I made a wild, wild decision in December 2014. I was in first year, almost done my first semester, and had decided that I wanted to go on a Summer Abroad trip. It’s uncommon for first years to pursue Summer Abroad trips, mainly because of financial costs (first years aren’t eligible for the scholarships/awards offered by the Summer Abroad programs, but they are eligible for Summer OSAP and other awards) and they’re usually still getting used to the university experience. However, I had decided to take this ambitious step because I had never traveled internationally before, with the exception of a few road trips to the U.S. and a week at Disney World when I was younger.
I traveled to Oxford, England for a month and studied U of T’s Shakespeare course (offered by the Department of English) at Oxford University. It was a perfect fit because I had always wanted to travel to England and I enjoyed reading Shakespeare throughout middle and high school. One of my majors is English, so I was also able to complete a requirement for my subject POSt. It was a great opportunity because by traveling through the Summer Abroad program, I didn’t have to worry about booking my flight, accommodation, and other necessary aspects of travel. There was also no worry about transfer credits because all Summer Abroad courses are U of T courses taught by U of T professors.
Classes were run a bit differently than the typical U of T course. You’re only able to take one full year credit during the program, and each classroom had about twenty-five students. Also, the workload wasn’t as strenuous as regular full year courses might be, due to the time constraints of being in your destination for only one month. My Shakespeare class was heavily participation-based, and we had a one page reflection paper about our readings due at the beginning of every class. Our midterm and final exam were “take home” (to our Oxford dorms), so that we had a few days to work on them and they were similar to essays rather than actual tests.
The best part about taking a U of T course abroad is that the learning experience is brought to life. My professor was extremely passionate about Shakespeare and once a week, our class would go on field trips to London’s Globe Theatre or Stratford-upon-Avon’s Royal Shakespeare Company to watch a production of a play we were studying. I will never forget standing (no sitting space in the pit in front of the stage!) for three hours in the Globe Theatre watching a production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing in the pouring rain (with no umbrella because they weren’t allowed, I might add). The Globe Theater is an opened roof building, and I loved every minute of the unique and amazing experience.
Oxford is a university town, in which the majority of the population in the surrounding area were Oxford students or tourists. It was a stark contrast from the downtown Toronto that I grew up in. There were no high rise buildings, and everything had a much deeper architectural history than our modern Toronto. Businesses also had shorter hours than Toronto, and the weather was much cooler for August than I was used to (not complaining there).
I’ll admit, for the first week, I was struck with homesickness and culture shock that I hadn’t expected. But ultimately, by becoming close friends with people in the program, I was able to overcome that and enjoy my experience in Oxford. Since classes ran from Monday to Thursday mornings, there was plenty of time to explore (and work on school work). I spent time exploring Oxford, London, and Stratford-upon-Avon, which also happens to be Shakespeare’s hometown. I also visited the Warner Brothers London Studios, where the Harry Potter movies were filmed, and trust me, I didn’t want to leave.
I like to think that choosing to do a Summer Abroad was one of the first “adult” decisions I made to step outside of my comfort zone, and try something new (in a very drastic and crazy way). In the short month I was there, I truly fell in love with England. Sometimes, when believing that something is wonderful, its reality can be disappointing. But this wasn’t the case. Going on a Summer Abroad trip was one of the most memorable and important decisions that I made as a U of T student, and I’ve never regretted it for a second. I miss England, and I’d like to hopefully return one day. Summer Abroad pushed me to become a more adventurous person, and I’ll forever be grateful for that.
If you’re interested in pursuing a Summer Abroad, applications are due TODAY (February 13, 2017 at 5:00 pm), so hurry and submit your application!
Have you studied abroad or have questions for me about studying abroad? Let me know in the comments section!