Pre-Departure Pondering

Annika Ziegler
August 28, 2019
St. Catherine's College

Hello friends. I am about two weeks out from my departure to London and the beginning of my journey abroad. In my program, I’ll be spending three weeks taking a tutorial in London before heading off to Oxford for the rest of the semester. I can confidently say that the phrase “mixed emotions” has never better described how I feel. There are several things that I am both very anxious but very excited for. 

The Tutorial System

One of these things is the vastly different educational structure I will be stepping into upon my arrival in England. At Oxford, in addition to lectures, they have what are called tutorials, which are typically one-on-one sessions with a tutor (professor, in most cases). A basic outline of the system is that a tutor assigns you readings on which you are to write a rather lengthy paper. During the tutorials, you and the tutor read your paper and discuss the concept. I have never carried out my studies in this fashion and am eager to try it out, however, my lack of experience with this method also fosters some nervousness about how well I’ll perform and whether I am well-suited for it. The tutorial system is very intimate yet requires a lot of independent work; hopefully, I’ll have a good dynamic with my tutors and a good spot in the library. 


A completely unrelated thing for which I am harboring mixed emotions is Brexit. As someone studying economics, I am excited that I’ll be in the UK during its exit from the EU to experience the economic implications first-hand. I have no doubt I’ll get my supply of global and trade economics news during my time in Oxford. While this process is very interesting to me from an observatory perspective, I am very much aware of the ramifications that the likely no-deal Brexit will produce, whether it’s the devaluation of the pound and subsequent rise in prices, or just the heightened economic anxiety of the general population. I really don’t know what to expect in terms of how this consequential undertaking transpires. 

How to Think About Your Study Abroad Experience 

Not knowing what’s to come or how I’ll adapt is part of what’s great about studying abroad, and pondering every single potential outcome, while maybe not the best thing to do, is inevitable. And since I’m sure I’m not alone in this kind of thinking, I would like to share some thoughts and advice about how to think about your time abroad.  

There is a ton of pressure to have the absolute time of your life studying abroad. From the countless people who have told you that studying abroad was the best year of their life, to your friends’ continuous Snapchat stories of their amazing time in Barcelona, it can feel like something must be wrong if your journey doesn’t deliver a life-changing, magical experience. Although we should all hope to—and probably will—have a wonderful time, it is okay if your time spent abroad doesn’t completely sweep you off your feet. 

I say this because I have spent a lot of time thinking about it, since from what I know and have read, the program in which I will partake is quite rigorous, and past students have detailed little travel time and a great deal of academic work. Now, these are all things that I was fully aware of and expected when I applied to Oxford, but I think it’s important to know that not all study abroad experiences must be the same; not all have to consist of traveling to a different city every weekend or making life-long foreign friends. Don’t let others’ expectation of what study abroad should be shape or define your experience. Venture on your journey with an open mind and a positive outlook. If your time abroad is spectacular and transformative, that’s great. If not, that’s okay too— this will not be your only opportunity to make memories abroad.

More Blogs From This Author

View All Blogs

Annika Ziegler

<p>I am double majoring in economics and mathematics. I really enjoy research and data analytics, and I work as a writing tutor on campus. In my free time I like skiing– both snow and water– and traveling and exploring new places.</p>

Home University:
University of Redlands
St. Paul, MN
Explore Blogs