Tess Pfeifle is pursuing a double major in English & Media Studies at CUA, and plans on pursuing a Master’s degree in Television Studies. She is a Victorian-literature junkie and dreams of adapting Shakespeare’s plays, particularly Titus Andronicus and As You Like It. She also works at Mullen Library at CUA and has enjoyed being involved in as many campus and DC-related activities as possible.
“The Road Goes Ever On” is one of my favorite ‘walking songs’ from J.R.R Tolkien’s writing. It appears in both The Hobbit and several times in Lord of the Rings. The imagery of J.R.R Tolkien’s Middle Earth has stuck with me for much of my life as a nagging, secret, beautiful thing that I thought I would never discover. That is, until the opportunity to study abroad at Oxford, which is Tolkien’s alma mater, Exeter to be specific.
The process of getting into this particular study abroad was considerately more difficult than the normal study abroad sign-up. However, my advice to those who are intimidated at studying abroad at top universities such as Oxford is to, in simple terms, go for it. In the term I spent applying for Oxford, I churned out more papers, read more books, and worked harder than I previously thought I could-and I still doubted my ability to be accepted. However, all the hard work paid off, and even if it didn’t it was still a valuable learning process that taught me discipline and patience. There is no point in being intimidated in applying for more difficult study abroad programs-if you truly want it, why not at least try to experience it? At least, that was my motto.
To be in Oxford, a city that pulses with life, culture, history, and a centuries-old passion for knowledge is both inspiring and intimidating. Oxford is often referred to as the ‘City of Dreaming Spires’, and I couldn’t think of a better description the city that brims with inspiration (and books, there are millions and millions of books here).
The teaching style at Oxford is unlike almost any other institution. It relies heavily on the Socratic method of teaching and features one-on-one meetings with tutors (professors) called tutorials. Students meet once a week with tutors, receive a reading list, and prepare and bring an essay (between 5-15 pages) that the tutor and the student then discuss, as well themes and ideas that cropped up through the reading list. To be one-on-one with someone that has a PhD in your intended field of study is scary, but also incredibly interesting. To be one-on-one with a tutor that you can discuss and debate with is great. It also pushes students to work harder, as you can’t really slack off if you’re the only student in the class.
However, don’t fear, Oxford isn’t all 16th century manuscripts and spires, it also has some modern fixtures (which seem, sometimes, almost laughably out of place). There is a store called ‘Poundland’ which is the equivalent of the American Dollar Store…except the quality is much better and it targets college students. It has everything from kitchen sponges to special edition Cadbury chocolate bars.
Pub culture at Oxford is also intoxicating, and I’m not just talking about the cider. The conversations, the food, and the people are so completely different than the bar scene in America. Intelligent conversations happen regularly, and are almost expected, at pubs. In Oxford, it is normal to meet your professor for a pint and discuss that term’s lesson plan, or to go out with friends to share a plate of chips and a discussion on the benefits of the Socratic method of teaching.
Oxford is an interesting, quirky, and slightly overwhelming-in a good way. Studying abroad here has been an amazing experience that I would not soon give up.