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Oxford Academics

Time November 19th, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | 1 Comment by

Whereas in my last post I focused mainly on the social aspect of Oxford, this post is going to be completely about academics!

My academic experience here is very different than it is at home, but I love it! For visiting students (at least those studying subjects that don’t involve math), school is structured around tutorials and lectures.

Basically, you have two classes, a primary tutorial and a secondary tutorial. Throughout the term, you meet with your primary tutor (professor) once a week, and your secondary tutor every other week, for an hour each. These are one-on-one meetings, and take place in your tutors office or somewhere of his or her choice. Before the tutorial, you are assigned reading and a 2,000 word essay. The reading lists are EXTREMELY extensive and overwhelming. Luckily, you aren’t expected to read every book on the list, but it’s expected that you read a good amount.

During the tutorial, you discuss your essay and verbally back up your argument. This is intense and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Every meeting is really intimidating at first, but great discussion always ensues. This class format requires you to be on your game for the entire hour, which is both exhilarating and exhausting.

Whereas in a lot of classes back home it’s pretty easy to get by without doing all (or any…) of the reading, this is definitely not the case here. I considered my home college to be pretty work-intensive, but it’s nothing compared to my experience at Oxford. Luckily, I’m really interested in what I’m studying, so I actually enjoy spending copious amounts of time in the library. Additionally, the libraries here are BEAUTIFUL, which is an added bonus.

Another challenge for me is the lack of structure. At home, my days are spent with hours of classes, work, and meetings for different clubs. Here, with only one or two hours of classes each week, I find myself with a LOT of free time. I used to consider my self pretty good with time-management, but then again I’d never really had the opportunity to sleep in until noon (or later….) everyday like I do now. I think I’ve pulled more all-nighters here than I have in my entire life.

Despite the vast differences in academics between Oxford and Davidson, I love the change. However, for academics alone, I could not be more thankful that the term is only 8 weeks long. I’m not sure how much longer I can keep this up…

 

 

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First week at Worcester

Time November 5th, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

As of today, I’ve been at Oxford exactly one month! I’m a little behind on blogging, so I’m going to focus this post on the first week and get into further detail in laters posts!

For background, Oxford University is made up of 39 colleges. Everyone lives within their colleges and mainly hangs out with the other students in them. My
college, Worcester, has about 400 students, so it’s pretty small. Everyone lives
in dorms, called staircases, which share kitchens. Every student has a single with
their own shower and bathroom, which is unbelievably nice. Worcester
has the most extensive grounds of any college, and a reputation for being fun and friendly, which has definitely proven to be true! The buildings are really cool and there’s a beautiful lake that I walk around every day. The weather thus far has been amazing, not extremely cold and not too much rain!

The first week was called Fresher’s Week, and it was basically a week long
orientation for us (the JYAs—Junior Year Abroad) and the freshers. The week was made up of various inductions, fancy dinners, garden parties, and club nights. It was extremely exhausting but so fun at the same time.

The social things at Worcester is one of my favorite things thus far. Worcester has its own bar on campus, so I go there most nights to play darts, request embarrassing American music that I definitely get judged for, and catch up with friends. After the bar, some nights my friends and I go to one of the various clubs around Oxford. While the whole clubbing thing isn’t my favorite, it’s super fun to go, dance, and meet people from other colleges.

On the first Saturday was college-wide tea parties. One of my favorite Oxford traditions is the concept of college families. Every second year gets college married to their best friend, and then they are assigned college children—three or four freshers or JYAs who make up your family. So these tea parties were hosted by each of our parents. Before meeting my parents, I had been assured that they were some of the most fun parents and that I would love them, and they were right. The tea parties were really fun, and it was great to get to know second years, who are a bit closer to my own age! The tea party was followed by the first college bop of the term–basically just a party in the bar, which was also a blast!

This post was focused on the social life, but the next will focus on the other aspect of Worcester that takes up most of my time–school work.

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Pre-Oxford Traveling

Time October 29th, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

While I’ve arrived safely in Oxford and am having an amazing time, I’m going to hold off on writing about that for my next blog post. For now I’m going to focus on the three weeks I spent traveling prior to my program!

