A short letter home: my study abroad experience in Oxford

Lexi Schnaser — Staff Writer

Dear Dordt,

I have really enjoyed my time in Oxford! Life is really busy here, and there’s always something to do (usually essay writing).

I’ve taken trips to Bath, Edinburgh, Winchester, Cambridge, and London! Some were academic and some were for fun with friends, but each experience was transformative. I really enjoy taking the train or bus around as it allows me to experience public transportation in a new light and makes traveling much more accessible.

Tutorials are a real challenge. Each week, I get a reading list from my tutor (professor) and write an essay in response to a question. I don’t have any busywork or clubs or Res Life events to keep me busy, so my essays and tutorials make up for it. My British culture course allowed me to engage in historical literature. I loved my discussion class about Jane Austen: we read “Sense and Sensibility,” “Emma,” “Pride and Prejudice,” and “Northanger Abbey.” Having not taken a literature class since CORE 180, I loved spending time in the world of Austen and getting to know her characters more in depth.

My primary tutorial, which meets every week, is in practical ethics: I’ve learned a lot and have been challenged by some of the questions on topics such as the moral status of animals, health and disability, the moral demands of affluence, and state punishment. It’s hard to come up with a concrete answer to these questions, but the conversations I’ve had with my tutor have pushed me to think about these issues in new and diverse ways.

My secondary tutorial, which meets every other week, is about women, gender, and print culture in early modern England. Reading about witchcraft and ‘dangerous women’ (read: women who dared to push the very strict gender norms even the slightest) has been entertaining and empowering.

My favorite part of living in Oxford is the blend of student life in a city. The house I live in with other study abroad students is about a 30-minute walk outside of Oxford city center. Most days my walk from the quiet, forested lane we live on into the bustling city center is one of the best parts of my day. In Oxford, we are surrounded by people who want to learn: tutors who finished undergrad 50 years ago and still spend long days researching in the Bodleian, freshmen coming into university life for the first time, and PhD students pursuing their chosen niche topics.

The weirdest thing about my study abroad experience is that this is my final semester of college. Meaning, I will not have the opportunity most people do to go back to their home campus, tell stories, and reacclimate to university life in the US. There are a lot of things about life at Dordt that I miss: I still compare every coffee shop I go to with the Fruited Plain. I will never complain about getting to study in the original Bodleian Library and the Radcliffe Camera (pictured!), but I do miss having the option of reading in comfy chairs in the library at Dordt. But overall, the experience of being away and having a life with all new professors, all new friends, and in an all-new environment has (I hope) been a good transition experience for me.

See you soon!

Lexi

Photo credit: Lexi Schnaser

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