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Expand your horizons through Oxford Study Abroad Program

By Suzanna E. Henshon, Ph.D.
In June 2015, I flew to London, England. Arriving in Oxford, I put on my Florida Gulf Coast University NCAA 2013 t-shirt and explored the ancient town.  What would I find there? As an FGCU Eagle, I was eager to review this setting.
Walking through the town, I noticed the beautiful architecture, the spires that reached toward the clouds. While I was eager to see where Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland, I had other goals in mind. What could I bring back to Fort Myers from my trip? Like the hero in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces, I imagined bringing back a boon of knowledge to share with my students at FGCU.
As a student wandering through this legendary city in the 1990s, I was sometimes overwhelmed.  I studied Jane Austen, Shakespeare, and children’s literature at St. Catherine’s College, one of the newest colleges of the university. Writing a 6-8 page paper a week per class was intimidating but doable.  When I arrived at my tutorials, I read my papers directly to the professor. Either you wrote a high quality paper – or you didn’t. It was that simple.
Now I returned as a university instructor with an entirely different perspective. I wandered down to St. Catherine’s College (one of the 38 colleges of Oxford), and was delighted to find it exactly the same as when I attended school there. I strolled through Balliol College, which has inspired the Harry Potter scenes. I visited Christ Church, where Charles Dodgson wrote Alice in Wonderland. I walked down Iffley Road and found the track where Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile mark. Runners are still inspired to train there, sixty years after Bannister’s amazing feat.
The Oxford tutorial system allows scholars to work together on an even ground, as professors lead students through the process of developing their own ideas and research. Oxford scholars have become world leaders, prime ministers, scholars, and eminent scientists. The education I attained at Oxford has been a guiding force for me as I pursued my Ph.D. at William & Mary and in my later scholarship.
The Oxford Study Abroad Program has a wide range of opportunities for students at FGCU.  Students can attend a summer session, ranging from four to six weeks. Or they can study at Oxford University during the school year, either as an Associate or Visiting Student. FGCU Eagles have the chance to be directly affiliated with Oxford colleges, where they can meet contemporaries, join clubs, and mingle in social rooms. This is a wonderful way to be connected the university while also earning credits back at FGCU.  Regarding costs, there is financial aid available. I actually received a fellowship that made the entire experience (including airfare) very affordable and well worthwhile.
As I head back to FGCU in August, I will keep a special place in my heart for Oxford. While it is difficult to recreate the atmosphere of an ancient campus in the United States, I will try to bring a little bit of Oxford into every lecture and discussion; it is my hope that I can give my students some of this wonderful experience. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at [email protected] or contact the FGCU International Services Office  The Oxford Study Abroad Program can also be contacted directly at
Sue Henshon teaches composition and creative writing at Florida Gulf Coast University.

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