One of the best ways to learn about the value of these programs is to listen to what the students themselves have to say. Each link carries you to a snapshot of a student experience in the Oxford Tutorial Program. Some are long and detailed. Some cut right to the chase. All give testimony to the transforming power of a semester or two as a visiting student at the University of Oxford.
English/History/Anthropology Student, Michaelmas/Hilary/Trinity Terms, 2003
I arrived at Regent’s Park College, Oxford, England on October 1, 2003. Six days before my twentieth birthday and two years after the start of my college career. It was a beautiful day and I remember it well. Getting there had been a dream and a journey. I had spent the previous academic year at Georgetown preparing with Dr. Apple and Dr. May. After much help, guidance, and a paper on the French revolution that I considered my greatest achievement thus far, I was finally where I had always wanted to be.
During my first term at Oxford I studied 19th century British history with a tutor from University College. Her office was located down an old corridor, past an ancient statue, up a rickety flight of stairs, through a breeze way and next to the cleaning cupboard. Inside, however, was a scene from Harry Potter. Old wooden bookshelves covered every corner of the room, accompanied by a huge hearth and antique sofas. She always began our tutorials by offering me a cup of tea and asking me how my week had been. We would then begin what I always considered friendly academic debate. I rarely won any of are discussions, but always left with the feeling of immense gain. This type of one on one environment gave me the opportunity to defend my argument to someone who was a specialist and author on the subject. It is a unique academic experience between tutor and student–one that strengthens one’s confidence, as well as one’s intellectual and oral skills. During this first term, known as Michaelmas term, I also participated in crew. In December I was given the opportunity to compete in the Christ Church regatta, a ‘friendly’ competition between all beginning Oxford college crews. Seven other girls, one male cox, and I would wake up at 0600 three times a week and run down to the river for practice. At Georgetown I was a member of the cross-country team, but being at Oxford gave me the chance to taste the competitiveness of another sport, one well known to the British. Outside of the Bodleian, the History Faculty Library and the boat house I spent Michaelmas term getting to know students at Regent’s and becoming accustomed to the British way of life. I enjoyed visiting the common room for afternoon brew (commonly know to us Americans as tea), visiting the local Kebab vans for midnight snacks and dressing up in my gown for formal hall every Friday night.
By the end of my first term at Oxford I felt comfortable in my new home and was looking forward to the next two terms for what new adventures they might bring. Hilary term presented many new opportunities and I always think of it as the term in which I became a true English student. I studied 19th century English literature with a tutor who looked as though he stepped out of Lord of the Rings and spent many tutorials quoting passages from Tennyson and Browning. Studying 19th century English literature gave me the opportunity to tie in a lot of the history that I had previously been studying and pushed me to understand that history through the literature. The tutor also helped me to develop as a writer, often critiquing my technique and style, yet giving me the confidence to write a better paper for our next tutorials. During this term I not only studied literature, but pursued it in the theatre. Oxford is full of small, large, private, public and student theatres. I don’t remember now how many plays I saw in total that term. I do recall, however, one week pausing with a friend to recollect that we were going to our fourth play of the week together at the Burton Taylor theatre, right around the corner from Regent’s. That night we saw an Oxford student give a wonderful monologue in which he played a delusional man, it was called ‘Mongoose.’ After such performances the Regent’s Park common room was always the chosen place to which we retired to discuss what we had just seen. I found this a refreshing and a unique experience. My fellow English students were passionate about literature and the performing arts. It is these experiences that a young person has that open windows and ideas. It widens one’s knowledge, but also one’s perspective creating growth and maturity.
When Hilary term ended I decided to stay in Europe for my six week holiday. There were so many opportunities for travel (at relatively inexpensive prices) that America was no longer a temptation. I felt like a child in a very big playground. As a Catholic and a historian it had always been a dream of mine to go to Rome for Easter and see the Pope. Thus, when April came I saw no reason to not fulfill my wish. I had spent the previous three weeks working at Keble College, Oxford cleaning rooms to earn a little money. So when I had saved enough I took off for Italy. It was on Easter day when I was standing in front of the Basilica in Vatican Square listening to the Pope say the holy mass in Latin that reality hit me and I was overcome. Rome is an ancient city where one needs only to step outside to encounter history and for four days that is what I did. I visited several old churches and museums and of course I ate lots of good food. I was doing something I had always wanted to do and to a large extent it was made possible because I was studying in Oxford.
My final term at Oxford was by far the best. Regent’s Park College was finally home to me. I had developed several close friends, most of who I am still in contact with today, and had experienced so much in the months that I had been there. It was this term, however, that would prove to be the most challenging. I decided to take on an additional four tutorials in order to get the ‘real’ Oxford experience. This meant that not only did I have to write one essay a week, but every second week I would have an additional paper and tutorial to complete. It was a challenge, but after two terms I felt ready to tackle it. So I began eight tutorials in Anthropology, (these would prove to have a huge impact in the course of my life as I note below), as well as four tutorials with a different tutor in Anglo Saxon archaeology and literature. I enjoyed both immensely, but it was the tutorials I had in Anthropology that opened my mind and pushed me to think in new ways. I not only left the discussions with my tutor with a sense of satisfaction, but with a sense of amazement, astonishment and awe. She would propose questions that would cause me to think about anthropology in new ways, probing more deeply into my intellectual and academic abilities. It was the challenge of twelve tutorials as well as the time of year (trinity term is exam time for most students at Oxford) that strengthened my friendship with my fellow students and pushed me to extend my limits as a student. Late nights in the Regent’s library and many communal meals now make up some of my fondest memories of Oxford and college life. It is also during Trinity term that the summer eights regatta is held, croquet is played, and the final fling ball is greatly anticipated. So many wonderful memories. When Trinity term came to an end I was saddened by the many goodbyes that had to be made, but I left Regent’s with a great sense of accomplishment.
