Mckenzie Maloney is on the UGA Equestrian team. She is studying Biology and Psychology through Franklin College.
Having the opportunity to study at the University of Oxford in England was one of the most amazing experiences I could have asked for. Oxford is continually ranked as one of the top three institutions in the world and is one of the oldest universities in the world. The depth of history and customs is layered into what has become the UGA Study Abroad at Oxford. The university system is distinct from the American form of education. Like the American University system, Oxford University is comprised of several colleges. However, being a member of Trinity College meant that Trinity was our literal home; it was where we ate, studied and slept. Each college has a main quad, gate house/porters lodge, chapel, dining hall, beer cellar, dormitories, library, class rooms and gardens. In essence, a student would never have to leave the college. Of the traditions, everyone’s favorite was High Table Dinners. Once a week, a speaker would come and lecture for an hour, followed by a reception on the lawn. After mingling for a while, we were allowed to enter the hall for dinner. Similar to Harry Potter, the professors and guests of honor sat at a table set across the width of the room in front of the students tables. The formal dinner included several excellent courses; we never had a bad meal!
Speaking of Harry Potter, much of the series was filmed in Oxford! Christ Church College (a part of Oxford University) was used as the main set, and the Bodleian Library was the site of the hospital scenes. Oxford is famous for its intellectuals who went to school there and is a hotspot for film as well. In addition to Harry Potter, the author of Alice in Wonderland attended Oxford University. Famously, Tolken also attended Oxford University and the pub called the Eagle and Child is the site of some of the hobbit scenes. Because of its fame, Oxford is constantly thronging with tourists: kids on their school trips, Harry Potter enthusiasts, etc. The history is astounding and had the architecture matched. Everywhere we went there were old buildings (many older than our country). I am a sucker for Gothic and Romanesque architecture, so you can imagine my delight!
While at Oxford, I was enrolled in Biomedical Ethics and Medieval Literature focusing on Arthurian Literature. The structure of these two classes were very similar in that readings were done prior to each class; in the hour that we met together, we would discuss the readings. Biomedical Ethics functioned like a debate requiring each student to take a stance on an issue and explain their reasoning. For both classes (tutorials), there were only three students total allowing for greater participation. The small size and the caliber of professors was originally daunting, but I found that we were all raised to a higher level of discussion and analysis over our time. In addition to the traditional class setting, we went on a weekend trip for each tutorial.
Biomedical Ethics Excursion to London:
We took the train into London and visited two museums. First, we went to the Wellcome Collection which was focused on the development of medicine. On display was the evolution of dentistry, but Wellcome’s personal collection was also open. Wellcome traveled around the world bringing back brilliant pieces: paintings, Chinese medicine models, African votive containers and so much more. After a quick ride on the Tube, we were at the V&A (Victoria and Albertson Museum). The exhibit that we explored as a group was the Future exhibit. It was curious; it proposed future designs for cities and some predictions as to the direction of the ocean. We were free to explore the rest of the museum as well which was full of sculptures, paintings, altar pieces, etc. However, the best part of the excursion was dinner. We ate at Dans Le Noir which supports a blind charity. Dinner options were either vegetarian, fish, meat or mystery; I chose the mystery option. Because we ate in a completely black room, we were forced to guess what we were eating (they did show us photos of the food after). It was an eye opening experience. Not being able to see which glass was yours or even the people around you was alarming. Coming out of the room, I felt like I had almost no memory because I had no mental picture of the event.
Because my class followed the development of the fiction genre through the creation of Arthurian Literature, we went to the beginning and end of it all. On the way to the coast, we stopped and visited Stonehenge which Merlin was said to have stolen and placed in England. It was eerie at Stonehenge as there were no other birds but ravens around and on the site, and ravens were thought to have special powers with the Druids, who are the native people of Britain. From Stonehenge, we traveled to Tintagel Castle which was thought to be the conception place of King Arthur. His father Uther was disguised as the lord of the castle and rapped the man’s wife. He later married her after he killed her husband; the child born was Arthur. There is very little that remains of the medieval castle that once stood on this cliff, but while the castle was being quarried, the remains of a much older castle were found. A little of this older castle is what remains. The caves below the cliff are called Merlin’s cave because some people theorize that it was in one of these caves that Merlin was held for many years. After spending the night in a small in, we awoke to the fog lifting revealing a beautiful, sparkling coastline with clear blue waters. We took a three hour hike along the coast to the ancient fishing town of Boscastle. The views on the hike were absolutely spectacular (attached below). After a wonderful Sunday roast, we made our way to the Glastonbury Abbey. This was the church that King Arthur and Queen Guinevere were said to be buried in. The ethereal abbey was destroyed during the reformation, in which Henry the eighth separated from the catholic church. What columns and walls remain allude to the richness and awe-inspiring architecture the abbey once had. It is a very solemn site to see. Despite the claims to Arthur, there is no evidence of the great feats which he is attributed with. In fact, the only reliable evidence we have of Arthur and his story is a small fragment which says that Arthur and Mordred fought in a battle. It does not even say if the two were on opposing sides.
