Stanford in Oxford, Winter 2013-14 Major: Psychology College year while abroad: Junior
Questions and answers with Caroline
Why did you choose to study abroad in Oxford?
I’ve always been a bit of a geek in regards to the UK. We can thank Harry Potter for that. Other than that, I wanted to experience a university based heavily on the humanities, which isn’t really the case at Stanford.
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Oxford?
I definitely underestimated the amount of time I’d be spending writing essays and researching my topic, even though I had a fair bit of warning from others who had studied abroad in Oxford. A lot of time is spent on academics! However, I also underestimated how deeply I’d fall in love with the curriculum, with the tutorial system, and with Oxford in general.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Oxford?
You really learn how to study a topic in a deep, but efficient, manner. I think the tutorial system really helped me figure out how to research and how to write in a way that gets my point across, that backs my arguments, but that also saves me from drowning in an ocean of papers and literature.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
That I’m really, really obsessed with traveling. I love being on the road - on a bus, on a plane or train. The anticipation of getting to see a new place, to try new things - it’s unrivaled!
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
The most challenging experience, I think, is to really accept that outside of the USA and even outside of Stanford, there’s a completely different style of education and life. People do things differently. The challenging part is to stop comparing A to B in your head, to stop the train of thought that goes something like “well, in America we don’t do that,” or “why would you ever do something this way?” It’s a really vulnerable thing to detach yourself from the only way of life you’ve ever known, and to embrace how they do or learn things elsewhere. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to like it, but it does broaden your mind!
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
Being the person with the accent and just picking up on their colloquial language, which sounds silly because it’s our language too. But there was a lot of “come again?” and “wait, what did you say? what does that mean?” scenarios!
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Oxford?
Eating my meals - especially brunch on weekends with a full English breakfast setup - at Brasenose was always a treat because it truly felt like we were in Harry Potter. Getting to study in the Radcliffe Camera library was also beyond cool!
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Oxford?
Actually, I’d say it was in Edinburgh on our Bing Trip - a few of us decided to go up Arthur’s Seat, but we ended up taking a route that was a lot steeper, a lot muddier/more slippery than we were expecting. And it was cold and rainy. Yet, we still had the most hysterical time and were treated to beautiful panoramic views (and a proposal!) when we got up to the top… totally worth feeling like death on the way up.
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Basically I went to Hogwarts
What advice would you give to someone who was considering studying abroad in Oxford?
Balance in time and activity management is key. The tutorial system is by far the most rewarding academic experience you might ever have, and you’ll want to spend a lot of time delving deep into your subject matter. But it’s also so important to make the time to go meet Oxford students, hang out with Stanford in Oxford students, travel to other countries, explore London and the rest of the UK, and sleep! In other words, take advantage of Oxford, but also take advantage of the UK and Europe!
If you had to do it all over again what would you do differently?
I think I’d try to meet more Oxford students and try to get a little more involved with their social scene. All of the Oxford students we met were so friendly and helpful, it would’ve been nice getting to know some more of them rather than just hiding from the cold and making progress on essays!
How has the experienced changed or enhanced your future academic and career goals?
Honestly, the tutorial system taught me how to most effectively go about my academics. From proposing a question to explore, to actually doing the research - in the sense of finding the most relevant materials as well as how to read the material and find the most important information in a timely manner and without getting overwhelmed - to writing an extensive yet concise scientific essay (every week), to pinpointing both my strengths and weaknesses within the paper to discuss with my tutor, to defending my arguments… the tutorial system has given me a new range of skill sets that have proven to be so valuable already.
What was your favorite food you had in Oxford?
MooMoo’s Milkshakes - hands down the best milkshakes I’ve ever had. But if we’re talking something more traditional… I’d have to say afternoon tea with scones and lots of clotted cream!
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
My Hunter rainboots and wellie socks. And my camera, to record all the memories, of course!
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Oxford?
Actually, I was always just so excited to hear American hit music when we were out and about. Made me feel a little closer to home!
Every Stanford undergraduate should give serious consideration to studying overseas.
Regardless of the academic path you choose, you will be enriched by time spent in another country. Achieving cultural literacy and gaining substantive understanding of other perspectives in the world will deepen your awareness of yourself, your educational goals, and your own society. Nearly one-half of each graduating class studies abroad through one of Stanford's overseas programs.