Experiences and advice from former Visiting Students

Carlie Arbaugh, Cornell University, Full Year 2011-2012

When asked about my experience at Oxford, I always struggle to find just the right words to describe it. Oxford is a magical place with winding cobblestone streets, historic buildings, and countless nooks and crannies. Students on bicycles, walks through Christ Church meadow, punting, croquet on a college lawn, pubs, late night trips to the chip stand or artisan pizza, G&D’s for hot chocolate or ice cream, and chilly early morning rowing on the Isis fill my memories. And when it snows, laying a perfect blanket of white over the rooftops, being in Oxford is like being in a snow globe.

My time studying at St. Catherine’s College was the best year of my undergraduate education. I very much enjoyed my first two years of college in the U.S. and learned a tremendous amount from the courses I took, as I am doing again now in my senior year. However, in Oxford’s tutorial system I truly thrived. In the summer leading up to my year abroad I remember being very nervous. I am a science major in the U.S., so while problem sets, lab reports, and regular exams were routine, the thought of writing weekly essays to be critiqued and discussed with a tutor scared me a little. I must have revised my first essay twenty times before submitting it. I quickly came to love writing the essays, burying myself in the Bodleian or some other library for hours lost in thought. Each week I looked forward to the conversations with my tutors. Because of the personal nature of the tutorial system they continually challenged and encouraged me to learn the material in great depth by looking at the topics in different ways. I am now more confident about my critical reading, writing, and discussion skills. Moreover, many of my tutors became good friends, very different from my U.S. experience where I was often in large lecture halls and could not help but feel like a number sometimes.

My education at Oxford expanded beyond books and tutorials. Every student that I met was intelligent and eager, with an interesting opinion to share. Over tea or coffee, lunch at the quaint Japanese restaurant on Holywell, hall in college, or a pint at a pub, there were many great conversations to be had. I met many British students of course, but students from many other parts of Europe as well, each with an interesting story to tell. Perhaps the nicest aspect of being a visiting student at Oxford was the lack of anxiety and competition between peers. All of the students that I met at St. Catherine’s were confident, yet humble, genuine, and very kind, creating an environment of comradery. I became a member of the Union as well. Sitting in one of Britain’s oldest university unions listening to debates on all sorts of subjects was fantastic.

When I was preparing to go abroad I sometimes felt like I needed to defend my decision to study in another English speaking country. At first I was a little concerned that my experience would be lacking in the cultural aspect that many other students from my home university seemed to have lined up with home stays and goals to improve their language skills through immersion. Having been an exchange student for a summer in Spain when I was in high school, I knew that I would enjoy and benefit from such an experience. However, England did not disappoint. There were more differences between American and British culture than I expected and upon returning home and recounting my time to relatives, friends, professors, and peers I have realized that I gained more insight than I thought. Furthermore, with London just an hour coach ride from Oxford, I was able to travel to many other countries during the breaks between Michaelmas, Hilary, and Trinity terms. This was an education in itself as I explored the history and culture of places like Ferrara, Lisbon, Athens, Istanbul, Berlin, Prague, and Bordeaux, through a mixture of traveling and home stays with friends’ families.

As I reflect on my year in Oxford now, I am reliving these cherished memories with nostalgia. If I could, I would relive it in reality many times over. I am sincerely grateful for the educational opportunity, the friends and tutors I met (and now miss dearly), the adventures, and the confidence and inspiration it gave me to explore and tackle new challenges that lie ahead.

To read about other visiting students' experiences and advice, please follow this link





Visiting Students are housed mainly in twin rooms in the college alongside matriculated students.  The Visiting Student fees include accommodation throughout the term and in the week before and after Full Term. The rooms are provided with bedding and bed linen and a regular cleaning service.  Each staircase has kitchen facilities which include a hob, fridge, microwave, kettle and small cupboard space.  The fees do not cover any meal allowances. At the end of each term during 0th and 9th week you are required to move out of your room plus all your belongings.  The rooms have connections for laptops as well as wireless connection.

