Advice from Alums

Since we are only two weeks away from the start of the Virginia Program at Oxford, I asked a couple of VPO alums to share some wisdom and helpful tips to this year’s participants.

Kim Uglum, who attended VPO in Summer 2015, and Olivia Myers who went in Summer 2016 both responded to my inquiry for advice. Kim was an anthropology and history double major who graduated this past May at Sweet Briar. Olivia was a psychology and history double major who also graduated this past May from SBC. When I was applying to the program and becoming concerned with funding my trip to Oxford, Olivia encouraged me to keep pursuing the program and find some way to attend. Looking back on her trip, she told me that if she had to do it all over again, the experience would have been worth taking out a student loan. Her sincere enthusiasm about the program really gave me insight into how special she believed it was, and it motivated me to go. I am excited to share Kim and Olivia’s advice in hopes that we can learn from their experiences.


VPO Class of 2016

Six Weeks – Six Pieces of Advice from Alums

1.) Explore

“Don’t be afraid to travel alone, it tests your character, and how good you are at running with luggage.”


“Also, don’t be afraid to go off and explore on your own. If you’re directionally challenged like me, definitely make sure your phone is charged and that you have a map if you can’t use data or wifi is unavailable.”


2.) Challenge yourself

“Push yourself outside your comfort zone (but also know your limitations and don’t be reckless).” -Olivia

3.) Utilize your resources

“Take advantage of the Bodleian libraries. There’s so much knowledge in one place, don’t let it go to waste.” -Kim

4.) Get a phone plan

“Also, a phone plan for 6 weeks is totally worth it. I did not have international calling, texting, or data, and there were a couple situations where I was relying on the kindness of strangers to find where I needed to be or contact the people I needed to get in touch with. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life, and I wouldn’t change anything about it because it gave me more confidence in being able to handle myself in that situation, but it’s not something I would choose to repeat.”


5.) Bring a water bottle, walking shoes, and versatile wardrobe

“Definitely bring a refillable water bottle and comfortable walking shoes. You are going to have so much time to explore Oxford after lectures, and other parts of Europe on the weekends if you choose to travel, so definitely have a water bottle you can refill. As for the walking shoes, make sure they’re comfortable before you walk around all of Oxford in them. I learned the hard way and ended up with a swollen ankle for about a week after wearing shoes I had assumed would be comfortable and ended up killing my feet. Definitely always have a cardigan and umbrella, but also be prepared for some potentially really hot days.”


6.) Have fun

“Most of all, have fun and don’t hold back, unless it puts you in jail or the hospital.” -Kim

Next time I write I will be living the dream in Oxford.



Olivia Myer’s pictures from Summer 2016

Sweet Briar VPO Students

“Well be with you, gentlemen and ladies!”

Welcome to the Virginia Program at Oxford (VPO) blog! I am Emily Dodson, a rising senior at Sweet Briar College. I am majoring in business and minoring in environmental studies which probably makes you wonder, “Why is she studying English Renaissance history and literature at Oxford?” The reasons I chose this program are actually quite simple. I wanted a program in the summer that would seamlessly transfer credits back to Sweet Briar. Check and check, Oxford was my best bet. Also, the beauty of attending a liberal arts college is that it has allowed me to grow an appreciation and love of subjects outside my major. I have always enjoyed analyzing literature and history, and Oxford is a great opportunity to do so. I have traveled some before this trip which meant I did not have to worry about getting a passport. In my travels the summer before college, I visited Scotland and England. I spent a few days in St. Andrew’s, the Lake District, a day in Bath, a day in Oxford, and the last leg in London. During this trip, I caught the travel bug. I promised myself that I would find a way to study abroad in college. And I have found a way to go without sacrificing a semester or year at my dream school. Win-win situation, am I right? I am both excited and nervous for the program, and I want to share my enthusiasm and anxiety with you in this first post.


This is me looking towards my Oxford summer adventure.

Now, the purpose of this blog is to showcase the life of a student taking part in the Virginia Program at Oxford. I not only want to showcase the program, but I also want to share my personal experiences and thoughts. Of course in anticipation of the start of this program I have conflicting feelings of both excitement and a little bit of terror. I cannot wait for the opportunity to learn and study in one of the premiere colleges and universities in the world. Yes, the world. I will have opportunities to learn and question lecturers and tutors who are at the tops of their field. We also will have access to the Bodleian library which has miles of books, and I will be able to use those resources when writing my papers. It is a “once in a lifetime experience” which every single adult reminds me when I discuss the details of the program. I would completely agree with them because it is the last opportunity for me to be immersed in another culture while studying in college. That in itself is exciting and terrifying. Also, the traveling opportunities are endless. I will be in such close proximity to mainland Europe, and during the long weekend in the middle of the program, I plan to travel to Paris for four days. There are so many aspects of the program I cannot wait to take part in, but I am still nervous about some things as well. First of all, I have never traveled by myself which causes me a little bit of anxiety. I know I can overcome this by acting confident when I am walking in airports and just simply pretend I know what I am doing, yet it is still pretty intimidating. Also, I am a business major, and I will most definitely have to work a little bit harder than some of the history and English majors since I do not regularly stretch my literary and history muscles. I do have a pure love for history and literature, but that will only get me so far when I have to defend my position.  Another aspect I am nervous about is the fact that I have not been in a co-educational academic setting in three years. This is definitely a unique challenge for a few of the schools in the program. I think being in a co-ed program will serve me well as a great last summer before graduation opportunity. In my tutorial group, I will be the only woman paired with a Hampden-Sydney student, another single sex school, and Washington and Lee. I think the confidence and love for learning that I have acquired while at Sweet Briar will bode me well. I will have to work with men for the rest of my life, and I look forward to adjusting to that atmosphere while in Oxford. VPO is going to be difficult, but I cannot wait to meet the challenges head on. Here’s to the adventures!




I took these images the first time I visited Oxford in 2014.

*”Well be with you, gentlemen” (Ham II. ii. 379)