Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Sarah A - Oxford, England - Spring 2015

Greetings from Oxford, England. I’m Sarah and I am studying at the CMRS program in Oxford this semester. So the first thing that I noticed when I got here was that it was uncharacteristically sunny for the first few days (which many of the native Brits pointed out). The sun came out to greet us foreigners! Anyways, it has been amazing here. Oxford is so interesting because it’s just a bunch of cosmopolitan people thrown on top of a town that has been here since before the 1600s. So everywhere is an eclectic mix of posh, chic shops and malls but then you encounter a building like the Bodleian library (a large castle-like complex full of cobblestones and spires). Everything is so beautiful and green here, all covered in ivy and full of life. The best thing that I have found here is the Cornish Pasties (something that is akin to a beef stew inside a puff pastry). I would eat those every day if I had the opportunity (and the money).

Currently, we are working on our third week of classes. The program involved two tutorials and a seminar, which we started not long ago, and then a research course, which we will start in about a month. The tutorials involve quite a bit of reading and just as much writing but they are all on topics that the students want to discuss. Having a one-on-one class with the tutor is especially helpful because you can really get constructive criticism on your writing and ideas. The only issue is that there is so much writing and reading to do that occasionally, you won’t have enough time to travel. This program really tests your time management and organization skills simply because there is so much to do that you are forced to plan out your work. Honestly, it is a challenge but it is completely worth it. There’s so much that Oxford, and England, can offer a person.


Blogger Kristen Rossi said...

Hey Sarah, Looks like Oxford is a blast! I was just wondering if you have experienced any culture shock since you have been there?
Kristen Rossi

1:12 PM  
Anonymous Allen R said...

Hi Sarah!

I'm glad you're having a great time in Oxford! May I ask, did you ever experience any culture shock? For example, how was your experience when you first tried the food there? Does the food from fast food restaurants over there taste the same as they would here? Did you ever feel like you were trapped in another world and just wanted to go back to the U.S.? Either way, I hope you have a great rest of your semester! Thanks!

-Allen Riquelme

11:34 PM  
Blogger Karina Sutker said...

Hi Sarah! It seems like the workload is tough. How do you find time for yourself and other hobbies?

3:36 PM  
Blogger Gary N. said...

Hello Sarah! It sounds like you are having an amazing experience. I was wondering, how do you prepare for your exams? Also, how did you decide on which electives to choose if you are taking any?

12:52 PM  
Anonymous Sarah Astra said...

Kristen: Culture shock hasn't really been a huge issue for me. Besides the whole "British people drive on the opposite side of the road" (always look left first when you're crossing the street) there really hasn't been much of an issue. However, that isn't to say that there is no difference between American and British life. As long as one keeps an open mind and you are flexible to the customs and culture, it all works out

Allen: As I said before, culture shock wasn't a huge issue. The food is similar to American food, however there is definitely more salt and it's a little more bland. For instance, I tried Super Noodle today (the British equivalent of Maruchan Ramen) and it tasted more like bland chicken one has from the deli. Though I have had some exceptional food from different restaurants and food trucks around here. Things are definitely similar though there are some subtle differences. I had some fries from one of the food trucks yesterday (the British call fries "chips") and rather than just putting salt on them, they had the option of vinegar and shredded cheese as toppings. Also, the ketchup here is a bit more acidic, though I love it. I don't really feel like I'm trapped in another world (though I could really go for a Portillo's burger right about now), you just have to find the kinds of food that you like here. Just like in America, there are all kinds of different foods and you can choose from any of them.

2:27 PM  
Anonymous Sarah Astra said...

Karina: The workload is definitely tough but it does help that the Bodleian Library and the rest of the libraries close at 10 pm. It really forces you to conclude your studies for the day and really take an interest in British nightlife but it also gives you an opportunity to go back to the dorm and socialize with the people you are living with. With regards to other hobbies, organization is key with this program. As soon as I get my reading lists, I plan out which books I will read each day. I normally finish at about 3 or 4 pm. Then the rest of the day is mine. Planning in advance is also a must, especially if you want to take a trip to another country or city. Overall, I map out my week but also try to be flexible.

Gary: We really don't have any exams over here. With the tutorials, we have a one-on-one class time with a tutor in which there are two essays we have to write a week (each paper being 2000 words). That lasts for 8 weeks and we are graded on our progress rather than on any exam. Running simultaneously with the tutorials is the seminar. This is essentially a bigger class but there are no papers every week for this class, just some reading and a 4000 word paper at the end of the 9th week. We actually just turned this assignment in. Lastly, we have a research course in which we have 4 weeks to write a 6000 word paper on a topic of our choosing (as long as it has to do with Europe's interaction with the rest of the world). All of these classes are chosen by the students. We pick them from a list of classes that are available to us on the program website and tell our program what we want during the application process. I picked my classes based on what requirements I still needed to graduate at Elmhurst. Overall, Elmhurst is pretty flexible and are happy to accept credits that you earned abroad. I chose a Greek Tragedy tutorial and a tutorial called Mortals & Gods in the Classical World, even though I am an English Writing major at Elmhurst. These were my elective classes and I took them mostly just because they interested me.

2:47 PM  

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