Student Experience

Learn more about the Oxford experience from the written accounts of Current MALS Students and MALS Alumni!

Matthew Garrell, Attendee of the Oxford University Creative Writing Summer School, 2022


Matthew Garrell, MALS Creative Writing Concentration
Matthew Garrell, MALS Creative Writing Concentration

Attending Exeter College was a privilege. Prior to my arrival, my only expectation was that the time on campus would be rigorous. I decided to take the "Advanced Short Story" and "Fiction: Fine-Tuning Your Writing" courses facilitated by Professor Susannah Rickards and Professor Lorna Fergusson respectively. The practical and theoretical guidance provided throughout the three weeks was especially meaningful in developing my abilities as a writer. The daily seminars by visiting lecturers were immensely valuable in gaining an understanding of establishing connections with literary agents, submitting work to journals, navigating the publishing industry, and how to effectively conduct research before making a decision.

Beyond the classroom sessions, the excursions throughout the Oxford area were wonderful chances to connect with the other students. The diversity of countries, cultures, and beliefs my classmates traveled from contributed to perspective-widening discussions and inspired numerous stories (many of which I still need to write). What I appreciated most about the friends I made was their unwavering dedication to their craft and their constant willingness to provide feedback to one another on anything they might be writing.

I genuinely hope you consider the Oxford Program.

These are memories worth making.

Oxford Creative Writing Summer School Group Photo, 2022


Oxford Creative Writing Summer School Group Photo, 2022

Hannah Payson, attendee of the "History, Politics and Society Summer School," 2022


hannah oxford pic
Hannah Payson, Executive Director at the Center for Business, Government & Society, and MALS Globalization student

In the Summer of 2022, I attended the "History, Politics and Society Summer School" at Oxford, as it aligned well with my Globalization concentration.

There were several excellent seminars to choose from, and I elected "Gender and Politics" along with "British Ideologies."

Each seminar had no more than 12 students which meant we could all have a seat around a large table and have a truly interactive discussion. The typical format of a seminar began with the professor introducing the day's topic by a 20-minute lecture. They would then guide us through a structured hour+ discussion.  It was a great environment to practice articulating and defending one's own point of view.

In addition to our afternoon seminars, there was a daily morning lecture that the entire History, Politics and Society cohort would attend. The lectures were fascinating, and it and uncanny how perfectly they each aligned with real world events. For example, we attended a lecture on the "The Rise and Fall of Boris Johnson" days before the British Prime Minister was forced to resign, and we also attended a lecture on the impacts of climate change just before we experienced one of the hottest weeks on record in the UK, with temperatures reaching in excess of 100F.

The City of Oxford is beautiful, and I took full advantage of all it had to offer including, rowing through the meandering tributaries of the Thames River, sipping afternoon tea in the Botanical Gardens and watching an open air Shakespeare play at Magdalene college. There were lots of extracurricular events organized by the school like a trip to Bath and walking tours of Oxford. In the evenings there was a full roster of activity to choose from including debates and guest lectures on topics like the history of Oxford College.

The accommodation was very comfortable, my ensuite room overlooked Broad Street and Trinity College and I enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the tourists during the day, contrasted against the quiet of the night when the spires of Trinity College would silhouette against the setting sun.

The food was delicious. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner offered lots of options and was served in a beautiful Dining Hall.  Almost every day I managed to sit next to someone new and hear their unique story or discuss their thoughts on the morning lecture. 

One of my favorite elements of the experience was our membership at The Bodleian Library. One of the oldest libraries in Europe, it was a treat to study in the many reading rooms and have access to its incredible collections.

My summer at the Oxford Summer School is one I will never forget; if you are considering attending this opportunity now, or in the future I encourage you, wholeheartedly, to apply!

Michael Wiener, Attendee of the Oxford University English Literature Summer School, 2022

Michael Wiener, Oxford 2022

Michael Wiener, Oxford 2022
Michael Wiener (left), MALS Creative Writing Concentration

*please note that this post is written from an interview with Michael and not entirely in his own words*

I attended the English Literature Summer School and was enrolled in the "Old and Middle English Literature" seminar, as well as "Modernist Literature: Poetry and Prose." The Oxford Summer School presented a challenging and invigorating atmosphere, and the seminars themselves were quite collegial, interactive, as well as collaborative. 

Reflecting on my time in the program, it was wonderful to be able to represent MALS and Dartmouth in one of the academic epicenters of the world. My classes were extremely intimate, with only six students enrolled one seminar and twelve in the other. I engaged with scholars from across the globe, including teachers in the middle of their careers, students traveling from honors colleges, Europeans and Americans of all ages, with everyone contributing different perspectives to our discourse. I am grateful for the relationships I forged at Oxford, and they are one of the many highlights of my experience. 

If I had to offer some advice to future/incoming Oxford attendees, I recommend that they preparing for the coursework before the start of the term. Because the summer school is compressed into three weeks, you're really thrown into the stew. Every morning you attend your lecture, which is always quite compelling, and then you attend your classes. You spend much of your time working on your essays while trying to keep pace with an extensive reading list, so I would recommend to future attendees that they read the material ahead of time, in order to maintain a healthy balance. 

