This summer we had the opportunity to go on the Oxford Study Abroad Program and be associate members of New College, one of the oldest colleges in Oxford. During the program, we met weekly with our “Tutors,” which is the British term for professors, and discussed our assigned paper topics in depth. Our discussions consisted of philosophical and literary reviews, recounting personal experiences, and comparing case studies. The theme of our topics would be chosen by students beforehand, and tutors would guide the discussion and paper assignments accordingly.
One thing that stuck out to me the most was how Oxford has maintained centuries of traditions while still introducing modernity to their teaching methods. The history of Oxford can be seen every day, from the formal gowns to the ancient corridors and libraries interspersed throughout the town. Amongst the beautiful spiraling towers of Oxford, one will see students from all walks of life, and one can see how these are world leaders in the making, just as those who came before us, such as Margaret Thatcher and Bill Clinton. Although it may seem intimidating at first to be walking along the same path as these immortalized figures, one is still made welcome in the charming town, and the program guides you to strive. I was lucky to be assigned to a Tutor who made the transition into the Oxford curriculum as seamless as possible, and she encouraged informal yet structured discussions to amplify creativity and critical thinking.
During the week, we would all work on paper assignments, and I personally made use of the associate member status in order to borrow books and visit many of the libraries there. We would also take the time to explore Oxford and partake in campus activities, such as visiting the free Ashmolean Museum and attending the annual Summer Eight Boat Races, where we got to learn the practice of punting. Punting is the sport of intentionally hitting another team’s boat, which is similar to bumper cars, just with boats!
On weekends, the program scheduled for us to go to Windsor Castle, London’s Churchill War Rooms, and Jane Austen’s hometown of Bath. It was surreal going to these historical places, especially Windsor Castle, since we were able to visit the church that had just held the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markel one week prior to our arrival. A few of us also decided to take advantage of one of our free weekends to go to the beach town of Brighton, where we got to explore the Brighton Palace Pier as well as the Royal Palace in the center of the city. Furthermore, Professor Tsagronis and Michelle Watson were kind enough to take all the IWP students to their favorite Indian restaurant, Chutney’s, for dinner, where we all got to update them on what we learned and experienced during our time at Oxford.
Finally, we parted ways from Oxford in the famous Turf Tavern, where a former US President had famously spent a wild evening. Each week, we got to explore a new city and widen our world through research and discussions. One will notice, week after week, the difference in oneself as a scholar and as a traveler in how one perceives the world. These are the lessons and memories that we got to take back with us to IWP and to our future aspirations.
Above: Dinner at Chutney’s.