G’Day from Australia 2016

Ryan Kluk
Kluk Down Under Blog 2: Diving in Ningaloo

Ningaloo Reef has been a World Heritage site since 2011 and is gorgeous, but not nearly as popular a reef when compared to the Great Barrier Reef. Ningaloo is on the northwestern side of the country near Exmouth. Ningaloo reef is a fringing reef. A fringing reef is a reef that lies close to the shore, no more than 3 kilometers from land whereas the Great Barrier Reef is anywhere from 15 km to 165 km. Ningaloo reef is a very healthy reef that has little human stress added because of the reef’s remoteness.
While in Ningaloo, I had the opportunity to snorkel and swim with manta rays and a whale shark. First, I swam with the manta rays in Coral Bay. The rays were no more than twenty feet from me while I snorkeled at the surface of the water. Colors of the rays varied from pitch black to light grey. I got to snorkel with them during their feeding time. Now, the rays (as well as the whale shark) were in the wild. The only human interaction with the animals is humans swimming with them. I got to observe the rays in their natural habitat swimming on the fringe of the reef. Seeing the manta rays do flips to catch food was unbelievable. The rays were about four feet long with a wingspan of about nine feet.

Me swimming with a 14-foot whale shark at Ningaloo reef.

Me swimming with a 14-foot whale shark at Ningaloo reef.

Now, swimming with the biggest fish in the sea might give you a heart attack, but swimming with the whale shark near Exmouth was incredible. The shark we swam with was about five meters in length or seventeen feet. The whale sharks can reach up to eighteen meters or sixty feet when fully mature. These gigantic beasts are so peaceful and gorgeous. Our whale shark was a greyish-blue with white spots and was a juvenile male. I got to swim with the whale shark six different times over the period of ninety minutes. I was ten feet from the largest fish in the ocean and I couldn’t have been happier.
Until next time, this is Ryan Kluk signing off.

G’Day from Australia 2016

Ryan Kluk

Kluk Down Under Blog 1: Welcome to Perth, Western Australia

Hello, I am Ryan Kluk. I study at Hampden-Sydney College in rural Farmville, Virginia. I am a rising senior but for this summer I am studying at Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia. I am taking two marine biology courses during my five week tenure here. Perth is so different from home back in the States. Perth is home to skyscrapers, 2.02 million people, and next to the beach. Perth is like Chicago, Illinois with its skyscrapers and enthrallment with sports but Perth is not nearly as cold and has 300,000 less people. Perth is a beach city, with suburbs like Fremantle (Freo for short.) Enough about Perth; let me tell you about Murdoch University.

Myself with a kangaroo

Myself with a kangaroo

Murdoch is about a twenty minute commute from Perth and containsabout 15,000 students. Murdoch is a wide campus divided into two separate parts. First, you have the academic side where all classes take place but where the courtyard and shops are stationed on campus. Murdoch is a gorgeous campus that has a wide variety of Australian wildlife such as: Australian Black Cockatoos, Quendas (Southern Brown Bandicoot), and Crows that wake you up in the morning and distract you during class. On the other side of campus, is the student living section. I live in the University Village. I share an apartment with four girls and three guys. This is my first time living with girls in a dorm and it is quite strange because Hampden-Sydney is an all-male school; where, I only live with guys. Here, I have my own room that is an average size with a bed, closet, and desk. We all share a kitchen and a common room that acts as a living room. My hall mates are great. I have truly bonded with them. All eight of us are from all over the United States. The rest of the students in my program live in the apartment style dorms that are across the street. There are thirteen of us total.
Classes started today and they are just like back home: fifty minute lectures with a five minute break in-between. However, we are not at Murdoch for long because we leave on Sunday, June 19th, 2016 for Ningaloo Reef near Exmouth, Western Australia. While there, we will be conducting research on the clams stationed along the reef.
Food here is not much different than in the States, except there are not nearly as many preservatives. Kangaroo meat is utterly amazing. It taste like steak, but better. Oh, and Australians love BBQ sauce. They put BBQ sauce on everything from breakfast sandwiches to pizza.
The Australian culture is amazing to experience. They love talking about sports and having a brew for lunch. Australians are extremely curious about American politics and ask about American stereotypes all the time. However, a lot of the Australian stereotypes seem to be true. A lot of Aussie’s drive jeeps, wear rustic clothing and are remarkably helpful.
Well, that’s all for now. Stay tuned for more adventures of Kluk Down Under!

