Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Tale of Two Universities: SDSU and Oxford

On Monday, July 28th our class ventured out to visit one of the oldest universities in the world, Oxford University. Upon arriving, there was a distinct difference in the general atmosphere of the city compared to London; there were less cars, less noise in general, and less people rushing about in a hurry. The attitude was simply more relaxed than the city of London, which might not be saying much considering that London is the most populous city in the United Kingdom, so there is a very good chance that any city outside of London will generally be more relaxed.

When looking at Oxford and San Diego State University, the place fondly known for its partying and men's basketball team, there are certain differences in both the education system and in the schools in general. When John Makey discussed how the American education system is a bit more forgiving than the British education system, it was moderately surprising. Any person in the United States who is involved with their children's school, works at a school, reads the news, or even knows the average annual salary of a teacher could easily come to the judgment that the American education system has several flaws. Whether it's lack of funding for arts programs, the absurd amount of student loan debt, or the issue of the importance of standardized testing, there seems to be no lack of problems in the educational system. So, when Makey mentions community college as the more "forgiving" part of the education system it starts to make sense; there is not community college option in the United Kingdom, something I was unaware of before my visit to Oxford. There are several benefits to attending a community college such as saving cost on tuition, staying at home, getting the general education requirements out of the way, and the fact that almost anyone can enroll in a community college course for credit, or to simply learn something. In the UK, if a student decides that they want to study another subject, then they have to basically start over at square one, which can be a deterrent to switching fields of study. Typically, "forgiving' is not a word I think most people would use to describe the American education system in general, but it is refreshing to think that, in some aspects, it might be.

Both Oxford and SDSU differ in just sheer design, appearance, and atmosphere in general. The buildings at Oxford pay homage to philosophers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. There are statues seemingly at every corner and a plaque to commemorate that person. There is so much history in the architecture alone.  The style, ranging from Gothic to Classical to Baroque, is a vast difference from SDSU's own Spanish Colonial style as seen in the Bell Tower.

The two universities also differ largely on the lay out of their respective locations. Oxford is a city in England, and Oxford University is in that city, making the university part of the entire town. Students are not limited to any place, or at least not seemingly so. There are no designated "students only" places, or, again, it did not appear so. At SDSU, which is located in the College area, an area specifically named for a specific demographic of people, there is a clear area of where students go to hang out, eat, relax, etc. It is called the College area for a reason, it is almost like a mini town just for SDSU students, but that is just one woman's opinion. So while SDSU is a large university, home to 25,000 undergraduates, the city of San Deigo by no means revolves around SDSU because it simply has its own corner, like a hamster in a cage. Students obviously go to places outside the college area, but whether they do or not doesn't matter; it is still the college area because that is where all the students live. Oxford is different; students live there, of course, but also just normal people live there as well, maybe to escape the bustle of London, or they simply enjoy the city of Oxford, which is understandable as it must be a splendid city to live in.These two universities do have several differences, both educational and especially physical.

While there is no right or wrong college in this observation, I consider myself partial to SDSU- it would be extremely difficult to attend a university where I could not very easily get some authentic Mexican food, but that is also just my preference.

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