For many STEM students, studying abroad may seem like an exciting but perhaps unrealistic opportunity. Most STEM majors have crammed degree-plans that seem to offer little flexibility to allow spending a semester or a year off-campus. However, the SCIO program is uniquely structured to not just provide STEM students with a life-changing experience living and studying in another culture but also equip them with life-long skills that will profoundly prepare them for their future studies and careers.
As a pre-medical student with double majors in biology and political science, I was convinced that my undergraduate degree-plan would make it nearly impossible to study abroad and still graduate on-time. Nevertheless, as a freshman, I happened to visit Oxford on Christmas break and absolutely fell in love with the city and the University’s history, culture, and especially the libraries. I knew I wanted to come back and study at the same desks that generations of scientists, politicians, and theologians had sat at before me.
SCIO went above and beyond to make my dream a reality. First, the program consists of a full academic load of seventeen credits, ensuring I would not in any way fall behind in my degree plan. Second, the SCIO staff worked closely with me to find tutors who could teach me the STEM courses and specific content I needed to meet requirements back home. Even when COVID-19 threw an enormous wrench in everyone’s plans, the SCIO staff worked diligently to ensure that my fellow peers and I were still able to study here at Oxford this spring.
At Oxford, my STEM-specific academic work has been concentrated primarily in my human physiology primary tutorial. Like most tutorials, human physiology includes substantial weekly reading and writing; however, it looks a bit different than most humanities tutorials. Specifically, I am given structured weekly assignments, each of which focuses on a particular physiological system. This assignment might include several short answer questions that address wide-ranging topics from general anatomical structures and their associated functions to definitions of crucial terms. Then, I write one or two longer essay responses answering prompts related to that week’s system. Often these essay prompts require me to describe the functions of cells, tissues, and organs involved in a particular process and then apply that information to clinical contexts by explaining the associated pathophysiology.
Unlike most undergraduate teaching in the United States that relies heavily on textbooks, completing these assignments requires substantial reviews of primary research literature. Each week, I typically spend thirty to forty hours analyzing peer-reviewed studies to determine the scientific community’s most current understandings of my assignment’s topics. Then, I synthesize that information into comprehensive but concise answers to each prompt. I then meet each week with my tutor, an expert in the field and lab researcher here at Oxford, who comments on my work and challenges me to apply my findings to real-world situations.
Additionally, I am also participating in a science and religion research seminar. In this seminar, I, several other STEM students, and an expert scholar in the discipline research and discuss science and religion’s interaction from historical, philosophical, theological, and sociological perspectives. This seminar also gives students the chance to research relevant topics of personal interest to further integrate a passion for science with a distinctly Christian worldview.
Both of these examples demonstrate just a glimpse of SCIO’s value for STEM students. My studies here have facilitated stimulating conversations with top academics in my field, in which my thoughts and contributions are taken seriously, and I am challenged to consider the broader implications of the content for medicine and research. Furthermore, I have learned valuable research skills and clinical applications from my studies that will further equip me for medical school and my career. Finally, I am learning in a distinctly Christian environment fostered by both the staff and my peers that encourages both academic growth and spiritual development. Ultimately, studying STEM at Oxford has been one of the most challenging and most rewarding experiences of my life, and I have no doubt that my experiences will continue to shape my perspectives long after I have left.
About the Author: Daniel Moe is a student at Dordt University and has been studying at SCIO for the Hilary Term 2021.