Life at Oxford
In a comparison of the University of Texas and Oxford University, many differences are easily distinguishable and the universities diverge on fundamental academic practices and philosophies. However, the desire for knowledge runs parallel, thus creating a common goal of intellectual advancement.
The obvious similarities between the schools are found in the students, all of whom have chosen to further his/her education and therefore share a sense of academic motivation. The students, in turn, are the largest contributors to the collegiate atmosphere, and the shared sense of motivation creates a similar environment of educational pursuit. Both campuses are also located in dense urban areas, and a cohabitation exists between college and professional climates. Furthermore, as a result of inner city location, both universities have designated areas of campus to nature. The mixture of natural and man-made environments presents a clear duality of man and Earth, and each university has developed a special appreciation for nature as a result of its limited presence.
Beyond the obvious similarities, however, lies an abundance of difference. The size of each school is strikingly different, with Texas at 350 acres and Oxford being much smaller. The vast walking difference from class to class, although healthy for Texas students, can be burdensome and cause tardiness. Coinciding with the actual size of each university is the large difference in enrollment. Texas, the largest university in North America, boasts over 50,000 students, while Oxford has a smaller student body of about 17,000. The large number of students at Texas creates large classes of over 500 students, while Oxford has smaller classes and more intimate relationships between students and professors. Large classes, in my opinion, may create apathy towards a subject and/or professor because of the feeling of anonymity and lack of student-professor interaction. Furthermore, large classes can create unfavorable learning environments in that the lecture halls can become loud and disruptive. Thus, if I were to attend a smaller university such as Oxford, I feel that my attention level and motivation would increase with a more direct relationship to the professor and a better learning environment. The academic strong points of each university also differ. Texas has created an environment of professional specialization, with an emphasis on science and business. Oxford, on the other hand, is recognized for its literary programs and contributions. Nonetheless, Texas offers a great English program, and Oxford has vastly improved in scientific areas, though neither is recognized as the cornerstone of the university. Therefore, being an English major, I find that Oxford would afford me greater opportunities in an English degree, but perhaps would not offer me the complete education of the Texas liberal arts degree. Finally, as a student of Texas, it is necessary to mention the importance of sports to the university. Texas offers a wide range of recreational and intramural sports and typically fields competitive teams in all major collegiate sports. Oxford, on the other, diverts funds more toward academic progress. Though I am a tremendous sports fan, I find academics to be of greater importance than athletics, and find the financial contributions to our collegiate teams to be excessive. Therefore, I would feel better about my tuition going to educational purposes, as it is at Oxford. The architecture of Oxford and Texas is somewhat similar. Texas consists of plateresque buildings which mix Gothic and Renaissance features, while Oxford has mainly Gothic buildings.
The comparison of contemporary social differences in both universities is almost asinine in that each provides a variety of resources for learning and a large amount culture, and it is hard to place a value on such characteristics. Nonetheless, enrollment at one school instead of the other would dramatically affect a student’s lifestyle. Austin provides a unique environment of individual expression and social progression. Many eclectic people find comfort on the streets of Austin, and in a way are ‘permitted’ to act in an eccentric manner because the city is open to non-conformity. Thus, I have seen many instances and met many people that otherwise I may have only read about, and the first-hand experience has given me a better perspective for understanding differences and questioning what is normal. Oxford, on the other hand, is deeply rooted in traditional behavior. England and America are recognized for the acceptance of strange behavior, yet Oxford seems relatively ‘normal’ when compared to Austin. As far as methods of instruction, Texas employs learning techniques that do not coincide with the traditional methods that predominate classrooms at Oxford.
The most interesting concept is the differences and similarities between my current collegiate experiences compared to it what would have been at Oxford in the 18th century. The privilege of attending Oxford in the 18th century was limited to only wealthy individuals or scholars, so I must assume that I was one of the two. Nevertheless, the first difference is Oxford was an exclusively male institution, therefore, I would not have had the daily interaction with females as I now do and my perception would be less well-rounded. Another difference was the spirit of the students. In the 18th century, Oxford, as well as the rest of Europe, was revolting against traditional values and lifestyles. While Texas is considered to be a ‘liberal’ campus, the students on the whole seem content with the current administration, and digression from the norm is not as pervasive as it would have been at Oxford. Another reason for the radical views may be that change was easier to achieve in the 18th century, and people felt that his/her contribution was effective. Currently, it seems as if people have become apathetic and doubtful of his/her impact on society, illustrated by the low voter turnout. Texas, on the other hand, does allow many benefits that Oxford would have been unable to provide. The technological information available at Texas is incomparable to Oxford in the 18th century. Also, major advancements in psychology and social sciences (which ironically began in the 18th century) have allowed me to learn more about myself and people and the reason behind human action which I find to be a huge help to my introverted personality. Lastly, health concerns would have been rampant at Oxford, with the Great Plague only a few decades previous, and medicine in its infancy stage, while Texas has its own facility for student health care.
To further illustrate the comparisons, the following letters contrast contemporary life at Texas with life at Oxford in the 18th century. My distant grandfather will be my pen pal. My distant grandfather was the son of missionaries, and earned his way to Oxford on a scholarship. He was deeply interested in literature and wished to pursue a career in writing.
I am writing during a time of great turmoil. This sweeping reformation of Enlightenment has created a great deal of controversy with our devoutly religious student body and staff. The principles which we have so long been taught are not exactly being replaced, but more emphasis is now directed toward tangible reasons. The field of medicine is gaining much more recognition, as are the social sciences. While I am excited about the possibilities of the new pursuits, I feel that much of the culture of Oxford may soon disappear. My close buddies and I have formed a literary society to make sure our passions our not extinguished by the shift in academic focus. I feel torn between my passion for life and the progression of society. Sorry, but I must go.
I feel much the same about my situation at Texas. The students seem so concerned with failure that I see little time on self-reflection. The business world is molding many of the students into a certain lifestyle. I do not know if the students are content, but it seems that satisfaction runs parallel to professional success. I have to go now, but I would love to hear more about the campus because I am interested in coming to Oxford.
I would love to have you anytime. The campus is unbelievable. Although we are surrounded by streets, the administration has allocated many spots throughout campus to nature. I find myself most comfortable in these natural environments, and inspiration seems to come very easily when I look upon nature. These spots are my escape from the bustle of the city. I have taken up an interest in poetry and these locations have been tremendously helpful in my path to self-discovery. Now I would like hear about your campus.
I am finding our campuses to be similar. At Texas, we are also located within the city. Likewise, as at Oxford, we have natural areas sporadically placed throughout campus. These places seem to give the campus a ‘collegiate’ atmosphere and often I find them as an outlet to myself when I feel congested with too much urban influence. I must come visit you sometime soon.
In the comparison of Oxford and Texas it is difficult to account for the subtle differences that would only be available through experience, especially when discussing life in the 18th century. However, beyond the physical differences of each university is a universal passion for learning and nature.
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