Friday, September 27, 2013


One year ago, I arrived in Oxford, England.
One month ago, I submitted my dissertation.
One week ago, I finished my first block of medical school.

The various relocations, adjustments, and transitions of the past couple years have been exciting+challenging+fun all wrapped together, and I thought today would be an appropriate day to shed light on this most recent Oxford --> Duke shift. It's been interesting to see the curious ways these two very different places have common threads connecting them. Here are a few I've noticed so far:

  • Most macroscopically, the distinctive Gothic architecture:
at Oxford...

and at Duke...

           I feel so blessed to continually find myself in gorgeous and inspiring surroundings!

  • At the beginning of each program, there's a big ceremony to get things going--

    • At Duke, the "White Coat Ceremony"

  • While I consider most of my family and friends to have a relatively ambiguous and/or neutral American accent [unless we hang around the right folks, o'course], in Oxford and Durham I've encountered quite a number of notable ones-- various British/Commonwealth accents in the former, and quientessenial South[east]ern in the latter.

  •  The most juxtaposing connection though: Tobacco. What?
    • At Oxford, I lived in a building named after the man who proved the tobacco-lung cancer connection. 
    • At Duke, I walk around a campus and a city built by the tobacco industry, by one of the richest American families (you guessed it, the Dukes). Even today, this past is evident all around town. It's kinda purty though, ain't it? [It's not as industrial as this makes it seem-- all those warehouses are now supachic apartments and restaurants and whatnot.]
(image from ncculaw)

  • Which brings us to the cities themselves-- Oxford: "The City of Dreaming Spires." Durham, NC: "The City of Medicine." (and Tallahassee, FL: The City of...mayhaw jelly? Nah, I got nothin.)  I guess the themes aren't all that related, but I've never lived in a city that was Of Anything, so I thought it was neat.

  • The last one I'll mention today is obviously the most important, and it's these two institutions' intense hatred for anything light blue. Oxford >> Cambridge; Duke >> UNC Chapel Hill. Of course, in both scenarios the schools have an immense amount of collaboration in reality and are all incredible institutions, and it's been interesting to be at each of these places as a graduate student where it's clear there's a decent amount of crossover. But you gotta find something to get riled up about every once in a while, right? Sports is that avenue for a lot of people. In one case, it's rowing, rugby, and football; in the other, basketball, basketball, and basketball. I mean, heck, there's even a wikipedia page for each of these rivalries (UK and NC). Yeesh.
    • Upon my arrival in England, I very quickly learned that dark blue = the right blue. As was eloquently depicted in the 80's classic, Oxford Blues [which I've never actually seen and only discovered ~4.6 minutes ago...], to earn a Blue is to essentially compete in a varsity sport for either of these schools (we'll leave it there and leave the complex explanations to wikipedia). Cambridge wears light blue, Oxford wears DARK BLUE, and each team has their own, completely non-rude way of expressing their sentiments of the opposing side.
    • The "other school" parlance is evident here in Durham as well. And the rivalry is so intense that students camp out for weeks in order to secure tickets to the big game. The convoluted how-tos and regulations of this campout process are so intricately interwoven into tradition that I can't even find a website explaining it. [The best I could find was this NYTimes caption...]. What it all boils down to, is that light is the inferior shade of blue.

So here's to dark blue, and Duke blue, and transitions between the two.


  1. Nice to see you back. Enjoyed the connections. I was curious about the difference of blues and found this list of Shades of Blue that included Duke and Oxford.

    1. Haha, I too stumbled upon that page, though I don't quite agree with the one listed for Cambridge, which in reality is much closer to Tiffany Blue...
      (Interestingly, in real life I happen to like Cambridge's [[]] and UNC's [["Carolina Blue" on that wikipedia page]] actual shades of blue better than Ox's/Duke's BUT DON'T TELL ANYONE!)