Oxford: Challenges and Charm
An NAA trip to one of the oldest universities in the world offers
exciting intellectual opportunities and many pleasures.
Sue and Dan Toll at Broughton Castle in Banbury,
photo courtesy of Dan and Sue Toll
Since the 12th century the University of Oxfords classrooms and
libraries have expanded the minds of kings, cardinals, Nobel prize winners,
political leaders and saints from explorer Sir Walter Raleigh and
poet T.S. Eliot to physicist Steven Hawking and British prime minister
And since 1989 Northwestern Anglophiles have had the opportunity to immerse
themselves in this rich academic culture through Odyssey to Oxford
a two-week travel-study program co-sponsored by the Northwestern Alumni
Association. The opportunity allows alumni to feed their own intellects
amidst the tradition and scenery of the worlds oldest English-speaking
Odyssey to Oxford, the product of a partnership between Northwestern and
Michigan State University, is scheduled each year at the end of summer.
The 2001 trip, from Aug. 25 through Sept. 8, let alumni from both schools
take on the role of Oxford students they attended lectures in the
morning and field trips in the afternoon relating to British history,
archaeology, literature or architecture. They even stayed on campus at
Rewley House, a recently renovated building that overlooks a courtyard.
Though it is a vacation, Odyssey travelers tend to take their studies
very seriously and come prepared to explore a course of their choosing,
often reading up for months before the trip.
From the start, first-time Odyssey traveler Barbara Simons (J55) was as
enchanted with Oxford as her many companions on the trip who were repeat
Odyssey travelers. She selected early medieval British archaeology as
A field trip to a site dating back to the Dark Ages is already a treasured
memory for her. Simons also visited the Ashmolean Museum, Britains
first public museum and the place where 19th-century English painter and
poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti persuaded William Morris, founder of the Arts
and Crafts movement, to pursue art rather than religious studies. "It
was absolutely fascinating," she explains. "We were able to
handle English artifacts like bows, arrows and jewelry from the 1600s
Other courses, all of which are taught by Oxford faculty, called dons,
included an exploration of the English detective novel and research on
historic houses, castles and gardens. Participants also journeyed as a
group to Stratford-on-Avon to see Shakespeares Twelfth Night and
toured the Cotswold countryside, Worcester Cathedral and Blenheim Palace,
where former prime minister Winston Churchill was born.
There was also enough free time to wander through the English gardens
of Oxford and enjoy the lush green landscape. "Driving around the
English countryside is just magnificent," says Kathie Ross, who made
her eighth trip to Oxford last summer.
The 2002 excursion will again feature the course on historical houses,
with visits planned to Broughton Castle and William Morris Kelmscott
Manor. Other tempting choices include a presentation on British contemporary
politics, with a guided visit to Parliament, and a class on Shakespeare
and the supernatural, with tours of theaters in Stratford and London.
Lynn Carver (S53), NAA senior coordinator, accompanied the alumni group
last summer on her seventh trip to Oxford. She never tires of them and
always looks forward to finding out something new about Oxford and British
culture. "No matter how many times youve been there,"
Carver says, "theres still something you havent seen
Michele Hogan with research assistance
from Yelena Shapiro (WCAS03)
For more information about Northwesterns travel
programs, log on to www.alumni.northwestern.edu or call
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