Kamakshi Dadhwal spent the Spring term at Oxford. Her term there just ended and she sent the following thoughts about her experience:
My term at Oxford was brilliant and eye-opening. I was forced to be alone more often than I ever have been. I was expected to produce work of a higher quality than I even felt capable of. I was pressured to spend hours of each day in the library reading, organising, writing, rewriting, and reorganising arguments. I was pushed to put more into my essays until I was dreaming about them on, at least, a semi-weekly basis. In all honesty, my term at Oxford felt like the most gruelling and stressful eight weeks of my conscious and unconscious existence. However, not only was I constantly challenged during the term, in hindsight, I was also moulded into a new way of thinking about the work of others and that of my own. I have always been the kind of student who absorbs everything and hopes to learn something through knowing it all. Oxford has helped me understand that the power of questioning can move mountains of well-established and widely-accepted knowledge.
Studying at UT is like being at home; I am among people who push me because they care for me and want me to succeed in life. It is the quiet and comfortable nurturing of a mother and father. In stark contrast, being at Oxford is like being in ninth grade; I was the newest in a competitive environment, surrounded by people who have minds far superior than my own. It made me vulnerable at first but has left me with the strength to humble myself to the experience and expertise of others, while keeping an open mind of my own. In the best way possible, my experience at Oxford has crushed my own egotistical sense of self and, for that alone, I would do it again if given the opportunity.
On Wednesday, April 12th, three Honors students who participated in the Oxford Semester Abroad Program spoke with other students from the Honors Program, describing their experiences at Oxford University. The three students, Nik Lampe, Erin Brosnan, and Maggie Poling, attended Oxford in Fall 2016. Nik graduated from UT in Fall 2016 with a degree in Sociology and is now planning on attending graduate school. Erin Brosnan is a Marine Science/Biology major and Maggie Poling is a Writing major. Both plan to graduate soon and continue their studies.
All three students described the experience as both exhilarating and challenging. They noted that they spent a lot of time reading in the libraries of Oxford. They encouraged students to take writing classes and to practice their debating skills, as being able to write well and defend your views are essential aspects to the experience. They also noted that there are some opportunities to explore England and Europe during the Oxford Semester Abroad Program, but most students stay after the semester is over and travel in Europe.
While the tutorials at Oxford are challenging, there is, occasionally, time to go exploring (which is what the Honors Program is really all about). Two of the students studying at Oxford this semester found some time to see a bit more of England. Here’s what Kamakshi Dadhwal wrote about her travels:
I am very excited to tell you that I have become a part of the Student Switchoff campaign here at Oxford to help conserve energy in an inter-college competition. Also, I gave up on trying to attend lectures in other disciplines of my interest and have started attending lectures on the works of philosophers like Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant, and Locke. They are quite enjoyable and a wonderful way to find friends.
Katie Stockdale and I went to see the English Lake District last weekend so I could visit Dove Cottage (the house of one of my favourite poets: William Wordsworth) and see the magnificent lake Windermere. We chanced upon the house of Beatrix Potter (the author of the classic Peter Rabbit stories). It was delightful.
Today, we went to Warwick Castle and Stratford Upon Avon. It was so enchanting to see the place where Shakespeare was born. It was even more amazing to see a bust of Shri Rabindranath Tagore (a Bengali playwright and poet of the 19th century who is known as the Shakespeare of India) in Shakespeare’s garden. VERY cool.
One of the students selected to participate in the Oxford Semester Abroad in Spring 2017 sent this note to the Honors Program.
“I don’t know if you remember me saying that I wanted to come to Oxford to meet with Dr. Molly Crockett and hopefully help out in her research on moral decision making. Well, after asking for my CV, Dr. Crockett has asked me to be a part of her lab meetings from now on! Here is my chance to make my impression and get in, just like I had wanted. I am so excited, I just had to thank you for the opportunity and all the support. I cannot even begin to express how indebted I am to you, Ms. Carla, the Honors Board, and the Honors Program at UT.”
The beginning of this week marked my being at Oxford for one full month. It feels like forever and no time all at once. The first two weeks or so were a whirlwind. After arriving we had two weeks of orientation with the OSAP organization which was spent learning about the city of Oxford, the tutorial system, and the political workings of England. Along with these morning meetings, we also had inductions into our colleges and to the Bodleian libraries. Walking around the city I couldn’t pull my eyes away from the golden hues of the limestone buildings comprising the city. It’s impossible to look at them without feeling transported back in time, to years before the birth of America, when these buildings still stood as they do now.
Of course with all the excitement of settling into a new environment, a wave of ‘freshers plague’ had many of us coughing, sniffling, and scrambling to find the British equivalent of Nyquil. That put a hold on exploring for me for the later part of the second week, but slowly I’ve gotten better.
Classes began in my third week here and were immediately an intellectually humbling experience. The professors here are so immensely knowledgeable and yet being able to converse with them one-on-one isn’t as terrifying as it seems. The tutors here want to connect with their students, and keep from being intimidating. That being said, the rigorous workload of Oxford does at first feel overwhelming. Only after many long days spent reading inside the Radcliffe Camera, did I feel I had a proper hold on my workload. The Rad Cam has become my home away from home away from home.
Despite the workload, I haven’t forgotten to enjoy my experience here. I was extremely fortunate to find great friends in my flatmates, and in my fellow UT students studying here. Through the OSAP program we’ve traveled to London for the day, where we were free to explore the city, and this upcoming weekend we are visiting Bath. I’ve also explored all that Oxford has to offer. Being a nature lover, having Christ Church Meadow so close to my apartment is a gift. The falling leaves are something I’ve sorely missed the past three falls I’ve been in Tampa. Standing in the park it’s easy to imagine where J.R.R Tolkien, who was a student and professor at Oxford, got his inspiration for the landscape of the Shire.
It’s hard to believe my time in Oxford is passing so quickly. I can’t wait to see what the next few months have in store!
I am having a wonderful time in Oxford! My work consumes a lot of time and energy, but my tutorials are coming along nicely. I have an awesome tutor for my law tutorial, who has two law degrees and is getting their doctorate in socio-legal studies. They are having me attend a law school lecture on human rights law, every Monday afternoon. They are also encouraging me to apply to Oxford’s socio-legal studies MPhil program! I am considering it. My secondary tutorial in women’s studies has a focus in anthropology, due to my tutor’s research interests. Weirdly enough, I am falling in love with anthropology. I also had drinks with Wentworth Miller, the actor from the TV show Prison Break, at an Oxford Union event!
The University of Oxford and its tutorial system are world renowned and the prospect of learning at one of the oldest universities in the world is hard to pass up. The Honors Program sends three students every semester to learn under the tutorial system where you are paired up with an Oxford Don to study and research a subject of your choice. I was expected to write a paper and defend my stance on a particular topic orally with the Don each week. This one-on-one educational setting is as incredibly rewarding as it is strenuous, and instilled in me the work ethic needed to do research independently and produce high quality work, week in and week out. In addition, interacting with students from other disciplines and cultures broadened my perspective on a variety of issues and taught me the virtues of debating with respect.