So, I want to dispel some myths in this post about what it’s like to attend Oxford as a visiting student. Here are 6 things you should know if you’re considering studying abroad at Oxford, plus a YouTube video I made for my study abroad program in 2017! (This video includes most of the academic info in this post—#1-3. If you prefer to watch/listen instead of read, go for it. The rest of the post is new information, though).
Video: My Experience Studying Abroad at the University of Oxford
What it’s Like to Study Abroad at Oxford University
1. Classes are extremely individualized and very infrequent
2. The workload is intense, but there are long breaks between terms
This might sound like a breeze compared to the American academic schedule: 1.5 hours of class a week, only 2 courses per trimester, and 6-weeklong breaks?! The workload at Oxford is actually pretty heavy though, and requires you to be self-motivated. For my math tutorials, I had to basically learn the material on my own. Even when I had lectures, they were only somewhat related, as I needed to cover specific concepts to satisfy course requirements at Amherst (my home college). For my French tutorials, I had to read stacks of texts and essays, sometimes entire books, between each tutorial. I’m extremely grateful that French was my secondary tutorial and not my primary, because I couldn’t imagine that volume of reading weekly—the extra week really made a difference!
That said, academics at Oxford are manageable, as long as you space out your assignments and work steadily throughout the week.
3. There are no exams for visiting students
4. People will pick up after you, whether you like it or not
I guess all of this was pretty convenient, except when I wanted to sleep in and the housekeepers knocked on my door early in the morning to empty my trash haha. I was kind of uncomfortable with this level of “poshness” though—I have no problem doing all these tasks on my own.
I would also be remiss not to mention the level of privilege at Oxford. For instance, participating in extracurriculars and the social scene can be pretty expensive. Some student organizations require you to pay around 100 pounds (125 USD) to join, and I had to pay 90 pounds (110 USD) just to get access to the university pool. A classic Oxford experience is also going to a school ball, which is also often 60-100 pounds, and sometimes upwards of 200 pounds! These sky-high prices can make participating in certain experiences prohibitive for students without the means, which is really sad. I was lucky that my financial aid from Amherst carried over to studying abroad, as student life definitely felt more expensive there.
5. There’s a strong sense of tradition
6. It’s difficult to become friends with locals
The Divinity School
What to Pack for Studying Abroad at Oxford
This section contains affiliate links, meaning that I may earn a small commission on any purchases made through these links. This doesn’t cost you any extra, and is a great way to support my blog if you found this post helpful.
There are a couple essentials you’ll need for your semester abroad, if you’re coming from outside of the UK. These links go to Amazon if you’re planning to shop there anyways, but I also want to encourage you to buy from small, local shops, if you can.
- Universal adapter—I used this one when living in Europe, and when I traveled to the UK. Keep in mind that this doesn’t have USB C charging ports, so you’ll need a USB to USB C cable or adapter if that’s what your phone needs.
- European SIM card—You can buy SIM cards once in England (I recommend Lycamobile, which is cheap and can be found in many corner shops). But, if you want cell service upon arrival, you’ll need to buy something at home, or at the airport. This SIM card has good reviews, but feel free to shop around as well.
- Wise borderless account—You’ll likely need to exchange currency or open up a UK bank account, but you can skip the formalities and high conversion rates with a Wise borderless account. Wise gives you the real exchange rate and takes a 1% fee. This is way cheaper than services like Western Union and sending money directly from traditional banks. Wise also has a free borderless account that allows you to hold 50+ currencies (including the British pound!), and withdraw the equivalent of 250 USD from ATMs for free each month.
Cheers (is this too cheesy for a post about Oxford haha?),