Sport and societies at Oxford

Every Semester SSO students enjoy competing alongside their fellow Oxford students in the various sports that take place while they are here.

Most students who choose to join a team play other colleges in Oxford, but we have had many SSO students represent Oxford and play against other universities around the country. Sports that you can play include basketball, volleyball, football (soccer), archery, fencing, rowing, and table tennis. Nearly any sport that you enjoy is represented at Oxford.

Oxford University has a club or society that covers almost any activity you can think of. There are several orchestras of varying standards and many choirs (some you have to audition for and some you do not). If you enjoy acting why not audition for a role in a play? One semester both lead roles in a dramatic production were filled with SSO students, and students have also helped with set design and lighting. Juggling, beagling, hiking, caving, movies, politics, debating … you name it, there is a club somewhere in Oxford where you can meet other students from the University with similar interests.

There are numerous Christian activities going on during Full Term, and you will find that you are always welcome to participate while you are here. The CS Lewis Appreciation Society is also popular!

The Tolkien and Lewis societies

As a wide-eyed freshman hearing about the SCIO programme, I knew only one thing about Oxford: it was the university of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. That knowledge immediately attracted me, and two years later, it framed my expectations during the application process. Other thoughts also surfaced, primarily focused on the literary heritage of Oxford. As one of my friends commented, what better place for an English literature major to study abroad than the University of Oxford?

During my time at SCIO, I was not disappointed in the fulfillment of my expectations. The environment was inspiring, challenging, and invigorating. My tutors asked questions I had never before considered and expected a caliber of work I had not previously attained. My understanding of my discipline exploded over hours of reading in the medieval library of the Radcliffe Camera. It was indeed an incredible place for a student of literature.

Yet the environment of SCIO offered far more than I had anticipated. One of the exciting aspects of Oxford are the innumerable clubs, societies, and choirs open to all students. Several of my friends joined the Wadham College Choir, and as their guest I was privileged to attend entrancing evensongs, supplemented with a hot supper afterwards in the college hall. On other nights, I attended a taster session for ballroom dancing – very unfamiliar ground – and ballet classes, which were much more up my alley.

The two societies that I dedicated to the most time to, however, were the Tolkien Society and the Lewis Society, unsurprising choices given my original interest in Oxford. The Tolkien Society is a delightfully nerdy group of people who settle down occasionally for serious lectures, but also engage in quiz battles with other societies, dramatic readings, and game nights. Excellent food is a hallmark of the Tolkien Society – members can always expect cake and drinks. The most memorable activity was a bonfire on the river. Candles lit our way along the path as we approached the river bank, and upon arrival we discovered roasted apples and good company bantering on every subject imaginable.

The joke at Oxford is that no one can be a member of both the Tolkien and the Lewis Societies, and while I may have broken that stereotype, I must admit that the groups are dramatically different. The Lewis Society is known for its weekly lectures given by prestigious researchers in Inklings scholarship. At the very first meeting, I was awed to hear and meet Walter Hooper, Lewis’s personal secretary. The Society also hosted other, more casual events, most notably a one-man play of Lewis’s life and a Christmas party, both held in the famous author’s house. I vividly remember sipping tea and munching biscuits in the living room of Narnia’s creator.

Scio Study Aborad Alum Anna PearsonThese activities made my time at Oxford much more than an academic experience, although it undoubtedly was that. I left the university with an appreciation of its culture and a determination to return to the UK for graduate school. I am now studying for an MLitt. in Romantic and Victorian Literature at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. Many US friends ask why I’m doing a masters overseas, and my answer is always the same: at Oxford I fell in love with an academic culture where people cherish their rich literary heritage, but never neglect moments of pleasure in between the hours of reading.

– Anna Pearson –

Michaelmas Term, 2016



Ice Skating in Oxford


This past spring I had the privilege of studying as a Registered Visiting Student at the University of Oxford, one of the most highly esteemed institutions in the world of academia. Attending the University of Oxford has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and perhaps surprisingly it was not solely because of the outstanding academics.

One of SCIO’s orientation lectures is dedicated to discussing the various sports teams, clubs, and societies at the University of Oxford. Students are encouraged to look at the University’s website and explore the dozens of activities offered. Despite having decided to limit my extracurricular activities while at Oxford, within a few days I found myself scrolling through the University’s website. The rest of this story will be aided by a bit of context into my personal life outside academia: since the age of ten I have never been far from an ice rink; I was a competitive figure skater, training six days a week, three hours a day, for eight years of my life. When I began higher education, I took a step away from the competitive arena, but I still skate recreationally and work at an ice rink while studying for my degree at my home university. Knowing this context, it was only natural that the ‘Ice Skating’ tab on the website piqued my interest. I decided to take the risk and show up the next week, completely unsure of what to expect.

When I arrived at the rink the following Sunday I was warmly greeted by the president of the OxIce Skating Society and several other friendly students, each passionate about providing a fun experience for students to learn the basics of ice skating. I enjoyed the session, especially the interactions I had with other students. My years of training were evident, and the president of the society asked after the session if I would like to come back the following week to coach one of the classes. I happily accepted, and from then on I was an active member of the OxIce Skating Society.

Although I was nervous and skeptical going into the experience, being part of the society provided me with a healthy distraction from the rigors and challenges of academia and helped me develop numerous friendships. It positively influenced my academics, giving me a mental break before the beginning of each week, and was essential to the success of my overall experience at the University.

In writing this article I want to be clear in saying I am not advocating that it is absolutely necessary to be involved in extracurricular activities at the University: there are plenty of academic opportunities to explore that are extremely valuable to one’s development as a scholar. For example, I was able to attend a seminar given by the author of a book upon which I had built one of my arguments for my undergraduate research seminar, and I was lucky enough to speak with him afterwards about my ideas. Experiences such as this are not available at every university, and it is a privilege that SCIO students are given these opportunities. Take full advantage of them!

