Oglethorpe Study Abroad: The Oxford Experience

OxfordCrestStudying abroad is an invaluable experience for young scholars. It allows the opportunity to live and work on your own in another culture, learn from a new perspective, and travel to incredible places. Oglethorpe University has worked to develop a study abroad department that has formed partnerships with universities all over the world. Oglethorpe’s partnership with Oxford University was among one of its most appealing qualities for me, as studying at one of the most prestigious and oldest universities in history was a personal dream of mine. During my three months in England, I not only fulfilled that goal, but changed the course of my academic and professional future.

For most college sophomores the experience might seem daunting: holding hour-long academic discussions with an Oxford professor, reading seven or more books and writing an essay each week, and then receiving feedback and critique. But, this is what is expected of any student who studies at Oxford University. The process is simple, but effective: the student chooses a course of study and the university selects an expert in the field to design and instruct the course in a one-on-one setting called a tutorial.

SKYLINE (1 of 1)

The Oxford skyline view from the Oxford Castle tower.

As an Oglethorpe student, this self-motivated curriculum sounded familiar to me. Core classes consist primarily of individual reading of a text, discussing it among my peers and with my professor, and writing an essay to illustrate my perspective. Perhaps this is why my “Media and Politics” tutor, Dr. Tudor Jones, was delighted to hear that I had come from Oglethorpe University; he had taught another student from Oglethorpe before and recalled her proficiency in writing constructively and conceptually sound essays.

Dr. Jones is author of multiple books on British political party policies and philosophies, has been a lecturer at three Oxford colleges, and was the Liberal Democrat candidate for the district of Buckingham in 2001. When I arrived at his flat for our introductory meeting, I expected to spend the next eight weeks learning about the news, journalism, and social media effects on American Politics. During our meeting, however, I decided that his experience in British political campaigning was too valuable to pass up. He convinced me to leap head first into the world of British political marketing.

Christie Pearce resizedOver the course of the next two months I would read more than 20 books and write seven essays focusing on political marketing, a field I did not know existed only a few weeks prior. I became enthralled almost immediately. As a politics and communication double major, a discipline that combined rhetoric, campaigning, interpersonal communication and party platform design seemed to be tailored to my interests. Dr. Jones was impressed with my confidence and natural aptitude for the subject, and helped to convince me that I could potentially have a future in political marketing. I now plan to pursue this avenue in a doctoral program for graduate school.

My study abroad experience quite literally changed my life. This is Oglethorpe’s goal for every student it sends to another country, be it for a few weeks or an entire year. The independence that is gained both academically and in terms of living alone in a new country is a merit of studying abroad that cannot be substituted. Students should not hesitate to speak with Dr. Collins, the director of the study abroad program at Oglethorpe, if they feel motivated; the experience will not disappoint them.

Oxford University (Corpus Christie College) is the alma mater of General James Edward Oglethorpe, the namesake of Oglethorpe University.

 

Part IV: “Learning experiences at Oglethorpe came full circle” in Italy

This summer’s short term, for-credit trip to Italy made an enormous impact on the students who participated. Following up on the original post by Dr. Jeffrey Collins, we now hear from three of those students, in their own words.  [Part II]  [Part III]

OU students Sean Lovett, Joscelyn Stein and author Katherine Law together in Fiesole, an Italian mountain village overlooking Florence.

I didn’t think after my transfer to Oglethorpe I would have time to go abroad. Thinking about leaving yet another place was stressful in itself and felt like too much jumping around. My summer was going to be a busy one; I needed to get a list of things done, not only school oriented, but for my entire future in general. Being able to go to Italy this summer AND get a class credit sounded too good to be true.

The journey I took to Florence and Rome, wasn’t just “good,” it was an almost perfect balance of seeing, experiencing and feeling. Being a studio art major, I had a seriously touching experience. I had just taken the Art and Culture Core class this past spring with Professor Loehle. The class had covered, of course, dozens of topics and art pieces; however, we only got to experience these sights through a screen. I got to go to Rome and Florence and experience first hand an overwhelming amount of what I learned in the classroom this past spring.

I stood before masterpieces, ruins, churches, sculptures, etc. feeling knowledgeable and well informed, inspired and humbled. It felt really good. I was enamored standing in front of Botticelli’s Primavera—truly blown away by the mere sight of something so beautiful and, for the first time, out of my textbook. Seeing the David, a staggering 17-feet tall, with every detail carved down to a seemingly blood pumping vein in his hand—I didn’t move on to the next room for over 30 minutes.

Dr. Collins and Professor Loehle supplemented all this awe by guiding and helping me understand what I was truly taking in and on so many different and new levels. We had on this trip discussions, critiques, debates—everything teachers can bring to the classroom we used too, but in museums, in front of ruins or standing before a statue. My learning experiences at Oglethorpe came full circle while I was in Italy, this appreciation never leaving my heart and mind while touring these beautiful cities.

