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First Travel Without Family!

Posted On: February 18, 2015
by Tamara Elmani

Upon arriving at the University of Oxford this summer, I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know anyone, and it was my first time traveling without my family. Tabby and beautiful weather immediately welcomed me at the airport– well, my idea of beautiful weather, as coming from Dubai anything that isn’t 40 degrees in the summer is happily received. After the long and scenic car ride from the airport I arrived at Somerville College, which would be my home for two weeks of incredible memories and experiences.


There are so many things about the Oxford Institute’s summer program that make it unique. Exposure to the whole city of Oxford was one of the main things that I loved about this program. Alongside multiple tours of colleges, we toured around the city, ate at different restaurants and truly immersed ourselves in the Oxford city life as part of the program. We also had the freedom of university students, which allowed us to roam around the beautiful and busy streets of Oxford when we didn’t have lectures. By the end of the two weeks, I was able to navigate around the vicinity of Somerville College without any difficulty, which, for someone with such poor geographical skills as myself, was a great feat.


We also got to experience an extensive range of engaging, fun, but also educational, activities. One of my favorite activities was punting. Before coming to Oxford, I had never heard of punting, but the idea seemed exciting. It really lived up to my expectation, as I finally managed to convince myself that I was not going to fall off the boat – properly known as a “punt”. The experience was exhilarating (and pretty tiring on the arms too!), but it was a great bonding experience, as was feeding the ducks along the way. My favorite excursion was our trip to London, where we visited the Tower of London. Having sat through what seems like thousands of history lessons about the British monarchs at school, as well as reading a fair share of books and diaries from the Victorian and Tudor times, being able to visit the Tower of London was a surreal experience. It completely contextualized everything I had learned at school and was incredibly interesting!


The lectures and tutorial sessions also made the Oxford Institute unique, as it is the only program that offers small tutorial lessons. The lectures were incredibly interesting, covering topics ranging from the ethics of bionic arms to Harvard talks about morality. These, alongside our “formal dinners”, were some of the great times that all of the students got to experience together.


Although the things discussed above made The Oxford Institute special, the most important thing for me was the immense care that the deans have for the students’ well being. I fell ill on the first night of the course as a result of lack of sleep and what I think was bad airplane food. When I wasn’t feeling well, two of the dean’s, accompanied me to the hospital and stayed with me until 6am. For the next few days, I was unable to eat much food from the College; therefore one of the Deans brought me homemade soups and teas. The true concern of the dean’s was very much appreciated and made me feel at home. They were disciplinary whilst also treating us like adults and this really allowed me to grow as a person and as a student.

The Oxford Institute summer program gave me so many incredible memories that I could not possibly fit into one page, and has blessed me with friends that I’m sure I will keep for a lifetime.

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