Natassia Walley (she/her) - Stanford in Oxford
Minor: Human Rights
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: Me, walking down Observatory Street in North Oxford.
Questions and Answers with
Why did you choose to study abroad in Oxford?
Oxford's tutorial-based learning format really appealed to me, as I had been craving the chance to explore and contemplate the nuances of a given historical period, instead of balancing 3-4 demanding classes. The humanities-focused culture I had heard was quintessentially “Oxford” also excited me, as Stanford can feel very STEM dominated at times. I was (and still am) very interested in histories of colonialism and was excited to engage with the scholarship on British colonialism in the country from which it originated. On a more personal note, my father is British and went to Oxford, so I wanted to see what his college experience might have been like, and thereby learn more about him, and my British heritage, in the process.
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Oxford?
I expected to be working on my tutorial day and night and was surprised at how much free time I ended up having to explore Oxford and England.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Oxford?
There are so many! I think learning how to read and synthesize information quickly, and then write quickly. Also learning how to write in a more philosophical and argumentative style. I also got significantly better at time management in all aspects of life.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
That my attention span is about 1 hour and 15 minutes! After that point, I would need to get up and walk around the Brasenose library and the quad, grab some tea and/or maybe chat with some friends. I also ended up realizing that there is stretch of time between 3 and 8 pm where it became very difficult to focus, so I’d structure my day accordingly and do my groceries, work out, cook dinner with some friends or go out for dinner, go to formal hall, etc. in that time frame.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
I’d probably say it was getting used to the quantity of reading I was assigned per week and learning how to get the main arguments out of a book without reading all of it (literally setting yourself time limits per book). I am a perfectionist and with unlimited time would prefer to just keep reading, to be sure I didn’t miss anything. But it was important for me and my sanity to learn how to effectively “skim” and this skill has served me greatly in my life since.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
“Quite good” in American translates to pretty good, and in England to “kinda meh.” It doesn’t sound like a big thing, but I think we actually use “quite,” quite often (in this context meaning really often, but meaning not that often in the UK).
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Oxford?
Getting up early! Which is not something I am particularly good at. It’s probably mostly because Brasenose served an excellent English breakfast (hash browns, baked beans, eggs, and a roasted tomato) that was served between 8 - 9am. Or because I was going to rowing practice and would get to watch the sunrise over the river marshes from the skull. I also enjoyed making myself cups of Yorkshire (Red) tea at nearly any time of day.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Oxford?
Seeing the Roman Baths in Bath Spa (a town about 1hr away by train from Oxford). A must see. Beautiful and historically fascinating. Also, just odd! I never thought I’d get to see a still-bubbling Roman Bath in the middle of England!
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Invigorating, Intellectual, Assuring, Motivational, Exciting
What was your favorite food you had in Oxford?
The sticky toffee pudding from Turf Tavern.
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
My laptop, my grandmother’s ring (that I wear often) and my various sentimental bits and bobs that I use to decorate my room.
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Oxford?