Sojourner’s Survey

My journey in country has begun. I landed on Thursday June 22nd, and have been adjusting and preparing since I set foot in the UK. Even though I have been here for four days, the program officially started today, Monday June 27th. Before setting foot in St. Anne’s, I observed and learned many useful lessons, and I would like to share them with you.

First of all, come early! I am so glad I arrived a few days early. I did not feel rushed to find my AirBnB. Sue, my AirBnb host, could not have been more welcoming. She really made Emma and I feel welcomed and at home. Her puppy, Muffy, was absolutely adorable and showered us with morning kisses and excitement. On our first day, Emma and I stayed awake until nightfall in order to completely adjust. We did everything in our power not to fall asleep, and we were adjusted to the 5 hour time difference in one day. Also, we had time to explore Oxford, Bath and Windsor, and feel confident about where we were going before our counterparts even arrived.

Explore. We did not sit idly in our AirBnB. Instead, we chose to dedicate a day to explore Oxford. Emma and I may have gone a little overboard by going to four museums, but it kept us moving and allowed us to get acquainted with our new home. My personal favorite museums were the Ashmolean and the Natural History Museum. The Ashmolean had some beautiful Islamic tiles on display that took my breath away, and the architecture of the Natural History Museum is worth the visit alone. The next day we explored Bath, and sat in the splendor of the Royal Crescent. Then the last day before we started the program, we visited Windsor and took a river cruise down the Thames which is a definite must see. By exploring so heavily the first few days, I curbed any jet lag and learned how to adapt to the weather conditions in the UK.

The last lesson I learned was the weather can be quite variable, so always be prepared. On our first day exploring Oxford that the weather is subject to change by the moment. Emma and I both wore dresses on the first day, and oh boy, it was windy. Think Marilyn Monroe in the “Seven Year Itch.” Dresses are not the preferred attire for exploring. Also, the wind is chilly so bring a light jacket or cardigan. A few days later when we moved into our dorms it was bright and sunny, and we were sweating in our long sleeves. Walking shoes are also an absolute must. On our first day we walked around 8 miles and have averaged around 6 miles everyday since. I would advise comfortable stylish shoes because nothing looks more American than white New Balances. Best piece of advice? Bring layers and good shoes.
Overall, Oxford has already started to teach me valuable lessons even before we started lectures. I will be writing at the end of this week about my experiences in my first lectures, and how I survived my first tutorial experience.

Muffy joined us for breakfast

Sitting on the lawn of the Royal Crescent

Side street in Windsor, featuring Tudor architecture

On the bridge over the Thames between Windsor and Eton

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