a room that appears to be very close to Pembroke (near Westgate) tomorrow, so it'd be nice if that works out! And I will look at south Central Oxford as well.

I'm sure it varies a lot, but would you say postgrad social life tends to be more MCR-based? I don't really know much about how this works (in terms of colleges for postgrads and how important they are or are not).
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From:erstwhiletexan
Date:June 13th, 2010 12:58 am (UTC)
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In my experience, the MCR was the centre of graduate social life. My coursemates were not particularly prone to hanging out, so all my close friends were in my MCR. I know some of the big college MCRs were more socially active than mine but less close-knit and my coursemate at, for example, Trinity, didn't spend much time in her MCR at all. :/
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From:tree_and_leaf
Date:June 12th, 2010 07:34 pm (UTC)
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Seconding the East Oxford rec (and the side streets off Cowley and Iffley are actually very quiet - I lived on Temple St and was never bothered by noise at night).
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From:losemeontheway
Date:June 12th, 2010 07:43 pm (UTC)
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Thanks; living somewhere quiet would be nice!
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From:tree_and_leaf
Date:June 12th, 2010 08:04 pm (UTC)
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The nice thing about that part of the world is that there is lots going on very close by, but you needn't be bothered by it.

I really loved East Oxford - great food (some excellent student-budget-friendly prices), good shops (the Maroc delicatessen is brilliant), and not as much of a academic/ student ghetto as Jericho. It's not exactly non-gown Oxford - there are a lot of students about, but it's pretty healthy mix.
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From:losemeontheway
Date:June 12th, 2010 09:19 pm (UTC)
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I really like being near good food and especially good grocery shopping! I live probably less than five minutes' walk from a nice grocery store where I am now, so I'm a bit spoiled in that regard! I do want to live somewhere that has a decent student population, but a place with other things going on as well sounds good.
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From:chainsaw_poet97
Date:June 12th, 2010 08:52 pm (UTC)
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Hello - I'm just about to hand in my dissertation for the same course! I do English and American Studies, but I did the 1780-1900 strand for the English part, which is what the 1800-1914 used to be. Congrats for getting on - it was a really tough year, I heard!

I've lived in East Oxford for two of the years I've been here and loved it both times. Lots going on and a really young and lively feeling. As you get further from the city, it can get a little more sketchy, so you probably want to stick within about a mile and a half from the Magdalen Bridge. That's an easy cycle/walk distance too. However, I know that Pembroke has some college accommodation in the Botley Road area in West Oxford, so living there might mean you were close to people in college.

There is a website called dailyinfo.co.uk where people often advertise rooms and things, so it might be worth having a look on there?

Can I ask why you've decided not to live in college accommodation? Have they run out? I know college housing isn't always the cheapest, but it is a great way to meet people and it's usually warm and secure, and you get a cleaner.
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From:losemeontheway
Date:June 12th, 2010 09:40 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the tip on not going too far out in East Oxford - being somewhere I can feel comfortable walking around at night - not necessarily at 2 in the morning, but certainly at 9 or 10 - is really important to me.

I haven't seen dailyinfo yet, so thanks for the tip.

As for college accommodation - I was actually offered a place in one of Pembroke's houses on Botley Road but am heavily leaning toward turning it down. I'd like to live somewhere that's either in/very close to the city center or somewhere that has really good amenities (mainly food and groceries) or somewhere that's pretty/has lots of green space (or any combination thereof). As far as I can tell (which is honestly not very far), the Botley Road area doesn't particularly seem to fit any of these. It seems like it's a reasonable walking distance away from Pembroke/the city, but not necessarily more so than lots of other places. I'm sure there's nothing wrong with it, but I thought I might be able to do better on my own, location-wise. I also have the impression that not many students live in that part of town, but again I don't really know so please do correct me if I'm mistaken (about any of this)!

Pembroke does have a building quite close to the college site with some postgrad housing; living there would have been my preference, actually, but that didn't work out.
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From:erstwhiletexan
Date:June 13th, 2010 01:02 am (UTC)
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Jumping in here, hope it's okay!

In my experience, if you can get college accommodation, take it. It's a good way to get to know people and have a ready-made group of friends. That said, Botley Road is a good location for most things, but it IS the opposite end of town (like, the VERY opposite) from the English Faculty. :/ Probably a 30-minute walk if you're really legging it.