Before I departed for the United Kingdom a good friend told me ‘this year abroad will change you…you will come back a different person.’ Recounting my year now, I know she was right. As I write this testimony to my year at Oxford I am sitting in a computer lab at University College London. I am getting ready to embark on another journey, a M.Sc. in Social Anthropology. I feel confident in saying that I would not be here if it was not for my year at Oxford. It is because of my tutorials in Anthropology that I am pursuing a degree and a career in Anthropology, but it is because of Oxford that I have the confidence and determination to pursue graduate work at a young age and follow my dreams. I was pushed to my outer limits at Oxford, but in the midst of that experience I realized that I could achieve what I thought would be impossible, and in doing so, I created new limits for myself. I have come a long way from the eager American student that arrived on a clear October day at Regent’s Park College. I am now a more confident, more mature, and much better student because of my time at Oxford. It is an experience that has helped to shape me into the person I am today and is one which I will never forget.
Mathematics Student, Michaelmas, 2002
I studied at Regent’s Park during the fall term of 2002. Being the only Georgetown student studying in Regent’s at the time, I was very grateful that the other students were so welcoming. The social atmosphere at Regent’s was very communal, and I was happy to get involved whenever I got the chance. Whether it be having a cup of afternoon tea, running to rowing practice at the crack of dawn, or being on the losing side of every football match, I loved every minute of it.
Adapting to the British culture and being able to enjoy the beauty and historical significance of Oxford was very rewarding. As far as my studies were concerned, I consider my time at Oxford one of the best preparations for graduate school that I received. All three of my tutors were not only excellent instructors, but they demanded hard work and diligence with every assignment. Being the only mathematics student at Regent’s, I enjoyed the opportunity of studying at Somerville and New Colleges. Looking back on my time in Oxford, I feel privileged to have been offered this wonderful learning and social experience.
Theology/History Student, Hilary/Trinity, 2002
My experience at Regent’s Park impacted me greatly, both personally and academically. The challenge of finding my way in another country, making new friends and adapting to a different way of study has greatly increased my abilities to learn and perform well in challenging settings. Receiving challenge and encouragement from the best minds in my field pushed me far beyond my expectations. The time I spent wrestling with ideas in the lecture halls, libraries and tutorials at one of the world’s greatest universities helped me to discern my vocation with greater clarity and sense of purpose. I would make the same choice again without hesitation.
History/Philosophy/English Student, Hilary and Trinity Terms, 2001
A photograph of the students and faculty (and, of course, Regent’s Park College’s mascot, Emmanuel the turtle) hangs in my office at the College of William and Mary—a graphic testament to the continuing significance of my time spent at Regent’s Park. After all, my experience at Oxford shaped, and continues to shape, my scholarly development. The traditional tutorial-based format, in which students meet with their tutors once a week to discuss an essay that the student has written on a prescribed topic, gave me tremendous autonomy to study on my own initiative and without constant supervision—a skill invaluable in graduate school. Furthermore, the access to the impressive collections of Oxford’s Bodleian Library facilitated my studies immensely. Yet not all my education took place in the libraries and classrooms. The cultural opportunities of living abroad broadened my horizons just as much as the academic curriculum. In walking the streets of Oxford, taking the short bus ride to London, or spending a long weekend with a Regent Park student’s family in northern England, I began to appreciate the rich diversity of the world and was able to gain perspective on my own culture and community. Even more, my opportunity to travel through much of western Europe during the month-long Easter break allowed me to see many of the places I had so often studied in history classes, and taste cultures heretofore alien to me. I have a feeling that the Regent’s Park photograph—and the significance of my Oxford experience—will stay with me no matter where my career takes me.
Art History Student, Michaelmas, 1999
Certainly my experience attending Oxford University was a turning point in my life. Everyone is familiar with the prestigious reputation that the name Oxford University carries with it. However, after a semester studying art history there, Oxford exceeded my expectations!
Can you imagine a library that contains every book written since the 1600’s? Many visitors to Oxford not permitted within the walls of the Bodleian Library, but Georgetown College students are matriculated as visiting students with the University with full library privileges.
As an art history student I did more than just read books and write papers each week. Assignments included: researching primary sources, special access to the Ashmolean Art Museum where I held priceless works of art by William Blake and J.M.W. Turner, and an assignment to study and write essays on certain artwork on display in London galleries and museums. I took drawing classes at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, one of the top art schools in the world. While overseas, I completed an independent study project on the evolution of gothic architecture for the Georgetown College Art Department Chair. This project gave me an excuse to travel throughout the British Isles and Paris to tour and take slides of gothic cathedrals. In addition, while I was attending Oxford, I was given the opportunity to meet one-on-one in the London studio of a former president of the Royal Academy of Portrait Painters who gave me advice on my own painting. Lastly, I participated in events, seminars and fieldtrips with the Oxford Art History Society.
The experience of studying as a visiting student at Regent’s Park College of Oxford University was not only an amazing academic experience, it was a fascinating period of personal growth. The experience has given me confidence to tackle personal goals. Interviewers never fail to highlight this global experience on my resume. The art education I received from Georgetown, coupled with the Oxford experience, has led me to start and develop an art business painting murals and portraits for private and commercial clients. Another effect of the Oxford experience is that it developed my research skills that I am currently applying in my second year at Chase College of Law.