Instruction at Oxford is weird. People’s subject is very important to them, and all of the freshers knew what they were studying the moment they came in. I have truly struggled writing my History essays, and some of my feedback is that my writing isn’t correctly within the discipline. The first day of my primary tutorial, my tutor told me to refer back to my first historiography course.
I had to admit I had never taken one. While history is my subject here at Oxford and is something I have studied extensively, I am not a history student. I am an interdisciplinary humanities student still trying to choose my degree title. My interests are mostly in the interactions of things- film with history, history with literature, literature with film, and all of these things with people. While I enjoy studying all of these subjects separately, the way the combine is on which I am basing my degree.
The Oxford curriculum, in this respect, is not something I would have excelled in, had I been enrolled here for my entire degree. The particular focus does allow students here to graduate early and get a very in-depth understanding of their subject, so the structure is not bad at all. I just do not think it would be for me. However, the visiting student program allows people to be interdisciplinary in interesting ways. I had visiting student friends studying subjects here they had never studied before. All of the lectures were open to the visiting students, so we were allowed to learn about whatever subjects we liked. A lot of the lectures were quite interdisciplinary, including one of my favourites, the Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union. The lecturer, Dr. Zbigniew Wojnowski, incorporated art and film into his lectures, asking us to examine these pieces with a historical lens. Other Oxford lectures I have been to have been less interactive, and I found this style to be most similar to the seminars I enjoy attending at home.
Though my tutorials were firmly rooted in the history discipline, I was able to express to my tutors that I was interested in interdisciplinary research, and both of them worked to include some other media into my tutorial. For my dress history course, my tutor assigned films for me to watch in combination with my reading. These films were created in the period I was studying, and I feel I greatly excelled in the addition of film analysis to my historical writing. In my Human Rights tutorial, I wrote an essay on monuments, which combined a great deal of historical research with writing on some of my favourite modern artists.
While Oxford is quite restrictive in many ways, the Visiting student program allows a person with a degree of freedom from departments not common at the University. This is not new information to any student already completing an interdisciplinary degree, but you have to work to find an educational pathway, instead of simply completing requirements laid out for you. While Oxford seems very resistant to this on the surface, I actually found it quite easy to forge my own path during my time there.
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I’m a third year student at the University of Redlands, pursuing an alternative education through the Johnston Centre of Integrative Studies, and I am studying abroad at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford. This essentially means that I design my own major, and instead of grades, I get written evaluations. I study History, Film, Literature, and Art. I’m deeply involved in the community, which means I love going to meetings and deciding policy! I love to sew costumes and clothes and to watch old movies with friends.