Considering both the US and the UK are English-speaking nations, one would believe they are more alike than different and that is the first misconception when trying to identify with British culture as an American; even the terminology is different. Upon visiting the University of Oxford the difference from our San Diego State University campus was evident. We did not walk onto a “campus” and visit different buildings or classrooms. Oxford is separated into 40 different self-governing colleges each specializing in structure and activities, so there is not a distinguished campus where you see all the students walking around. Professor Makey told us that students in the UK spend an hour with an academic tutor to discuss and receive their work for the week but at SDSU we can have about five professors each giving us assignments pertaining to our classes, therefore more active student life is seen on the campus of SDSU versus Oxford.
At Oxford, I learned how the American and United Kingdom school systems approach education in ways that reflect their culture. In the UK students go into university with their focus already declared suggesting a sense of structured regulation, where American students can go for two years as an undeclared major. This option gives students a chance to explore their interests and emphasizes knowledge and eases the pressure off making a huge decision at the age of 18. The UK completes general education courses prior to attending university so that they can utilize that time to focus and shape their area of study. Comparing this element directly to SDSU, I can see how this might appear more efficient such that the student masters their course in an organized and timely fashion. I spoke to some of my peers, juniors/seniors in college, and the majority of us, myself included, would prefer to have entered SDSU with our general education completed allowing for more time to be dedicated to our major. However, SDSU allows its students to be comfortable with being undeclared for a year or two and gives opportunities to easily change your major to one that is fit. It is also possible to earn a Master’s Degree in two years in the UK. In the US it is just as possible but highly unlikely since after earning a baccalaureate degree many students are committed to work and other responsibilities extending that time. Oxford and UK universities are not as expensive as in the US making it more difficult financially and leaving some students in debt to pay off loans. Both colleges, Oxford and SDSU, offer different advantages and disadvantages making the preference of schooling based on personal preferences: Oxford is good for the student with a set plan and SDSU offers flexibility.
Since students only have to meet with an academic tutor they are not necessarily in a classroom every day. Attendance and participation is a vital part of our course grades at SDSU, students are eager to participate and show off their knowledge. The area surrounding Oxford appears very traditional and SDSU students can be seen attending class in gym clothes or even pajamas for those large 8 am lectures. This coincides with American school spirit. Walking around the Oxford area I did not see relatively anyone wearing Oxford sweatshirts or t-shirts, perhaps because it is summer but I learned it is not a common sight like at SDSU. Americans are very proud of the universities they attend and their sporting events – you will see anything from apparel to car decals and license plate frames sporting the school’s name or mascot.
|inside St. John's chapel|
|I took this on a beautiful sunny day in February :)|
The buildings at Oxford are distinguished representations of British identity; they are properly defined and aged. The buildings at SDSU are more modern and the campus also serves as a social scene. The buildings at Oxford are more regal; each college within Oxford has its own chapel adding to the historical value of Oxford. It seems more figurative rather than being defined by student life. There are even signs that said "keep off the grass" implying that it is more for appearance than students' enjoyment. Student life is a central focus on campus at SDSU where friends gather not only to study but also to eat together, have activities, and even lay on the grass by the turtle pond to relax between classes. After we spent some time at St. John’s college we were able to explore the chapels and parks. Similarly, the parks and gardens centralize the communities/colleges that make up Oxford and at SDSU the turtle pond, palm trees, and grassy areas unify the student body with their tranquil scenery. Oxford was visually pleasurable, but I remain confident in my enrollment at SDSU as the place to help shape my future.