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British History Comes Alive for UT Students at Oxford

Published: April 17, 2009
As a history major, University of Tampa junior Shane Twaddell wanted to go to Oxford because, he said, there is no better place to study British history.

“Maybe Cambridge,” he added. “But you can’t say that over here.”

As one of three UT students who spent the spring semester in The University of Tampa’s Honors at Oxford program – along with junior Christine Guzman and senior Sonja Radmilovic – Twaddell’s daily life was seemingly one trip back in time after another.

He studied in the Eagle and Child Pub, the meeting place of authors C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein and their literary discussion group known as the Inklings. He sat at the throne where King Charles I held his parliament during the English Civil War. And he toured a palace connected to the family of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

“Every building tells a tale,” Twaddell said. “And even the seemingly insignificant corner of a street or alley holds within it a story unlike the next.”

The Honors at Oxford program is a competitive fellowship awarded to three students of UT’s Honors program per semester. The students spend eight weeks at the university, taking independent study courses geared to their major.

Twaddell completed two courses, one on modern British history and the other on British imperial history in India. His days were spent combing through the reading list of six to 10 books he was assigned to read every week. Additionally, he produced an essay each week, roughly 2,000-3,000 words, which served as the basis for a tutorial meeting with Oxford professors (dons) who facilitate Oxford’s world-renowned tutorial system.

He lived for the semester in an apartment less than a mile from the college and the main Bodleian Library, where he conducted most of his studying. Around the corner, Guzman and Radmilovic shared a larger house.

“The academic side of life was completely independent,” Twaddell said. “Socially though, the three of us from UT did a lot together, when we could. It was entirely dependent on how much work we had to get done though, as academics must come first.”

Guzman, a government and world affairs major, took three courses – Latin American Economics, Latin American Politics and History of International Law. The rigorous course of study was especially beneficial, she said, as she is beginning the process of preparing for law school. Her specific area of interest is in Latin America and international affairs.

“There is a high level of accountability when classes are structured in this manner,” Guzman said. “I found tutorial method to be very effective in forcing you to learn the subject. You become very productive.”

Students are selected by the Honors Program board, which includes several professors from various disciplines. Students are required to interview before the board, in addition to submitting an essay and academic letter of recommendation.

Honors program students Andrea Gonzalez, Jeanette Nicewinter, and Lauren Marsicano were recently selected to participate in the program for September through December, 2009.