Because each tutorial only meets for one hour a week, that left plenty of free time to travel on our own.
My first adventure away from Oxford was to Scotland. I spent a day in Edinburgh and a day in the Highlands while I was there. Having never traveled alone before, this took a lot of courage and was very exciting. In Edinburgh, I wondered around The Royal Mile which was marked by the Queen’s Palace on one end and the Castle on the other. The castle is in beautiful condition overlooking much of the city. Mostly intact, this castle has withstood many attacks and even protected Mary Queen of Scots. The site is open to visitors and I spent some time exploring the different museums that the castle now houses including the Scottish regiment museum. Perhaps the most beautiful part of the castle, the old chapel, has been converted into a memorial for all the Scots lost in the world wars. There are large books which contain all of the names in front of beautiful sculptures and medallions demarking the war and regiments. I was also able to go into the Queen’s Palace at the other end of the royal mile. The palace is still the official residence of the Queen of Scotland, so not all of the rooms are open to tourists. However, many of the rooms were open and displayed ancient tapestries and portraits. The ruins of an ancient abbey are situated next to the palace on the western side as well. I believe that part of Harry Potter was filmed here. That evening I went on a ghost tour too; I am a firm believer in the supernatural and my sixth sense. Haha! Scotland does have a very dark history, and my tour guide was excellent. Part of the tour took us to the underground of the city which was extremely spooky. And although I believe in the supernatural, I do not believe that Nessie exists. She did not disprove me the next day when I went to Inverness and hiked to Loch Ness. The views were beautiful and the Urquhark Castle ruins created a stunning focal point to the backdrop of the Loch!
Perhaps the most adventurous part of my trip were the hostels. I was very nervous to stay in a room with strangers, but it was very cheap and had good reviews. This was my true backing across Europe moment. It reminded me of the hospital scenes in old war movies with a medium sized room full of small beds. they were convenient, clean and safe, and I am glad that I had the experience!
On our free weekend, some of my close friends and I went to Budapest. I had never really thought about Budapest before, but I was struck by the beauty of the city. Budapest is in Hungary and was on the front lines of WWII. They were under Nazi control and then overtaken by the Soviet Union. Fortunately, my friends were as into history as I was, and we were able to see the House of Terror. What sounds like a thrilling Disney ride is actually the site of untold atrocities that were committed by the Nazi regime and the Soviet Union. It was the headquarters for the secret police. The people of Hungary seem to be almost forgotten in the history books I was given in high school, but they suffered in the extreme. Going into the basement of the building where prisoners were held before execution was, for me, very moving. There was a dark and sad energy which invaded you. My father refuses to visit memorials like the House of Terror because it is too sad for him to think of the terrible evil that was inflicted. However, it is so important to remember, to visit, to feel this evil because otherwise, it cannot be understood and prevented. Personally, I had no idea of the atrocities occurring under the Soviet Union. After visiting the House of Terror, I understood by the locals were holding their protest against a small WWII memorial that we had visited the day before. The eagle was on the standard that Hitler marched into their country with, and the locals are very upset that the eagle is a part of the memorial. Therefore, they have been bringing objects from their history (the Jewish people that were taken to camps and endured untold prejudices) and leaving them in front of the memorial to create their own memorial. The protesters even had a table set up and encouraged people to talk to them about why they were upset because they feel so strongly. Truly, I feel so blessed that I was able to go an experience this amazing city and learn first-hand some of their history.
While experiencing all of these wonderful sites and places, I was able to meet some of my amazing peers at UGA. I came home with many more friendships than I set out with. The drive for excellence, character and intellect were abundant. I feel so blessed that I was able to spend my summer with such beautiful people.