Junior Danielle Dirksen had been looking forward to studying abroad since she was in high school. Last fall, she finally got that opportunity by studying at Oxford University through the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.
“I had always wanted to study abroad, but I had always heard that it wasn’t that academic of an experience,” Dirksen said. “But I really wanted it to be academic.” Danielle was not disappointed.
The semester program at Oxford uses the tutorial system in which students meet with a designated professor once a week over the course of the semester. Students are expected to read their papers out loud to their tutor and “you sit and argue with them about why you chose your thesis,” according to Danielle. Dirksen took courses on C.S. Lewis, Medieval English and Renaissance Literature, as well as a crash course in English history, all through Wycliffe Hall. It wasn’t an easy semester of study. Danielle and her roommate at Stonehenge
“Providence is a tight knit community where everyone is in it together, but the tutorial system forced me to be diligent in my studies on my own,” she said.
She studied with 51 American students most of whom hailed from primarily Christian colleges state-side. When asked about building lasting friendships, Danielle said, “Whoever does the room assignments got it spot on. My roommate was a smaller version of me and we’re going to be best friends for the rest of our lives.”
In addition to the social and academic parts of the semester, Danielle had several spiritual insights. “I realized how spiritually reliant on Providence I had become. I struggled without the convenience of the Providence community.” Ultimately, being away from Providence was a healthy challenge to her spiritual walk though. She commented that Providence won’t always be in her life and mentioned the need for her own spiritual discipline, a habit she hopes to establish for her life beyond college.
Danielle felt strongly that such an experience is invaluable to a college education. Besides being at Oxford, Danielle visited Barcelona, Spain; Paris, France; Milan, Italy; and Lugano, Switzerland on her travels. Danielle claims that her most exotic meal on her continental travels was raw venison topped with shaved truffle.
“At Providence we are encouraged to get out and do these things. It was good to finally go even though I was a little scared to leave, especially since not that many [Providence] people have gone.”