Pekka Hamalainen

MA, PhD Helsinki, MA Oxf
Rhodes Professor of American History

Ashok Handa



I teach clinical medicine to the 4th year and 6th year students at St Catherine’s and all four years of the Graduate Entry medical students.  I am also the Clinical Tutor in Surgery for the University and Associate Director of Clinical Studies for Oxford Medical School.

About me

After undergraduate training at Imperial College, London, I trained in vascular and transplant surgery at the Royal London and Royal Free Hospitals.  I moved to Oxford in 1998 to complete my training and was appointed to the consultant staff in 2001.  I now specialise in vascular surgery and was appointed Reader in Surgery in 2008.  I have been a keen rugby player in the past, but now mainly support my three sons on the touchline.  I am also the Tutor for Graduates at St Catherine’s College and oversee the graduate student body.


My research interests are in patient safety, outcomes in surgery and vascular imaging.  I have collaborative programmes with Professor Robin Choudhury in cardiovascular medicine, Professor Peter Jezzard in brain imaging and a programme of research into the causes of aneurysm development.

Graduate supervision

I have one post-doctorate student, and co-supervise three doctorate students in the Medical Sciences division.

Fellow by Special Election in Medicine
College Lecturer in Medicine
Associate Professor in Surgery
Tutor for Graduates

Peter Franklin

BA DPhil York, MA Oxf


I teach 19th- and 20th-century music history topics, concentrating on opera (eg. Wagner), the symphony (particularly Mahler) and Hollywood film music

About me

I studied at York and taught at Leeds University and in the USA before coming to Oxford as the first Fellow in Music at St Catz in 1996. Publications include the books Mahler Symphony no.3 (1991), The Life of Mahler (1997) and Seeing Through Music: Gender and Modernism in Classic Hollywood Film Scores (2011). In 2010 I was visiting Bloch Professor of Music at the University of Berkeley, California; the six lectures I gave there will be published by University of California Press in 2014 as Reclaiming Late-Romantic Music: Singing Devils and Distant Sounds.


Connections between the late 19th-century symphony, post-Wagnerian opera and film in the light of debates about mass culture.

Graduate supervision

I have supervised graduate students working on a wide range of topics, including Mahler, early-20th-century European opera and musical culture and on computer and video-game music.






J C Smith

MA Oxf, Chevalier dans l’ordre des Palmes académiques


I teach General and Historical Linguistics, including Romance Linguistics and the history and structure of French.

About me

I have been Fellow and Tutor in French Linguistics at St Catherine’s College since 1997. Before returning to Oxford, where I was an undergraduate and graduate student, I held appointments at the Universities of Surrey, Bath, and Manchester. I have also held visiting appointments in Paris, Limoges, Berlin, Melbourne and Philadelphia.

I am Secretary of the International Society for Historical Linguistics, Deputy Director of the University of Oxford Research Centre for Romance Linguistics, and co-editor of the Cambridge History of the  Romance Languages. In 2007 I was created Chevalier dans l’ordre des Palmes académiques by the French Government for services to the French language and French culture.


My main field of interest is historical morphosyntax, and I have published widely on agreement, refunctionalization, deixis, and the evolution of case and pronoun systems, with particular reference to Romance, although I have also worked on other language families, including Germanic and Austronesian.

Graduate supervision

I am happy to supervise appropriate topics in Historical Linguistics and Romance Linguistics, especially morphology.  One of my main interests is morphosyntactic refunctionalization.

Sudhir Anand

BPhil, MA, DPhil Oxf

About me

My designation at Oxford University is Professor of Economics (in the Department of Economics), where I lecture and research on Development Economics, Health Economics, and Microeconomics, and supervise graduate students.  After having served as Official and Tutorial Fellow in Economics since January 1974, my designation at the College is Emeritus Fellow from October 2013.


I am a development microeconomist, and have done research and published articles and books on economic inequality and poverty, undernutrition, human development, health equity, human resources for health, microeconomic theory and other subjects in economics and health.  My latest book is entitled The Cost of Inaction: Case Studies from Rwanda and Angola, Harvard University Press, 2012. 



Sudhir Anand

Professor of Economics

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