Really, though, Oxford is not that big. You can get to Christ Church meadow or the University Parks really easily from almost anywhere, and almost all colleges have beautiful green quads that are open to students from other colleges. I spent a lot of time wandering into a random college near the Bodliean (usually Exeter) and reading on a bench there.
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From:losemeontheway
Date:June 13th, 2010 01:26 am (UTC)
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I am kind of lazy and would really like to live closer to... things. And the English Faculty. Sad but true. But I will think about that! I don't know, I'm looking into a few things at the moment but if they don't work out maybe I will take the college accommodation.
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From:erstwhiletexan
Date:June 13th, 2010 01:40 am (UTC)
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I'm lazy, too, so I completely understand. ;) My housing was incredible -- aside from the fact that one of my windows leaked almost the whole year, it was perfect. :) But college accommodation can save a lot of hassles -- you're guaranteed to be in with a bunch of other people in mostly the same boat as you (I knew several people who signed up to room with other students and wound up in houses fulls of Oxford Brookes students who weren't... exactly as studious as my friends. D:) and can give you lots of support/sympathy when things are tough.
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From:losemeontheway
Date:June 13th, 2010 01:27 am (UTC)
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Also, random aside, that is good to know that there are quads open to students from other colleges! I had been wondering about that.
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From:erstwhiletexan
Date:June 13th, 2010 01:37 am (UTC)
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Yeah, you just have to flash your Bod card. :) Sometimes there are hours restrictions, but you can usually always find one that's open when you want it to be. I could, anyway. :D
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From:chiasmata
Date:June 13th, 2010 07:19 pm (UTC)
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Actually, I would say that it depends very much on what sort of person you are, and (sometimes) how old.

I started at Oxford as a 22-year-old postgrad, and to be quite honest I'd had enough of living in college-type accommodation by that age. There comes a point - for most people - when you want the extra freedoms and privacy that come with renting your own place. I hated living in just one room, and found the college accommodation I moved into to be absolutely soulless. My housemates were mainly PGCE students and thus so busy that I hardly saw them; I made friends through various societies and LJ, mainly.

My point with this is just that it very much varies from person to person, and situation to situation. OP: if you don't want to live in college accommodation, then don't! It's not going to adversely affect your time in Oxford.
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From:chainsaw_poet97
Date:June 13th, 2010 11:03 am (UTC)
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Sorry - one more thing I just thought of. My college - Exeter - often has spare rooms in its grad housing. They can be a little small, but are new and clean. The housing is about a mile up Iffley Road - about a 25 minute walk/ten minute cycle to the Faculty, and I would say 35 minutes to Pembroke - so similar distance to private housing in the area. There is also a but stop literally opposite. They are on a main, well let road - I walked down it at 10.30 last night, no problem. Might be worth going on their website and finding someone to e-mail about it?
From:hsenag
Date:June 12th, 2010 09:24 pm (UTC)
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One area that hasn't been mentioned yet and is worth looking at is Marston; it's linked to the university area by a foot/cycle path which makes it much closer than it might seem just by road.

The path is in the centre of this map, running from the end of Ferry Road to the corner of South Parks Road and Parks Road. Very occasionally, it floods, which is annoying when it does but is typically only a day or two each year.
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From:losemeontheway
Date:June 12th, 2010 09:48 pm (UTC)
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Marston looks really nice! About how long of a walk would you say it is to the city? I will probably be the only non-cycling Oxford student, but I don't mind a long walk.

That path is good to know about, whether or not I end up in Marston - it looks like it would make for a lovely walk, just for recreational purposes.
From:hsenag
Date:June 12th, 2010 10:03 pm (UTC)
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Hmm, I can't really remember as I almost always cycled it. Probably the path itself is about half a mile long - so about a 10 minute walk.

At the town end, that puts you fairly near the University science area and also the English faculty - perhaps another 5 minutes walk. (If you look up the location of Linacre College, that's very close to the town end.)

The city centre itself (and Pembroke, which is pretty central) is quite a bit further away. Probably another 20 minutes walk.

