Honors student Gontse Molosiwa has taken hold of one of the many opportunities the Honors Program has to offer: the Oxford Abroad Experience. Read below to hear her take on this incredible personal journey:
Picturesque, picturesque, picturesque…and did I say picturesque? This word is embedded in my mind whenever I walk the streets of Oxford. The buildings ooze of history and it is a very student friendly city. The University of Oxford is a masterpiece in itself. It is made up of 38 colleges and I am associated with Christ Church. The tutorial system has enabled me to have in-depth one-on-one conversations with my tutors about subjects I care about such as economic development and business ethics. It is a rigorous system but I am grateful for this opportunity because it has completely changed my perspective on academia. I highly encourage my peers to study abroad here! Oxford University embodies an intellectually and visually stimulating environment and I am grateful to the Honors Program for this opportunity. The highlight of my study abroad happened in October. I got to see to my president (H.E Mokgweetsi Masisi) give a lecture about democracy and economic development in Africa at the Saïd Business School! I even got interviewed by the Botswana Television News afterward and was featured in a news segment back home. Oxford has been lovely so far. I get to meet new people every day, travel to new places, and broaden my mind. What more could one ask for?
One of the goals of UT’s Honors Program is to help provide opportunities such as those Gontse has experienced. Of course, it’s not up to just the Honors Program; students need to seize opportunities as well!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Afterwards, 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.
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).
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.
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.
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!