Study Abroad Spotlight: Jilliann Pak

Jilliann in front of Christ Church at Oxford.

Jilliann in front of Christ Church at Oxford.

Name: Jilliann Pak

Year: 2018

Majors: International Studies & Sociology (GSCD Track)

FAS position: Public Relations staff member

Where are you? Oxford University, England

What are you studying at Oxford? Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) program

Why did you choose to go there? Oxford was the most compelling study abroad option for me because I really wanted to experience a completely different education system, while maintaining the rigor and quality that Hopkins provides. The renowned tutorial system at Oxford seemed like the perfect choice! I also wanted to stay in a city that had a “college town” culture and close-knit communities as a opposed to a large metropolitan city. All of the gorgeous libraries and churches were definitely a plus factor.

How did FAS influence your decision to go? It was a really tough decision to choose Oxford since my program is a full year experience, especially since I didn’t want to miss out on all the FAS events in the Spring (planning and staffing events was seriously one of the highlights of my sophomore year). But past FAS staff have been quite the adventurous bunch in studying abroad and everyone encouraged me to go since Hopkins will always be waiting when I get back. Ultimately, I think being a part of FAS has really shaped how curious and outgoing I am about engaging with ideas, norms, and cultures outside of what I am acquainted with!

What has been your favorite part/experience? Oxford was founded in the 12th century and along with that incredibly long history comes a ton of traditions. Some of my favorite aspects of being a student at Oxford is going to formal halls (three course meals with free-flowing wine during which everyone dresses up), attending balls, and being a part of established student societies. Social events at Oxford are taken very seriously and there is a huge culture of going out with all your friends for big nights, typically balls thrown by colleges or societies, every term. Another cool thing is that drinking and socializing with your professors is very common here… I’ve been trying to get used to drinking wine while simultaneously discussing the state of American politics with them. I’ll also never get over the feeling of being able to roam around all the colleges and libraries that tourists are lining up to tour – it makes me feel very lucky to be here.

What do you miss about Hopkins? I miss everything about Hopkins! Especially the very dependable work structure. At Oxford, I only have two tutorials, one primary and one secondary, where we meet for one hour to discuss my essay for the week. The essays are typically around 8 pages each and based on a central argument from the week’s topic and readings. During the tutorial, I meet with my tutor (what we call our professors or fellows) and tutorial partner to defend the arguments made in my essay and further discuss other relevant topics. My tutor will ask me questions, point out weaknesses in my paper, and suggest other perspectives. So it really requires me to pace myself and self-learn all the material over the course of the week. It’s very writing-intensive in this way and I don’t have any exams, midterms, or other assignments other than my weekly essays. I definitely miss being able to go to seminars or lectures and I even miss taking exams. It’s definitely more diverse at Hopkins in terms of workload and structure. Also, everyone here works in the day and goes out at night, which is radically different from congregating at Brody until 3 AM. I miss that culture.