Obviously depending on where exactly in Marston you end up, it'll be a variable amount to the path. You could be very close, or anything up to a mile or two away. There's a recreation ground that provides useful shortcuts on foot/bike from quite a large area, so if you stay west of Marston Road and south of Marston Ferry Road, you can probably keep it to a minimum.
From:ext_197898
Date:June 14th, 2010 10:35 am (UTC)
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I'd second Marston as a convenient place to live. I lived in Jesus college accommodation for my undergraduate degree (first year in the college itself, subsequent years in a shared college flat up Woodstock Rd probably counting as Jericho area, which is also nice with a bit more going on) and then lived with my boyfriend in Marston for my DPhil (and indeed still live there now as a married academic working in the Headington area). Summertown in north Oxford is also nice, Headington has a lot of Oxford Brookes students so is well served by their buses during their term-times but is up a very steep hill.

I could cycle from my door to my lab in the science area (which is pretty close to the English faculty) including locking and unlocking my bike in 7min, and I'm not a speedy cyclist! I would say it would probably take 15min to walk from the park in Marston to the English faculty at a reasonable pace or 20min to dawdle.

I would recommend getting a bike as it makes any of the places that have been suggested here reasonable places to be time-wise and makes dashing between the college, faculty and libraries very convenient. It is hard to go anywhere further than a 20min cycle ride. I've generally felt quite safe in the city centre and have been happy cycling home late at night to Jericho and Marston but I would avoid cycling or walking alone at night too far out along Cowley Rd.

I would also second thinking seriously about the college accommodation option, Botley Rd may not be the most convenient place if you are on foot but if you are staying with other people in a similar situation it is a good way to make friends. Staying in a random house somewhere could be a little isolating so you would need to make a bit of effort to go along to the MCR to meet people or join some University societies.

Anyway, wherever you live I'm sure you'll have a really great exciting and interesting year.

--
Angharad
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From:meadb
Date:June 12th, 2010 09:57 pm (UTC)
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I did the medieval MPhil so if you have any questions let me know.
I've lived all over the city and West is my favourite but the least studenty and most residential. Central is loud and expensive but convenient. North felt the most safe but also a bit boring and expensive. East is the most fun. People always describe it as "vibrant" and "diverse" and there's loads of good food, but it also one of the less safe areas in terms of bike theft, etc. Jericho is a great are but housing is very tightly packed and most housing s right up against a sidewalk. if you want to live near Pembrioke, check out the Folly Bridge/St Aldates/Abingdon Rd area.
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From:losemeontheway
Date:June 12th, 2010 10:23 pm (UTC)
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Would you mind telling me a bit more about West Oxford? I haven't seen it come up much and would be interested to know what you like about it.

I tend to prefer safe and low-crime over fun, so I'll keep that in mind with East.
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From:meadb
Date:June 12th, 2010 10:29 pm (UTC)
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West is very residential and consists of Botley Rd and the Roads off it. You're never more than a mile from a decent supermarket and there are a few convenience stores, a sandwich ship, laundromat, canals, open fields you wan walk through, and pubs. Two of the most celebrated Oxford pubs, the Fishes and the Perch, are on the fringes of West Oxford. There is a community centre with mostly dance and fitness things going on, and a community garden if you're into DIY vegetables. Rent is fairly reasonable. I'm a bellydancer so I keep crazy hours and I've never had problems coming home from gigs after midnight. The only disadvantage is that if you want to _do_ anythng besides have a horsebackriding lesson or go for a walk you do have to trek to town as we don't have much in the way of food or entertainment.
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From:losemeontheway
Date:June 12th, 2010 11:15 pm (UTC)
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So you'd feel safe walking back from events in the city at night? If I'm going to be a ways out from the city/my college, I really do want to live somewhere where I won't have to worry about getting back early or getting a cab back or something (bus would be fine though, of they run late).

Also, how do you find the walk into/back from the city generally? I know it depends a lot on where exactly you live.

I actually do have the option of living in Pembroke accommodation off Botley Road and had been leaning toward declining it and going for something a bit more central/studenty, but perhaps I should reconsider?

Thanks so much for the feedback; it's really helpful!
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From:erstwhiletexan
Date:June 13th, 2010 01:03 am (UTC)
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Hi, I hope this isn't creepy but... I think I know you. I think we met at a conference about Malory last year...
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From:lareinenoire
Date:June 12th, 2010 11:59 pm (UTC)
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I just finished my DPhil in the English faculty and I lived in East Oxford for all three years. It is a bit far, but I never found it to be a major problem, and the prices are far more reasonable than Jericho.