Kristy Luk's Study Abroad Experience
"Prior to my time abroad, I had never envisioned myself as a particularly avid traveler. I was lucky enough to have done a fair bit of traveling when I was younger, as school trips or visiting family members overseas took me to a variety of different countries. These visits, while eye-opening and exciting, always felt a little contrived. I felt there was something inauthentic about being led around in a group of tourists, snapping photos of landmarks without understanding the rich backdrop of a place’s history. I therefore never considered myself to be a globetrotter, as I thought I’d prefer experiencing, rather than simply visiting, a foreign country.
I dreamed of studying abroad in college precisely because it was an opportunity to totally immerse myself in a new place. However, when I came to Harvard and the time came to apply, I was reluctant to leave this school that had become home. I was reluctant to leave my friends, the culture of intellectual curiosity, and the opportunities that Harvard provided. In retrospect, though, studying abroad was the best decision I have made, and it provided me the best six months of my life so far.
My time at Oxford was a time of self-growth and self-awareness, as I was challenged in ways I hadn’t expected. I experienced a whole new academic approach through the tutorial system. Once a week, I met one-on-one with my tutors for an hour as we talked about the paper I wrote. The tutors challenged me to confidently defend my positions, but they also taught me the humility of academic objectivity when I realized through the course of our tutorial that I had missed a crucial counterargument. At first, the structure of the tutorials intimidated me. I was not used to researching and writing on a new topic every week with little to no scaffolding in the form of lectures or sections. Without the accustomed level of guidance that I received from TFs or professors at Harvard, I had to learn to adjust to the more independent system of the Oxford tutorial. It taught me how to synthesize readings, themes, and ideas on my own, and it gave me the freedom to deeply engage with material in which I was truly interested.
I also met some fascinating people who became my friends and introduced me to some of the finer aspects of British culture. I backpacked across Western Europe for six and a half weeks during our vacation and gained a sense of confidence and independence that I could not have developed had I not studied abroad. All in all, the experience of studying abroad has broadened my horizons in ways I never anticipated. I am glad I took that leap of faith in going beyond the familiar."
Email: knluk [at] fas.harvard.edu