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Marianne Lu

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Marianne Lu (she/her) - Stanford in Oxford

Major: International Relations

College year while abroad: Junior

About the photo: Me at Christ Church College!


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Why did you choose to study abroad in Oxford?

I loved the Harry Potter books as a child (still do), and Oxford’s architecture and history always seemed like the closest thing to Hogwarts in my mind. When I was more seriously thinking about different study abroad programs, Oxford stood out because it would allow me to experience academic and social life at a whole other university, which I’d always wanted to do. I loved my time there and definitely think I made the right decision!

What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Oxford?

I intentionally didn’t go into Oxford with too many expectations, but I was surprised by how easy it was to join activities and meet people, which was really facilitated by the college system.

What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Oxford?

While I’ve loved the breadth of my Stanford education, the tutorial system at Oxford was a great way for me to delve into my interests and completely immerse myself in one topic. My tutorial was on AI governance in the US and China, which I had never studied in a systematic way before. Through weekly readings and essays and discussions with my tutor, I came away with a strong foundation that’s been really helpful for my thesis in the field.

What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?

Unlike at Stanford, where my days are often packed and I’m constantly surrounded by other people, Oxford gave me the time and space to discover how I enjoy spending my time and allowed me to do so really intentionally. I learned about the daily routines that bring me joy and also how I best learn and unwind.

What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?

It was challenging adjusting to the different requirements of a tutorial, compared to classes at Stanford. I was initially thrown off by the lack of guidance and the large amounts of reading, but my tutor was really supportive and I ended up learning a lot.

What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?

I wouldn’t say there were huge cultural adjustments, but it was interesting to observe the differences in language, traditions, and daily routines between Stanford and Oxford, even though the two schools don’t seem so different on the surface. For example, I really enjoyed how Oxford cherished its history and traditions, whereas Stanford is definitely more focused on change and the future.

What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Oxford?

I loved going on morning runs along the river and spending my afternoons reading in different libraries and cafes around town.

What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Oxford?

Oxford was filled with so many special moments, but one that sticks out most is attending the triennial ball that Magdalen, my college, hosted in the spring. The ball ran from 6pm to 6am, and included an ice rink, bumper cars, fireworks, a ton of food trucks, and live music. Wandering around the decorated grounds with the people I’d met during my time at Oxford was definitely an amazing and surreal ending to my time there.

What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?

Will never eat potatoes again.

What was your favorite food you had in Oxford?

Afternoon tea.

What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?

My umbrella.

What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Oxford?

Can’t say I loved British rap but I loved re-discovering all the throwback 2010s songs that they seemed to love playing at Oxford.