Studying French in Senegal

Timothy Morgan 2015

Reflecting on my Summer in Dakar…

I am a person who craves the non-typical; anything I can find that will set me apart from the crowd. I think that’s what attracted me to something like Dakar, Senegal, a country and region which had been far from my mind, despite all my college-level French classes. Browsing the options, for an experience abroad through which I could improve my French speaking ability, I submitted my application for the Washington University in St. Louis Summer session in Senegal along with several other applications for various places, and didn’t have a second thought. When the professor reached out to me personally to see if I was going to continue the application process, however, I unknowingly boarded the fast train to traveling in a place I knew virtually nothing about.
While this was my first time out of the country, I imagine the first day hits everyone the hardest. I felt that the preparation, immunizations, and telling people of all my plans had adequately prepared me, but I didn’t really realize what I was doing until our plane was suddenly flying low, over clay-colored houses and earth, and I stepped off the plane to inhale the driest air I’d ever breathed. These surreal sensations juxtaposed with jet lag and stress made the adventure of the first day feel that much more like a dream. Top it all off with a hectic airport process, people everywhere speaking a different language, and my first experience taking the often perilous car ride to anywhere in Dakar’s questionably constructed infrastructure, and I was ready to call it a day.
My first day was a strong foreshadowing, a daily sense of adventure and opportunity, thanks mainly to the quick baptism into living and functioning independently in Dakar given by our guides. Our living conditions consisted of us (myself, one student from John’s Hopkins, and 6 from Wash U) living in the upstairs of a relatively high quality villa while our professor (who was also the director of the program) lived below with her husband, two children, and our guide Aimé. There were two classes offered, for a total of 6 credits, during our month-long stay: a language course, either French or the local language of Wolof, and History of Senegal. As part of the latter course, we each were required to perform our own independent project based on our personal  interest.

local orphanage in Saint Louis

Local Orphanage in St. Louis

I found an internship with a Childfund affiliate in a poor part of town, so my day would consist of 3 hours of class in the morning, then going to my internship after lunch. On the weekends, we would take trips, or have opportunities planned to see Dakar, or experience something relevant to the History of Senegal class.

Fishing boats in the village Yoff

Fishing boats in the village of Yoff

There are many things liberating about living in Senegal. For instance, there are almost no stop lights anywhere outside of the nicer part of downtown. Also, aside from a few chain stores that sold canned food or electronics, there is no set price used by vendors on the street, crowded marketplaces, and taxis. Essentially, one must understand how to haggle and barter in order to go anywhere or do anything. The unpredictability of losing power for a few minutes and dubious WiFi capabilities fundamentally change the way our American minds are wired to think. Africans generally don’t subscribe to the same concept of “time is money.” You could go to a restaurant and wait an hour or more for your food (which may or may not be correctly prepared), and then wait another hour for the check. By the trip’s end, I was happy to be able to take a taxi independently by greeting in Arabic, exchanging salutations in Wolof, negotiating a price based on the distance in French, and having a working knowledge of realistic taxi prices based on how far I was traveling.

Mosque in the holy city of Tivouane on Korite

Mosque in the Holy City of Tivouane on Korit

Among the most fascinating places I traveled were the holy city of Touba, the culturally rich sea town of Saint Louis, and islands Goree and N’Gor.

