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Sophie Andrews

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Sophie Andrews (she/her) - Stanford in Oxford

Major: Mathematical and Computational Science
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: This is me on a peddle boat! We tried to go punting, but the current was too strong, so we rented a peddle boat instead. This picture was from my last day in Oxford in March, and the weather was beautiful!

Questions and Answers with Sophie

Why did you choose to study abroad in Oxford?

One big factor was that I wanted to experience what it was like to be a student at another university. I only get to be a student once, so it was cool to see what that was like somewhere else. Joining Magdalen College made it easy to get involved. Another big factor for me was the tutorial system, which gave me the chance to do a focused study on a particular subject. My courses at Stanford revolve around math and computer science, but classical music is also a big interest of mine. I wanted my tutorial to be a chance for me to do a deep dive in classical music, which I found I did not have time to do at Stanford.

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

I expected to be taking many trips to London, but that didn’t end up happening since there was so much happening in Oxford, and I didn’t feel the need to go elsewhere. Between events in college, hanging out with Stanford Students, and visiting the shops and parks in Oxford, I didn’t really get bored.

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

My tutorial was writing intensive (I was writing at least 2000 words a week), so my writing skills greatly improved while in Oxford. My Stanford course work involves less writing, but writing has certainly gotten easier since I’ve been back. Another benefit was learning how to plan my time given how unstructured it was. While I spent about 25 hours a week on my tutorial, I only met with my tutor for one hour a week. I learned how to effectively plan my week to complete each tutorial while still exploring Oxford and having a great time.

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

I really loved my time abroad, and I now am thinking about living abroad sometime in my life. When it came to focusing on one subject for extended periods of time, I learned that I needed to take full breaks with a change of scenery. Sometimes I would do this by going for a walk or a trip to a local cafe. This meant that when I returned I was more efficient at returning to my work.

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

My tutorial was the most challenging experience. My tutorial was in analysis of 18th century classical music, and my exposure to classical music has come from playing the violin for most of my life. But doing music analysis was new and challenging for me. However, my tutor was very helpful at answering my questions and providing reading material for me to respond to my weekly prompt. Even though it was difficult, I’m grateful that my tutorial gave me a chance to study a subject that I probably wouldn’t at Stanford.

What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?

Definitely cars driving on the opposite side of the road. Especially in Oxford where there are so many cars and buses and the roads are so narrow, it was scary to cross the street when I first got there. After a while, I got used to it but still triple checked to make sure no cars were coming.

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

I loved the variety of things to do in my everyday life. There were different cafes (favorites were the Taylor’s across the street and Gail’s a little farther away) to try, different libraries (favorites were the music library or the Magdalen library) to work in, and different places to go for a run (loved running in University Parks and along the river). Sometimes I cooked for myself, while other times it may have been a formal dinner in college.

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

Rowing. Despite never having rowed before, I joined rowing with Magdalen College. Rowing was lots of fun and I met some great people. Since it was winter, it was usually dark when we got to the river, and then I got to watch the sunrise behind the trees while in the boat.

What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?

Great times with great friends.

What was your favorite food you had in Oxford?

Cream tea. I’ve always been a tea drinker, so pairing it with scones just elevated the drink.

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

An umbrella. It rained or drizzled quite a bit while I was there so I was glad to have an umbrella to help keep me dry. It was also helpful to have a water proof winter coat and boots for walking around when it was wet.

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

Britpop! Pulp, Oasis.