Scio Study Aborad Alum Emma GrayMy best advice to those anticipating coming to Oxford who are looking to become involved in an extracurricular activity, but feel unsure would be “just do it.” Whether it be trying out for one of the numerous college choirs or joining a society where you don’t know anyone, take the risk, show up and find your niche in Oxford! There is something for everyone, it just takes courage to take the chance and find what interests you.

– Emma Gray –

Hilary Term, 2019

On the water

My name is Yannie Heng, and I am a senior biology pre-medical student at Wheaton College. I was at Oxford during Michaelmas term of 2017, and studied Developmental Psychology and Memory, Attention, and Information Processing to fulfil my psychology minor requirements. My term at Oxford has been one of the most rewarding times of my life. My challenging tutorials shaped me, forcing me to think, write, and research in new ways. The brilliant lectures, seemingly countless resources, and myriad of outside events gave me a newfound fascination for my topic. Best of all, my new friends, especially those in Mansfield Hall and Queen’s College, immersed me into university life, providing me with new experiences and perspectives, which have shaped how I approach the world today.

Rowing was one of the unexpected joys of Oxford. I had never been part of a team sport before, and after spontaneously deciding to give this a shot, was quickly welcomed into the Queen’s College Boat Club. There, I realized that I didn’t have to be the best athlete in order to train; outing spots were determined by who signed up. As long as I showed up and did the work, I would become a better rower. That was that. And so I went, doing land training in the boathouse or getting up for morning outings in the water. When I row, I’m totally removed from everything else. My phone is gone, I’m no longer working on assignments, and talking with fellow teammates is usually difficult. Instead, all I’m focusing on is how to move the boat properly, giving me a much-needed break from my usually frazzled life.

Scio Study Aborad Alum Yannie HengDespite being the smallest girl on the team, I was selected to row for both novice regattas. The Christ-Church Regatta was one of my favourite experiences, as we managed to reach the quarterfinals after racing for several days. The camaraderie that I got to experience with my team after spending so much time with them, the exhilarating feeling of being on the water, the cheering that would occur as we raced past, the screaming of our coxswain the entire time, and having support from my friends and the rest of the boat club are memories that I will cherish for a long time.

After college, I’m going to medical school in hopes of becoming a paediatrician that works in the field of global health.Rowing hasn’t really played a role after Oxford, unfortunately, but this experience has reminded me how rewarding it can be to just jump into new adventures, as many unexpected joys may result.

– Yannie Heng –

Michaelmas Term, 2017



Performing with the St Hilda’s chamber orchestra


My name is Danielle Howard and I am a senior Music Education and Violin Performance major at George Fox University as well as a student in the William Penn Honors Program. I studied at Oxford during Michaelmas Term 2017 and took tutorials in Christian Liturgy and Musical Analysis to explore the intersection between music and Christian worship. Everyday I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to study in Oxford during my junior year. My tutorials challenged me to be a nimble scholar: a thinker who is able to write, discuss, and contemplate about topics of music and Christian worship in a concise and coherent manner. In addition to tutorials, I attended lectures on both musical composition techniques and the history of Christian theology. To be able to hear notable professors and scholars speaking on their given subject in Oxford was a surreal experience! I regularly studied in the Radcliffe Camera, Music Faculty, and Philosophy and Theology libraries, which was part of what made my academic experience so wonderful. That being said, some of my favourite memories are with the friends in Wycliffe Hall and in my Dinner Group that I made along the way.

One of the major opportunities I got to have as a music student at Oxford was performing with the St Hilda’s Chamber Orchestra. The orchestra was conducted by an older undergraduate student from St Hilda’s who put together a set of Baroque era pieces, one of which being Josef Haydn’s “Oxford Symphony”. The student musicians in the ensemble had baroque-era instruments issued to them, so as a violinist I was issued a baroque era violin bow from the Music Faculty Instrument collection. We also tuned our instruments down to Baroque tuning, which I had never done before in a performance context. Standard tuning is usually at A=440hz, but we would rehearse and perform at A=415hz.

In rehearsals I also got to interact with Oxford undergraduate students in creative ways that only an orchestral musician would. I got to know my stand partner who attended Somerville College, and I learned a lot about social dynamics within and between colleges in Oxford.

As a culmination of our hours of rehearsal, our concert was held at the Jaqueline Du Près Music Hall at St Hilda’s College. To perform in an orchestra in Oxford, let alone a Baroque Orchestra, was a new angle of musicianship that I never expected I would have the opportunity to do in my life. At the end of the concert, I was blown away at how well our group sounded together!

In my time I also got to attend a variety of Music Faculty lectures and participate in the Oxford Conducting Institute’s Conducting Masterclass. During the masterclass, when I wasn’t being coached in conducting Sibelius’ Romance, I was performing in the masterclass chamber orchestra. The experience I had with the masterclass has been instrumental towards my development as a conductor and musical leader at my University and going forward as an educator.

Scio Study Abroad Alum Danielle HowardAfter I graduate, I intend to spend a year teaching music in a private school and then complete my Masters degree in Music Education with the intent of directing public Middle School and/or High School orchestra. After that, at some point down the road I hope to get my DMA in conducting and teach music pedagogy courses and conduct orchestral ensembles. Because of my experiences with Oxford, I have become a better musical leader and a capable educator, which I hope I can impart to my future students in the years to come and as I go forth into further graduate study.

– Danielle Howard –

Michaelmas Term, 2017

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