As the month continued and I became more and more adjusted to life in Senegal, I found myself drift further away from my classmates and closer to the people I had met in Senegal. Senegalese simply think differently from Americans. One of my classmates was doing her independent research project on psychological depression, and based on her interviews with a wide demographic of Senegalese people, one conclusion she came to was that the emotions of anger and discontent aren’t retained based on past traumatic experiences like she expected them to be. I can’t say whether it’s the vast Muslim influence in the region, the crippling dryness of the climate, or the simple, yet breathtaking beauty of the coast as well as the countryside, but life in Senegal was both eye-opening and equipping with the international perspective I had craved so much. Several times I was asked if I would return to Senegal. With difficulty I responded with “yes, maybe/hopefully so” but with uncertainty in my voice. The reason for this is my excitement to see and experience as many different places in Africa and the world as I can. God willing, Senegal has been the first stop on a list of many.

Greetings from Seville, Spain!

John Skyler Whitfield — September 13, 2015

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I was first exposed to basic Spanish in middle school back in 2005. By my junior year in high school, Spanish had become a passion of mine, which has been nourished and enriched in and outside of the classroom to present since I started as a freshman at H-SC in 2011.

While I loved the language and wanted it to be a part of my life, I was never the strongest or most fluent student in the classroom; so in the traditional Tiger-Spirit, I began seeking a radical, hands-on approach to change my circumstance- not just to better myself and achieve my personal goals, but to uphold the academic legacy, passed down to me in good faith, by the great H-SC men who came before me.

When it came time to select a program, I made it my mission to push myself above and beyond my academic comfort zone. I tossed out the idea of a summer program, as I wanted to spend as much time as I possibly could abroad (even if that meant missing Greek Week or H-SC’s football season, two of my most cherished traditions at the Hill). So at this stage I was looking at programs that lasted at least a semester.

Geographically, I knew I wanted to go to Spain… While linguists say that no one dialect of the same tongue is better than the other; many Spaniards consider their Spanish to be the gold standard of the language. Whether that’s true or not, I figured the best way to get a better understanding would be to go there myself and attempt to speak Spanish like a Spaniard.

Looking for semester long programs in Spain with the personal standards I had set for myself (to push my own academic limits and broaden my horizons) in mind, I knew I needed to live in a city. Between life in my quaint home town of Holden Beach, NC and my time at Hampden Sydney, I’d never had the opportunity to live in or understand the culture of an urban environment. The few times I’d ventured out into DC and Richmond, I didn’t feel as well-rounded as I should be when faced with navigating the streets and metro system without GPS.

Once I had laid out my parameters for what I wanted out of a study abroad experience, the most obvious choice was the “JYS in Seville” program sponsored by Sweet Briar College. I viewed this program as a one-stop shop so to make me a stronger student, a more conscious traveler and a better person all around.

I’ve only been in Seville for about a week now but its incredible how much more comfortable I feel speaking the language; not to mention, next time I stop through DC or head up to Bethesda (or any major city), the metro will be a piece of cake if I need to use it.

I am truly blessed to be here, and as the only HSC student on this program, its been wonderful learning amongst the great company of our friends from Sweet Briar.

I want to give a special thanks to: my family, my advisor: Dr. Palmer, Dr. Widdows: H-SC Global Education director, Giulia Witcombe: JYS/SBC program director, Prof. Afatsawo: Spanish Department Chair and all my brothers from Woodberry, H-SC and Theta Chi doing big things back home.

Lastly, I’d like to thank the alumni, extended friends and family of the Hampden Sydney and Sweet Briar College communities that have sacrificed to make these kind of dreams become reality for current students like myself.

 

 

Summer School Abroad at LSE

by Scott T. Jefferson ’10

During the months of June and August of the summer of 2009, Christian A. Caiazzo ’10, Scott T. Jefferson ’10, and Scott R. Ouzts ’11 attended the London School of Economics for an intensive summer school program commonly recognized as one of the most rigorous and culturally diverse in the world.  The program is known for attracting students, professors, and even accomplished businessmen from every part of the globe.  Somewhere in the mix were the three Hampden-Sydney students, each one of them in for a unique experience beyond The Hill.

The program consists of approximately 3,500 students.  An extensive range of courses is offered, covering the breadth of the social science expertise that LSE has to offer. Courses range from traditional core economics, accounting, and finance subjects to politics and management theory and practice.  The program has been operating for 20 years, each year more competitive and more culturally diverse than the last.

