Back to SummaryAnnie Prossnitz - Student Profile
I arrived at Oxford with various preconceptions of both the university and the country where I would be spending the next ten weeks of my life. Growing up with a British grandmother, I envisioned the English life she had always presented to me as peopled by quick- witted tea drinkers and guided by a strict protocol for everything. I imagined that I would immerse myself in the home of Harry Potter and Queen Elizabeth—a place where pristine manners and time-honored traditions were the norm. While I did discover that high tea replaced the Starbucks run for average Oxford students and Platform 9 ¾ does indeed exist, life in Oxford continuously surprised me and was nothing like what I had presupposed. What I found there—friendships, intellectual challenges, and the best memories of my Stanford career—far exceeded the expectations and stereotypes I had set out with at the start of my time abroad.
During our first week of orientation, we were greeted with a three-course welcome dinner at Brasenose College. Chatting with fellow Stanford students across candlelit tables in an oak-paneled dining room, I felt a long way away from eating dinner with friends at a Stanford dining hall. Dr. Tyack contributed to the sense of surrealism with a warm toast and the announcement that we should prepare ourselves for what would most likely be our best quarter yet at Stanford. Surrounded by new faces and uncertain about the difficulty of the tutorial system, I was unsure about the truthfulness of this statement. It would take only a few more weeks before I would say that Dr. Tyack’s prediction was correct.
Though I was initially overwhelmed by the prospect of writing an essay during my second week in Oxford, my first tutorial meeting proved to be more of an enjoyable and thought-provoking discussion of my paper than the Socratic style interrogation I was expecting. My tutor, PhD student Andrew MacDonald, led me through my tutorial topic of European ethnic conflict with stimulating essay questions and even more challenging counterpoints when it came to discussing the weekly paper itself. Due to his background in political science, Andrew forced me to consider the underlying causes of the topics we were studying from a political, as well as a historical, standpoint. The tutorial system not only allowed me to sharpen my writing skills and speed, but also enabled me to gain breadth and perspective in my area of concentration
Aside from the tutorial, becoming involved with university life through my affiliation with Brasenose College became a defining aspect of my Oxford experience. In addition to meeting Brasenose students over lunch, chatting in the JCR, and partaking in the tradition of formal hall, it was great to informally get to know Oxford students through Brasenose events like a James Bond casino night and various bops (themed parties). Perhaps the best part of being in Brasenose, however, was the chance to join the girls’ novice rowing team. Despite my lack of experience, the girls on my team were incredibly welcoming and encouraging, taking the time to introduce me to everyone, checking in with me after practice, and including me in team-bonding activities like weekly dinners and get-togethers with crew teams of other colleges. In addition to their friendliness and inclusiveness, I remember being overwhelmed by the sight of crew teams racing through the fog, with only a small light at the end of each boat at 5 AM each morning. Their dedication as well as the beauty of the boats gliding through the early morning water struck me, and I knew I could never experience anything quite like this at Stanford.
Away from Brasenose, I discovered a welcoming group of friends at the Stanford House. During the quarter, we cooked a Thanksgiving potluck together, commiserated over tutorial papers at late hours of the night, traveled to London to watch a ballet, ate an exorbitant amount of scones, and celebrated Halloween with a murder mystery party. For our Bing trip, we traveled to Wales to bond over touring castles and roaming the countryside in Cardiff and Cardigan-by-the-Bay. Perhaps one of the best parts about being in Oxford is being able to share it with other Stanford students who are as incredibly eager to travel and try new things as you are.
In addition to being housemates and friends, the Stanford students also become classmates. In Dr. Tyack’s “Art and Society in Britain” class, we were able to not only discover the art that Oxford had to offer, but also to travel several times into London and Chichester to view the pieces we were studying in class. Never having taken an art history class before, our exposure to classical British art in person was a unique experience. Another perk of taking Dr. Tyack’s course was being able to discuss the art we had seen and decompress over cream tea after class.
Taking Dr. Tyack’s class as well as having the opportunity to attend Bing events, like the theater, was undoubtedly one of the highlights of my Oxford experience. At Stanford, we often focus on how what we are doing can change the world, but being abroad in Oxford allowed me to see how being in a new world can change you. I would recommend studying in Oxford to anyone who is eager for an experience that will challenge you academically, broaden you culturally, and surprise you constantly.