Chimes softly ring through the stately vine covered walls of the ancient bastion of learning marking a lovely new day. The stone streets begin to fill with the first tour groups of the morning as you walk past famous landmarks and buildings to Balliol College where a smile greets you with a friendly welcome at the door. Fresh coffee and tea wafts through the bright and modern corridors as it guides you to the fresh possibilities of learning.
It is difficult to place into words how the OII’s Summer Doctoral Programme profoundly influenced my dissertation work! Vicki Nash, and the staff of the OII foster such a great safe environment to share and explore the students’ work. My collegues’ research encompasses the globe, and held a common thread of shared interests and issues. As a group, we explored and shared our experiences with research, articles, concepts, mental health, and coping with the stressors of life and work balance. The guest lecturers are at the top of their fields and imparted fascinating information, techniques, and advice for ‘winning the academic game’.
Lunches were amazing, congregating on the verdant lawn of the courtyard of Balliol College discussing the highlights of the morning conversations. It is truly brilliant when ego is set aside and a variety of topics are earnestly discussed in a non-threatening manner. Academics were only part of the charm of OII. Punting on the Thames was truly an Oxford experience. The punts are given to novices and it often acts more as bumper boats than their true purpose. However, the stressors of the day float away as you enjoy strawberries and Prosecco with new friends and soak in the sun of a bright Oxford afternoon. Picnicking in the meadows, running through the streets into the early morning mists of Christ Church Meadow, experiencing a ghost tour, bowling, exploring the many museums, and a pint with new friends are some of the social side of OII, which ensorcells the stay.
Oxford is more than ancient buildings and new ideas, it is Narnia, Wonderland, Hogwarts, and Middle Earth! It is difficult not to become enamored with the enchantment of the city as you lounge on a roof top bar with the sun setting in the azure sky over the Bodleian Library, or enjoying a good meal in a quaint garden restaurant far from the bustle of the cobble streets. Like all good things, the enchantment must end. You sit in great hall of Hertford College and think of all the other scholars who graced the hall before you, as the candles are lit for a fantastic formal dinner, marking the end of the OII SDP2015. Although leaving Oxford is bittersweet you find a renewed energy for your work and camaraderie with new colleagues! I highly recommend the programme.
SDP2015 alumna Frances Nichols Bachstein is a PhD Candidate at the University of Tennessee. Her dissertation research focuses on secrecy in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields and the communication process of scientific disclosure; with a particular interest in nuclear agencies, institutional trust, ways to promote understanding to vulnerable or uninformed parts of the population, physical and cyber security, and social media.