The Oxford Study Abroad Program.” The thought had never occurred to me. The idea that Oxford University would have a study abroad option was shockingly startling. I mean, I kind of always assumed the ivy leagues were privy to such things, but that relative plebians such as I could attend? It seemed highly unlikely, and yet it is so.

The Oxford Study Abroad Program, or OSAP, is available to many college campuses. Now, per usual, this entire extravaganza of getting there was not so easy as one could hope. I was clued into the idea of attending Oxford during what would have been my second to last semester at my university. I was told that I could attend and likely receive a sizable scholarship to do so. As I was already at my wits end in terms of how many classes I would need to graduate a semester ahead of time (I was taking 7 and 1/2 classes)…I decided to stay an extra semester to qualify for the scholarship.

A Little Snag…

It wasn’t that easy. First, my school cancelled the program out of a “lack of interest.” The school gets maybe 30 or so people studying abroad every semester and that’s out of 15,000 attendees. Last I had heard at least two other individuals were “interested.” Thus, I don’t know why they cancelled the program.

I was still determined. The original program through my school was about $2,000 cheaper than the visitor option and included airfare but I wasn’t going to miss out on my chance to attend a university out of my childhood dreams. I opted for the 4-week program instead of the original 6-week program, in order to make the trip cost effective. Unlike my previous trips, this one was absolutely not a budget option. With the cheapest option being $6,900 (It has since gone up to $7,400), AKA larger than my entire budget for France last summer, it was a little like being a deer in the headlights. It didn’t include airfare or food, although it did include housing. Eventually I received a $4000 scholarship that made everything a little easier, although it was still as expensive as the France trip for my pocket.

The dining hall in New College, Oxford, with long tables and vaulted ceilings

The beautiful Harry-Potter-like dining hall of New College in Oxford

But What Does the Oxford Study Abroad Program Involve?

The main selling point of Oxford above other universities is the fact that you receive one-on-one classes known as Tutorials. You do not have to deal with anyone else in your classroom distracting you, or worrying about receiving vital individualized time. This makes the classes highly customizable. Although the main professor in my field of interest, Language Revitalization, was out sick. This was only a slight disappointment. My back-up tutor for Morphology was still able to gear the class towards my interests and I was able to learn a lot.

Oxford Study Abroad Class Structure

Most people met with their tutors once a week for an hour. In the typical British way, you were meant to do everything for the meeting ahead of time. Unlike in the US, where you go to class to have subjects explained to you, in the UK you generally learn those things at home and discuss them in your meetings. In this way, one can gain a better understanding by actually diving deep and making the information more personalized. The US should absolutely change their system to this, it encourages true learning instead of memorizing for a certain test or presentation.

By only meeting for an hour it is possible to travel a lot while on this program. I was able to spend an entire week in Wales and about 4 days in Bath. There is a heavy workload but you can do most of it on a computer. I even took pictures of my textbook so I could read the pages on my phone while on the train to Cardiff. It’s highly flexible, you decide which day of the week you’re meeting on and then schedule your travel around that. I do recommend giving yourself at least one week to just explore Oxford, as I feel I didn’t truly utilize my time as well as I could actually seeing Oxford. I’ll have a separate post about my time in the city of Oxford.

Work Load

The work load is intense, don’t get me wrong. Depending on your field of study it is likely you will be doing several problem sets, drawings, or in my case essays and presentations. A 1,500 to 2,000 word essay is due every week. This normally involves reading several books, in my case 2-3 chapters out of each of 10-12 books. Due to some scheduling conflicts we wound up with two meetings a week every two weeks. For the shorter periods of 2-3 days I would read a lengthy academic article, prepare a presentation on it, and present it at the meeting. I would also do a shorter problem set in this time.

Although it may sound like a lot, when you realize it is the only class you’ll have and it only meets once a week…it is really very flexible. I loved this system and I only wish American universities could borrow more from it.

In-university rowing competition while I was there!

How to Get Into the Oxford Study Abroad Program

You can go in the summer, like I did, for 4-10 weeks, or you can go for a full term or semester. I really recommend staying for at least the 6-weeks, even if it is pricey. I think I would have had a much easier time adjusting and getting into the swing of things if I had.

You have to have a 3.7 GPA

This is why I always say that it is worth it to try just a little harder in every class (talk to the professor, disability services, whatever you need) to get a better grade. The gain you get in terms of scholarships is completely worth it, not to mention it will help with graduate schools and first jobs. One trick I always used was to have a “freebie” class. My school offered 1-2 credit courses in Horseback Riding, Yoga, Piano, and more. Each semester I would take one of these classes where the entirety of the requirement was showing up in order to get an A. It was also fun. Check out my How to Travel as a Student post for more tips.

Other than that, you’re good to go!

What the Oxford Study Abroad Program Includes

Other than the one-on-one tutorial style class the program includes your housing. Based on my experience, this is incredibly hit-or-miss. The first place we were in was incredibly humid, the water was literally either boiling or freezing, and the floors were so gross my roommate decided to mop. It was also about a 25 minute walk from anything. Now, I’m not terribly fussy. However, when an entire room flooded during a rain storm and proceeded to mold over the following days, we were finally moved out. Also our upstairs neighbors were ridiculously loud and I lived in fear of getting kicked out because of their antics. Apparently even Oxford is not safe from the stupid fratboy types.

A large puddle of water under a window

The slightly dried flood in our sitting room, this would gain an unearthly smell in the coming days.

We moved to a larger place with 5 roommates instead of 3, where the internet didn’t work in most rooms – but it was actually super lovely, everything functioned and the maintenance were super responsive.

The program also includes various day tours to Bath, Windsor, London, and a few others. I opted for my own more lengthy trip to Bath but I did go on the Windsor trip and it was a lot of fun and included our entry tickets. I took my own day trip to London to see the Opera!

A Windsor Guard in his red suit and funny hat in front of his post.

A Windsor Guard in his red suit and funny hat.

Was it Worth It?

Uh, yeah. It’s Oxford. The resumé value alone is incalculable, plus I utilized my time well while I was there. Besides that, though, I got to experience a place I’ve always wanted to go to as a student, not a tourist. I will say, if you have the money, I would definitely spring for at least the 6 week program. I felt like I didn’t quite find myself fitting in to Oxford until the third week or so. I would have loved to get a little more time to be at Oxford.

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