Tiny classes taught by outstanding faculty...
Gorgeous rooms and unbelievably green lawns...
Five-star banquets every Tuesday...
A romantic medieval city with a modern vibe...
Oxford University and the downtown area, with Trinity College outlined in white
Oxford is a city of 165,000 situated in southern England 60 miles (1 easy hour by train or bus) from London. The University of Massachusetts Amherst's Summer Seminar at Trinity College, Oxford University is now entering its forty-eighth year, and is therefore one of the oldest American summer programs in Oxford.
Here is what makes this program stand above all others:
- Courses and Instruction: In 2013 the Seminar offered eleven courses in British literature, politics, law, history, and architecture, and is set to offer a similar array in 2014. Courses employ the Oxford tutorial system, in which students meet regularly with their instructors (tutors) in small groups (capped at 8), and also enjoy intensive one-on-one sessions with tutors as well.
- The Tutorial system: what does it feel like? Imagine learning about Shakespeare, the American Revolution, or Jane Austen while sitting around a table with your seven classmates (no more!) and your professor. All are on equal ground, all are here to learn and to teach one another. The tutor, a renowned Oxford professor, leads discussion, sometimes giving lectures, but most often just serving as an intellectual guide. The work is never impossible, but it is demanding. Given the intimacy of the tutorial, you must come to class prepared to participate actively and provide thoughtful insights. This mode of learning does not depend on a brilliant mind regurgitating facts, but rather that same mind guiding eight others through their own discoveries. Add to this the backdrop of the lush Trinity lawns and the picturesque chamber in which you sit, and you have a profound, once-in-a-lifetime experience that is intellectually, academically and personally stimulating. There is nothing else like it.
- Faculty: Seminar tutors are all experienced scholars either currently teaching at Oxford University or with experience teaching there in the past. All have worked with American students for years, and are highly skilled at translating the rigors of the Oxford experience into an idiom that Americans can quickly understand. Better still, they all love to teach Seminar students. What more could you ask?
- The Social Scene: One of the greatest advantages to students is the in-depth social practice the Seminar provides. All participants attend seven formal dinners, two receptions and four formal lectures during the six weeks of their stay in Oxford. They prepare for all this with an Etiquette Session the first week, run by the Trinity Kitchen. In addition, program staff give social pointers for shy students during the initial orientation, and thereafter as needed. Then, just as students practice their intellectual conversation in class, they practice their social conversation at these events. All students go home more confident, more polished, and more socially accomplished than when they came. This is one of the program's great strengths.
- All Seminar students live in Trinity College:
Trinity Chapel (left), President's House (center) and dorms (right)
The Durham Court (dorm rooms on left, classrooms on right)
The College's spacious gardens are extremely fine, and provide a beautiful setting for conversation, reading or a casual stroll. Meals are served in the College Dining Hall, constructed in 1618. The meal plan includes five dinners—Sunday through Thursday nights—and breakfast seven days per week. Social and intellectual life extends beyond the College walls, and Oxford itself has all the cultural vibrancy expected of one of the world's great university towns. Streets rich in literary and historical significance meander among the University's thirty-eight colleges. During any summer week one can find concerts in college chapels and plays produced in college gardens. Coffee shops, pubs, bookstores, churches, and gardens all lie just outside the College gates. Blocks away from Trinity College are the University Parks, with beautiful trails for running and jogging, fields for pick-up soccer, and other recreational opportunities. For those who need a harder work-out, Oxford has several gyms that offer short-term memberships.
Travel: Only an hour by train from London, Oxford is a great base for exploring the British capital, the rest of the UK, and Europe. The class schedule, with courses offered Monday through Thursday, gives participants the opportunity to travel on their own. A four-day weekend from Thursday, August 1, through Sunday, August 4, 2014, is ideal for a getaway to Paris, Dublin, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, or elsewhere.
Field Trips: The Seminar pays for Friday field trips, which is a great way to see the country, especially for students on a budget. In 2013 we visited London, the charming coastal city of Bath with its hot, green Roman baths and its Georgian architecture, the magnificent Blenheim Palace (home of Winston Churchill), and the magical stone circles at Stonehenge and Avebury. We also took a sunny stroll along the banks of the Oxford Canal to the picturesque village of Lower Wolvercote, with its charming pub, the Trout, as well as its lock, bridge and the delightful ruined Godstow Abbey.
LondonA view of the city
The British Museum
The back court and fountains
A view from the lawn
Stonehenge and Avebury
The monoliths of Stonehenge on the windswept Salisbury plain
The scattered, ancient teeth of Avebury, interspersed with the town
The Seminar offers its students an opportunity not just to dwell among these academic treasures, but also to study and learn at a university that has been educating students since the Middle Ages. The Seminar invites its students to participate in a great academic tradition that has, for many former Seminar students, profoundly enriched their lives.