Preparing for Oxbridge 2017
This summer marks a milestone for the C.S. Lewis Foundation’s triennial summer institute Oxbridge – our tenth convening! July 24 through August 3 attendees and speakers from around the world will gather in Oxford for a week and then in Cambridge to explore the topic Irrigating Deserts and Cultivating Gardens: Pursuing Calling with Purpose and Hope. I’ve been privileged to be the official Foundation photographer of this event in 2011 and 2014 and am honoured to have that role again in 2017. You can read or explore more about 2011 here and here. You can read more about 2014 here and see the gallery here.
Oxbridge 2017 holds something special for me personally – a big portion of my family. This year along with my husband Peter, our daughters Regina and Pahtyana and son-in-law Jay, will be attending Oxbridge with us for the first time. I am happy about seeing Oxford and Cambridge again as I always am, but this time I’m especially so in anticipation of sharing this experience with them.
Naturally, we’ve had some interesting conversations about how to best prepare for Oxbridge for the first time. I have found myself thinking back also, to some of the things I wish I had done on my first Oxbridge. While there are several things I strongly recommend doing beforehand, certainly it is possible to do none of them and still have a marvelous time. But doing these will help anyone attending understand what is being discussed not just in the programming but also in the conversations that take place between the presentations.
One – read through the theme statement and a few key books before you come. This will give you a better sense of what you will be seeing and learning. This sounds obvious but you might be surprised at how much of a difference it will make. The books I am recommending to my family and friends coming to Oxbridge for the first time are shown below. Click through the titles to learn more and to purchase the ones you are interested in via Amazon.
Two – look up the key speakers and artists. Find out who they are and what they do. Look at some of their work online if they have a YouTube or Ted Talk video available and read their books or websites. I’ve highlighted four artists below who I think you will especially want to be acquainted with before you arrive. In the weeks ahead I’ll be posting more about several of them in interviews before Oxbridge as well as afterward.
Three – learn something about Oxford and Cambridge. Find out about where you will be staying. Look up the history behind some of the beautiful buildings you will be in for our presentations. Look over the material on the C.S. Lewis Foundation website and explore the resources there, especially Travel Tips. The Foundation also offers a helpful page of links for more information about Oxford and Cambridge.
Four – Write down questions you have and make a list people you want to meet or spend some time with. Start praying now specifically over those questions and people in expectation of receiving a response from God either directly or through others to those questions. Going with a sense of purpose and hope prepares you for marvelous answers!
Five – Pack early – think through what you are taking and what you are hoping to bring home. When in doubt, bring less than you think you will need. For international travel – less really is better. Leave room in your suitcases for taking home books and art work you pick up.
Six – Start a regime of walking every day if you are not accustomed to that. Walk as much every day as you are able, and try to build up to 1-2 miles a day. You will be better prepared for all the walking we do in these beautiful cities and able to participate in some of the best parts of the experience.
I created this recommended reading resource to heighten my family’s experience Oxbridge and and hope it will be a help for you as well if you are coming this year. In a way, reading these books is like learning a new language. It is a new language of ideas and history. Having some familiarity with this language will help you enter the experience just as knowing at least some Italian will help you travel better when visiting Italy. You do not have to be a scholar to enjoy or benefit from this conference but knowing some of the language and ideas being spoken throughout will help you feel more a part of the community you meet there.
In no sense am I offering this as a definitive introduction to Lewis and the Inklings, but rather as a kind of “meet and greet” introduction to books and ideas that you are likely to encounter at Oxbridge. These recommendations include a few of the essential books by C.S. Lewis followed by a few key books about C.S. Lewis and the Inklings. It also helps to create some context to read a few books by two writers who certainly influenced him before his meeting J.R.R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams and other members of the Inklings: George Macdonald and G.K. Chesterton. These two are of special significance as shapers of his thought and spiritual direction. I also recommend an excellent book by Os Guinness here that pertains to the broad topic of Calling.
Have fun preparing and seeing what worlds open for you even before you arrive at Oxbridge! We are looking forward to seeing you there!