Former EST Editor reports on her Oxford experience
This is a snippet of the experience I had studying abroad with Summit Oxford. The Summit Weeks
Before and after our eight-week Oxford term, we studied scripture and worldviews with Kevin Bywater, an excellent biblical scholar and a faithful man of God. I was unsure whether I would gain much new knowledge from the worldview intensive, because I felt “worldviewed out” after being raised a Christian and attending a Christian college for a few years. Now, I can affirm the deep value of the Summit weeks for students regardless of their background. Come with an open mind, and be willing to examine your own presuppositions as well as others’.
What is Oxford Like?
The prospect of studying abroad at Oxford University elicits images of reading for hours in plush old chairs where C.S. Lewis sat and chatting over tea and biscuits at a local café. I can confirm that those images are surprisingly obtainable, though the only chairs I found that C.S. Lewis used were the hard wooden benches in the Eagle and Child. Lived experience, as compared to the imagined future, is always simultaneously more mundane and more exciting, more limited by fatigue and more enlivened by bursts of insight and creativity.
Here’s the summary of the academics: the eight-week Oxford term is a challenge. I know what you’re thinking: “Eight weeks?! That’s like half of a King’s semester. No sweat!” Also, there are no tests.
Trust me—I loved it, but by the end of eighth week, I was very done.
You take a primary tutorial worth nine credits on one topic and a secondary tutorial worth five credits on another topic. For your primary tutorial, you meet with a tutor one-on-one every week, and for your secondary, every other week. Likewise, the primary tutorial generally requires one 2,000- to 3,000-word essay every week; the secondary tutorial requires one every other week.
If you are a brilliant type-A person like Catherine Ratcliffe, who attended Summit Oxford in the fall of 2013, you might be able to join the archery club or your college’s rowing team in addition to your studies. Lots of King’s people seem to be of that sort. I am not. So for me, trips to the Bodleian library filled most of my 60-hour school week.
The weekly reading assignments for my primary tutorial included seven or eight essays or books. My secondary included about as many every other week. Some of the essays were so dense and technical that they took a day or two for me to finish (we’re talking a full day spent on 30 pages). Luckily, you aren’t expected to do all the assigned reading. The point is for you to answer the essay question as well as possible and be prepared for what may essentially be an hour-long oral exam on each set of readings.
On the other hand, some students I met were reading their favorite novels for their tutorials, and during sessions, the tutors did most of the talking. So the Oxford experience is, in a significant sense, unique to each individual, depending on what topics they choose to study and how their tutors guide the tutorials.
There are plenty of interesting encounters to be had with Oxford students, and the Summit folk were all lovely. I grew close to my roommates during the semester. We supported each other, especially during those weeks when we had two essays due instead of one. (We could have distributed the work for the secondary tutorials evenly over the full two weeks, but I usually lacked the discipline.)
In sum, I loved it and learned so much in such a short period. There’s also plenty of time to travel Europe and explore Oxford itself, where the libraries look like temples, the colleges look like fortresses and cathedrals, and 500-year-old buildings are more common than 20-year-old ones. Must-sees? London. Scotland. The Kilns. Magdalen College. English sunrises over the green horse fields on clear mornings. Those were better than I’d imagined.