What I Did | Academics
As a program group, we went on day trips to Winchester, Bath, and Salisbury, seeing impressive cathedrals, Roman-era baths, and historical gems like Jane Austen’s gravestone, an original copy of the Magna Carta, and Stonehenge itself. Over spring break, three of the girls from the program and myself formed a cohort, affectionately known as the Butter Scots, and travelled to Scotland. We spent two days on a bus tour that visited Loch Ness, Eilean Donan Castle, and the beautiful Northern Highlands, and then explored the capital city of Edinburgh for two days. While we didn’t see the Loch Ness monster itself (not for lack of looking!), we got to climb castle stairs, visit the seaside, walk the Royal Mile, listen to bagpipes, and get muddy climbing a mountain in the rain – a bunch of memories that made the Scotland trip one of my favorite memories of the semester! At the end of the term, my family also came to visit me, and we got to spend some time seeing the sites in London itself: Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, the British Museum, West End, Hyde Park, Padding ton Station, etc. The ubiquitous London Underground carried us everywhere and I loved sharing the English culture with my family. Even the less exciting, Instagram-worthy moments in Oxford brought their own gifts and memories. I loved getting to know the 40 SCIO students who journeyed alongside me, and I loved the old Victorian house in Headington where most of us lived. I enjoyed the things we shared together: feeding pigeons, ice skating, missing American snacks, watching movies, crying over essays, throwing a black-tie pizza gala for Valentine’s Day, biking uphill, evening prayer in one of the girl’s rooms, etc. God provided a beautiful, gospel-focused local church where I attended Sunday services and a student Bible study. I was able to join the C.S. Lewis Society at their weekly meetings – a dream come true for a Lewis nerd like me! I got to see March in Oxford – a slow and absolutely magical transition from the gray of winter to the loveliness of spring.
Notwithstanding cycling and festivities, I spent most of my days doing what I had come to the University of Oxford to do: studying. At Oxford, I didn’t really take classes, as that’s not how their university system functions. Instead, they offer lectures and teach largely through tutorials, a series of one-on-one meetings between the subject’s instructor/ tutor and the student. I took tutorials on the writings of C.S. Lewis, Jane Austen, and Anglo-Saxon archaeology, meeting with experts in each of these fields to discuss what I had read, researched, and written that week. That rotation of reading, researching, and writing became my daily experience, involving many hours in Oxford’s various libraries and culminating into an undergraduate thesis on a topic of my choice in my major. Over the 14-week semester, I read over 20 books (not counting secondary research sources) and wrote over 35,000 words of scholarly essays – a bigger academic push than I had done before! I didn’t always love that workload; towards the end, I tearfully told Mom I felt like my writing had sunk to a fifth-grade level under all the pressure. However, I did truly appreciate and enjoy both what I studied and the individually-focused, self-motivated system of learning Oxford offers. My favorite academic moments were either the hours spent reading everything from Surprised by Joy to Pride and Prejudice to Fahrenheit 451 or my weekly discussions with my tutors – hours of thought-provoking questions, shared laughter, and exploring ideas with someone who cared about the subject even more than I did. While Oxford’s educational model doesn’t work well for everyone, I really relished it, even with its difficulties. For Fun | Travel and Other Experiences Amidst the ever-present reading and writing, SCIO made some time for us to squeeze in some amazing and educational traveling.
The Royal Crescent in Bath, England
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