UT Student at Oxford: first week

Welcome to my new blog! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Sammi Packard. I am a senior biology major from the University of Tampa. I was fortunate enough to be selected for the Oxford Study Abroad Programme (OSAP) for the 2018 Hilary term. I am very excited to share my experiences here with you in this blog!

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Cornmarket St. is a nice, pedestrian-only strip of shops and restaurants

My travels in the UK began when I arrived at the Heathrow airport on Thursday Jan 11. From there, another UT student (Nicole) and I took the bus to Oxford. I knew I would like the city as soon as I read its greeting sign: “Welcome to the City of Oxford: a Cycling City.” The architecture alone blew me away. There were so many beautifully old buildings and lots of cute shops. Nicole and I were fortunate enough to be neighbors, so we took a taxi to our houses together. My house is very comfortable with a good kitchen, living space, and backyard. I live on the ground floor, and two French students of a nearby business school and one other Oxford student live on the second floor (or “first floor,” as the British say). My accommodations also include a little dog named Ciboulette, which is French for chives!

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My house from the front
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The adorable Ciboulette

In the next few days, OSAP students went through orientation, where we learned about British culture, politics, art, architecture, what to expect of the Oxford tutorials, and overall how to feel at home in Oxford. My favorite part of orientation was the tours and inductions into the library and colleges. On Friday, we were able to go on a walking tour of Oxford, which helped to identify some of the many buildings. I still had trouble finding my way around the city, but it was amazing to see the gorgeous architecture.

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View of the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin and Radcliffe Camera (right)
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The Bridge of Sighs joining two parts of Hertford College
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Broad St.

On the same day, we were also inducted into the Bodleian Library, the main Oxford library. There are about a hundred libraries in Oxford, including the Bodleian libraries, libraries for specific subjects, and the college libraries. After the induction, we were given our library cards, called “Bod-cards,” which allow us to enter certain libraries and check out books from our college library. During the tour, I was astounded to learn that the Bodleian contains around 13 million books and houses nearly every printed copywriten book published in the UK.

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The Radcliffe Camera, a circular library that is a part of the Bodleian Library
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Old Schools Quad of The Bodleian Library

Monday was one of my favorite days so far because we were inducted into our colleges. There are 38 different colleges within the University, which are all self-governing. All students and teachers must be associated with a college. The colleges are similar to “houses” in Harry Potter, because they compete with each other in academics and sports but are still within the University. I was very happy to learn that I am associated with Christ Church because it is the prettiest college, in my opinion. The other two UT students (Nicole and Hayley) were also inducted into Christ Church. We were able to get a breathtaking tour of the grounds and the library that has special collections which included first editions of science volumes, original illustrations by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (A.K.A. Lewis Carroll), and Queen Elizabeth I’s personal bible.

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Tom Quad of Christ Church
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View of Christ Church from the War Memorial Gardens
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Special Collections, second floor of Christ Church Library
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Queen Elizabeth I’s personal bible

Overall, the first few days in Oxford had me completely amazed, and I’m so lucky I was given the opportunity to live here for a few months. I am looking forward to finally learning my way around the city, and I cannot wait to begin my tutorials to get the full Oxford University experience!

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View of Oxford from Westgate Shopping Center

Conferences – Laura Hearst & Dr. Abraham Miller

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Working with Dr. Abraham Miller, Honors student Laura Hearst recently combined a trip to California to attend the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Conference with a visit to the California Academy of Sciences to examine some scorpion specimens. The pictures above show Laura and Dr. Miller examining the scorpions. The research is part of her Honors Undergraduate Research Fellowship.

Guidance – The Washington Center

The Washington Center (TWC) is an educational organization in Washington DC that provides internships, training, and courses for college students. Students from across the country intern in DC through The Washington Center. At UT, this opportunity is available only to Honors students in good standing, ideally Honors students who are entering the second semester of their Junior year or during their Senior year.

How You Apply

As with many of the opportunities in the Honors Program, there is a two-stage application process. First, you must apply through submittable.com (here) to the UT Honors Program. That application will be evaluated by the Honors Program Directors and potentially your department chair. If your application is deemed meritorious, you will then apply through TWC’s website. Because we pre-screen our Honors students before they apply to TWC, students are typically accepted at The Washington Center; we don’t know of any Honors students being rejected, but that is a possibility.

Once students complete the online application to TWC, the Honors Program Director will receive an email notifying them that the application has been submitted. The Director will then have the chance to review the application before recommending changes or approving it. Once the Director approves the application, it is submitted for review at TWC. Applicants can expect to hear back from TWC within a few weeks as to whether or not they were accepted.

When You Can Go

The Honors Program can send up to 3 students to TWC per semester, including over the summer. Honors students can intern at TWC during the fall or spring semesters at UT and can also intern during the summer.

How Credits Work

While at TWC, students will take two courses. One is a subject matter course (e.g., Political Psychology, Middle East Politics, etc.) and is referred to as the “Evening Course.” The other course is the LEAD colloquium, which focuses on professional development and internship success.

Of course, students will also be completing an internship. The internships vary widely and are tied to students’ interests and majors.

While all of this work (the two courses and the internship) is done at TWC, Honors students have to sign up for courses here at UT in order for the credit to transfer back to UT. Precisely what courses and credits students sign up for at UT has varied in the past. Here are some examples of what students have done in the past:

  • One student who interned at TWC during the spring semester signed up for 8 internship credit hours in their department (PSC 440) and also signed up for two sections of the independent study course in their department (PSC 450). That meant the student received 16 credits for the semester spent at TWC.
  • A student who interned through TWC during the summer signed up for 10 credit hours of internship in their major (CRM 401) and nothing else.
  • A student who interned through TWC during a different spring semester signed up for just 8 internship credits and one independent study course.

In short, there is some variability in how students sign up for courses at UT and how much credit transfers back as a result. Regardless of precisely how students transfer the credit back, they must work with their faculty advisor and the chair of their department to sign up for courses at UT before they head to DC for their internship and courses at TWC.

At the end of the internship, students at TWC will receive grades for their Evening Course, for the LEAD Colloquium, and for their internship. Those grades are sent to the Honors Program Director who forwards them to the students’ department chair. The department chair will determine what grades the students should receive for the courses they signed up for at UT.

How The Finances Work

Interning through The Washington Center is not free. Below is an explanation of what students will pay and what UT’s Honors Program pays.

  • Students will still pay their UT tuition since the credit hours will transfer back to UT.
  • If students want TWC to arrange their housing, TWC will send UT a bill. The student will be informed about the expense and will pay UT that amount and UT will pay the bill.
  • Finally, the Program Fee at TWC varies by semester but is between $6,900 and $8,420 (as of 2018; see here for the most current information). The Honors Program pays that fee.

Thus, students will pay only their regular UT tuition and the housing fee if they will be using TWC housing (students have the option of finding their own housing) while the program fee is covered by UT.

It is also important to note that students typically do not pay any money directly to TWC. Students will pay UT tuition and the housing fee and UT will pay all of the TWC expenses and fees. If students receive a bill from TWC, they should take the bill to the Bursar’s Office (or the Honors Program Office).

International Travel – Ana Mejia

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UT Honors student Ana Mejia is spending the semester studying abroad at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in Spain. In her first week in Barcelona, she has already had the opportunity to see some of the amazing sights Spain has to offer, including attending a fútbol match and visiting the La Sagrada Familia church.