Monday, October 03, 2011

Claire D. - Oxford, England - Fall 2011

I’ve been in Oxford for just over a month now, and in this time I have seen castles and cathedrals, learned about monks and friars and knights, walked by both the rivers Cherwell and Thames, and seen and done things I had previously only read about. This study abroad trip marks my first time out of the country and this first month alone has taught me so much.

I am enrolled in the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies here in Oxford University. It’s a separate program for American students and is affiliate with Keble College. Here at CMRS, we first attended a four week Integral Course, consisting of lectures and field trips. During this time, we have been to Gloucester Cathedral, Berkeley Castle, Winchester Cathedral, Winchester Great Hall, Wells Cathedral, Glastonbury Abbey, and Warwick Castle. For the Integral Course, we have one exam, which we are currently studying for now, and one research paper, due at the end of term.

The rest of our courses begin in October, during the regular Oxford Michaelmas term. It is an eight week term, and during this time, we will be taking one seminar course and two tutorials. I will be taking Dante and the Divine Comedy for my seminar and Narrative and Medieval Travel Writers for my tutorials. These classes each meet once a week and tutorials are arranged individually with your tutor, as tutorials are strictly one on one with your professor. It’s a system I am not used to, and I will be interested to see how it works out. Unfortunately, our classes are all strictly within our program, so we have no interaction with our fellow Oxford students, but there are plenty of other social ways to make friends with the locals.

Our affiliation to Keble College gives us access to their dining hall and library, as well as their social groups and clubs. The Freshers Fair, for both Keble College and the university as a whole, much like our own Activities Fair at Elmhurst, will give us a better idea of what sort of clubs and organizations are available for us to join during our time in Oxford.

The city of Oxford itself is beautiful. St. Michael’s Hall, where we live in Oxford, is almost literally right in the center of town. There’s always something to do or explore or find here (provided you do it before 11 o’clock at night). It’s convenient living so close to everything, right in the heart of the city, but a short walk in one direction or another will take you to the peaceful quiet of Christ Church Meadow or the University Parks. Very little is outside walking distance, whether you want to eat, drink, read, shop, or wander.

England and America are, of course, “two countries separated by the same language.” It’s a bit of a relief coming to a foreign country knowing you already speak the language, but there are subtle differences and a whole new world of accents. Biscuits are cookies, chips are fries, crisps are chips. The currency exchange rate is frustrating, and so are the early closing hours. Don’t expect pedestrian traffic to make any sense - people are going to walk where they want to walk.

As daunting as Oxford and traveling may seem, Oxford is a beautiful city, and if the rest of the term is anything like the Integral course, I’m sure this will be a wonderful and rewarding experience that I would happily recommend to anyone.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm going to be doing the CMRS program in Oxford this coming spring. I am glad to hear that you're having an awesome time and learning a lot. I'm surprised the integral came before the tutorials, I thought it was the other way around (perhaps it switches off??).
What was your integral focused on, and how challenging was this course compared with Elmhurst literature courses?

-Diana Forsberg, Literature and Secondary Ed @Elmhurst

7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds like you are adjusting to life abroad really well. I am also attending the CMRS Oxford program in the Spring and I am looking forward to it the more I read and hear about it. It seems like you have plenty of travel experience already. Is most of it with the group from CMRS or are you able to explore individually? Also, how is the social atmosphere shaping up? You said something about an 11 o'clock curfew. What about night life?

I hope you enjoy the rest of your time!

Rachel Harley

9:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your experiences so far. I was wondering how the integral course worked. It sounds like CMRS is a wonderful program and I cannot wait to go myself in the spring. Safe travels to you!

Kate Kuchler

2:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Diana - We follow the Oxford terms. Since the Michaelmas term (the one I'm doing) starts in October, our Integral course came first. Since your Oxford term starts in January, the Integral will come last. The integral focuses on the history of Europe from around 400-1100 AD. It's not a literature course. All the students of CMRS participate in the integral course at the same time. It's very self-directed and you basically create your own homework, but as long as you stay on top of your reading, you should be fine.

Rachel - Through the integral course, you will take a number of field trips, but there is also plenty of free time for you to take trips on your own. Several people here have already gone to places such as Dublin, Edinburgh, Germany, and Spain. As far as the night life, the bars close early, but there are plenty of dance clubs that are open far later.

Kate - Thank you! I hope you enjoy your time here as well!

4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your prompt answers, this is all very helpful information. How is the coursework? Is it as difficult as you thought it would be? How are you managing your time?

I hope all is well,

9:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In regards to the integral, is there a research paper at the end or is it all reading?

Also, how long did it take you to adjust when you first arrived? Do you have any coping suggestions?

Thank you so much for your help!

Kate Kuchler

6:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rachel - The coursework isn't so bad, just as long as you don't let assignments get away from you. There's plenty of time to get everything done, plus have a life outside of your books, just be smart with your time.

Kate - There are actually several components to the Integral course, one of which is a research paper. Besides that, there are lectures, field trips, and an open book essay exam.
Adjusting didn't take as long as I expected it to, mostly because I was able to get into a regular sleeping pattern pretty quickly. If you can do that, you'll be off to a great start.

6:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am liking more and more what I'm hearing about the integral course. I was wondering if you experienced culture shock at all, upon arriving. Matt, who is with you, said in his blog that he didn't expect to but sort of did. I feel like I won't, but that perhaps I'm taking it for granted that I won't! What were your experiences, and how did you combat culture shock! Thanks.

-Diana Forsberg

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Diana - I felt the same way before coming, that I wouldn't experience much culture shock, and you really don't. It takes a little while to adjust to the money and the accents and the city plan and various things, but it never got overwhelming or anything for me. You will end up missing aspects of home and wish things were more familiar, but culture shock overall never bothered me too much.

2:11 PM  

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