Scott Jefferson ’10 commented on the diversity of the university, “Being from the Northern Virginia area, I have experienced a great deal of diversity in my lifetime, but not nearly as much as I experienced in my short time at the London School of Economics.  For example, I made friends with students and businessmen from Columbia, Denmark, France, Brazil, Madagascar, Russia, Norway, and many more. These people made for a fun, international experience both in and out of the classroom.”

Christian Caiazzo ’10 took a course on financial markets, which covered everything from the organization of financial markets to risk evaluation and investment strategy.  Christian said, “After sitting through hours of class everyday with numerous students from Ivy League and countless other top-tier institutions from around the world, I have never been more confident in the quality of a Hampden-Sydney education.  When I found I could not understand a concept or work out a problem, I would look around and notice that I was not alone; we were all on the same level despite our different educational backgrounds.”

On the weekends, the H-SC students were able to escape the crowded city of London to experience everything from the southern beaches to the western countryside. One weekend they were even able to meet fellow Hampden-Sydney students studying at St. Anne’s College in the Virginia Program at Oxford.  During breaks between lecture and class, the students also found the time to explore the many great destinations of London such as Parliament, Buckingham Palace, the National Gallery, the Tower of London, and more.

The three students offered the following advice: one of the most quintessential aspects of liberal arts education is a strong international exposure.  If you are even considering studying abroad, we strongly recommend talking with Mary Cooper, Director of International Studies.  You may also find it helpful to talk with people you know who have studied abroad.  Students who have studied abroad are generally more than willing to share their stories.  Also consider looking into summer programs, these allow you to gain the experience without feeling as if you have missed out on an ever-eventful semester at Sydney.

Reflections on Cultural Exchanges

Publications Office Note: Matthew Hubbard and Ben Shega, both Class of 2009, are teaching in Shanghai through the Marshall University (West Virginia) Teach in China Program.In the summer of 2009, Matt was one of 30 American students selected to participate in the U.S. – China 30/30 Program commemorating 30 years of student exchange between the two countries.  This was a fully funded program through the Institute for International Education Fulbright Program sponsored by the Department of State.

by Matthew R. Hubbard ’09

(In April 2009 Matthew Ryan Hubbard (center) received the prestigious Wilson Center Public Service Certificate from Dr. Walter M. Bortz III, Former President of Hampden-Sydney College (right), and Dr. David E. Marion, Director of the Wilson Center for Leadership in the Public Interest (left).  The Public Service Certificates are presented to seniors who have successfully completed a two-year concentration of classes, internship, and research and who are seriously considering careers in public service. )

It might be safe to say that a sizeable number of undergraduates who consider studying abroad see their experience as an opportunity for anything from achieving a higher language proficiency to self-actualization.  Programs of this nature are rarely seen through the lens of geopolitics, perhaps because some students are unwilling or unable, due to lack of awareness to view in this way the process of cultural immersion and linguistic acquisition in a foreign country.

If you are considering working in Teach for America, the Peace Corps, the military, or international business studying abroad is a means of dipping your feet in the water of a seemingly-vast pool that encompasses many careers that might appeal to your more altruistic instincts.

Studying abroad is an opportunity to make as big or as little an impact on the world around you as you wish.  If you actively seek opportunities to discuss culture, politics, and economics with the citizens of another country, it has an impact on the way they see the world.

It is probable that such interactions educate individuals and help to create the kind of understanding among the world’s citizens that is necessary if there is to be a lessening of cultural myopia and the pressure on policymakers to take actions that make cooperation in the world more difficult.  Your conversations might influence your interlocutor, who then might talk to her previously-xenophobic uncle—you know, the one who may have the ear of a national politician.

