“WELCOME TO OXFORD,” says the beautiful young undergraduate who is assisting at
registration for The Oxford Experience.
She is the epitome of the perky young English rose who along with two other undergraduates has registered the weekly crop of mature students for this program. With good humour and wide smiles, they manage to get everyone checked in andto the rooms where they will be staying for the next week while they take courses.
Here I am within the gates of Christ Church College, Oxford with its Gothic spires and main dining hall. It looks as if still being used as a film set for the Harry Potter movies. For the next week, I will shuttle between meals in the dining hall, my dorm room, and the wood-panelled lecture room that looks more like a congenial living room than a lecture hall at a world-famous university — all while socializing with an international cohort of mature students.
Coming here has been quite a journey. After my husband passed away, I was determined to keep travelling and having adventures. He had always been the spark plug that propelled us to find new and interesting situations. So, I registered. And then COVID arrived, bringing the Oxford experience to a halt. But now, we made it! My traveling buddy Barbara had encouraged me to jump in, and now we’re both here, learning at one of the oldest universities in the world.
The weeklong course, Scientific Breakthroughs of the Twentieth Century featured topics like the discovery of DNA, quantum theory, and the theory of relativity. Each day had a different focus. Who knew that the Periodic Table of Elements had expanded so much since I last saw it? While the pre-reading that I did was helpful as preparation, my mind had to process information that was totally different from my day-to-day world. This was a stretch for me because I had not been immersed in science since high school. It appealed to me because I was a science nerd in high school but never pursued it because the path where that led seemed very boring to 18-year-old me. This course gave me a chance to revisit a past love while experiencing this historic place. The combination was irresistible.
Everything About Travel is Learning
What did I learn? While the course itself was the primary motivator, I learned many new things from this trip such as:
- Navigating the UK train system while it was experiencing “job actions”
- More about English medieval history (Christ Church College was founded by Cardinal Woolsey who ran afoul of Henry VIII because of his inability to secure a divorce for the king.)
- The “high table” experience where you get to dress up and dine at the front of the dining hall just like the dons of the college.
- The pure joy of doing something that almost seems like a dream that you would have as a child.
Travel, Learning, Growth
This adventure required a leap of faith that I could actually do this and learn in the doing. I heard so many travel-nightmare stories that I could have been easily dissuaded from doing it this year. However, I chose to believe that everything would work out for me, and it did. Was it difficult at some times? Did I need to be flexible and keep a sense of humour? Definitely. In return, I got to be a star in my own movie about a mature woman who studies at Oxford. Now it’s your turn to grow through learning. Tell me about your ideal learning adventure in the comments below.