Program alumni are the best resources for students interested in going abroad, and they are available to answer your questions. If you would like to talk to a recent student about their experience in Oxford, get in touch with the advisor, Stacey Thebodo.
Bennett Pienkowski, Middlebury College
It seems wise to be critical, or at least aware, of the social, intellectual, and even physical ‘bubbles’ that we build in our lives. That being said, my time at CMRS in Oxford has helped me to appreciate the other side of this proverbial coin. Bubbles can also allow for otherwise impossible experiences and educational opportunities.
Oxford is a city and a university filled with professional academics and brilliant students all deeply committed to every possible field of study. Most mornings, afternoons, and evenings offer the chance to attend lectures by some of the world’s most influential thinkers, business leaders, and politicians. In terms of pedagogy, Oxford’s hallmark is the tutorial system whereby students engage with instructors in weekly one-on-one meetings. It’s hard to imagine just how stimulating, difficult, and rewarding this class-structure is. The first time one of your essays is analytically torn to shreds, it is incredibly jarring, but when you come to realize just how effective the experience was at helping you to uncover the flaws in your thought processes and argumentation, you don’t want education to take any other form.
Middlebury’s CMRS program is entirely devoted to the humanities, located in a quirky building at the very heart of the city-center, and staffed by professionals well-versed not only in their respective fields but in the precarious art of British wit. You spend a lot of time with your fellow CMRS students, certainly more of a blessing than a curse, and you have access to an in-house library that contains the most essential volumes of early western literature and theory. The culture of CMRS is nicely captured by the image of students checking out Machiavelli or The Song of Roland while bleary-eyed and still in their pajamas, an amusingly frequent occurrence.
There are plenty of distinguishing aspects of the place that have gone unmentioned: the architecture, the ubiquitous attention to history, the unparalleled Bodleian library system, to name just a few. Even so, I think it is fair to say that Oxford and CMRS are indeed bubbles. I would encourage anyone to go and find out just what formative, engaging, and ultimately indispensable places bubbles can be.
Amanda Westcott, St. Olaf College
My time studying in the city of “dreaming spires” is difficult to summarize in just a few hundred words. I was amazed by Oxford’s wonderful assortment of people and buildings, young and old, both modern and ancient – like a large outdoor museum! Moreover, my experiences with peers and tutors were very memorable.
I quickly realized what a welcoming community of learners I had joined – from Middlebury and all over the world. The program was close-knit and had a lively Facebook group that shared invitations to lectures, pub quizzes, and afternoon teas. St. Michael’s Hall supported a cozy atmosphere with kind faculty and the occasional late-night essay-writing session. But, I was always in the company of friends who were also writing essays and willing to take breaks to hit up the closest food truck with me. (Posh Nosh has amazing curry fries, by the way.)
Though the academics were demanding, I could take courses for my major and also indulge other interests, such as English literature. Tutorials were challenging but friendly environments where I conversed freely about the readings and improved my writing skills.
On top of that, I attended weekly rehearsals and performed every Sunday Evensong for Brasenose Chapel Choir. We would normally have dinner together each week, too. These are not your average dining halls, either. I also spent many a brunch with friends in the Keble dining hall, marveling at the long tables and tall, decorated ceiling, as well as the traditional English breakfast in front of me.
I traveled outside of Oxford, too, and took a few trips to places like Edinburgh, Cardiff, Blenheim Palace, and Highclere Castle. CMRS organized additional day-trips, and together, we toured Windsor Castle, saw Twelfth Night in Stratford, and visited Wells Cathedral.
I loved my semester abroad – so much so that I’m returning for the summer Museum Studies program. There is so much more I could describe but suffice to say it was a rewarding experience… one of many dreams among the “dreaming spires.”
Jacqueline Moruzzi, Washington & Lee University
“I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful.” W.B.Yeats
While I can attest that I did more there than just dream, Yeats’s words capture the wonder of the city. Upon my arrival, I was immediately struck by its beauty; it is architecturally stunning. Its aesthetic loveliness roused me from my jet-lag on the bus there from the airport. In days and weeks after, I learned more about the fascinating culture and ambiance of the city. In addition to my gratitude for being in such an aesthetically and culturally rich place, I was thankful for CMRS and the opportunities in which I was able to partake. I joined the social running club and happily made friends both within and outside of the program through running. Academically, the workload was rigorous and demanding. At first, many of us were intimidated; however, the kind faculty assured us that we were all capable of handling it and should we need any guidance or advice, they were always there to help. I found both to be true. I am so grateful for the opportunity to partake in a very different academic structure and culture from that which students are used to in American universities. My home institution doesn’t offer courses in Celtic studies, so the opportunity to have ‘Celtic Middle Ages’ as one of my tutorials was wonderful! I enjoyed spending hours reading about the week’s topic and my tutor was very knowledgeable and engaging. Overall, even if I were to write an entire paper on my time in Oxford at CMRS, it would not be sufficient: I’m not sure I would be able to adequately express how wonderful my time there was in every respect.