Cultural exchanges make an impact on the way peoples see each another. The professors from various foreign backgrounds who teach at Hampden-Sydney — whether temporarily or for the long term — sometimes fundamentally impact the way students at the College see themselves in the world.  Former Fulbright scholars who taught Chinese at Hampden-Sydney, Professors Guo and Li, were individuals who introduced previously unknown facets of China to H-SC students.  Those professors were in a way cultural ambassadors, and the United States government’s sponsorship of these two gentlemen is a testament to the weight the U.S. government gives to cultural exchanges on campuses with new Chinese language programs.

Professor Li, knowing of my interest in China and my desire eventually to make the country and its people the focus of my career, was kind enough to submit my name to the U.S. State Department for a summer peer-to-peer exchange program.

While in China for the three weeks of the 30/30 Program and during the many months ahead that I will spend in Shanghai teaching English and world history courses designed for native and non-native speakers,  I hope I have facilitated and will continue to facilitate greater sensitivity on both sides of the Pacific.

Cultural exchanges must occur with greater frequency if the lack of knowledge of different cultures and their motivations are to be lessened.  There is much work to be done and an immersion experience abroad as an H-SC man is a step in the right direction.

Study Abroad 2003-2004

During the 2003-2004 academic year, 72 Hampden-Sydney students studied abroad in 11 different countries. The length of study ran from a full academic year to May Term courses and ranged from Europe to Central America to Australia and New Zealand.

On September 2, many of the participants gathered in the Parents & Friends Lounge and several shared stories of their adventures.

G. W. Zuban ’06 of Chesterfield, VA, studied at University of St. Andrews, Scotland, for the Spring Semester 2004.
G.W. chose St. Andrews because of its solid academic reputation and it because is substantially larger than Hampden-Sydney College but not in an urban environment. Early on, he could not find a building where one of his classes was held and stopped another student and asked directions; it turned out to be Prince William, who gave him directions.

Full Story…

Forrest Smith ’06 of Farmville, VA, spent the academic year at University of Glasgow.
He arrived the end of August. Forrest called it a “surreal experience.” “I always wanted to go to Scotland, and I threw myself into the culture. First, I tried haggis. It is a brilliant dish; I loved it. With haggis and a pint of Guinness you can’t go wrong. The people of Scotland are warm and friendly; if you ask directions, they don’t just give you directions they take you there.”
“The university experience was like independent study. Professors are very approachable but you are largely on your own. There is much reading. The routine is paper, project, exam, and go home.”
The rugged terrain is just as it would have been 400 or 500 years ago. This was the Scotland I went to see, and I was not disappointed. I traveled to Loch Ness and Loch Lomond and took 3- or 4-hour hikes on trails up the mountains. Scotland is so very green.

Jordan Gaul ’05, of West Chester, PA, spent the academic year at St. Catherines College, Oxford University, England.
“At Oxford there were no tests, study was entirely independent, lectures were optional, but evaluations were intense and individualized. It was the most thorough and rewarding system I have ever had the opportunity to study under.”

Full Story…

 

Mathew Anderson ’06 of Staunton, VA, spent his junior year in Paris on the Sweet Briar College Program.
“It was the best decision I have made thus far; of the 95 in the program, 10 were men.”
“We began with a month in Tours and then moved to Paris, where I lived with a host family and attended the Sorbonne. The Sorbonne is extremely different form Hampden-Sydney – huge classes, little support – a different experience.”
“Sweet Briar was great about side trips. We went to Monet’s Garden a Giverny and the American Cemetery at Normandy. I spent Christmas in Brussels. All the guys in the program decided to go to Sweden, and we found a 19 Euro plane fare to Stockholm. Several of us took a 16-day spring-break trip to Morocco including riding camels across the Sahara for two days. It was a phenomenal trip, so very different from anything I had ever seen. The skies and colors of Morocco are beyond belief.”
“Paris is a gift. It is all the sparkle and all the life you could hope for. Last year was the best year ever.”

