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My Oxford Experience

A firsthand account of learning beyond the classroom

by Jennifer Gagliardi

The Radcliffe Camera, Oxford University, England.

When our group of St. Joseph’s College students boarded the plane for our flight to Oxford, England, as part of the Office of Global Studies program, I don’t think any of us really knew what we would experience once we arrived. Over the next 23 days, we developed a new routine. Our lives revolved around academics that challenged us in a whole new way, and we experienced many things that made us take a step back in awe. Oxford is a relatively small town, but for us it fostered creativity and friendship. Most of all, it became a place where we learned a little more about how big the world really is.

Before the trip, our class centered on the idea of a personal quest for meaning, and we spent almost nine months reading, writing and reflecting to prepare for our time overseas. Led by Christopher Frost, Ph.D., Andrew Jacobs, Ph.D., and Dominique Treboux, Ph.D., we learned to analyze complicated texts, and break out of our shells to become strong, argumentative learners. We brought that same enthusiasm to Oxford, where we joined students from Texas State University, Boise State University and the University of Tennessee. With the new students came new professors from both America and Oxford University, all pushing us to challenge the information at hand and think differently. While the students argued their points, the professors argued their own as well, as everyone was constantly “pushed off their spot” in an environment that encouraged one to always be more curious. I left the class with a new idea of what academia really can be, and it was completely inspiring.

What we got to see and do in less than a month will provide enough stories to last a lifetime. We stood among the stones of Stonehenge, where you could feel the energy of the earth. We walked through cathedrals such as Notre Dame and Salisbury Cathedral, fully in awe of the time and dedication that it must have taken to build these monuments to God. The juxtaposition of vastness and intricacy of these churches was simply astounding, making me feel small in a truly rewarding way. In France, we embarked on a 17-mile walking tour led by Dr. Treboux. We were rewarded with sore feet and a deeper understanding of a different culture, culminating in a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower and dinner at 1 a.m. within view of the Arc De Triumphe. In London, we stood in Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, watching one of his plays in the way that the groundlings did during his time. We ate a classic English breakfast every day and drank tea in the afternoon, experiencing an entirely different way of life in the town of Oxford. Pictures can’t do justice to any of our travels; being there was something entirely different and special.

Dr. Frost constantly referred to our trip as the “Oxford Experience” and now I really understand the gravity of the word “experience” in that phrase. It is really hard to accurately articulate how rewarding this trip was, and how much it has impacted me as a student, and as an artist. In the classroom, I learned to read analytically, and how to better hold to my opinions. From our excursions, I learned how different the rest of the world can be, and how fun it is to immerse yourself in different cultures. This trip brought together people of different majors, backgrounds and mindsets. We made lifelong friendships, and walked off the plane back into America together having shared an experience that will last all of us a lifetime.

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