Having grown up in the nearby city of Cambridge, Ontario, fourth-year student Anna Bailey always knew about Redeemer. However, when considering her options for post-secondary education, she feared that attending a school so close to home didn’t present enough opportunity for adventure. This perception quickly changed after a conversation with her dad.
“I remember him telling me that [Redeemer] had a really good English program, which he knew I wanted to study, and that I could study abroad at Oxford,” she says. “That was the first thing that caught my attention, so as soon as I got into Redeemer, the Oxford Programme was something that I really wanted to do.”
Along with the excitement of immersing herself in a new culture, Bailey appreciated taking in-depth courses in drama and theatre that complement her English studies at Redeemer.
“Diving into one area helped me clarify what I like about English while improving my close reading skills. The Christian perspective I gained at Redeemer piqued my interest in viewing humans as storytellers and seeing how everyone has a meta-narrative that gets expressed in their lives and art. It was really interesting to see how that plays out in big questions about literary analysis, such as why we should still study someone like Shakespeare.”
The transition was made easier by the community around her. Although she and her classmates attended classes at Oxford University, they lived with host families in Charlbury, a nearby town of 2,830 residents that she describes as looking like “somewhere out of a movie.” In fact, being a part of her host family’s daily routine is one of the things that made her time in England so memorable.
“My host family had a couple of kids my age, and one of my favourite things was honestly just getting off the train after class and going home to hang out with them and join the family for dinner.”
As she had envisioned when starting her undergraduate career, Bailey had ample opportunity for adventure. This included some exploring related to her second area of study, music.
“My friend who’s also a music student came to visit, and during a day trip to London, we visited the composer Handel’s former home and went to Westminster Abbey to see some of the graves of musicians we’d learned about. That was a really big deal because it helped me feel close to the material I’ve studied.”
“The Christian perspective I gained at Redeemer piqued my interest in viewing humans as storytellers.”
Since this was her first time living far away from home and not seeing her family for several months, Bailey naturally began the program with some apprehension. Falling in love with England led to tremendous growth in her confidence, especially when it came to international travel.
“Although I was there with a group of friends and lived with a host family, I had a lot of independence. I discovered that I really do like to travel, even by myself. England’s a really good place to do that because it’s easy to walk to places and learn the train system. It was fun for me to see how much I liked being outside my comfort zone in that way.”
Bailey also credits her time at Oxford for refining her academic skills and interests, something she hopes to carry into the future.
“I learned that I don’t like focusing on drama as much as fiction or poetry. In terms of research and writing, I figured out what I’m good at and what I need to work on during fourth year and beyond.”
When it comes to other students who hope to study abroad, Bailey advises them to take the chance to grow independently while forging deeper connections with those around them.
“Take advantage of where you are as much as possible. While exploring on your own can be a good idea, being in a new place is the perfect setting to bond with your classmates, even those with whom you don’t expect to bond.”