Joseph Yarborough ’06, of Golf Shores, AL, spent the spring semester at James Cook University in Cairnes, Australia. He took courses in management, psychology, and aboriginal culture.
“I went with Mike Vassar (’06 of Midlothian, VA). Our study abroad conditions were that it was warm and everybody spoke English, and we found the right place.”
“In Australia what you learn above the surface is nothing to what you can learn under the water; diving with a whale is like being with a dinosaur.
We took a 3,000-mile 16-day road trip from Cairnes to Sidney. Up in the rain forests, there are trees that take a hundred years to grow. On the beaches the views are breathtaking. There are gorges with waterfalls that shake the earth. At Barron Bay are the prettiest sunsets you will ever see.”
“It was great experience. Anyone who gets a chance to study abound, just go for it.”

Monti Mercer ’06 of Fairfax, VA, took the May Term course in tropical biology in Costa Rica.

Full Story…

Daniel Gordon ’05 of Burke, VA, studied abroad in Grenoble, France, for two months last summer as part of the requirements for his French major.
“Grenoble is not a tourist town and most foreigners there are students. It is well located and I visited Paris, Verdun, Normandy, Dijon, and Monaco.”
“It was an experience everyone should have. I hope to return to spend a year.”

Virginia Program at Oxford 2005

by Corey Van Vlymen ’08
photographs by: Morgan Roach, Sweet Briar College, class of ’07

This summer, three other students from Hampden-Sydney and I participated in the Virginia Program at Oxford University in England.  Stephen English, Peter Gilman, Jonathan Miyashiro, and I traveled to England in June for the six-week study abroad program. There, we were joined by students from five other Virginia colleges: Mary Baldwin, Roanoke, Sweet Briar, Virginia Military Institute, and Washington & Lee.  The program is organized by a team of advisers (one from each of the participating colleges) and is one of the longest established American programs held at St. Anne’s College of Oxford University each year.  It was a chance to get to know students from other Virginia colleges as well as a chance to become familiar with another way of learning.

The curriculum is made up of a class on 16th and 17th Century literature and a history class which covers the Tudor and Stuart periods in Britain, both taught by Oxford University professors or professors from other institutions within the United Kingdom.  The classes are taught using the Oxford tutor system.  Four days each week students were lectured by world-renowned scholars of British history and literature.  Topics included Shakespeare, the Parliaments of the 16th and 17th Century, the Tudor and Stuart monarchs, and others.  We focused on a different work of literature and a different moment in history each week, with the lectures revolving around that topic. At the end of each week, we wrote a short essay for our tutorial lessons.  Though the lectures provided some basis for our essays, each week we were required to read a list of books and excerpts provided to us by our two tutors.  Some weeks, the list would be as heavy as six books or more.  Through our reading and the lectures, we were expected to prepare the essay and our arguments for the tutorial session.  Each session was either two-to-one or three-to-one student to faculty ratio.  The tutorials proved to be the most intense arenas for academic conversation of which I have been a part.  All in all, the academic environment proved to be an experience to remember.

Academics aside, though, the recreational part of the trip was no bore either.  The directors of the program had set up activities that would please even the hardest to please Anglophile.  Kicking off the program in our first week was a party featuring Pimm?s, possibly the most famous Brit-beverage. Although Pimm?s quickly became several students? new best friend, I enjoyed the cricket and punting gatherings, myself.  The illustrious Dr. Ken Fincham, our British director, set up croquet parties, cricket games, and punting outings as well as private tours of the colleges of Oxford. 

In the middle of the six-week program, we were granted temporary asylum from the stress of class for four days.  Most of us took the opportunity to gallivant across Europe to places like Amsterdam, Sweden, Italy, or Wales.  Some of us, however, couldn’t resist the opportunity to stay behind in Oxford and to spend the weekend buried under a stack of books at the famous Bodleian Library on campus.  At the end of the program, the directors closed the six weeks with a bang at the finest final party ever to grace the Virginia Program at Oxford.  Complete with haggis, fine wines, and ascots, the party was the last goodbye, with most of us flying out the next morning. 

I, however, was fortunate enough to have almost a whole week to stay in Oxford after the end of the program. During that week, I was introduced to the world of hostels, but that’s another story.

