As I mentioned in my first post since arriving at St. Catherine’s, I have described the academic life here as academic boot camp. Halfway through my second academic week here at St. Catherine’s, I would say this holds true. I would also say that I am slowly adjusting to this new kind of academic work.
One way Oxford differs from my previous education in America is its tutorial system. Before, I would have a schedule of classes. Here, I have a primary and secondary tutorial subject. For both my tutorials, I meet one-on-one with my professor to discuss our topic and receive my next assignment.
My primary tutorial subject is Britain in the eighteenth century. For this class, I meet my professor once a week. During our tutorial, we discuss the topic of this week’s paper I submitted the day before, and the ideas that I will discuss in my paper for next week.
Writing a paper between 2,000 and 2,500 words each week has been a challenge. For each paper, I have to consult the reading list I have been given, retrieve the necessary sources, then take notes until I have enough information for a paper. Depending on the week, I either have a prompt that has been selected for me or I choose from a small list.
Just as I said before, I believe this rigorous schedule will make me a better student in the future. Being a history major, I was used to having a high volume of reading and writing. After just a few weeks, I am starting to feel more efficient at writing academic papers, and I know this will aid me as I continue my academic career.
My secondary tutorial is the propaganda films made for England during World War II. This has been a particularly exciting subject for me because it combines my love of film with my love of history.
For this class, I meet with my professor every other week. During my tutorials, I bring my paper and read it out loud. As I read, my professor will stop to add supporting details and thoughts, or to comment on how a particular point I make connects to something bigger.
For this tutorial, I am still given an assigned list of sources, only I am given films instead of books or journal articles. However, the prompts for my papers are much looser, and I am allowed to take the paper in the direction I see fit.
Another way the tutorial system is different is its grading. Instead of grading individual assignments, I am given a final grade at the end of the term. My professors have told me this is because they want me to be able to take risks and try new methods without worrying about how my grade will be impacted. Rather, I am graded based on my growth during the term.
Coming from a small liberal arts college, I am accustomed to having small classes and being able to make connections with professors. As a result, transitioning to this format has been easier, but it has still been an adjustment. Like any class, you have to figure out what is expected of you and what your professor is looking for in your work.
As I mentioned, I knew there would be an adjustment period, and I hoped that my time here would make me a better student. After spending some time here with my tutorials, I can say both these beliefs are holding up.
While the work here has been a challenge, it was what I expected, and I am excited to have an opportunity to push myself in new ways. What has been most exciting is the opportunity to work directly with professors in tutorials that are specifically focused on the topics I am most interested in.
Studying at St. Catherine’s has been the wonderful new challenge I was hoping for, and I am incredibly excited for what I will learn both from my tutorials and this academic system during the rest of my time here.
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My name is Brady Judd. I am from Mill Creek, Washington, and I am a third-year history major at Whitworth University. As a history nerd, I am incredibly excited to be traveling to the UK. I have also long been a fan of British culture, watching shows like "Top Gear" and "Sherlock" as I grew up. I am an avid learner, so I can't wait to share all of the things I will be discovering with you.