At SEU, we’re excited to provide students with opportunities to study all across the globe through our Global Education program (a.k.a. study abroad)! Whether you want to study public policy in Washington, D.C. or brush up on your Spanish in Ecuador, there are multiple exciting programs to choose from. Here’s an inside peek from students who have studied abroad in one of our many global programs —the Scholarship & Christianity in Oxford (SCIO) program located at the University of Oxford in England. As one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world, this program is a great fit for those seeking an academically rigorous, yet rewarding experience.
Emily Valencia, a Senior studying Biology with a Medical Sciences concentration, recently completed the SCIO program and is excited to share her experience with you!
What drew you to the SCIO program specifically?
They recently launched the STEM program at SCIO, so my friend and I were the first STEM majors from SEU to attend, which was exciting! The opportunity to study what I love at the most prestigious university in the world was unbelievable, and it was so special for it to be through a Christian program.
How have you benefited from studying abroad?
I loved it so much! Of course, going to college is a huge transition with being away from home, but I only lived an hour and a half away from SEU up until I went to Oxford, so I was really able to step out of my comfort zone by studying abroad.
I also learned how to be more academically independent because the academic system is very different at Oxford than it is in the U.S. They operate on a tutorial system, which means you meet one-on-one with a tutor (a.k.a. professor) weekly or biweekly for about an hour. At each meeting, my tutor gave me a question and then I researched and wrote an essay about it. I truly feel like I learned how to learn, and every week I went in super excited to talk about what I learned with my tutor!
And, when it comes to spiritual growth, I found a home church to get plugged into, which I was super excited about! I went with a couple of friends each Sunday and throughout the week for worship nights and student nights. So, I grew in my spiritual, personal, and academic life.
How did SEU prepare you for studying at Oxford?
I think SEU definitely prepared me in several ways, specifically for writing the essays, especially since I just finished my School of Honors thesis. The tutorials are paper-heavy, and I wrote one or two papers between 1,500–2,500 words each week. But I think my biology and thesis classes prepared me for it because I was able to crank out papers more smoothly whereas some students struggled a bit more in that transition. Being on the Dr. Aimee Franklin’s research team also helped prepare me for understanding many of the concepts that were discussed in my lectures.
What would you say the SCIO program’s community is like?
I loved the SCIO community! Everyone was so nice there. I lived in Wycliffe — there are two different housing options. Wycliffe Hall is university housing whereas the Vines is a big house. Whether you live in either one, everyone is so supportive and close, and now that I’m back in the States I have friends from all across the country. It was also comforting to have people to bond with over shared experiences — such as culture shock!
We also did so many fun things together. For example, I went to London for a whole weekend, and we literally went to a ball and then Westminster Abbey for Sunday Mass. We also went to the Oxford vs. Cambridge soccer game, which was a big deal on campus!
What was the most challenging part of studying abroad?
I think the most challenging part was missing my friends. I met all of my best friends my freshman year at SEU, and I truly found my people. But there are so many times when I thought, “I want to experience this with my friends.” Again though, I’m also thankful for the people I met there — and I’ve grown a lot as an individual because of studying abroad.
What was the most rewarding part of studying abroad?
I think probably the same answer. I prayed a lot before going there, “Lord, I want growth; stretch me in every aspect of my life,” and I definitely got that, going there on my own and having that freedom. It’s also been cool to see God open doors — whether that’s through friends or even in finding my home church. That’s probably the most rewarding part of studying abroad — knowing that this was a part of God’s plan and then being obedient.
What are the faculty like at Oxford?
My experience was so great! One of my tutors, in our first tutorial, said, “Emily, call me Claudio,” and he was so approachable. I would run into him in the streets of Oxford sometimes, and each time he’d stop what he was doing and see how I was. There was even one time when something came up last minute, and he was flexible with my situation.
For more information about how study abroad may be an option for you too, check out this website.
By Madi Schaaf, Student Writer