Virginia Program at Oxford 2004

by Wesley Sholtes ’05

(left to right – Brandon Chiesa ’05. J.B. Billings ’05, Wesley Sholtes ’05 at Kings Collge)

This year’s Virginia Program at Oxford, which brought together 32 students from six small schools in Virginia, including Hampden-Sydney, Sweetbriar, Mary Baldwin, VMI, Washington & Lee, and Roanoke, proved an extremely formative experience for seven Hampden-Sydney students this summer. Through the rigorous tutorial-style system employed by the professors involved in this six- week program at St. Anne’s College, students had the opportunity to master many of the skills that Hampden-Sydney’s own liberal arts education emphasizes, including those of critical thinking, oral argumentation, writing skills, and independent research.

The Hampden-Sydney men participating in the program, which took a focused approach to studying English Literature and History in the Tudor-Stuart Era through the heavy reading and synthesis of ideas in essay form, stood out from among other the participants from other schools in their ability to ask insightful questions following lectures and to take the lead during tutorials. The Oxford environment, which involved nearly daily exposure to renowned historians and intellectuals in the Oxford community, was the perfect place for students to find personal fulfillment both on an academic and social level.

Moreover, with so much free time on the schedule, students were able to carry on a social lifestyle perhaps atypical from that found at home. In addition to the occasional game of croquet accompanied by pitchers of Pimms to be consumed as rapidly as possible, students on the program notoriously visited pubs and clubs in order to immerse themselves in English culture. A party night might involve staying at the pubs until they closed at 11 PM, then going out to the clubs until about 2 AM, followed by a visit to the Doner Kebab truck stand located right outside the college. Students bemoaned the later absence of Ali, who operated the closest kebab stand, when he reportedly took a trip to Morocco.

Since most weekends were entirely free, many students went on day trips to nearby cities, including London, Bath, and Cambridge, among others. Some Hampden-Sydney students even went on a few outings with the director of the program, Ken Fincham, and his family, who went punting (a sport involving a boat called a punt and a long pole), played cricket, and even drove a few of us out to see the Great Hampden and other famous sites connected to the revolutionary parliamentarian for which our college was named, John Hampden. And all of the students got to see Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure in the one-of-a-kind Globe Theater and his Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet in Stratford-upon-Avon, where Shakespeare was born.

Most of the students on the program noticed that their study skills and work ethic were switched on more than usual, especially when they went to the Bodleian Library, the famous research library with its amazing architectural design, that is available to all of Oxford’s colleges. Oxford’s work-hard, play-hard atmosphere brings out the best of what students already have—their talents.

For students considering a summer abroad, this program cannot be beaten. As a veteran of three summer study abroad programs (and I also highly recommend the program to Alcala-de-Henares, Spain), I honestly believe that I have grown more as a person this summer than I ever have grown in my whole life. In the paraphrased words of Dr. Glyn Redworth, a historian who was one of my tutors on the program, it’s highly probable that you will take away from the program a sense of who you are, what you are, why you believe what you believe, and why your personal identity is so complex, also realizing that the world is not so black and white as it might have seemed.

The City of Spires

by Thomas O. Robbins ’04
 

 

(Thom Robbins in front of Tom Tower at Christ Church, Oxford)

For almost a millennium, the University of Oxford has offered an unsurpassed education to students from around the world. For six weeks, eight Hampden-Sydney students (Will Albright, Mack Crockett, Dave McDonald, Preston Pittman, Thom Robbins, Mike Roberts, Teelo Rutledge, and Larry Wilkes) made their home in “The City of Spires” as part of the Virginia Program at Oxford. The Virginia Program at Oxford (VPO) is an intercollegiate summer program comprised of students from Hampden-Sydney and five other Virginia colleges and is the oldest of its kind at the University. While students are selected from different American universities, they lived at St. Anne’s College and studied Tudor-Stuart History and Literature on the British tutorial system.

