Postcards from Abroad: Oxford, England

By Caleb Mayer, Contributing Writer

In my entire life as a student, I’ve never been in a class with more than 40 people, so walking into the L1 Lecture Theatre at the Mathematical Institute at Oxford was a little intimidating. The room holds about 360 people at full capacity, and on the first day of term it seemed like almost every seat was filled. Throw in the fact that I didn’t know a single person in the class, and my decision to find an empty seat as far away from the lecturer (and everyone else) as possible might be a little more understandable.

My initial intimidation, not only about the class size but also in reaction to the whole study abroad experience, seems  silly now that I’ve met some other students and grown used to the surroundings. I’m still occasionally surprised by some obvious differences from Haverford: for example, that a student can keep his hand raised for almost the entire lecture and still never get to ask his question, or when I get to class five minutes late and realize that I can no longer rely on Havertime. At the same time, my experience in England has been very similar  to my life at Haverford in more ways than I originally expected. I’m on the tennis team at Haverford, and I had the opportunity to continue playing on a competitive team while abroad. And academically, the huge lectures here are balanced out by a tutorial system in which I’m able to interact with the instructors on a more personal level, which certainly feels much more like what I’m used to at Haverford.

Overall, I definitely feel like my first term abroad has been a worthwhile experience. And I’m sure my time in England will make me appreciate Haverford’s small class sizes, individual attention and collaborative atmosphere (not to mention Havertime!) even more than I have in the past.

From the print edition published Dec. 7, 2016

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