Students in the Oxford Program: Where are They Now?

Lauren David '24, Staff Writer

Six Dickinson students accepted into the prestigious Visiting Students Programme at Mansfield College of Oxford University for the 2020-2021 academic year were given two alternative study options this fall after the in-person program was cancelled. 

Stephanie Gulden, Assistant Director for the Education Abroad Center for Global Study and Engagement, explained that students who were accepted into the Mansfield Program this year were given the option to defer their participation in the program to the 2021-2022 academic year or to participate in the program remotely. “The remote option was offered to students for this particular program because of the year-long trimester format,” said Gulden.

Students accepted into the program, including Julia Barone ’22, Julia Chandler ’22, Mohala Kaliebe ’22, and Tra Pham ’22, spoke with The Dickinsonian about their decisions for the 2020-2021 academic year and the impact this has had on their academic experiences. Students Erin Lowe ’22 and Linh Nguyen ’22, who were also accepted into this program, were unable to be reached for comment before the publication of this article. 

Both Julia Barone ‘22, an English major and French minor, and Mohala Kaliebe ‘22, an English major, made the decision to defer their enrollment in the Mansfield Program to the 2021-2022 academic year. In making this decision, this also meant that each needed to switch their junior and senior years, beginning their senior theses and coursework early in order to go abroad next year. Each expressed that while this decision was challenging to make, they both felt this was the best way to be able to truly experience the program.

“I’m happy with my decision,” Barone said. “It’s not ideal — none of it is ideal — but it’s functional.”

I decided on the second option, because I felt that it gave me the best chance to get the full Oxford experience,” said Kaliebe. “It was a difficult decision to make, since it meant giving up what I imagined the rest of my time at Dickinson would be like. However, I still think it was the best choice for me. Taking Dickinson courses online has gone relatively smoothly thus far, and even though I didn’t think I’d be writing my English thesis as a junior, I now feel reasonably prepared to do so.”

“I’m glad now that I made that decision,” Barone said. “It was a really hard one at the time, but my primary motivating factor was that I wanted to have a full year abroad and wasn’t ever thinking that we would still be online in the spring of this year. So I am glad now I decided to switch my years because I have the opportunity to still go abroad. I’m really excited to be going to such an international community and to be in a really historic place.”

Since making their decisions, both Kaliebe and Barone are enrolled in online courses at Dickinson and are studying from their respective homes for the semester. 

Meanwhile, Julia Chandler ‘22, a Medieval and Early Modern Studies and English double major, and Tra Pham ‘22, a Quantitative Economics and Sociology double major, both decided to enroll in the Mansfield Program remotely for the 2020-2021 academic year. In making this decision, each is unable to travel abroad for the program. However, they are still able to take courses at Mansfield College and remain at Dickinson next year.

“I wanted to have a senior year at Dickinson,” Chandler said. “I wanted to be on campus and I wanted to have the final year experience. I wanted to have a smooth transition into career life or grad school life. I didn’t want to write my theses this year. I didn’t feel like I was ready.”

“I chose the first option because I wanted to learn more about my interests and do some intensive writing before getting down to my senior thesis,” Pham added. “I also feel like I am not ready to “graduate” this year.”

While being unable to attend courses at Mansfield College in person, each student spoke of how their decisions have been both challenging and beneficial. Pham has been taking courses in International Economics and Ethics at Mansfield this semester and expressed how she has enjoyed her experience so far despite the remote format. 

I am satisfied with it so far, more so than I thought I would. I didn’t have too much trouble learning remotely because I am quite an introvert to begin with,” Pham wrote. “I am currently back home in Hanoi, Vietnam with my parents. Aside from my main studies, I registered for an online Korean class, which I have wanted to learn for a very long time.”

Chandler, in noting the college’s decision to not let students study abroad for the semester, expresses her disappointment towards Dickinson but anticipates a positive senior year experience.

“I stand by the decision that I have from before. Even though I’m disappointed with Dickinson, I love my college campus,” she said.

According to Gulden, the program is expected to run for the 2021-2022 academic year and the application cycle for current sophomores will continue as usual while juniors who deferred the Mansfield program for the year will also take part. .

“It’s definitely a bit of a shame that I did not get to go to Mansfield this semester and won’t be going for the next one, but I understand that it’s for the best” Pham said. “I hope that things will be better by April next year so that we can get a first-hand experience of the culture at Oxford, and I’d also really love to visit London.