Experiences in England--My Semester Abroad at Oxford: Photogallery
By Brittany Miedema ’14
Growing up, it was always my dream to travel to England and see the sights. A dream that seemed even more unlikely was to study at a university in England. However, Trinity allowed me to achieve both of these dreams, and so much more than I could have imagined.
In the spring of 2014, through the Trinity-endorsed Oxford Semester, fellow student Lexi Warden ’14 and I traveled to England to study abroad at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. For just over three months, we had the opportunity to learn from top tutors, attend lectures of prominent scholars, and conduct research in one of the largest library systems in the world.
Throughout my term at Oxford, I worked in a very different setting than I was used to. Each student chose two tutorial topics, ranging from C.S. Lewis to the Crusades.
For my English literature courses, I would read a novel, conduct research, and write a 2000-word essay each week before meeting with my primary tutor, a professor at the university.
These tutorials were one of my favorite parts of the whole semester. My tutor was a Jane Austen scholar, so discussing Sense and Sensibility gave me more information than I could ever have found alone.
Outside of the Classroom
Our program had arranged four field trips for us, including Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral; the town of Coventry; Hampton Court Palace, where Henry VIII lived; and Portsmouth, a naval base with historical significance.
My favorite field trip was going to Hampton Court Palace. The experience was set up so you felt like you were living there with Henry VIII. I even got to meet him and have my “portrait” drawn with him! The “King” was amazed at the group of female scholars from the Spanish Colonies, as America was known to him.
Lexi and I both got to travel around England and Europe outside of our program as well, giving us the opportunity to engage with various European cultures.
“Along with many places in England, I was able to visit France and Scotland for several days each,” said Lexi. “These amazing moments put the travel bug in me and opened my eyes to how much there is in the world to explore and enjoy.”
I had the opportunity to go to Bath and see the Roman Baths, to Stratford-Upon-Avon to see where Shakespeare lived, to Brighton to see the beach, and to London to see everything! But perhaps my favorite trip was to Wales, where I had the chance to see the Welsh countryside, three castles, and Tintern Abbey. William Wordsworth wrote a poem at Tintern Abbey, so as an English major, it was a highlight of my trip.
While the academic work was different than anything I had ever done at Trinity, the work I completed at Trinity gave me a basis to build on with my work at Oxford. As an English major, I took classes at Trinity that covered a wide range of literature, looking at time periods as a whole section and looking deeper at select authors. However, in Oxford, I went farther in. I studied specific books from specific authors in a specific time period. I didn’t just research the novels and authors, I became their best friend.
Due to my work at Trinity, I was able to do this. If it hadn’t been for what my professors have taught me, I never would have understood the time period I was focusing on. Trinity gave me the foundation, Oxford allowed me to build on it.
“The writing and research skills I developed at Trinity served me well at Oxford.” Lexi Warden ’14
“My time in Oxford was a wonderful end to my college career,” said Lexi. “The writing and research skills I developed at Trinity served me well at Oxford and enabled me to handle the hectic work schedule without missing out on experiencing British culture.”
Although I am now a graduate, I can still share my experience with my fellow students and with my professors. I hope that telling others about my specified learning gives them the desire to dig deeper into their work, to go beyond scratching the surface.
I would advise every single student to do a semester abroad. Although I love Trinity, and was sad to leave for even a semester, going abroad allowed me to learn more than I imagined about a different culture. I am now able to understand cross-cultural engagement and view things from the perspective of a culture unique from my own.
It was definitely one of the best times of my life.
Read more about my time abroad at my blog, A Country Girl at Oxford: Just My Cup of Tea!