Additionally, because there is so much to absorb in such a short period of time, attendees should consider what they want out of this experience in advance. Is your goal in this program to meet new colleagues, excel in an academic setting, or simply, explore a new place? Because you're immersed in this beautiful, medieval city, and you have the opportunity to do all these things while you're there. Be sure to consider what your priorities are in this enveloping experience and maximize your time at the College once you've decided. Keep your eye on how much time you have left throughout the three weeks, because it goes by in a flash. 

Overall, I was impressed with the challenge, the material, the coursework, and enjoyed how the Oxford faculty strove to make its summer school a rewarding experience. I am grateful for my idyllic accommodations, for my memorable travels around Shakespeare's birthplace and the city of Bath, and for engaging with some truly exceptional people from around the world.

Amanda Spoto, MALS '16, Oxford University English Literature Summer School, 2015

On July 4th, 2015—yes, the day America celebrates its independence from Britain—I flew to the UK. At least the flight attendants on British Airways saw the humor in the irony.

I was accepted to participate in Oxford University's English Literature Summer School in July, which counted as my elective course in the MALS program at Dartmouth. In addition to our concentration courses, interdisciplinary courses, thesis research and independent study, we have some freedom in our MALS plan of study for an elective course. A unique option the MALS program offers is the opportunity to attend one of Oxford University's Summer Programs in either the English Literature Summer School, the History and Politics School, or the Creative Writing School during the summer term. The MALS Program (along with Oxford University) chooses about 8 candidates from our program every year, and I was honored to represent MALS in the English Literature Summer School in order to enhance my research in Cultural Studies.  

Since traveling to Oxford was my first time abroad, I—of course—made some rookie mistakes. Despite a clumsy start (I blew the outlets with my American hairdryer and I wondered who Lou was when they referred to the restroom as "loo"), I enjoyed a delicious tumble down the rabbit hole that is Oxford University, learning and engaging with talented, prodigious individuals on Oxford's magnificent and historical campus. 

Upon applying to Oxford in February 2015, I had the option of choosing two courses out of the seven offered on their online application ("Anglo-Saxon Literature and Culture," "Shakespeare and Politics: Then and Now," "Jane Austen," "Victorian Fiction," and "The English Romantic Poets"). I selected the classes that matched my particular interests in Cultural Studies, Popular Culture, and Memory Studies: Modernist Fiction and Contemporary Fiction. Each class was taught twice a week for 2 hours, along with various hour and a half long lectures each morning from professors who are experts in their fields.

Another strategic reason why I chose these classes was due to the enticing reading list on both syllabi. The Modernist Fiction class focused on James Joyce's collection of short stories in Dubliners, Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, and various short stories by Catherine Mansfield. In Contemporary Fiction, we had lively discussions amongst the class and extremely informative lectures from the Chief Fiction Reviewer for The Sunday Times, Peter Kemp, on recently published works of British fiction.

Apart from my intensive academic itinerary at the University, I also did quite a bit of exploring around certain areas of the marvelous region replete with so much history. On the first weekend, I traveled to Stratford-Upon-Avon, the iconic town where Shakespeare lived and thrived as a writer. As I walked around the town—wide-eyed and mouth agape—I witnessed extraordinary, majestic, and the most peculiar spectacles. While awaiting "something wicked this way comes", I visited the Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare's grave is stored, the famous Kingfisher which serves "the best" fish and chips in town, the Royal Shakespeare Theater to view a modernized performance of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, and I even witnessed Moorish dancers in the middle of the town alongside the River Avon where men dressed as nuns were canoeing.

Despite so many hot spots pulling me towards different parts of the country, there was a great deal of activity and history within my own residential college. The English Literature program took place at Exeter College on Oxford's campus—the same college grounds upon which J.R.R. Tolkien began to imagine the size and scope of Middle Earth in The Lord of the Rings. While on campus, I listened to stories about ghosts that haunted our dormitories, and I did the majority of my research in the Bodleian Library: the main research library on campus and second largest library in Britain where some Harry Potter movie scenes were filmed. I also visited the delightfully enormous Blackwell's bookstore (founded in 1879), the Oxford University Press, the Church of Christ (where Lewis Carroll met the real Alice who became the titular Alice in Wonderland), the Eagle and Child bar where Tolkien and C.S. Lewis used to brainstorm, and several other pubs along the cobbled streets of the campus's town. 

Not only was my academic and cultural experience unforgettable, but I had the pleasure of meeting several quirky, ingenious individuals who were always willing to nerd out over literature with me at any time of the day or night. My Oxford experience would not be possible without the support of the Oxford University staff, interns, professors, and administration who always went out of their way to make sure our meals, drinks, stay, schedules, and well-being were beyond perfect and outstanding every single minute of every day. I am thankful for the part my new friends played in this adventurous journey of mine. As our good friend C.S. Lewis once said, "Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: 'What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…'" I am forever indebted to the faculty and staff of the MALS Program and to my parents for allowing me to have this marvelous and memorable experience.


For questions regarding accomodations, courses and seminars, excursions/extracirriculars, and Oxford's world-class facilities, email