The Catholic University of America

  Christopher Mannino - CUA Oxford Program

 

Top Five Reasons to Select the Program 

  1. Oxford is an amazing place to learn, the educational opportunities cannot be matched. The library system and tutors are brilliant. You go to the Union and personally debate with Members of Parliament and other world leaders. You walk by the houses of J.R.R. Tolkien, CS Lewis, and Lewis Carroll. If you do clubs or sports, there are 38 other colleges involved in the same program, greatly increasing the number of people you are exposed to. It's unlike any place you could learn in the States.
  2. England is a fantastic place to experience a foreign culture, while still speaking the language. Also a great place to travel from, as the UK has thousands of sites that will interest people- from historic to beautiful to just fun. There's a castle right in the center of Oxford, and Blenheim Palace is 20 minutes away. Other sites are a short train or bus ride away, and it's very cheap to go to the European Continent for travel breaks or weekends.
  3. London is just a hop away, and is one of the best cities for fun, theatre, nightlife, and many other things. Easy to go there and back in a day.
  4. The tutorial system at Oxford will make you think. It's all self-guided research, but when you're in a session with your tutor, you literally cannot get away with any bs. I had to think more than I've ever had to before.
  5. Oxford is a beautiful place to study. Many of the sites will be familiar to movie fans, as they are used extensively in movies such as Harry Potter, X-Men First Class, and others. It is a lovely place to work, walk through, and live, filled with history, but also a natural beauty. It is also an easy city to adapt to, and a small enough city to walk.

 

What I Wish I Would Have Known Before I Went

  • You cannot check books out of the Bodelian. No one can, it is forbidden. The Bodleian is the big library in Oxford- you WILL use it. You can check books out of your school's library (you are assigned to one of the 38 Oxford University colleges), but for me, my library never had one single book I needed. Get used to doing the vast majority of your work in the Bodleian itself. Also do not forget to use CUA's online article database, the public library in Oxford, and the bookstores such as Blackwell's (can research in the bookstore without buying).
  • Monitor your money!! I did know this, but cannot stress it enough. Make a spreadsheet keeping track of daily expenses and then make sure the end includes something that translates the total into US Dollars. It will make you aware or how much you've spent for the whole trip. Two of my housemates literally ran out of money during the trip.
  • You need to seek out the British. One downside to the tutorial system is that you will not be forced to meet English students. All classes are individual, and the library isn't exactly a social place. However, there are 39 schools (the 38 of Oxford University, plus Brookes University) which participate in clubs together. Take a look at the clubs during Fresher's Fair, and make sure to join one. I did drama, a chorus, and the Tolkien Society- and made some new lifelong friends in England- many of whom I started hanging with outside of the clubs.
  • Your schedule is your own. You have to make sure you're doing your research, writing your papers, and so on. There's no normal classes, and no work schedule. The great thing about this is you can travel as much as you can fit in around your own schedule.
  • Be realistic. Don't join 80 clubs and try to do them all. Don't decide you want to travel somewhere that's four hours by car without checking how long it is by train (I did this, and got stranded in Cornwall). Don't procrastinate (my housemate had an essay crisis every single day). Don't stay out at the pubs every night, and wonder why your work is suffering. But at the same time, don't forget to mingle, travel, and have fun!

 

A Funny Story or Situation

"Going to Church"

My friends and I were in London shortly after Thanksgiving. We had seen a musical, and visited the massive Christmas Market in Hyde Park (which is a must-see if you're there in December). My friend, who is Christian, then told me he wanted to bring me to church. I said sure, so we walked down the street to a church. The steeple and stained glass windows were very pretty, and we went inside... to a full pub. It had been a church before the Reformation, but we sat near what was once an organ, and ordered ales. One of the best church experiences I've had.

 

An Embarrassing Situation

I met a friend of mine who lives in London and we went to a hill overlooking the city to watch the Guy Fawkes' fireworks. All around us people were setting off fireworks, letting Chinese lanterns fly into the sky, and drinking mulled wine. It was fun, but I did feel a little embarrassed. I was with six Londoners, and was the only American, and had to keep asking questions about what was going on and why. Still, they're very easy-going about it.

 

Housing

I recommend cooking with your housemates- it encourages you to get along and saves money- my house did a lot of dinners together, and it really felt like I had a family to come home to every day.

Student Profile:

Major: Theatre Education

Hometown: North Potomac, MD

ProgramCUA Oxford Program

Term Abroad: Fall 2011

Contact Christopher