I learned my away around Rome and Florence on so many different and exciting levels. I could guide you to the Pantheon from our hotel, on the way giving you its history, and I could have a confident discussion on Caravaggio’s The Calling of Saint Matthew and the revolutionary techniques he employed as an artist. I had a grasp of the culture along with an expanded mind. I was entirely out of my element, a visiting art student in a new country; however, I was constantly accompanied by a solid group of caring, ambitious and intelligent individuals, all there to fully experience Italy along with me. I got to form my own opinions, hear from other students in my group and absorb a new culture, all at the same time. I got the full ride on this trip, mind, body and soul. And to think I was getting a class credit the whole time was just the cherry on top.

It was an overall amazing, unforgettable two weeks of my life. I would recommend this trip to all students, especially the transfer students who are down on being unable to go to abroad during the school year! I am truly inspired and it feels awesome finding myself putting forth new efforts to keep this fire alive in my everyday motions. And so far, so good.

Part III: Oglethorpe professors help history come alive in Italy

This summer’s short term, for-credit trip to Italy made an enormous impact on the students who participated. Following up on the original post by Dr. Jeffrey Collins, we now hear from three of those students, in their own words.   [Part II]  [Part IV]

The author Annie Morgan in an Italian market. Photo: Robert Findley

Earlier this summer, I boarded a plane to Italy with a group of Oglethorpe students, Italia-bound. As I settled into my seat, thumbing the pages of a book about the Sistine Chapel ceiling, I wrestled with a sinking feeling. As an English major, I’d studied little art, art history, or even Roman history in my four years at Oglethorpe. I knew that I was one of the least prepared students on that plane. In the weeks leading up to the trip, I had scrambled to catch up on what knowledge I could. I found myself sitting cross-legged in the Italian history section at Barnes & Noble, lamenting all the things I didn’t know. The only fruit from that endeavor was the book in my hands and the sad feeling that I wouldn’t get to experience Italy in all of her fullness.

Leave it to the Oglethorpe faculty to exceed my expectations, as usual.

Photo: Laura Jacques

It was clear within moments of setting foot in Rome that my lack of information was not going to be a problem for very long. As soon as our weary troupe of travelers stepped off the bus next to Teatro de Marcello, our professors started scanning the horizon with a strange glint in their eyes. As a group, our energy was waning in the doldrums of jetlag, and all I could think about was finding a panino and a pillow. Dr. Collins and Professor Loehle, however, lit up like a couple of Christmas trees as soon as they saw the crumbling brick walls of ancient Rome. They could hardly wait to start explaining things to us, to let us in on their joy. Their love for the places we would see worked perfectly in tandem with my desire to learn; I was full of curiosity, and they were brimming with thoughts and information to share. I doubt that every student who studies abroad in Italy is fortunate enough to have professors who care so ardently about what students know about what they see.

Photo: Laura Jacques

And our professors weren’t the only ones filling up our brains with new things; Italy herself was a great teacher, and the more time I spent getting to know her, the more colorful my experiences became.

Thus, many of my favorite moments of the trip happened when I tackled Rome or Florence with only a map and a friend to guide me. Usually this happened at the end of the day when everyone was free to find dinner on their own, and my friend Sean and I would wander through parts of the cities that we hadn’t yet explored. While the daylight hours were packed with narratives from history that made the city come alive, the evenings were when we got to live out our own Italy stories—ones I’ll never forget.

Photo: Laura Jacques

It seems like I would need a decade to do justice in writing to all the magic that we found in unexpected places: the trees that overhang the Tiber and catch the gold glint of streetlights at night; the guitarist that filled up one piazza with songs that made you feel like you were dreaming; the organ concert in a gorgeous old church, with the music coming through the rafters like thunder and shaking the pews. It was on an adventure with Sean that I first glimpsed the coliseum and the forum, both very haunting and mysterious in the moonlight. One night, we stumbled upon Michelangelo’s Piazza in Florence, with its stairs winding up seemingly straight into the night sky. At the top, we discovered a breathtaking view of Tuscany, tiny lights glittering from the Duomo all the way to far away hillsides. And, of course, we made sure to track down the best gelateria we could find in both cities, and to celebrate our success by returning to those wonderful establishments—frequently.

In the last 12 months, I have set foot in five countries other than my own—never did I feel less prepared for any of them than when I boarded that plane to Rome. I can confidently say, however, that if I left with my hands proverbially empty, I came back with more than I could carry. In my mind, this voyage to Italy was very much what a study abroad trip ought to be: not only did the history of art in that country come alive to me for the first time, the place itself offered more culturally than anyone could grasp in just two weeks. And maybe that’s better, anyway—I suppose I’ll just have to go back!