From August 4 through the 11th, David will be part of Shenandoah University's joint study abroad program with the University of Oxford, focusing on Global Organizational Management and Leadership. From the UK, David has kept us posted on what it's like to be experiencing the second oldest university in the world. Enjoy his musings!
Saturday/Sunday, August 4-5, 2012: Travel to Oxford was in itself very routine. The difficult part was spending Thursday/Friday in the hospital and completing my medical procedure. Against my doctor's will, I left on Saturday instead of Sunday. My argument of course was that I arrived on Sunday so I was within parameters of her guidelines for recovery. All turned out well. A quick note here: I decided to utilize this medical procedure event as an opportunity to get back on track with a focus on my overall well-being. More to come on this over the next few months!
Arriving in Heathrow, I made my way to the Central Bus Station. For those who know me, buses are not my primary choice of travel. Car service would have been preferred. Fortunately, RT Good, our Shenandoah program coordinator laid out a two pages, single spaced, set of step by step directions. It worked perfectly, thanks to the directions. We arrived at Oxford in 75 minutes on Sunday morning in the rain. Note it rained heavily all day and me of course without an umbrella.
A brief overview of Oxford will help create a visual. The University is made up of 38 Colleges as a Federation. Much like the US. All of the same issues of College authority versus central University issues exist today as they have for hundreds of years. Understand that Oxford is not like a typical University. First, the Colleges do compete but are not divided by career focus. For example, you may find business focus along with other disciplines in 4 to 6 of the Colleges. Much history is involved. With only 22,000 students and divided between undergraduate as well as graduate studies, Oxford is a unique campus of highly competent and smart students. With high tuition, you really have a unique student body. It is a privilege to be here!
I am at the Magdalen College in a program implemented by Dr. Ken Addison, Supernumerary Fellow, St Peter's College of Oxford. These two Colleges are consistently viewed in the top 6 Colleges. Note Rhodes College, ala Bill Clinton, is right across the street. The academic approach of Oxford is quite different than the US model. First it is assumed that a) you come with a desire to be educated and b) that you will be self-motivated. You are assigned to a high level professor as your educator. You and your professor become the primary learning team. Today, there may be a couple of students working together with this professor. You also may attend lectures that in many cases are not required for you to attend but add to your learning. Much self study and intellectual inquiry makes up your learning here. You only graduate when your professor believes you have mastered the learning for an Oxford degree.
On Sunday afternoon, rain and all, we took a walking tour of the Campus/Town of Oxford. It is an old area as many of the buildings are 300 years old or older. Think allies, high walls, and gorgeous architecture. One could spend days exploring and walk miles to see each College and central areas such as libraries and reading rooms. Two other key points: 1- Deer Parks and 2- the Clock Tower. In earlier days, a campus had a deer park or an area to attract the deer which were used to feed the students. My dorm room is on the border of this college's deer park. I have counted over 35 deer which are part of the heritage. The clock tower chimes every 15 minutes and is a way for all to stay on a schedule of sorts. A 250 year old dorm room, on a deer park, with a private fireplace — you have arrived at Oxford!