Angela Liu (she/her/hers) - Stanford in Oxford
Major: Mathematical and Computational Science
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: Me in Exeter College for formal dinner! Each college at Oxford has formal dinners at least once a week during the term that students can sign up to attend, where you get to dress up and are served a 3-course meal in the college's dining hall.
Questions and Answers with Angela
Why did you choose to study abroad in Oxford?
I knew coming into Stanford that I wanted to study abroad, and I eventually decided to apply to BOSP’s Oxford program because of its tutorial system, my desire to learn in an environment that felt very different from Stanford but still very academic, and because it was a program that did not require me to learn a language I was not already familiar with. To me, the opportunity of taking a tutorial at Oxford appeared as a chance to dedicate a whole quarter to focus almost solely on an academic area of interest I am passionate about and to learn from a tutor who is a specialist in the field, which was an experience I knew I couldn’t get on campus at Stanford and strongly influenced my decision to choose Oxford.
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Oxford?
One thing I was a bit concerned about before leaving for Oxford was that it would take a while for me to find and make close friends with other students both in my cohort and at Oxford, and so I was afraid of feeling alone in a new environment. However, I quickly saw that this was not the case at all, as I got to know my genuine, intelligent, and passionate peers in my cohort who were all as excited as I was about this opportunity that we were all presented with. I’m so grateful I got to share this experience with all of them, and I still keep in touch with my friends I made there and am so excited to see them back on Stanford’s campus. I also found students at Oxford who were very warm and welcoming to all of us, and their efforts to help us settle in and get acquainted with the campus and the city really contributed to my overall great experience.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Oxford?
I chose to take a tutorial in statistical machine learning, a subject I’ve been interested in for a while since declaring my major as Mathematical and Computational Science, because I wanted to really get a solid understanding of the subject before taking more intense classes related to it at Stanford. My tutorial allowed me to do just that, and I really valued and enjoyed my weekly meetings with my tutor, where I got to ask as many questions as I had and we got to walk through lessons that were tailored to my specific interests within machine learning. Besides sharing his wealth of knowledge in the subject with me, my tutor also provided me advice and insight into pursuing more advanced degrees in this field after my undergraduate career, which was also extremely valuable to me.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
Being in Oxford allowed me to see what I genuinely like to do when given free time, and what study habits work best for me when I have a lot more time than I normally would back on campus. The tutorial and class schedule at Oxford gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of when to work on assignments for classes, since class meetings are usually only once a week. As a result, I got to see when and where I was most productive (usually working alone in Oxford libraries or in the Stanford House library) and to learn how to best split up my day so that I was able to stay focused and still enjoy everything Oxford had to offer.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
I think one of the biggest challenges for me was honestly having to decide how to best allocate my time to try and do everything I wanted to do whilst being abroad. I really wanted to immerse myself in my tutorial and also just learn about other subjects I have always been interested in but never had enough time to dedicate to, while also having as many experiences as possible within Oxford and traveling throughout the U.K. I think I learned that prioritizing what’s most important to myself at a moment in time is what worked best for me, and I found that by doing that and making sure to continue saying yes to trying new experiences allowed me to not have any regrets about the choices I made in regards to how I spent my time.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
Oxford has many traditions and customs that make it unique and special but also very different from Stanford’s more relaxed culture. Certain rules like making sure not to step on college lawns and standing up and not talking while members of the High Table enter the dining hall at formal dinners seemed a bit unfamiliar at first, but I think I adjusted fairly quickly and grew to enjoy these things that made Oxford so different from Stanford to me.
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Oxford?
Two things I loved were going on runs around Christ Church Meadow in the late afternoon and eating meals with my friends in my college’s, Corpus Christi’s, dining hall. Christ Church Meadow was so gorgeous in the spring with all of the green trees, blooming flowers, and ducks and swans swimming in the river surrounding the meadow, and I loved taking in all of those beautiful views during my runs. I also loved eating meals at Corpus Christi, and since there were only 10 of us Stanford students in the cohort affiliated with Corpus, it was easy for us to eat together really frequently. We usually sat in the beautiful dining hall, but sometimes we would take our food outside and eat on the college’s terrace that had an amazing view of Christ Church Meadow too.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Oxford?
There are so many memorable experiences I had in Oxford that are really special to me, but one that stands out is pulling an all-nighter with my friends to celebrate May Day. It’s an Oxford tradition to stay up the whole night before May 1 and then watch the Magdalen College choir sing at the top of Magdalen Tower at sunrise, and so my friends and I went to the college’s ball, stayed up singing and dancing, watched the choir sing, and had a traditional English breakfast. It was definitely tiring, but also a great bonding experience and a time I felt connected to the all of the students at Oxford.
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Excitement, growth, spontaneity, appreciation, joy
What was your favorite food you had in Oxford?
Afternoon tea and scones! All of the best scones I’ve had in my life were in different cafes in Oxford and London, and I also loved all of the afternoon teas I got to try with the delicious finger sandwiches, pastries, and small desserts.
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
My parka jacket! Even though I was in Oxford during the spring term, it still got pretty cold and windy on some days, especially near the beginning of the term in early April and when we were in the countryside for our Bing trip. I almost did not bring it because I didn’t think I would need it, but I would definitely recommend bringing a jacket that you wouldn’t normally ever wear at Stanford because the UK is a lot colder!
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Oxford?
I tried to listen to more music and artists that are related to England in one way or another while I was in Oxford. I think the songs I listened to the most that fell into that category were “London Boy” by Taylor Swift, “Are You Ready For Love?” by Elton John, and all of Harry Styles’ newest album, “Harry’s House.”