My first stop on my European backpacking trip was Berlin, Germany. Here I stayed with my friend Sam in her home stay. I fought the jet lag with exorbitant amounts of caffeine and a walk around beautiful Tiergarten. The home stay was about 40 minutes outside of the city, so in addition to seeing the urban side of Berlin, I got the chance to experience life in a more suburban German area as well! I’m fascinated by the Cold War (it’s what I’m studying at Oxford) so I dragged Sam along for a 5-hour Cold War-themed bike tour. Berlin is such an interesting city with such rich recent history, but after 4 days I was ready to escape the urban jungle and head to Interlaken, a small mountain town in the Swiss Alps.

Interlaken, officially the most beautiful place I have ever seen, is home to some of the best hiking in the world, so I decided to give it a go. First, I hiked a smaller mountain in the town of Interlaken and eventually advanced to a more intense trail in Lauterbrunnen, another town a few miles away. This steeper trail, in addition to the cold weather and snow that accompanied my ascent, made things a bit more difficult, but the view from the mountain was incredible and made the hike well worth the effort.

From Interlaken, I made my way to Amsterdam for a few days, and then to Paris, where I stayed with some friends from college. Paris is home to the most intricate, beautiful architecture I’ve seen, and I was content wandering around the city and admiring these works of art in the perfect autumn weather. From Paris, I headed to Prague and then to Munich to celebrate Oktoberfest with about 15 of my friends who are also abroad. It was really great to see familiar faces, especially considering I’d been traveling solo and spending copious amounts of time alone. Finally, I flew to Dublin–by far my favorite city I’ve been to–and then to London, where I began orientation for Oxford!

Between my lack of proficiency in foreign languages, close train connections (more than a few of which I missed),  and the fact that I was lugging a huge 50-pound suitcase around Europe, I had a couple of extremely high-stress days. Despite these moments, I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to see such so much of the world in three short weeks. Seeing these incredible cities truly expanded my view of the world, and made me wish I paid better attention to my European History class in high school!

Side note: If it seems like my travel itinerary makes absolutely no sense and was the most inefficient way to travel around Europe, that is correct. Thanks to my trusty Eurail pass, I had the flexibility to more or less hop on a train and go wherever in Europe I wanted relatively cheaply. While, in theory, randomly pointing to a place on a map and deciding to travel there sounds spontaneous and fun, the 9-hour train rides and last-minute hostel bookings were anything but.

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Pre-Departure

Time September 16th, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Considering I leave to study abroad in two days, I should probably begin packing, planning out my trip across Europe, or filling out the loads of paperwork for my program. Instead, I decided it would be a good idea to procrastinate even further and write my first blog post!

I’m writing this from Davidson College in North Carolina, where I’m currently a junior. Oxford doesn’t begin until early October, so I’ve had the privilege of spending some time back at school for a few weeks before heading overseas. I thought this time at school without any classes would be the perfect time to plan out my semester, do a ton of research about all the places I will be visiting, and relax. While this sounds like a great idea in theory, I think I’ve put a little too much emphasis on the relaxing part of the plan (see the first paragraph of this blog). While I’ve had the best time here at school, the anxiety has set in!

As I mentioned, my program doesn’t start until relatively late, so I’m spending about three weeks beforehand traveling across Europe! I’ll be alternating staying in youth hostels and staying with friends who are also abroad, and I can’t wait to experience so many different cities and cultures in such a short amount of time. My plans are still up in the air, but I definitely plan on visiting Berlin, Interlaken, Amsterdam, Paris, and Edinburgh before heading to London for orientation. I guess now is the time to begin making those plans definite…

In between procrastinating, downloading new travel music, and buying books for my Kindle, I’ve been slowly saying bye to all of my friends here at Davidson, which has been the hardest part to date. That being said, I still have to fit all of my belongings into one 50-pound suitcase, so the hardest part of the process is likely to change in the near future.

Ultimately, my excitement has trumped my apprehension, and now more than anything I’m ready to start my European adventure!

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