I received the announcement about Saint Hugh’s Summer School Programme in Oxford, England during the school year. I acquired a collection of announcements for all sorts of colleges. I thought it was a joke initially, but the free application consisting of a simple questionnaire and page essay about what I wanted to study seemed easy, so I completed it. I was accepted.
I went for the three-week stay to study and experience the history of Oxford and other parts of the UK hands-on with a group of students of similar ages. I was impressed with the multitude of arenas people were studying – sciences, histories, music, architecture. I studied African anthropology; in all honesty, my heart was not truly with Africa – I really wanted to study Native Americans in North America, but my tutor had a passion for Africa that made studying it worthwhile for me. In fact, this past year I was able to utilize some of my knowledge on the AP World exam – knowledge that I otherwise would not have.
My tutor and I would meet once a week to discuss a paper I wrote on a topic we agreed upon beforehand. He gave me ideas for reading materials and websites that would help me in the course of my research; of course research was never limited to the few items he suggested. The goal was to give a true idea of the Oxford University tutorial.
When not sifting through publications in the library or typing in the computer lab, program members were required to listen to lectures in the mornings about numerous subjects including rock art, Shakespeare, math, and the history of Saint Hugh’s itself – even a lecture about Inspector Morse by author Colin Dexter. We were unable to take notes during the lectures so that the information could really soak it.
The weekday afternoons were free for students to travel around Oxford – visits to Blackwell’s Bookstore, the University Museum, and Covered Market, which mixed touristy shops with cafes, produce stands, and meat markets. Other nights the college would have planned an outing – sometimes to a Haydn performance, other times to an outdoor Shakespeare play. Sometimes students could go out for dinner, but the food served to us in the dining hall was wonderful with both vegetarian and carnivorous entrees. Every Friday we could eat fish and chips.
Weekends revolved around day trips. The first was to Old Sarum and Salisbury to visit cathedrals complete with stunning architecture. The second was to Woodstock and Blenheim Palace which has connections to Winston Churchill. The tour of the Palace was marvelous – gold plated ceilings, remarkable tapestries, and a very knowledgeable tour-guide. The last excursion was to the ruins of Tintern Abbey, just as Wordsworth wrote about it.
Perhaps my favorite activity offered by Saint Hugh’s is the pub quiz. The quiz, based on the Programme’s notebook, was played at a small pub near the college. Students aren’t allowed to have a pint, but tea, sodas, and other non-alcoholic drinks are offered. Played in teams, the questions are read and written down on papers which are later scored to see which teams move on to another round. Though my team lost, we did advance to the final round – the winners were treated to a fancy dinner without the whole group.
My experience going to Oxford to study prepared me for a college experience living away from home and balancing my work with my play. I learned a lot about travel, England, Africa, and most importantly myself – while making friends along the way.
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