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It’s about 11 p.m. in Oxford, and I just returned to my dorm room from another Tuesday night High Table dinner. One of the traditions of the Oxford program is the High Table dinner, held every Tuesday night while we are studying at University College. We meet as a group for a reception in the Fellows’ Garden around 6:30 p.m., and then continue on to dinner as a large group in the Alington Room. Each High Table dinner features a multi-course dinner followed by a guest speaker. The guest speaker traditionally shares the meal with the SMU Dedman School of Law students, and tonight I was fortunate to sit with our guest speaker, Dr.Dorota Leczykiewicz, Junior Research Fellow at Trinity College.
Dr. Leczykiewicz has an enthusiasm and passion for her studies that is truly contagious, and after we left dinner a number of students wished to speak with her further. The tradition after High Table dinner is to meet in the University College Cellar for fellowship and continued discussion. I was very excited to see that Dr. Leczykiewicz and her husband had decided to join the rest of the SMU students and professors when I made my way down to the Cellar. For the rest of the evening I had the opportunity to speak individually with Dr. Leczykiewicz about her research and knowledge regarding the European Union and its effect on the legal systems of the member states. Since I am taking a tutorial on the E.U. Constitution at Trinity College while I am in Oxford, this matter was of particular interest to me. However, I found myself even more engaged by what she had to say regarding the educational experience.
Dr. Leczykiewicz spoke with me at length about the benefit of the individual attention that students at Oxford receive in a tutorial system much like the one we have as part of the Oxford Program. We discussed education and the importance of gaining a genuine understanding of a topic beyond listening or taking notes.  My tutorial on the E.U. Constitution is made up of three students. I am typically fairly quiet in class by nature, but in a class of only three students I am much more at ease when it comes to participating and asking questions. In the one tutorial that I have attended so far, I already feel that I have learned so much, not just from reading or writing my paper – but from experiencing the thoughts and ideas of my tutor and fellow students. Being taught in such a small group really challenges me to think and experience what we’re discussing in a different way. I am not as hesitant to speak up when I have an idea that may be wrong or different, and I have found that my tutor not only acknowledges my different views, but embraces them.
It is another unique aspect of the Oxford program that I have the experience to speak to such accomplished scholars, both in my tutorial and at High Table. Tonight was certainly a memorable experience for me, and I feel that I learned so much just from the casual conversation I had with Dr. Leczykiewicz in the Cellar. As she discussed with me this evening, learning happens when you allow something to change and challenge you, and the conversation we had this evening certainly did just that.
Tomorrow is my second tutorial, and then we are going as a group to see a play at Wadham College. Next week, Professor Winship has organized a tour of Legal London on Monday. More from Oxford then!