Melodie Liu (she/her) - Stanford in Oxford
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: Actually I took this in Barcelona, not Oxford, but it represents the incredible accessibility to a variety of places around Europe that I enjoyed for 10 weeks.
Questions and Answers Melodie
Why did you choose to study abroad in Oxford?
I was really curious about pedagogy in the UK. Also I felt I had hit a plateau in my studies, like my focus areas were too narrow yet broad. I was excited to get to know another set of faculty and do a 1-on-1 experience that would offer a new level of depth and specificity.
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Oxford?
I thought the tutorial would be mostly criticism and questioning in a good but stressful adversarial way. But actually we used the essays as springboards to raise and discuss questions that scholars have yet to nswer. As an aspiring academic, this was really encouraging. I headed back to Stanford full of ideas.
I didn't expect to get so attached to Oxford as a place, since it seemed from afar like just another campus, but it really felt like home and I think about it all the time.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Oxford?
Through countless 1-on-1 conversations with my tutor, Stanford & Oxford students, and other faculty, I had a series of realizations that pointed me towards a totally different life path. There's something about the freer schedule and relaxed intellectualism at Oxford that gives you mental clarity, I feel.
Spending less time sitting in class and more time doing changed my preferred learning style for good. I've done Directed Readings back on campus every quarter since.
I learned a different set of skills for time management and short/long-term planning that is super necessary for when you have a lot of unguided time, which will apply a lot to life beyond Stanford.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
I learned that I love the university environment and I want to stay in it for life. It's a bastion of free thought that is by no means perfect, but those precious moments of collaboration and breakthrough are there. Also I learned that it doesn't have to be nerve-racking to talk to faculty and grad students. Coming back to campus I felt a lot more confident speaking to academics as an equal.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
I didn't actually know how to read and write efficiently until I had to write a paper every week. Meeting deadlines while trying to offer a certain quality of work and also leaving time for fun at night - that was a hard balance to strike. Having come out the other end, I have a better game plan for writing papers of any length, and fast deadlines no longer feel unapproachable.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
Aside from the need to leave the casual clothing at home, I felt that there weren't too many adjustments to be made. Compared to other BOSP experiences (I did Kyoto the quarter before), at Oxford you can more or less be and do as you are, especially in that there's no language barrier. That being said, there's still of plenty of slang and humor to explore.
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Oxford?
Touching base with friends at a pub to discuss the countless interesting things that happened that day.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Oxford?
Waking up to see Magdalen bathed in the sunrise from my 2nd story room. No words for that kind of beauty.
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Full, freeing, caffeinated, too short.
What was your favorite food you had in Oxford?
Pizza & sangria at white rabbit.
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
A thick wool coat.
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Oxford?
...the classical spectacular...