Andrew Hagstrom - Oxford University

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Andrew Hagstrom

Andrew Hagstrom '10 majored in history and Ancient Languages at Wheaton. During the fall semester of his junior year, he studied abroad at Oxford University.

What program did you participate in?

I participated in a Best Semester program called “Scholar's Semester in Oxford.” This program is a wonderful opportunity for someone who is studying the humanities. It offers a wide selection of courses in classical languages, history, English, philosophy, and theology. As a humanities major, I leapt at the chance to study them at a world-famous institution of learning. The courses I chose did not exactly line up with courses offered at Wheaton, but I was able to get the credit I needed through them. ... The tuition for one semester of study at Oxford through this program is not much more than the cost of one semester at Wheaton. However, with extra expenses such as plane and bus fares, food and souvenirs, and with the high exchange rate, it does add up to quite a bit more. The extra cost is well worth it though for the opportunity of a lifetime.

What did your program involve? What classes/major requirements did it count for? What did you study?

The program involves several elements: two tutorials (a primary and a secondary), a British history course, and an integrative seminar. The tutorial involves meeting with an Oxford professor one-on-one or in small groups for discussion. For each meeting, the student is required to have prepared an essay or some other kind of work. The professor asks the student questions about the assignment and expects him or her to actively engage in discussion. The primary tutorial involves meeting once a week, while the secondary tutorial involves meeting every two weeks.

My primary tutorial was in the Old English Language and Literature. My secondary tutorial was on Saint Augustine's Life and Thought and counted for 3 credits towards my history major. Since this tutorial met only once every two weeks, I was expected to produce a lengthy and well-researched essay for each meeting. For each of my tutorials, I was also expected to attend a series of lectures recommended by my tutors.

Tell me a little about your experience, what a typical day looked like, how hard the work was, etc.

While I was studying in Oxford, I stayed at a large house just ten minutes' walk from City Center. I stayed there with about 15 other people. An Oxford graduate student who was a staff member for the program also lived with us and was responsible for supervising us and helping us to adjust to the new academic environment. ... We took field trips to various historical and cultural sites throughout England such as Stonehenge, Salisbury Cathedral, London, the Lake District, etc. One of the highlights of these field trips was seeing a Shakespeare play in London at the Globe Theater. ...

The program, however, involves more than study and academics. One of the greatest things about studying abroad is the opportunity to engage with another culture. I interacted with Oxford students and professors on a daily basis. I attended Anglican church services. I drank tea like a good English man; in fact, every Sunday, an elaborate tea party would be held at our house after church, hosted by the Oxford graduate student living with us. And I participated in clubs and sports. ...

How did this experience contribute to your experience as a history major? Does it make some things come more naturally/easily, or did it help you expand your interests? How does it connect to things you do at Wheaton as a history major?

My study abroad experience was a tremendous supplement to my study of history. Through the interaction with another culture, through the field trips and lectures, and through my travels in France, I was able to engage with history on whole new level. History came alive as I visited places that I had only read about in books before. I also gained some valuable historical research and writing skills through the concentrated kind of work I did in the tutorials, through the tutors, and through the wealth of resources offered by the library. After participating in this program, I came back to Wheaton College with new confidence in my ability as a student and a history major to perform historical research and to interact with historical issues. This has been visibly evident to me. At a conference for the Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society last semester, I won an award for a paper that I wrote at Oxford. My travel experience and my studies at Oxford brought me to a new level as an historian. I feel it has better prepared me for graduate school and for professional scholarship. In light of my experience, I would highly encourage other history majors at Wheaton to consider studying abroad.

 Written by Danielle Acker, December 2009

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