Oberlin-in-London Program


Alumni of Oberlin-in-London describe how the experience affected their lives.

The Oberlin-in-London Program has enriched my life academically and personally, providing opportunities to learn and enjoy life in a single semester that I will cherish my entire life.

The program was nothing short of extraordinary. It will prove a life-changing experience for those willing to step out of their comfort zones and make the most of their surroundings. Academically, the program boasts small seminar-style classes, resulting in in-depth discussions and interactions between students and professors. While the courses only occupy eight hours each week, the discussions about readings, plays, and the news transcended the walls of the classroom, resulting in thought-provoking conversations in our “flats” and wherever we went. Living and studying in the center of London created organic connections with our studies through theater nights and visits to historical sites. Outside of our academics, there were countless places to explore and people to meet. There was never a single dull moment. Whether I was interested in catching a debate in the House of Lords, visiting an exhibition in a museum, or just drinking coffee in the local cafe, it was “dead easy,” as Londoners say, to indulge my curiosity and absorb all the city had to offer. There’s no way to overstate the impact of the Oberlin-in-London Program on my growth, and I’m truly blessed that I got to take part in this fantastic semester.

– ’22 grad

The experiences I had and the memories I made during my Oberlin-in-London semester are among the most cherished of my undergraduate career. Having studied on campus in Oberlin for two and a half years before the program started, I was nervous to leave that bubble and put myself in the middle of a big city like London. The transition however couldn't have gone more perfectly. The interdisciplinary curriculum, the potent enthusiasm from the professors, and the small class sizes made me feel like I was at home away from home. I was totally immersed in my studies, and being able to explore London on my own and with my fellow classmates was so exciting.

Since graduating Oberlin, I have moved to and attend veterinary school in Edinburgh, Scotland. I credit my Oberlin-in-London semester as the event which gave me the courage to envision my future self living abroad. The Oberlin-in-London program is one of a kind, and I have no doubt that it will provide immense personal growth to all who attend.

– ’18 grad

The London program is Oberlin distilled: learning and labor on an intimate scale.

I was on the program in 1987, and it affected me in ways that reverberate to this day. I can honestly say that I learned more in London – more about theater, literature, art, and most importantly myself – than in any other semester.

– ’89 grad

The London Program will teach you to live. Every day, you and your fellow classmates will navigate a magically unknowable city. Every day, you will pursue a better understanding of not only the subjects at hand, but the relationships with your fellow Obies, and the intellectual and creative abilities you didn’t know you already had. London will awaken the intellectual in you. It will challenge even the best critical thinkers. And it’s entirely possible that you will make mistakes and get things wrong. But in the end, the independence, the cooperative risk-taking, the critical analysis—this is what the London Program is all about. Whether you can recognize your strengths at the moment you are reading this without hesitation, I encourage you to consider this opportunity as a chance to nourish what you do already know. The program, after all, does bring what’s best about Oberlin abroad: an open-minded community that encourages its members to continue to explore their individual interests and specialties in a new environment. You’ll be amazed at what you can discover when these things mix.

– ’22 grad

The Oberlin-in-London Program made me a more well-rounded and wholesome person. Our small class size cultivated an air of intimacy among the group that honed our analytical and discursive skills unlike any academic experience I've had. The city was truly our classroom, and I learned about much more than Modernism and theater while studying in London. I learned through experience how to be a functioning adult in a city—to take care of myself while making the effort to connect to the world around me. As both an academic and life experience, Oberlin-in-London broadened my horizons in more ways than I ever imagined.

– ’20 grad

My semester on the London Program was the most intellectually and emotionally exhilarating and empowering experience of my Oberlin career.

The program exemplifies what Oberlin can be at its best. For me it fulfilled a deep desire to immerse myself fully in an intimate, passionate, and intensely intellectual community of Oberlin students, and I found myself embracing everything that London was capable of giving me with a thirst for knowledge and experience that had previously been present but timid within me. Since returning from the program I have found that intellectual, academic life and emotional life can no longer operate as separate entities for me. The program led me to approach the remainder of my time at Oberlin with a new enthusiasm and confidence in every aspect of my life.

