UT Student at Oxford: final thoughts

My time here at Oxford has been better than I could have imagined. I just finished my last tutorial, but it seems like I started only yesterday! It has been personally rewarding to be immersed in British culture and history while learning about interesting and thought-provoking subjects via unique teaching methods. Overall, my time here has been an amazing and gratifying experience.

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All Soul’s College, viewed from the University Church of St Mary the Virgin

Fortunately, the University of Oxford encourages visiting students to join clubs and take part in activities. I tried as many activities and clubs as I could find time for: from the walking club, to the boxing club, and even badminton. I especially enjoyed the Oxford University Walking Club because I was able to meet many diverse people and travel to Snowdonia, Wales for a weekend of hiking in the mountains. I was very impressed by the positive experiences of attending club activities because the members were very welcoming and encouraging.

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A lake in Snowdonia with the view of snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales
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Snowdon and the marshy fields of Snowdonia. (If you look closely, you can see me and another hiker on the bottom left!)

I was also able to experience more of the U.K. with the Oxford Study Abroad Programme (OSAP) and, when time permitted, I ventured about independently. I visited London, Hampton Court Palace, Warwick Castle, Winchester, and achieved a life-long personal goal of visiting Jane Austen’s house and museum. England has such a unique history and culture that really fascinated me, and the U.K.’s relatively small size fortunately makes it easy and affordable to take day trips from Oxford to other cities by bus, train, or plane.

 

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Hampton Court Palace, one of the homes of King Henry VIII. He installed many chimneys, with some nonfunctional, to show off his wealth and style
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The medieval Warwick Castle, built by William the Conqueror in 1068 
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The house in which Jane Austen and her family resided during her later years. Here, she wrote Mansfield ParkEmmaand Persuasion

My academic experience in the U.K. has been very rewarding. I have learned so much even only being here for a few months. Besides the knowledge I have gained from each tutorial, I believe I have also enhanced my academic abilities. Researching and writing one or two papers each week has really benefitted my academic abilities, as I have become a more focused and faster reader and an improved writer. I also believe I have gained more independence, confidence, and have better time management.

 

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The University Church of St Mary the Virgin during a “snow storm” that shut the city down for a few days

The Oxford study abroad experience has ultimately changed me for the better. As I head towards graduation in a few weeks, I believe that I am prepared to achieve my academic goals and future opportunities.

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Broad Street, Oxford

 

Oxford – Hayley Alexander

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My time studying at Oxford University has seemed to fly by! I only have a few more weeks until I return home to Florida and I’m just so happy with my experience here. It has been quite snowy in Oxford over the past month, which I have thoroughly enjoyed, as I am originally from New York and we definitely don’t get this weather in Florida!

Following the completion of my tutorials, I was able to do some traveling and the first place I went was Paris, France. I visited the Louvre and Eiffel Tower, amongst other places, and it was truly captivating.

I feel that I have learned more about myself and have developed more independence through this experience. Having to research a topic myself and glean the important information to put into an essay is quite different to the normal “lecture-style” of teaching back home. While different, it was really effective because I knew that I needed to completely understand the topic in order to write about it and discuss it with my tutor. Living and learning in a new country can be a scary thing, but once you embrace it and get used to the way of life, it becomes something so unique and incredible. I feel that this experience has helped me develop myself in ways that I would not have been able to back at home and it has helped me prepare for my future education at pharmacy school. I would highly recommend this experience, as it is a truly one-of-a-kind experience that many people do not have the opportunity to take advantage of.

Oxford – Nicole Rothmeyer

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Things are going great here in Oxford. It has been a little bittersweet now that the term has officially ended, but overall it has been an amazing term. I am still working on my research on British butterflies with one of my tutors. We are getting ready to analyze the data for the two species of butterflies that we decided to work with: The High Brown Fritillary and the Dark Green Fritillary. Sadly, my other tutorial, Marine Vertebrate Zoology, has ended; however, my last essay I had to write was my favorite as I got to write about my favorite animals: sharks and stingrays.

In addition to my studies, I was able to take a trip to Portsmouth recently and visit the British Naval Yards. It was absolutely incredible being able to see some of the old battleships and learn about the history of the British Navy.

In other news, my rowing team was able to qualify for the biggest race of the term: Torpids. This is a race that lasts 4 days where boats try to “bump” each other in order to earn a set of blades. This was the first year since 1999 where Christ Church Boat Club was able to have 3 women’s boats qualify and compete in Torpids; however, there was one force that held us back in Torpids: mother nature. During the week of Torpids, the “beast from the east” decided to visit the UK and with it came a lot of snow which held the city in a standstill. Shops were closed, tutorials were cancelled, and 2 of the 4 days of Torpids had to be cancelled completely. Regardless of the snow and the bitterly cold weather, it was an amazing rowing season and I am so lucky I was able to compete in a few races with my amazing team.

This entire experience has been incredible and it has taught me so much about independence, confidence, and perseverance. I have had to learn how to problem solve, but also how to ask for help when I need it. I have learned not just in an educational sense, but I have learned about myself and about life and that will stay with me forever.

Oxford – Nicole Rothmeyer

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Things are going great over here in Oxford. The tutorials I am taking are Community Ecology and Marine Vertebrate Zoology and I love both of them. With my Community Ecology tutorial, my tutor is having me do research to study the distribution of two butterflies that are native to the UK. We are using mathematical models to determine if distance affects the competition between the species. In my marine vertebrate zoology tutorial, some of the topics I have explored are life in the deep sea and how the vertebrates have evolved to live in the sea. My tutors push me to think outside the box or in my case, think outside the submarine, to make connections that I had never even begun to think about.

In addition to school, I have been able to do a few extracurricular activities as well. I took a trip to London to visit Westminister. I was able to see the Abbey, Trafalgar Square, and the beautiful Buckingham Palace. I also have taken a trip to visit Cambridge, which is also known as “the other place” to see how it differs from the bustling city of Oxford. While there is a competition between which University is better, I think both have qualities that make them equally great.

One thing that is great about Oxford (and many of the cities in the UK) is that most of the museums are free, so when I need to take a quick break from studying I can pop into a museum without having to spend the whole day there. My favorite museum I have visited so far is the History of Science museum. They have a wide variety of different tools they used to study Science, Mathematics, and Physics in prior times and they show how the tools developed into the ones we use today.

My favorite extracurricular I have done so far while here in Oxford is joining the rowing team at Christ Church. I should inform you that I have never done rowing before coming here, so it was a very tough few practices (and many sore days after) as I had to learn how to row from scratch and my body had to adjust to using different muscles. However, I have loved the challenge of learning this new skill and it has been a great way to meet the people in my college and get away from my studies.

This experience so far has been unbelievable and I have to keep reminding myself that this is in fact real life.

Oxford – Hayley Alexander

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Oxford is such a historic and beautiful city to be able to live and study in. The tutorial system that Oxford University utilizes is considerably effective in helping me fully understand the topics I am studying. My molecular biology and pharmacology tutorials keep me very busy, but I am enjoying learning about these areas in a new way. I meet with my tutor either every week or every other week to go over the essay I had written for that session in depth, discuss any questions I may have, and then pick a topic for the next essay. Some of my favorite study spots include the Christ Church Library and the Radcliffe Camera. The Oxford Study Abroad Program has organized many trips and the ones I have attended so far include trips to London and Hampton Court Palace, which I have really enjoyed. So far, this experience has allowed me to gain independence, personally and educationally, while giving me the opportunity to meet a wide range of people that I would not have otherwise met. I am having such a positive experience here in Oxford and I am excited to discover even more about this wonderful city.

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!

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