Oxford edition


By Philip Fine

Newly minted Rhodes Scholar Alexander Lachapelle, MDCM’18, is Oxford-bound. When it comes to seeking advice, he is well placed: there are many others in the Faculty community who have enjoyed the same honour, including medical students Benjamin Mappin-Kasirer and Melissa Bailey, and faculty members Brian Ward, MDCM’80, PGME’92, Professor, Department of Medicine, and Anne Andermann, BSc’94, MDCM’02, PGME’06, Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine.

Medicine Focus invited these four to share their top travel and networking tips with Lachapelle to help him make the most of his time across the pond as he pursues a PhD in Clinical Machine Learning.

We decided to write out their advice in a handy field guide for the benefit of all our readers.

  • Find others at McGill who have worked at or been students at Oxford. They will put you in touch with some amazing people.
Rhodes Scholars Owen Egan Joni Dufour.JPG

Some of the Faculty’s Rhodes Scholars gather at Humble Lion, McGill College, to advise the newest of their number on how to make the most of his time in Oxford. Photo: Owen Egan/Joni Dufour

  • Send emails to those you think don’t have time to meet you. Eminent professors will actually answer and make time for you.
  • You’ll meet individuals who don’t just define themselves in one way, as scientists or as doctors. The usual boundaries won’t be there.
  • You’ll find yourself coming back at night to your college and finding someone who spent the whole day doing something like reading ancient Aramaic.
  • Join college sports—rowing and football are good ones—to meet really interesting Oxford undergrads.
  • Take classes outside the university and attend concerts. Don’t spend every night at your college.
  • Take a day trip to the Cotswolds, where there are quaint villages, or into London for excellent theatre. In Oxford, there is punting at the Cherwell Boathouse. There are also college-related activities, including weekly formal dinners, culminating with the May Ball at the end of term.
  • Listen to the people who will talk to you about local history. A professor you’re walking with might point to a room in a college and say, “You know, that was Oscar Wilde’s room.” Another person will know everything about the local cathedral.
  • You will end up with many international colleagues.
  • Heathrow Airport is a hub for international travel. Who knows, you might find your way to an African or Asian country during your three years at Oxford. You can also get to Paris in just three hours. A four-hour sojourn will get you to the hills of Wales, which are dotted with sheep, and where they have the annual Hay-on-Wye literary festival. It’s like Woodstock for intellectuals.
  • Oxford is a place where non-specific curiosity is valued. Ask questions and let the answers wash over you.
  • Take in a great Caribbean summer event in East Oxford called the Cowley Road Carnival; visit the local kebob stands; go to whiskey tastings; seek out someone who knows a lot about mushrooms and accompany them to pick in one of the local forests; and if anyone invites you on a ramble (a walk, almost always to a pub), say yes. In fact, if anyone asks you to go for a drink or for dinner, always say yes.
  • Go to the Freshers’ Fair, where any minor hobby has its own society. There’s free pizza.
  • You’ll always find a good cup of tea. Make sure to pick up some McVitie’s biscuits to accompany it.


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