Students began their academic endeavor with a visit to the Bodleian Library to become readers. The Bodleian Library is one of the most photographed architectural structures of the University, and its majestic interior is quite conducive for reading. Thus, the process to become a reader is extensive and requires one to swear an oath that he will not remove books from the library or light a fire in the library. Visitors are not allowed to venture beyond the front door without a reader’s card, so it is a privilege to be admitted. With the amount of weekly reading assigned, daily reading and studying were obligatory. Lectures were held each morning for an hour and followed by coffee and tea with biscuits (cookies to us Americans!). Tea time allowed students to talk with lecturers and ask questions. Questions and discourse were important because, in many cases, the lecturers had written the assigned books and articles. Lecturers included such prominent researchers and historians such as Dr. Christopher Haigh, fellow of Christ Church; Professor Peter Lake, Princeton University; and Professor Conrad Russell who is a hereditary peer and active member of the House of Lords. As well, lecturers did not shy away from critiquing another lecturer’s ideas, but the diversity in perspectives was helpful in forming a solid background on a particular topic.

(H-SC Students in Front of Hampton Court Palace. (left to right) Thom Robbins ’04, Teelo Rutledge ’04, Preston Pittman ’05, Larry Wilkes ’05, Dave McDonald ’05, Will Albright ’05, Mike Roberts ’05, and Mack Crockett ’04.)

After a week of lectures and mass amounts of reading, tutorials culminated the week’s events. Tutorials, composed of three students and the tutor, were held separately for English and history. Like our lecturers, our tutors were Oxford dons and experts in Tudor-Stuart History and English; therefore, careful and thorough preparation was critical to performing well in these sessions. Although most tutorials were conducted on premises at St. Anne’s, others were held at nearby St. John’s College, which dates back to the 1500s. Unlike typical American classes, tutorials are a very personal and in-depth analysis of the ideas regarding a particular topic. Students read their papers aloud, and they are questioned on their ideas or the particular analysis of the thoughts presented. At times, the tutorials can feel overwhelming, but good criticism in the free exchange of ideas makes us better thinkers and writers.

While each week was laden with studying and reading, there was considerable academic freedom to plan one’s own schedule. Students held to the Hampden-Sydney dictum: Work Hard, Play Hard. The vibrant social life of Oxford revolves around the pubs and clubs, which is typical in England. Moreover, there are a variety of pubs to visit ranging from new pubs to more historic pubs like the Turf Tavern. For over a century, the Turf has provided good English Ale and a locale for social gathering with its motto, “An Education in Intoxication.” Similarly, The Eagle and Child was the famous hangout of J.R.R. Tolkein. Pubs are a necessary part of a true Oxford experience.

In addition, group activities were organized to immerse students in the Oxford and England experience. At the nearby University Park, some students tried their hand at Cricket or participated in the group sponsored Pimm’s and Croquet party. Pimm’s is a traditional summer drink served with fruit and cucumber – quite interesting! With an unusually warm summer, passing the evening away punting and sipping champagne was also a common escape. Academic excursions were planned to the Globe Theater in London and Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-on-Avon to see Cymbeline, Richard III, and The Tamer Tamed. As one might imagine, theater productions were the perfect complement to the academic curriculum. Other excursions included a visit to Hampton Court Palace and the home of William Shakespeare. Many students took advantage of their time in England to make day trips to historic sites like Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, Buckingham Palace, and Blenheim Palace. As many students found, weekends were an ideal time for more extensive travel throughout the British Isles and Europe. While Scotland, Wales, and Paris seem to be the most popular destinations, some students found time to make trips to Venice, Normandy, and even Barcelona.

Throughout their time at Oxford, students read immensely, questioned profusely, experienced the social appeal of pubs, traveled, and found new friends.  They left “The City of Spires”  with fond memories. Students interested in the Virginia Program at Oxford should contact Professor Shirley Kagan in the Department of Fine Arts.

(Tutors Pose with their Students at the Final Party. (left to right) Alexis Thompson of Roanoke College, Mike McLauglin of VMI, Glyn Redworth, History Tutor, Tom Robbins, and Frank Romany, English Tutor and Lecturer at St. John’s College, Oxford)