The Oxbridge Academic Program
This past summer, I got the opportunity to attend the Oxbridge Academic program, which allows around 400 kids to stay in Oxford, England, as well as many other places around the world. Oxford is a historic college town with over 38 colleges. It has educated many famous individuals, such as Lewis Carroll (Through the Looking Glass), Phillip Pullman (His Dark Materials), JRR Tolkien (Lord of the Rings) and William Penn, one of the founders of Quakerism in America. The program allows everyone to make a lot of friends and wander around wherever. The kids there were from many different places, such as Canada, Brazil, China, South Africa and India.
Upon my arrival to Oxford, everyone was divided into either Pembroke or Oriel College and was introduced to their roommate for the next 4 weeks. I was lucky enough to have a really nice roommate from Canada, but some people did wind up with people they didn’t like. A cool part about the program is the diversity in the classes you take. I took Archeology as my major and Journalism as my minor but there were many other classes, like neuropsychology, war in world history, and photography.
In Archeology, I didn’t learn much about being an archeologist, but I did get to go on a lot of cool trips. One day we went to Stonehenge, which was really neat. No one’s sure whether the formation of rocks was meant to be used as a burial ground or as a ritual site for neo-Druids.
While I couldn’t touch the stones at Woodhenge, the site was free of tourism since it is a much less famous site. Woodhenge consisted of dozens of stumps placed in circles around a central burial site. It is hypothesized that the stumps may have been used to spot constellations in the sky as they are placed in a very precise way.
Whenever I visited an old castle or a college’s chapel, I would realize how Harry Potter movies have been filmed virtually all over the city. Scenes such as Draco Malfoy being turned into a ferret, or Harry trying to learn how to breathe under water were all filmed in locations throughout Oxford.
I also went to a bunch of museums including the Pitt Rivers, which features man made items such as a Native American war axe with a pipe attached to the handle, and sewing kits for a tribe leader to cut open a prisoner’s back and sew in large seed pods as punishment.
My journalism class was really fun; our teacher Richard Greyson was a journalist for BBC and will act in an NBC show next spring, which he wouldn’t tell us about.
The cultural differences in England are sometimes strange to adjust to. When I cross a street, my natural reaction is to look left to see if a car’s coming on the right side. Since the directions of the lanes were switched, I was constantly afraid of being blindsided. I also had to watch out for people trying to pickpocket me, as it almost happened several times.
I personally prefer architecture in the United States to that in England. When I went to a small town in the English countryside, the houses were all made of the same brick, and the windows were miniscule since glass was harder to make hundreds of years ago. I’m not sure why, but whenever I saw a normal English house, I longed to see a modern house with big windows and a different look.
For me, the focus was less on the classes and more on exploring the incredible city. In front of Christ Church College, there is a huge meadow with cows and oxen wandering around as people walk around them. Canals and rivers intertwine through the outskirts of town where tourists go punting and rowing. Every once in a while you see European deer with short horns bound over fences and blue and orange kingfishers sit in the trees.
It was interesting to experience learning in another country because it gave me a new perspective on what I’ve learned at Friends, and allowed me to explore a new place by myself. My time in Oxford made me more excited about academics, with the amazing trips and the ability to stay in a prestigious college. I made a lot of new friends and got to spend a month living in a medieval English city.