“Have you ever dreamed of studying at Oxford? “ was the opening line on the e-mail announcing The English Speaking Union’s English in Action TLab Study Abroad for teachers, educators and lifelong learners. The idea of spending a week living and studying ”The Story and Future of English” at Worchester College, University of Oxford was too tempting to pass up.
Upon arriving at Worchester College we were warmly greeted by Katie Gray, the Program Director, who had two students take us to our rooms which we were surprised to find large, well-appointed, and en-suite. That evening we enjoyed our first dinner, sitting at the high table in the grand dining hall, feeling more like the professors who usually sit there, than students.
The next morning we began our classes which were arranged as two sessions which were an hour and half each. Each class was taught by a different professor which allowed us to hear experts on each topic. We began on Monday studying Old Norse and its development into Old English. By mid-week we were beginning to hear words we recognized in the language of Chaucer. By the end of the week we were studying the language of the internet, after having learned about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, the language of Jane Austin and Shakespeare and the language used in wartime.
Our afternoons were devoted to field trips related to the study of the English language. We visited Keble College where we were invited to explore books from their library of medieval manuscripts including the 13th century Regensburg Lectionary and an exquisitely illuminated 15th century Book of Hours. We were able to enjoy reading a 1667 first edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost as the librarian turned the pages. The Bodleian and Weston libraries pulled materials for us to examine from the 19th and 20th century including a letter written by David Livington from Africa and a 1912 Marconi telegraph from a ship that picked up the signals from the Titanic.
Our evenings were spent going to see a Trinity College Shakespeare play, watching the sun cast a golden glow onto the famous spires, sitting by the college lake or pub crawling. Many evenings were spent in the college pub talking about our adventures that day. The week ended much too soon with a formal dinner and sad goodbyes to our new friends whom we were fortunate to spend a week with.