The practical implications of the London Program are tremendous. I found my first experience living in the heart of a big city to be invigorating rather than overwhelming and alienating, as I had feared. I learned to trust myself entirely in terms of navigating the city and using many of its resources. The friendships I formed on the London Program have changed my life and opened my eyes. They have helped me grow up in exactly the ways I had hoped I would during college.

– ’05 grad

The London Program was not only a high point of my Oberlin education, it was truly a high point of my life.

It cracked open the world for me, taught me how to live in and absorb a new culture. It gave me the confidence to later travel alone through Europe and Asia. It is part of what inspired and encouraged me to become a writer. I still think about what I learned, saw, ate, and experienced that year. I still draw on it. I can even still can navigate the winding streets of London like a pro (more confidently, my husband says, than I can drive the streets of Berkeley where I now live) because of all the miles I walked during those months, all the museums I saw, all the theaters I called home. It was one of those rare moments when I knew as it happened that I was having a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

London made literature, history, theater, symphony, opera and film living, vital things to me in a way the classroom never fully could. It was a huge gift and an essential part of a liberal arts education.

– ’83 grad

Intellectually, it was like nothing I'd ever experienced before; London's theaters – and, indeed, our every experience of the city – were fodder for the deepest, most engaging discussions of my academic career.

I could feel my brain growing smarter as we took the basic skills of textual analysis that we’d learned in our English classes at Oberlin and used them to engage with living, breathing texts and performances in the world’s most exciting city for theater. I grew up that semester: intellectually, socially, personally. I found my semester in London to be necessarily individualistic and communal at the same time, in a way that distilled the essence of the college experience – the Oberlin experience – for me. It’s where I truly learned to think…and to think like an Obie, in particular, with the training wheels off. There’s no other experience, at home or abroad, that could have come close to doing that for me.

– ’96 grad

My experience in the Oberlin-in-London program was the distillation of Oberlin’s educational philosophy, that learning is not an ivory tower activity, but takes place in the world, and is to be found everywhere as we move through life.

Whether I was doing my course assignments, such as walking through Mayfair and Belgravia in order to date the rowhouses using detailed differences in the architecture, or just living my life in London, riding the tube or shopping at the market, I was learning every moment. I came to Oberlin because I wanted to be challenged and pushed to grow at every turn, not just academically, but psychologically and spiritually. My time on campus certainly fulfilled my hopes, but the Oberlin-in-London program exceeded anything I could have thought possible from a learning environment.

Oberlin-in-London is different because it is just that: the values and spirit of Oberlin transplanted to London, with all of its great resources, particularly for those interested in British and world literature, European history, art history, architecture, and contemporary global politics. Rather than focus on language acquisition or heritage-seeking, Oberlin-in-London tackles the big cultural, historical, and political questions, as only an Oberlin program would seek to do.

– ’91 grad

The London Program was the single most formative event in my college career.

The education that I received during my semester abroad was critical to my future academic work, and my memories of those fantastic months remain a part of me today. It was the first time that I committed fully to my studies and learned to love my work.

– ’95 grad

The London Program changed my life.

Before I went on the program, I was a country girl from the backwoods of Michigan who’d never seen Shakespeare staged. I had never gotten the opportunity to live in a culturally rich environment, and I had only left the country one other time in my life. Participating in the London Program was probably the greatest privilege I have ever known. It taught me the beauty of theater, the importance of collective dialogue, and opened me up to countless enriching non-academic experiences.

Because of the London Program, I left the backwoods of Michigan after graduation and moved to New York, where I am continuing my academic career and my cultural fulfillment. I was able to make this move because living in London not only made me confident I could live in a huge, thriving city, but made me aware that it was the only way I could happily live my life.

– ’99 grad