I do not really feel qualified to comment on the status of academics since I am a mere visiting student; a transient anomaly of real Oxford student life who belongs to no course or class or year. Real Oxford students enter into a specific course at a specific college as “freshers,” and so they are specialized from the very beginning of their study here. These “courses” are kind of like majors that we have in the states only usually consist of much smaller groups of students e.g. I believe the St. Catherine’s College Biological Sciences Department consists of around eight students each year. Eight! Anyway, from what I can perceive, these groups of students are given guidance from the beginning as to which lectures to attend and are assigned relevant tutorials which follow a specific course path. As they progress through their three years as undergraduates, they are given more choices in terms of tutorials, but have certain requirements. (Tutorials are the main method of learning, are supplemented with occasional lectures, and usually consist of meeting weekly alone or in a group of two with the US equivalent of a professor to discuss a specific topic. You also present a research paper or a problem set that you prepared since the last meeting and are given a new assignment for the next week). The whole process is generally a lot more intimate and specialized, especially since the tutors usually allow a little flexibility in the subject and focus of the tutorials and assignments.
Since our education system is not equivalent to that in the UK, I’m not really sure what I am considered to be here. I went through Fresher’s Week as if I was a freshman even though I’m a junior and had my own time basking in the blissful period of freedom that is freshman Orientation. I do not belong to a course, but am taking an immunology tutorial and a philosophy tutorial and just kind of learning without rules. I am twenty but I am not in my last year of university like most twenty-year-olds are here. There are a lot of graduate students who live on campus and are twenty-one or twenty-two, which is also confusing. Along with this, comes the confusing status of being an “international student,” which I never consider myself until someone defines me as that. But I have witnessed the natural grouping of international students from the other side now and that has been a very interesting experience. All together, it adds up to a really unique study abroad experience which blends traditional Oxford learning with a sort of strange and freeing transience which I have come to appreciate.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Samantha Loria is a junior Molecular Genetics/History double major at the University of Rochester in Western New York. She is an Irish Dancer, loves music and learning from all kinds of people and is going on the adventure of her life at Oxford University! She plans on soaking up all the culture, knowledge, and nature that she can handle and here, in this blog, she will seek to pass along all of the wisdom that she encounters, the emotions that she feels, and the incredible sights that she sees on this great journey. Come, explore, and learn!</span></p>