By: Samantha Gastelum
The first summer after my Freshman year I participated in the UGA at Oxford program which I cannot recommend highly enough. Although I was taking INTL 4220 (International Conflict) and INTL 4780 (Special Topics in Comparative Politics), these classes were taught by professors from Oxford’s Trinity College utilizing Oxford University’s tutorial method, not the typical classroom method we utilize here in the United States. In these tutorial classes, we were given a very robust reading list for the week which was often accompanied by a prompt for a substantive essay based upon these readings.
Before I continue to describe my classes, let me digress for a moment about reading at Oxford. There are so many wonderful places to read. There are lush, sprawling lawns surrounded by picturesque Gothic, Baroque and Palladian architecture on campus as well as the beautiful garden at the Victorian UGA at Oxford House which also has its own library and sitting room (complete with a picture of the Queen on the hearth). In the town of Oxford itself there are cozy coffee shops and, of course, the historic pubs that were frequented by the likes of Oscar Wilde, J.R.R. Tolkien, and many others. Then there was my favorite spot, the famous Bodleian Library on campus where you must take the special Bodleian Oath before you can use it.
We met with our professors (who are called tutors) once a week either alone or in very small groups of no more than three or four students. My tutors utilized the Socratic method which, although truly terrifying for a student who had just survived her first year of college, prepared me well for upper division classes later. In addition to our tutorials we also went on day long excursions that took us to London and other locales relevant to our coursework.
Our learning was not just confined to our classes. On Monday nights we attended formal dinners in the Trinity College dining hall, a grand hall that looks like a set from the Harry Potter movies. All the UGA students as well as our professors attended these dinners that were highlighted by lectures from internationally renowned experts in various fields. These dinners were not just interesting but gave us all the opportunity to bond.
When we did not have excursions or essays to write, many of us participated on various adventures. Prior to my arrival at Oxford I spent time in Madrid and Barcelona with a teammate of mine from the UGA Equestrian Team who was also attending the UGA at Oxford Program. I was also able to use Oxford as a jumping off point for a long weekend in Budapest with fellow UGA at Oxford students, a trip to Sweden where I participated in an equestrian competition, and day trips to London and Blenheim Palace. I also spent a night in Reykjavik on my way back to Atlanta when my flight was unexpectedly delayed.
If you can participate in the UGA at Oxford Program, you should do so. It was an unforgettable experience that introduced me to wonderful people, beautiful places and an appreciation for rigorous learning.
To learn more about the UGA at Oxford program visit oxford.uga.edu.