Stanford in Oxford, Autumn 2017-18
Major: Political Science
Minor: Human Rights
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: This is a photo of me at Stonehenge, which is a quintessential British sight. You will take a fun trip there with your cohort. I wasn’t prepared for the weather and spent the whole day freezing so remember to pack a warm coat with you for the winter weather.
Why did you choose to study abroad in Oxford?
Oxford made the most sense for me because I was interested in a different kind of academic experience than what Stanford could offer. Specifically, I wanted to hone my academic writing and research skills, and I felt that a rigorous academic experience was what I needed to that. Other study abroad programs tend prioritize cultural immersion and language skills and rightly so, however, that meant that Oxford was the natural best fit for me. Additionally, I felt that there were many similarities between America and England, and there was a lot for me to learn from visiting. We had both endured recent populist victories (the election of Donald Trump and Brexit respectively) that threatened to alter the multicultural, globalist direction that both of our countries were headed in. The fault lines and underlying discontent in our societies seemed very similar, but we also have key social, economic and political differences. I wanted to explore this through firsthand observation.
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Oxford?
Frankly, I don't know what I expected with regard to the tutorial system. However, I did not anticipate the kind of work I did (a lot hours spent reading and writing in the library with a stack of books next to me), how close I would get to my cohort of Stanford students, and how much fun I found the tutorial process to be. I have been stressed/exhausted writing a paper but never once hated doing it. I enjoyed approaching my topic from a variety of angles.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Oxford?
I wanted to hone my academic research and writing skills, and wrestle with a sub-topic in political science in great detail. There was truly no better academic experience to achieve both short of studying abroad at Oxford because the tutorial system is structured such that you engage in really deep academic research and writing to produce your paper each week. You also have to know your stuff because you have to engage with your tutor for at least one hour of a combination of discussion and debate, potentially covering material not discussed in your paper but covered in the assigned readings. I certainly became a more scholarly researcher and writer after the experience. I also learned about a part of the world that I probably would never have sought to learn about otherwise.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
I learned about newly found limits of my academic abilities. In the past I struggled to sit down and read or write for hours. At Oxford, the system forced me to be a better academic. I learned to read for a longer period of time, but I also learned to read strategically. I also become a much better and more efficient writer. Oxford certainly helped me get there.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
The most challenging experience was most certainly learning to sit down for like five or six hours for two days to get through the reading, and then doing about the same to get through the writing. I had to start much earlier and take a lot of breaks the first week, but by the last week I became so accustomed to the routine. Now, writing papers or getting through a lot of reading is no problem. I learned that sometimes a challenge is what you need to get yourself to the next level.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
In the UK, pants mean underwear and trousers mean pants. Mixing up the two led to an awkward conversation, but short of changing the way I said a couple of things I did not have to make any major cultural adjustments.
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Oxford?
My favorite part of everyday life at Oxford was the flexibility. I had a couple of hours of fixed class every week - a Stanford seminar and my tutorial. The rest of the time I could decide where to work - a centuries old-library, a historic cafe, or in the comfort of my own bed. That flexibility was great because it got me to do more traveling than I would have otherwise done.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Oxford?
Thanksgiving! All of us stayed at Oxford for Thanksgiving and the house gave us a budget for Thanksgiving food preparation. A wonderful student our quarter spearheaded the cooking efforts and we had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner, complete with turkey, apple and pumpkin pie, and all the other classic sides. It was a wonderful return to America.
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Kabobs, Bops, Tradition, Tutorials, Architecture
What was your favorite food you had in Oxford?
A 5 minute walk down from the Stanford House you will find Ahmed's Food Truck. Food trucks are iconic in college towns across the UK because they are the equivalent of Stanford's late night. After a night of going to bops (dances) or clubs, it is really nice to stop by Ahmed's on your way home and grab kabobs or chips (fries).
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
A suit. While you can rent a tux (or dress), there are plenty of fancy balls that happen every quarter at Oxford. You will want to dress up for those, and bringing something you like will save you the money.
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Oxford?
Spotify's ads changed when I was in England and it recommended this playlist called Red Hot Joints, which features British rap artists. Check it out!
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.
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