UT Student at Oxford: London trip and the tutorial system

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Westminster Abbey (left), the setting for every royal Coronation since 1066 and for many royal weddings

My first week here at Oxford was very busy, as I assimilated into the school and my life here for the next three months. OSAP rewarded us students surviving our first week with a trip to London. We had both a bus tour and a walking tour. On the bus, I learned that there are actually two main sections of the city: the financial district and Westminster, which is where some of the royals live. We were able to observe both places through rainy windows on our bus tour. After that, the rain fortunately let up for our walking tour around the Westminster area. We saw several historic cathedrals, Big Ben (sadly, covered in scaffolding because it was under construction), Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Park, and much more.

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Buckingham Palace, the official residence of the Queen


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St. James’s Park offers a nice, peaceful walk within the city of Westminster

Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 8.17.15 PM.pngAfterwards, we had free time to enjoy the food in London and any of the museums (that, like Oxford, all have free admission). A few other students and I went to the British Museum and the National Gallery located in Trafalgar Square. The British Museum had so many incredible exhibitions, including Cleopartra’s mummy, the Rosetta Stone, and an Easter Island Head. I was also very impressed with the National Gallery because we were able to see van Gogh’s Sunflowers along with many other well-known pieces. Although it was a very cold day with intermittent rain, London was incredible to experience. We were also able to see the Lumiere festival while we were leaving the city. Lumiere is a light show that took place over that weekend. Many of the city’s buildings, monuments, and courtyards were illuminated with lights that mimicked stained glass and intended to represent happy times in the midst of winter.

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I was very excited to see one of my favorite van Gogh paintings in person! 
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Westminster Abbey during the Lumiere festival


Over the next few days following our excursion to London, my studies began to pick up. Most students, myself included, were able to meet with our tutors and establish the expectations and plan for the term. I was very surprised with the flexibility and personalization that is offered within the tutorial system. Essentially, I am able to focus my research on nearly any topic that peaks my interest. I have two tutorials this term: a primary tutorial in Developmental Genetics that meets once a week and a secondary tutorial in Women’s History in the Victorian Era that meets every other week. For each tutorial, I write a paper based on my readings and research over the week or over two weeks (commonly called here a fortnight).

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Interior of the Radcliffe Camera, where many history books and references are located. It is also a beautiful and peaceful place to study

In my primary tutorial, my tutor gave me three scientific journals to read through. I was challenged to pull out the relevant information and find other sources to write a paper explaining the specific topic he gave me. I was also encouraged to attend relevant lectures given by various university professors for the Cell Biology and Genetics courses.

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Interior of Oxford University Museum of Natural History. This incredible building contains many fossils and relics and is also the location of some of the lectures on Cell Biology and Genetics

For my secondary tutorial, I was given a reading list of over fifteen sources (I wasn’t expected to read every single one!) Some were online articles and some were books, which I found in the various libraries within the University. From these sources, I had to answer one of the five questions my tutor gave me on the fortnight’s topic. This tutorial is really interesting in the fact that I am also meeting with another student who is studying the same subject. I really enjoy meeting as a group of three rather than just one-on-one because we tend to have better discussions, and it is nice to have another person to bounce ideas off of.

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Mansfield College, the location of my secondary tutorial meetings

Needless to say, my tutorials require a lot of reading, research, and writing. As challenging as it sounds, it is achievable with proper time management, organization, planning, and dedication. Both of my tutors extremely helpful; they are interested in exposing me to many facets of my desired interests, while increasing my critical thinking skills. Outside of my studies, I am still able to enjoy clubs, museums, and other travels, all of which I plan to talk about in a future blog, so stay tuned!

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