Kim Reisler '15 studied abroad at Oxford the fall of her senior year, through Best Semester's Scholars' Semester in Oxford program.
Why did you choose this particular program?
I'd known for a long time that I wanted to go to England, and this program in particular seemed like a nice balance of structure and independence. I was especially looking forward to the opportunity to work independently through the Oxford tutorial system, and take advantage of the university’s many libraries.
What did the program involve?
I lived in a large house, built in the late nineteenth century, with about thirty other students, all from other Christian colleges in America. The first month of the program, we all took the same class on British history and culture, watching lectures and going on field trips (to Stonehenge, Salisbury Cathedral, London, and Hampton Court Palace). For the next eight weeks, each of us had our own tutorials on a wide range of topics in the humanities. My primary tutorial, which met every week, was Politics, Identity, and Culture in Cold War Europe and my secondary tutorial, which met every other week, was English Society in the Seventeenth Century. These tutorials involved meeting with an Oxford professor and discussing the essay I had written in the previous week. Since these essays were fairly lengthy, my days were absorbed in trips to the library to do research and write. We also attended lectures for all Oxford students, and wrote a longer research paper over the course of the term.
What did you most enjoy about your time abroad?
Studying abroad was full of daily opportunities to explore new things, both in my studies and just by living in another country. With each essay we were given a question to answer, and this entailed reading numerous books and articles, trying to understand big issues in history. I encountered new ideas and new areas of historiography that I had never known before. In terms of living abroad, Oxford was an especially lovely city to explore, as there are several museums, lots of parks and fields, and beautiful buildings everywhere. It was also great to learn about English culture in a tangible way, beyond just reading books and watching movies.
How has your experience impacted you?
I came away with a better sense of what exactly a research university is compared to a liberal arts school and a greater understanding of what the field of academia looks like. This helped me appreciate Wheaton all the better when I returned for my final semester, especially the History Department’s practice of moral reflection. Also, just by living in Oxford amongst old traditions and old buildings, I stand in greater awe of all the people of the past and the lives they lived. Lastly, studying abroad was a huge growing experience, and has definitely whetted my appetite for seemingly daunting things.