I spent my Winter studying at Oxford

Brody Hannan exchanged the mid-century architecture of the Chifley Library for the centuries-old cloisters of Oxford to undertake an International Alliance of Research Universities Global Summer Program during his Winter break. 

ANU is part of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), an elite group of 11 universities worldwide that are committed to providing research opportunities to all students, including through the Global Summer Program.

I spent my Winter break this year studying Oxford’s course “Global Challenges of the 21st Century” through the Global Summer Program with nine other students from IARU universities across the world.

With fantasies of spending my days gliding through hundred-year old cloisters in academic robes and punting down picturesque canals, Oxford in reality proved to be tough. Every day I was challenged intellectually, and pushed by Oxford’s incredible academic rigour.

We had class from 9am to 5pm every weekday. There were only 10 students in each class, and up to four professors, with lectures on bioterrorism, climate change, urbanisation, sustainability, post-capitalism, education inequality and evidence-based policy.

Each week we had to write a 1,500 word essay, and were given four text books and five papers to read in our own time.  

This was in addition to a final 2,000 word essay on the role of the United Nations and an hour long oral presentation in the final week of the course. You’d then have to sit down one-on-one with your professor, a world leader in their field, and argue your essay to them for over an hour while they tried to disprove your argument.

Yes, it was as intense as it sounds!

It was tough (and nerve-racking) to argue against a professor on an essay you’d written three days prior, but the extraordinary academic rigour of the course really helps you develop your ability to articulate an argument on a broad range of policy issues.

Supporting our studies were the unreal facilities and resources at Oxford, which we had full access to.

Exeter College, where we stayed at Oxford, was 750 years old. Being a ‘student’ of the university allowed us access to the Bodleian, one of the largest libraries in the world, which contained a copy of every single book published in the UK since 1610. Many late nights were spent studying in an enormous, 500-year-old library, writing an essay you had to debate with a world expert the next day!

Eating together and hanging out after class with such esteemed academics was definitely a highlight. One minute you’re talking about policies that could better enable electric cars over breakfast, and the next your professor is shouting you a pint at a pub while they talk about how they juggle a successful academic career with a young family.

As all our course work was delivered from Monday to Friday, we’d have the weekend free to explore the city, go punting or hang out with friends. We even visited the pub where former Prime Minister Bob Hawke broke the world record for fastest time to drink a yard of beer when he was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford!

After four weeks at Oxford, I leave the course with new friends from all over the world, personal and academic mentors who are world leaders in their fields, and some unforgettable memories.