Suraj Bulchand


Stanford in Oxford, Winter 2016-17
Major: Management Science and Engineering
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: On Cambridge turf during a field trip for a seminar I took on Oxford philosophy.


Why did you choose to study abroad in Oxford?

I saw the Oxford program as an excellent avenue to gain a meaningful and nuanced understanding of an area of study I was interested in, which I think is fantastic for any student looking to delve deeper into a specific academic discipline. The Oxford program was also an opportunity to hone my reading, writing and researching skills. I wanted to practice synthesizing large amounts of text and writing lucidly, as well as improve my ability to work independently – the structure of the program seemed perfectly suited towards facilitating this. Finally, I wanted to explore a part of the world I'd never traversed before. The U.K. is truly a beautiful place steeped in rich history. Oxford's elegant honey-toned castles, tranquil courtyards and vibrant student population made up a perfect environment for an exceptional study abroad experience.

What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Oxford?

Prior to Oxford, I hadn't fully grasped how much leeway I would be granted in crafting my academic experience. From my tutorial syllabus to the weekly tutorial papers I wrote, I was always encouraged to be explicit and specific about what I wanted to explore. It was at Oxford where I truly internalized the wisdom of self-directed learning, realizing that I had the opportunity to craft discussions on what I hypothesized, what I disagreed with, and what mattered to me.

What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Oxford?

One of the benefits of the Oxford program is the independence you have when going through the tutorial system. There is little hand-holding at Oxford, and you are pushed to form your own opinions about things and discover what you want out of the experience. While your tutor is always present to support you, you will have the opportunity to guide tutorial discussions with your thoughts, ideas and questions about the material you read and write about. The teacher-student relationship feels like a partnership, and it is empowering when you are able to exercise such a level of intellectual independence with an expert in your field of study.

What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?

That I am an avid traveler and utter Europhile. Exploring the U.K. and its neighbors was arguably the greatest voyage of my life thus far. The experiences I had and people I met were incredible, and my time abroad stirred an excitement in me to explore our world, get comfortable with discomfort, and break away from the precincts of familiarity.

What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?

Acclimatizing to the tutorial system. I can distinctly recall my first tutorial session. I was assigned in the region of seven research papers and three books to read that week, alongside writing a 10-page paper about market efficiency. It was intimidating, but also deeply gratifying once I understood how I was meant to navigate the wealth of material. Defending your thoughts for an hour each week in a tutorial can be daunting at first, but it is genuinely fulfilling when you realize that you have learnt something new, that you have something to say, and that you have ignited new desires to learn more as each week progresses.

What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?

Oxford's culture is, in many respects, more formal than Stanford's. These span greetings, dating, and attire. Adjusting to these formalities was the biggest cultural adjustment I had to make, but not a difficult one at all. It was exciting learning about and immersing myself in a new culture, which has added to my anthology of the world.

What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Oxford?

My favorite part about everyday life in Oxford was forging beautiful friendships and learning a great deal from my peers. When you put some forty Stanford students in the Oxford house, each of whom embarks on a different tutorial, the conversations that are had in the lounge, during walks along High Street and at the dining table are scintillating.

What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Oxford?

A random walk I went on at dusk around Oxford's campus early on in the program. It was just me, a pomegranate-pink horizon, and the City of Dreaming Spires in all its history, splendor and idiosyncrasy. There is such beauty housed within the grand walls of the oldest university in the English-speaking world, and it was a privilege being able to witness it.

What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?

Exciting adventures, new friendships, alpacas

Fun Questions:

What was your favorite food you had in Oxford?

Yellow curry from Sasi's Thai (Covered Market), Ben's Cookies (Covered Market), scones from The Rose.

What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?

Cellphone with international data plan.

What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Oxford?

Out of the Blue