The fall semester of my senior year at Guilford was not actually spent at Guilford. I chose to study abroad this semester. I didn’t actually choose to study abroad this semester. It was the only semester available for me to study abroad. Nevertheless, it was a great one. I spent it in Oxford, Oxfordshire, England. Oxford is beautiful in the fall.
I did and learned so much while studying abroad in Oxford, it’s difficult to even recall it all.. My experience in Oxford began at St. Clare’s College which is a boarding school for pre-university students. However, it is also an institution that provides college level courses for students studying abroad. It was founded after the second world war in hopes that if students came together form all over the world to study, they might realize they have more in common than they think and perhaps there would not be another world way. St. Clare’s stays true to their tradition of being internationally focuses. Accordingly, I made friends from California as well as from Germany, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Holland and Russia. I had a large number of German friends and learned a number of useful German phrases.
I studied Comparative Politics and Fantasy Literature at St. Clare’s. Fantasy Literature chronicled the most famous fantasy authors of all time: Lewis Carrol, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, Philip Pullman and J.K. Rowling. All but Rowling studied and/or taught in the city of Oxford, at the fantastical Oxford University. Much of this class involved visiting the Oxford colleges in which these authors spent the majority of time and which were likely very inspirational in their writing. For example, Lewis Carrol studied and lived in Christ Church, founded by King Henry the 8th. Who might have been his inspirational for the Queen of Hearts that is so famous for saying, “Off with their heads!”
St. Clare’s generously drove students to and from many famous and interesting places such as Stonehenge, Bath, London and Cambridge. I went on every excursion that I was available to attend and even traveled on my own. Despite the hour to two hour bus ride to London, I traveled their quite frequently, to shop, go to museums, see musicals and work with my Google Mentor.
Yes, I had a Google Mentor. In addition to studying at St. Clare’s, I studied at Blackfriars Hall, Oxford University. There I studied Theory of Politics and Plato. These courses were challenging in a new and exciting way. They required that I write 10+ page papers weekly based on numerous primary and scholarly texts. My tutors did not tell me what was good about my paper. They told mewhat was wrong and where it could philosophically be strengthened. These tutorials pushed me to think much more critically and to work much more independently and diligently than I had done before.
(Blackfriars Hall where I studied at Oxford University)
Besides the challenging course work, my experience at Oxford University was filled withopportunities. One merely had to show up. When I heard that Google would be coming to the University to advertise an exclusive event for female computer scientists, I decided to attend. To make a long story short, I applied and was invited to attend the event, called Google CodeF. The Google CodeF allowed me the opportunity to work with other female computer scientists and even Google engineers on technical tasks. We had a lot of opportunities to talk to Googlers about their lives and jobs at Google. All who attended CodeF would invited to apply for the Google Mentorship Program. Of course, everyone applied. To my surprise I was accepted into the Google Mentorship Program and it has been a fantastic experience.
There were additional opportunities of which to take advantage. Famous parliamentary speakers were the norm, as were fancy dinners with Lords. I was a member of the Oxford University Conservative Association, the Oxford Union, and even had the opportunity to be a College Representative of the Oxford International Relations Society and that allowed me the opportunity to visit with the only man to have ever escaped from a North Korean prison and the (im)famous Lord Monckton of Bromley.
Somehow I still found time to spend fifteen dollars (yes fifteen because the pound to dollar ratio is awful) to go to the movies.
Studying abroad was a truly great experience. I learned that I can rise to any challenge academically. I learned that I have to take a chance on an opportunity to have any chance at that opportunity. I also learned that I am a home-body. I did not get sick, but I realized after a few months that I missed being close to home, where I have a network of people who really love and care for me. All of these are important insights that I would not have had had I not studied abroad.
Studying abroad required independence and maturity, two characteristics which have certainly come in handy during my final semester at Guilford College.