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 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.
I had the chance to study Business Ethics and Public International Law for the Michaelmas term at Oxford and I do not think I will ever approach learning the same. In that time, I wrote 12 essays which equated to around 48,000 words, which is quite amazing looking back now. I gained two key skills: problem-solving 100% on my own and being able to come up with an intelligent answer on the spot.
Prior to my time there, I had never learned a thing about International Law so I was clearly thrown into the deep end. Each topic I was given was completely new to me; I didn’t have classes to attend to explain anything to me – I had a library, full of amazingly helpful books. The feeling when you put together a 3,000-word essay that your tutor is impressed with from scratch and knowing you did it 100% by yourself is an amazing feeling.
The second skill is equally as important. Being able to intelligently debate and respond to your tutor’s questions shows them just how much you deserve and want to be there. This skill taught me to stop, really think about what is being asked and devise a response. The more I practiced in my tutorial meetings, the faster I was able to do it.
Overall, I truly think this is the most beneficial experience I will have in my university career as it has provided me with a unique skill set beyond the norm. For anyone who is determined in their learning, I would highly recommend this extremely demanding program.
As my study abroad experience comes to an end, I am filled with so much gratitude for this incredible experience. In my time at Oxford, I have not only met some incredibly intelligent students but also met super talented and passionate community members. I was provided with the opportunity to be a Director for the Oxford GlobalMUN conference for the Commission on Science and Technology for Development and it was so much fun. I’ve been involved with MUN since high school but in the capacity of a delegate and it was such a cool experience to chair instead! In addition to that, I was selected to be the Campus Director for the Hult Prize competition at the University of Oxford and it was by far the most challenging and yet rewarding event I have organised. For the last three weeks before the competition, my life followed Murphy’s law to the T! Everything that could’ve gone wrong, DID go wrong but I persevered through it all. I have also had some other cool opportunities to evangelise about social entrepreneurship and about my love for Tampa and I even got to speak at the Oxford Union and the Oxford Townhall! The community in Oxford is so supportive and passionate about social impact and that is a mindset I want to further develop in the city of Tampa. I can certainly say that I have had the best study abroad experience EVER and I am eternally grateful to the University of Tampa and the University of Oxford for this opportunity.