In the United States, when one mentions Oxford University, individuals tend to associate the school with prestige, high status, and outstanding academics. I believe the common perception is that students at Oxford are wealthy and very intelligent. This perception is a reflection of how Oxford is portrayed in popular culture. For example, in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gatsby is referred to as an “Oxford man.” The reader comes to learn that Gatsby is intelligent, wealthy, and powerful. Another fictional Oxford alum is James Bond. Similarly, to Gatsby, Bond is mysterious and clever. These captivating characters may be one reason why individuals typically hold Oxford in high regard. Prior to our field trip I was eager to discover if all these elevated expectations are true.
During our field trip I learned that not only is Oxford a great school academically; it is also architecturally beautiful. The campus’s visual appeal may contribute to why American’s hold Oxford in high regard. My initial impression of Oxford was the campus’s beauty. The classic architecture and colorful gardens were stunning (much nicer than SDSU’s turtle pond). The buildings reminded me of castles; many were decorated with stone faces, dragons, and odd looking animals wrapping around the building. This was a major architectural difference to Hyde Park, Kensington. The obvious dissimilarity is in the color of the buildings. Hyde Park is surrounded by primarily white and black buildings; while Oxford consisted of primarily brown buildings. Both styles are beautiful in a unique way. Hyde Park is modern, classy, and sophisticated. Oxford is medieval, classic, and somewhat gothic. I personally found Oxford’s architecture to be more appealing (however both Kensington and Oxford outdo SDSU). Aside from enjoying the campus’s visual appeal, we also got the opportunity to learn about England’s college education system.
My biggest discovery about England’s college educational system was that it is not classroom based and students do not receive class grades. This unfamiliar educational approach shocked me. Personally, I get thrilled in anticipation of receiving my class grade. In the United States, a letter grade serves as a reinforcer for students. Nothing beats the reward of receiving an A on an exam after hours of preparation and studying. Additionally, I greatly appreciate having classmates. At SDSU, students primarily gain friendship through interacting with classmates. Attending class is a major part of the University’s culture and social environment.
Although I enjoy having classmates and receiving letter grades, I will admit I wish I had more of an opportunity to work one on one with my professors. The concept of individual learning appeals to me. Like all education systems, they have their advantages and disadvantages. I enjoyed learning how other student’s college experiences and campus’s compare to mine.