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 Back to SummaryElizabeth Clair - Student Advisor Profile

photo of Elizabeth Clair
Stanford in Oxford —
MAJOR: History


According to the Bodlein Library’s Mistress of Admissions, “Oxford’s main commodities are, without question, education, scholarship, knowledge, and pedagogy.”

Oxford remains unique among adventures. As a student, looking for knowledge, searching for education, and dreaming of scholarship and pedagogy, I found Oxford to be a phenomenal exploration in a foreign land. Oscar Wilde once described England and the United States as “two nations divided by a common language.” In spite of their similarity, our two countries maintain a significant and somewhat exotic separation where words like Pip Pip, Sugar Puffs, Cor Blimey!, High tea, Spring Balls, G&Ds, Moo Moos, Ben’s, Ahmed’s, and punting reign in their significance across the pond. In the past term at Oxford, I learned to take comfort in things that I recognized (ie Starbucks, McDonald’s, Coke, Pepsi, Gap/Banana Republic, Almond Roca) and, more importantly, find adventure in those that I did not.

The spring 2010 term’s inhabitants of the Stanford House included a remarkable group of Stanford students who bonded as friends, peers, and travelers. We celebrated birthdays with cake at midnight in the common room kitchens and cooked potluck dinners together. We braved Oxford College Formal halls and competed for Oxford’s athletics teams. We wrote papers together into the wee hours of the morning and traveled together on the weekends. And above all, we celebrated American traditions, while reveling in British culture.

Oxford is known, among many other wonderful things, for its Libraries and incredible Special Collections. Combining a fascination with museums and collections with my interests in British heritage, my tutorial became an intersection of art, art history, and history.

While my classes at Stanford have challenged me, my tutorial has been among the most intense and demanding academic experience. Through the History of Public Collections, I had the opportunity to walk though the museums of Oxford and London with an expert. Our strolling tutorials required confidence with my comprehension of the readings and interpretations of those readings, and demanded that I could not only explain the significance in terms of the passages, but also recognize the greater context of each reading/author in terms of the museums. The Tutorial system teaches students to answer a question and to support the response.

During the term, I had the opportunity to attend many Formal Halls, at several different colleges. Brasenose, however, has remained among my favorite Formal Hall experiences. At the stroke of 7:30 on Sunday nights, the bell tolls and the room of students stand at attention as grace is said, and by 7:31, the first course is served. It is an evening of precision… dramatically opposing most meals at Oxford colleges where cafeteria-style reigns.

Our Bing trip to Wales was incredible. We spent four days enjoying the land of sheep and castles . Other amazing activities include seeing Macbeth at the Globe, exploring the Oxford Castle and Gloucester Green markets, taking the train or bus to London to visit both Tates, and the British Museum, theater and a bit of shopping. Other weekends offered Stonehenge, Salisbury and Bath and another to Windsor and Cliveden as well as visits (thanks to Dr. Tyack’s fabulous Art/Society class!) to Kenwood House and Buscot Park to view British architecture and art!

Three extraordinary students who were selected as the Oxford/Stanford student liaisons helped make the entire term special, emailing us invitations to dinners, events, or just checking in to say Hi. One of the best pieces of advice that was offered prior to my arrival was simply to “say yes.” Oxford students, a friend told me, are like any other students in the world- they are busy, they have their own friends, and they have their own lives. As such, if you are welcomed into their circles, and invited to join them, ”say yes.”

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