Coming back from winter break, I felt a loss of familiar faces on Oxford College’s campus. Many students had opted to graduate to the Emory College of Arts and Science early, and I would have too if I had enough credits. As a humanities scholar investigating cultural phenomena through language, Oxford’s idyllic campus has made me anxious about whether my English research can connect with the world outside of the Oxford community. The mostly foundational classes and small town community have made me see Oxford as incongruent with reality. Perhaps, instead of boasting Oxford as a liberal arts education equivalent with the Atlanta campus, Oxford should be a one-year preparatory college experience.

Oxford’s focus on introductory classes provided me with a smooth transition from high school to my freshman year of college. However, it also created a false expectation of the world in the next two years of college and after graduation. As I started my sophomore year, the limited curriculum began to feel dry. Most higher-level English classes are listed as “Special Topics,” which means they appear irregularly in different semesters and focus on case studies of specific literature. While the Atlanta campus offers classes like Criticism: Practicing Theory and Literature & Cultural Studies regularly, Oxford provides few classes on literary and cultural theory, an integral English methodology, to tie all the special topics classes together. Because of this, I found it hard to understand what post-graduate English research really looks like or envision what I can contribute to society through my studies. I feel hesitant to declare as an English major with my Oxford experience. 

Much of my research interest in English focuses on understanding cultural and language hegemony, like discrimination against non-standard English. Oxford’s curriculum is insufficient for me to gain a concrete understanding of my research interest. Trying to learn from an interdisciplinary lens about the cultural experience from different underrepresented groups, I’ve found that many Emory College of Arts and Science-based programs that establish cross-cultural understandings, like East Asian Studies, Comparative Literature and Chinese Studies, do not offer any classes on the Oxford campus. And, if they do, it is not consistent. 

The small, predominantly-white town of Oxford also contributes to a lack of connection with the real world. Despite Oxford’s emphasis on club involvement and leadership, many major career and extracurricular opportunities are in Atlanta. To make meetings for the Wheel, my round-trip commute to Atlanta is about two hours round trip. To study and understand various cultural representations, I also need to squeeze my time to travel to the Atlanta campus for symphony concerts, film screenings and guest lectures that rarely take place at Oxford. Oxford Student Government Association listened to student feedback and improved shuttle service, but it is still difficult to sufficiently keep up with Atlanta campus opportunities.

While Oxford’s lack of academic and professional choices may not significantly impact students, I have felt that the curriculum deviates from what is advertised. Emory’s mission is to provide service for humanity, but I feel short-handed because of the distance I experience from the Atlanta campus and the limited community we can reach at Oxford. Oxford isn’t “a place where liberal arts prepares you to put your ideas to work” as their website advertises, falsely shaping an idealistic education for its students. 

Oxford prides itself on its focus on a liberal arts curriculum for everyone. However, a lack of choices for more in-depth classes and diverse opportunities forestalls this promise from coming true, especially for a humanities scholar like me who wishes to understand systematic cultural discrimination across the globe. A true liberal arts curriculum should allow students to design their own pathways by having a wide depth and breadth of classes, but Oxford does not meet these standards. 

Instead, to keep Oxford’s small community and foundational curriculum alive, it should provide all Emory-admitted students with a one-year high school transition instead of a full, college-level liberal arts program. Its unique community and foundational classes can alleviate students’ anxiety stepping into college and facing the professional world for the first time, and this approach would reduce the gap between Oxford and Atlanta students. The bubble created by Oxford should not be equal to the college liberal arts education on the Atlanta campus but rather serve as a college preparatory experience. 

Amiee Zhao (24Ox) is from Shanghai.

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Amiee Zhao is from Shanghai, China. At the Wheel, she is Emory Life editor and a writer for multiple sections. Outside of the Wheel, she enjoys traveling and reading non-fiction. She is also involved in OxBroadway and Autism Advocacy Organization.