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My 2012 Summer Abroad Experience: University of Oxford, England

During August of 2012, I studied abroad at the University of Oxford in partnership with the University of Toronto Summer Abroad Program. Essentially it is a one month field study opportunity in a country overseas where students can gain one full year credit (1.0 FCE) from the University of Toronto (no need to worry about transferring credits here). More information on regarding specific countries, courses, and registration can be found here: https://www.summerabroad.utoro….

Everyone you meet in this program comes from different walks of life—some are international students, some travel on every holiday and summer vacation, some have only trekked as far as to our neighbours down south. Either financial constraints or hectic schedules have never permitted me leave the city very often; my first plane ride was four years ago for a seven day trip to China. As you can probably guess, this month long trip to Europe was a big deal for me—without family in tow, I was ready for a month of self-discovery in the land of Canada’s imperial mother.

I was greeted at Heathrow with what England is known for: the rain. Most days were like that; cold and rainy but I didn’t mind it. Eventually I stopped carrying an umbrella because it just didn’t faze me anymore (like the locals). After an hour and a half bus ride, I was finally in Oxford, “the city where dreams spire.” Once I stepped into the town it definitely felt different—I was at one of the top universities in the world. I was within proximity of where infamous authors like C. S. Lewis originated. Where parts of Harry Potter was filmed. Studying at the same college as Emma Watson. I was in literary bliss even though Humanities is not my field; I do have an appreciation for history and literature.

One of the first things that tested my adaptability skills of travelling was my living situation. For eighteen of us lucky students, we did not live in the modern residences with automated glass doors as pictured in the glossy program brochure. We lived in one of the more run-down residences at the other end of the college past a playing field, down a slug infested trail, and not one, but two gates in which you need a pass key for one AND a number code for the other in order to access the building. To give an even more secluded (and secure) feel, the building was surrounded by a brick wall with barbed wire looping along its top edge. It wasn’t at all what the eighteen of us pictured living in for a month; we didn’t have the luxury of white hotel-style bedding or motion-sensor hallway lights like our colleagues, but having endured unfavourable living conditions together made us closer. Plus, we our rooms were more spacious and our showers worked better than the rooms in the other residences. So ha.

As for the academic aspect of the trip, I was enrolled in a social history of England course. I found it really interesting but also a little intimidating because I did not expect so many students to be in a history subject post (there wasn’t a prerequisite for this course). My professor was approachable and facilitated engaging discussions trying to get us to understand what was happening in seventeenth and eighteenth century England, what people then believed and thought. Every morning from Monday to Wednesday, we had class from 8:45am until noon and go on a field trip every Thursday of the program (each course is structured differently). Everyone on the program had a three day weekend which left plenty of time for weekend travels. I visited some beautiful places on the field trip including Windsor Castle, Hampton Court, Stratford-Upon-Avon and a copious amount of museums. Being a dreamer and lover of architecture of interior design, every landmark and seemingly mundane place never came short of impressive.

Manchester

London

I couldn’t leave Europe without seeing what stretched beyond Oxford. I took a few weekend trips to Manchester (unfortunately I didn’t watch a football game), Dublin, and London of course. There was no question I was going to visit London for the shops, so I was grateful to be able to see the countryside of England in Manchester. It was an absolutely breathtaking view from the top of a hill that I climbed (11 miles in my flats thank you very much). I also had the chance to experience the nightlife in Liverpool with some locals—definitely a different experience in a good way. Dublin was a rollercoaster of a journey I’ll never forget; from a twelve hour mission to get there (mind you Dublin is only a one hour flight from England) to bar hopping and gypsy encounters. I spent my last two weekends of the program in London doing last minute shopping and sightseeing. London was just as fabulous as I had imagined; streets lined with great shops and cafes, and incredible museums. One of the most memorable experiences there was going to the Tate Modern art gallery and seeing the works of art I had studied in an art history class back home.    

 The program ended with a high table dinner in the Hall where everyone in the program got dressed up for a formal, traditional Oxford dinner with faculty members of the college. The college pub was also open for one last hurrah, where I spent the rest of the night with the new friends I made. Great memories of my experience began and ended at that pub, marking periods of discovery and adventure. My learning transcended inside the classroom to the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met on this journey. This experience has truly been anything but forgettable and if I could do it all over again, I would go through all the lows in a heartbeat to experience the incredible highs.

 

 

Vanessa is a third year student at the University of Toronto. She is majoring in Employment Relations with double minors in Sociology and Human Geography. She is excited to start the Fall 2012 year as the new Campus Correspondent after a year of being a contributing writer for the Chapter. She will be studying abroad at the University of Oxford during the summer of 2012, hoping to come back with many experiences to write about. Aside from her studies and Her Campus responsibilities, Vanessa has a great appreciation for style, health and fitness, travel, and the finest dining experiences Toronto has to offer.
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