Campus News

Living out the ‘Best Semester’ of their lives

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By Melisa Peebles Oxford, England, a city known for averaging 172 days of rain each year, is the temporary home of two Bethel students this spring semester. Through an exchange program called Best Semester, Bethel sends students to Oxford to participate in the Scholar’s Semester in England. This program offers five disciplinary concentrations in the classics, English and literature, theology and religious studies, and history, as well as 17 other concentrations in broader disciplines. Bethel sent two students, juniors Eric DeArujo and Gregory Fox to study in Oxford this semester. The tutorial style of learning at Oxford is something for which the university is renowned. Fox finds the tutorial system to be the biggest difference. “In the Oxford system, you meet one- on-one with tutors once every week or so, which means that there are very few commitments, and you have to make your own schedule to make it to lectures and libraries, but you have the freedom to just go by a museum for a few hours if you feel like it,” explained Fox. Furthermore, Fox has enjoyed the challenge of “how self-motivated everything is.” He said the academics are difficult. “The academic side tends to dominate all the others, he said.”It is extremely rigorous and usually ends up determining how the rest of your time is used.” Both DeArujo and Fox have devoted much time to their studies. “It is not unusual for me to spend several hours in a day in multiple libraries just reading and taking notes, then bringing books home so I can read them in the evening, said Fox. “You have to write a paper or two every week, and that is the brunt of your labor.” Beyond academic life, DeArujo and Fox have had opportunities to travel around Europe on weekends or longer breaks. A trip to Wales over spring break was Fox’s favorite, but he has also enjoyed “just getting to know the other students studying abroad here.” However, he admits that he misses family and friends “more and more as the semester goes on.” He said also missed some other things from home. Things Americans take for granted. “I really miss drinking fountains, he said. “ Apparently, they are a pretty American thing, and I have only seen one my entire time in Europe.” He also finds the landscape of England to be very different. “Oxford is everything that an old college town can possibly be,” he said. “The most astounding thing about it is probably the blend of old and new. There are beautiful stone spires across the skyline, but a short walk away you will find some elegant modern building. In the middle of town there is an Anglo-Saxon fortification next to a coffee shop. Modern storefronts are built below buildings that have stood for centuries.” He said the city has a lot of flavor. “It has a surprisingly strong and diverse multicultural centre,” he said. “And you can tell it is a place that is filled with ideas.” Fox said this city full of ideas has had a dramatic impact on him and the experience has changed his outlook on many aspects of his life. He said he has experienced many challenges, in more than just an academic sense. “This semester has forced me to reassess a lot of my long-held notions about myself, about academics and about art, he said. “I’m still not sure where I’ll be when all the dust settles, but if God weren’t there when my foundation was shaking, I don’t know how well I would have made it through the term.” Fox is anticipating “sleeping and eating a good, real American burger!”
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