Pre-departure Orientation was held on Saturday, May 1, 2010. I found it really helpful, and it has made me even MORE excited for this experience (if that's possible)....
Upon arrival at the Johnson Center (GMU Fairfax Campus), I checked in, met my program's Faculty Director (Dr. Erica Jacobs), and received some free stuff (a travel book about London and Oxford, a t-shirt, and a satchel).
The first part of the Orientation was a large group session with students from all summer study abroad programs. There were about 100 students in attendance and it was interesting to hear about the other programs (Japan, Philippines, Cost Rica, etc.). They showed a "Safety and Study Abroad" video with basic safety tips and had a campus physician discuss medical precautions.
Then, everyone met in classrooms with only their program participants. Dr. Jacobs led the Oxford session and gave us some very useful information and let us ask some questions. I was disappointed that I didn't really get to meet the other students. It was very business-like in nature. It would have been nice to have everyone introduce themselves, say what program they're in, etc. So, I still don't really know anyone. I did learn some useful information, though:
- Most of the Oxford participants are graduate students (yay!).
- The school organizes weekend trips for us, but we won't know what those are until we arrive. Past students have organized their own trips to Ireland, Paris, and other locations.
- Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style, and dinners are a more formal, sit down affair. All meals are served "in Hall".... Hogwarts! Yea!
- There are formal opening and closing ceremonies for the program. Formal attire required!
- My classes (The Changing Face of Britain and Human Rights in Perspective) will be on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You're only in class for 4 hours/week (2 hours/class), but there are also morning and afternoon lectures that are mandatory every weekday. They say most students spend an average of 96 hours of personal study time in the program. (I did the math. That's over 6 hours per day if you only count weekdays.)
- We'll receive a reading list sometime soon. They recommended doing all of the reading before arriving at Oxford.
- There's no guaranteed internet connection in the rooms, but they do recommend bringing a laptop for guaranteed computer access. Wi-fi is available in computer labs and common areas. This might damper my dreams of keeping in touch with people via Skype.
- We'll have access to the Bodlein library, one of the largest and most renowned libraries in the world.
- In addition to the course load at Oxford, graduate students are also required to complete an additional 10 page paper upon completion of the program, which is due 1 month after the end of the program.
I'm sure there's more that I'm forgetting, but those were the hot topics. Can't wait!