Back to SummaryGeorgina Blackett - Student Advisor Profile
MINOR: Middle Eastern Languages, Literatures and Cultures
ACADEMIC INTERESTS/RESEARCH: Third World Nationalism, International Development, Colonial and Postcolonial Lit, Ambiguous Adventures
This summer I went back to Oxford to celebrate the 550th anniversary of Magdalen College- my college when I was at Oxford. Walking into town from the train station, I felt transported to last fall, when I was a student there, seeing everything for the first time.
The first thing you notice is how old everything is, older than anything at home
and more worn, too, but more alive for that reason as well- there is nothing sterile or plastic about Oxford; it is buzzing with history (and, come term time, with students, too). It is a city of golden spires and winding alleyways, with yellow stone buildings emerging from cobbled streets crowned with gargoyles: Hogwarts come to life.
It takes about an hour to get to Oxford from London Paddington on the Great Western. Walking from the Oxford train station towards the center of town, you first pass The Said Business School, which marks the western edge of life within Oxford. High Street is the town’s main artery, the “x axis” running through Oxford’s center, and Cornmarket is the “y”, running North-South. Wandering down these streets during the day, the town can seem quiet. The libraries, on the other hand- the Radcliffe Camera, the Bod- will be full to bursting. And with good reason: the Oxford tutorial system demands it.
My tutorial on the history of Arab nationalism in the twentieth century was at
once the most challenging and fulfilling experience of my academic career. It allowed me to delve into my major (History) and concentration (Middle Eastern History) to a degree that just wasn’t possible on campus. While the extensive reading lists and absence of spoon-feeding were daunting at first, the experience was absolutely worth it for the skills I acquired and work I produced. The Socratic method pushed me to read, digest, argue and write more and better than I had thought myself capable. In the end, being able to say that you wrote a 15 page paper every week- and enjoyed it- really leaves you with a deep sense of pride, and not a little flabbergasted at your own achievements (you clever thing, you).
While the tutorial is the distinguishing feature of Stanford’s Oxford program, its other academic offerings can be equally or even more rewarding. When I was at Oxford, I took “British Art and Society” with Dr. Geoffrey Tyack, who took the class to museums and galleries in Oxford, London, and Birmingham. Other Stanford friends took “Shakespeare: Critical Commentary” and “Jane Austen and the Rise of the Woman Novelist”, which allowed them to share the classroom with Oxford students. Both types of classes were not only stimulating on an
intellectual level, but also provided us with opportunities to deepen our understanding of and familiarity with British history, society, culture (and geography!) and immerse ourselves more deeply in Oxford and English life.
Academics aren’t all that Oxford has to offer. Oxford is an ideal college town: its museums, restaurants, shops, markets, theatres, parks, pubs, clubs are all first rate, and the town’s quietly studious environment changes dramatically when night falls- especially later in the week, when the streets can be literally heaving with people. (The libraries close at 10pm on weekdays, 4pm on Saturdays and are closed all day on Sundays). The town’s nightlife is varied, lively and hard to pass up. On a given night, you’ll see groups of students in subfusc for formal hall, going to a concert or playing a round of pub golf, streaming out of pubs and crowded round kebab vans dressed up according to a theme for a college “bop”. (My favorite was Magdalen’s “Old School” bop- I went as a grandmother). And should you desire a break from the “city of dreaming spires”, London, Cambridge (the “Other Place”), Bath, Bristol, Edinburgh and other scenic locations in Britain and Europe are just a short train, bus, or plane ride away.
Ultimately, the most rewarding part of my Oxford experience was the friends I made while I was there. I went back to Oxford this summer with them- to hear them sing in the choir for Magdalen’s “old boys” and their families. Listening to
them in the cloisters under the wide expanse of a Constable-clouded sky, I remembered all the fry ups that had led to this moment, all the afternoons spent in the Bod, all the rugby matches and evenings of evensong, the films borrowed from Magdalen’s library that we watched at midnight in the JCR lounge, the cups of tea taken in college while we looked over the deer park below.
Oxford, like any other abroad experience, is what you make of it. I’ve spent seven of the last twelve months working and studying in England and hope that what I’ve learned can help you as you set about making the most of your own time overseas.