Michael – Psychology
What subject(s) are you studying and how are they taught?
My focus of study has been in experimental psychology and neuroscience. Experiencing these subjects through the tutorial system style of learning has been enlightening. In typical US academic format, scientific writing is somewhat sidetracked by an emphasis on learning a broader scope of material within a discipline. The process of demonstrating my knowledge and drawing my own conclusions through an essay lends itself to more specific learning. Naturally each student will have their own approach for writing on a given title, and it is this individualised experience that has allowed me to realise no two Oxford students are the same. With just one or two tutorials per week, visiting students have the ability to fully dive into the material. Supplemental lectures are usually recommended; however, as visiting students do not participate in exams, tutors are flexible in teaching to your interests. Consequently, lectures may sometimes serve purely to satisfy academic curiosity.
Why did you choose Teddy Hall for your study abroad?
I chose Teddy Hall for its character and personality. There is no place better in the world to study than Oxford University, so academics were certainly on my mind when choosing my college as well. It is very clear that Teddy students take their studies seriously, but they also lead balanced lifestyles. The commitment to being a well-rounded individual is reminiscent of the liberal arts mindset of my home institution. I felt more comfortable engaging in an environment where I would be able to relate to matriculated students that way.
What have you found most different about the Oxford system to your home university?
It is difficult to identify one characteristic that distinguishes the Oxford system from that of my home institution because the switch was a complete overhaul of the learning process I was familiar with. A big difference for me was having tutorials outside of my college. At home, you are restricted from taking classes at other colleges for the most part. At Oxford, if the best tutor for you is a fellow at a different college, you might have your tutorial there. You really get the sense that the Oxford system will equip you with the best education available.
What is your favourite aspect of studying here?
My favourite aspect of studying at Teddy Hall is discovering the differences in international perspectives on my subjects between the US and the UK. The Centre for the Creative Brain has been a phenomenal part of my experience here. Conceptualising neuroscience in creative ways, even in a clinical setting, is something that is just starting to gain interest in the US. I hope to bring back some of what I have learned to my home institution. I am also still mesmerised by the sights here. Even after six months, I have not grown jaded to the dreaming spires around me and I doubt I ever would.
What advice would you give to a prospective visiting student making an application?
The advice I would give to a prospective visiting student is to seriously consider which Oxford college is the best fit for you, and definitely consider Teddy Hall! Oxford University seems like a single entity from far away, but each of its respective colleges truly has its own personality and it is worth getting to know them. For someone who attends a small school at home, a large university seemed quite scary; however, you’ll discover that each college is a tight-knit community. That small-college feel still exists here under the guise of the university. It might be the best of both worlds.
What is life like as a visiting student here?
Being a visiting student here is at first a little like being the ‘new kid’ at school. Nevertheless, after a bit, you start to find your niche. Talking to other students who study your subject is a great way to start a friendship. Naturally, you will leave academics behind some nights and enjoy the city. There is a wealth of movie theatres, bookstores, pubs, museums, clubs, and a variety of shopping to take advantage of during your stay. It may be impossible to do everything, but you can do a lot and should take advantage of your time in the UK. Find time to go into London and also explore the Cotswolds. Being a visiting student here is really just like being a college student at home. Although, Oxford will not be the ‘spring break party’ study abroad experience some of your friends are having, you will leave Oxford feeling accomplished and having learned a ton. Be yourself and have fun; you won’t regret it!
What sort of extra-curricular activities are you involved in at Oxford?
During my time at Oxford, I really took the time to make the most out of my academic studies, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t get involved outside of the classroom too. I had a fantastic time tearing up the pitch with the Teddy Hall football club. Additionally, I sang with the alternative choir and attended a single Teddy Hall boat club practice. While in the end I decided I love my bed too much to continue with the sport, I am so thankful I got the chance to try it out. The opportunity to experience a new sport isn’t really available at my home institution but was very accessible at Oxford. Much of my free time was also spent as a research assistant for an experimental psychology project. That endeavour has taught me so much about the subject in the actual field and about practical research skills. Overall, Oxford has been an amazing experience inside the classroom and out!