by Hannah Ruby
SPIA’s eight week study abroad program at the University of Oxford started on a dreary morning in early January. Everyone trudged from their bedrooms downstairs into the house’s dining room, where we started our course on British Politics. Though the coursework was crammed into a two-week session before Oxford’s Hilary Term actually started, we were encouraged to use this time to begin exploring the city. And so after a three-hour class learning about British Parliament and Prime Ministers, we all zipped on our heavy coats and ventured out to Oxford’s downtown area. As we walked with the bitter cold hitting our faces, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful architecture and the overwhelming sense of being surrounded by history. We visited Trinity College’s iron blue gates, the arching Bridge of Sighs (where you should stand under and make a wish), the Harry Potter-esque Bodleian Library, the Radcliffe Camera, and our resident college for the term, Keble.
When term started, the city became much busier as all the students flooded back to town. Our dinners at the long tables in the Keble dining hall filled with students in their black robes and full of conversations about their tutorials and professors. One particular aspect about these dinners that stood out (besides also having to wear short black robes) was the choir that would sing in Latin every Sunday night before loads of courses were served. Our nights after these dinners involved hitting the books and writing the many essays that were required.
The academics at Oxford were, as to be expected, difficult. It certainly took some adjusting to meet with a professor once a week and then be sent off with several hundred pages of reading and an essay due the next week. However, the late nights were spent in our house’s dining room bonding with each other over heavy tomes spread out all over the dining table and clicking furiously away on our laptops. Despite how hard it was, the ability to read and write faster and better was the most important skill I gained from Oxford.
Studying abroad, particularly on a program as vigorous as Oxford, teaches you what you can handle, both as a student and as a person. However, not all of the program was spent pouring over books and strictly adhering to an academic life. Many of us went out to restaurants, pubs, museums, playhouses, and even traveled to other parts of England. Out of the study abroad programs I have done, Oxford will always be the most memorable and where I have made some of my closest friends. SPIA’s Oxford program is intense, yet rewarding in every sense, and I always encourage other students to go and experience it for themselves.