Oberlin-in-London Program

Fall 2023 London Program


We are now (hopefully) emerging from the Covid-19 Pandemic, one of the defining events of the 21st century. Masks are no longer required on campus, and life appears to be returning to normal. How did we get here? What path led to the development of the Covid vaccines, or to an understanding of germs, or even the knowledge that disease can be quantified by symptoms? Oberlin-in-London 2023, led by Maureen Peters, Professor of Biology and Pre-Med Program Director, and Drew Wilburn, Professor of Classics, offers students an opportunity to embark on a magical, medical mystery tour that will trace the history of medicine from its ancient roots through body-snatchers intent on finding corpses for dissection to modern understandings of genetic pre-dispositions to disease or “designer babies.” The program is anchored by “The History of Medicine: Germs, Sex, and the Brain” (NS and SS Credit, QFR), which traces the development of modern medical knowledge through germ theory, reproductive health, and mental health. In the past, health was believed to be tied intrinsically to the social value associated with a patient. The COVID pandemic’s disproportionate effect on certain populations has returned our gaze to the social determinants of health and to the global nature of disease. London’s rich history and vibrant museums offer an unparalleled opportunity to delve deeper into the subject with weekly visits to critical sites such as the Old Operating Theatre and the Wellcome Collection. The additional courses taught by Oberlin faculty (students choose one) either delve more deeply into the scientific study of disease in “The Biology of Cancer,” or explore human beings’ changing understanding of their world and health, through “Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion from Stonehenge to Harry Potter.”

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Maureen Peters, Biology and Pre-Health Program Director 

"Teaching on the London program in 2017 cemented my belief that participating in Oberin-in-London is an opportunity like no other! Sharing a thematic semester of learning and playing in a global cosmopolitan city with other Obies sparks one’s curiosity and feeds the soul. The topic of the semester, medical history, is one that has always fascinated me. As a recovering pre-medical student I have maintained my interest in medicine and how society treats disease and wellness, and how one’s individual identity and socioeconomic status forecasts one’s personal experience. I also look forward to delving into the history of health professions as I now serve as an Oberlin pre-health advisor. Moreover, this program comes in the midst of a global pandemic or two. Revisiting medical history after the lived experience of COVID-19 will allow us to more fully embrace the state of ignorance of disease causality and treatment that has existed for most of human existence. As we stroll through museums to view the amulets that warded off disease in the past, or protected soldiers of world wars, we may find a deeper sense of empathy for our ancestors. I am also looking forward to being overwhelmed by the exciting entertainment options each and every day. Whether it be theatre, dance, music, food, shopping, or people-watching, London’s vibrant culture will keep me busy!"

More about Maureen Peters

Drew Wilburn, Classics and Archaeological Studies

"I am very excited to be returning to London in Fall 2023, six years after our last program in Spring 2017. I am still astounded at how transformative I found the semester, both for our amazing group of students and for myself. I can’t wait to share this amazing city with another group of Obies. Looking forward to Fall 2023, I am thrilled to be able to live in a world city – if only for a semester - that was founded almost 2000 years ago. At Oberlin, I’ve taught courses on Greek and Roman magic, ancient cities, Greek and Roman history, ancient art, and Egypt, as well as Latin and Greek language courses. Oberlin-in-London 2023 will be a chance for me to dig into some areas that I am very interested in – early medicine and healing, and medieval and modern witchcraft. I am very excited to pay another visit to John Dee’s scrying stone and the new Wellcome wing of the Science Center (opened in 2022!). I also have a not-so-secret love of contemporary art, so I don’t plan to miss any openings at the Tate Modern. I plan to spend as much class time as we can onsite – at Stonehenge, Bath, the British Museum, and even the Spiritualist Center of Great Britain, and as much out-of-class time as I can walking around the city and eating at restaurants or food stalls (I’m happy to share our favorite spots)!"  

More about Drew Wilburn