Thursday, January 8, 2015

Adventures in Oxford

By Brandon Rieckhoff

I went to Oxford, England at the end of May through my college’s study abroad program to take two courses; one on C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, which my college was offering as part of the program, and the second on Jane Austen, through Oxford University. The professor who was teaching the Lewis/Tolkien course told me about how he saw quidditch being played the last time he was in England. As a huge fan of Harry Potter, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to try the sport.

I did not play immediately. I first joined the Harry Potter Society that met at Somerville College, Oxford. At my first meeting there, amongst fellow Potterheads, I discovered that another member played quidditch locally; she was awesome in my book! I was nervous since I did not know anyone else at the meeting, so we did not talk much. However,  I was quickly accepted and playfully mocked for being an American – just like Katherine Bellware, an American quidditch player. By chance, that upcoming weekend there was going to be a quidditch event called the 42 Faire; I was nervous and excited to attend.
That weekend, after my professor told me where to go, I went by myself to the Oxford University Parks and met up with the girl from the Harry Potter Society. Soon other quidditch players started showing up as I stood off to the side, not really sure what to do. After a while I was introduced to the other players and I introduced myself. Unfortunately, I was mostly wearing the wrong clothes to play – jeans and skateboard shoes did not make a good quidditch outfit, or “kit.” Nonetheless, I immediately felt like I was part of this welcoming group.
The QuidditchUK 42 Faire was made up of many different teams from across the United Kingdom. Among the teams playing were the Radcliffe Chimeras, the Oxford Quidlings, and the London Unspeakables. Once the event got underway, I spent the first couple of games just watching and getting a feel for things. Before I tried my hand at playing, I originally thought I would become a beater. Instead I was thrown into the third game of the day as a chaser. I knew next to nothing about playing except for a quick rundown of rules and even quicker training session.
I will not go into a blow-by-blow account of how the game went. I do not even think I remember if my team won or lost; what I do remember is that I had an absolute blast playing. The teams were all mixed up, so the teams I played with after my first game had combinations of amazing talent taken from all over the U.K. The unexpected part for me was when after a game finished, there was not the usual exchange of handshakes and players saying “good game.” Rather, everyone hugged after each match; for these players it was not out of the ordinary.
I still remember that day very vividly. Out of all of things I did while studying abroad at Oxford, that was my favorite day. From that day forward I joined the Chimeras and the Quidlings whenever I was not busy with my touring or studying. I made a lot of friends and I still keep in contact with them now. I was made an official member of the Quidlings, with an invitation to come back and play with them whenever I am able to. Playing with QuidditchUK inspired me to start my very own quidditch team back here in the United States.
I take to heart the motto of the Quidlings: “Volate Pulchre,which means “Fly Sexy!”

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