Summer Abroad UK - On Site

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Oxford — Portal to Fantasy 


Students will be housed in dormitory-style accommodations in Oxford.

UC Davis reserves the right to change the accommodation location. Should this be necessary, we will arrange comparable lodging. Please note that elevators, air conditioners and other modern conveniences may not be available in all locations.

Excursions and Field Trips

  • Oxford Literary Walking Tour
  • The Harry Potter Studio
  • The Science Museum
  • The Pitt Rivers Museum
  • Sunset River Cruise
  • The Bodleian
  • The Ashmolean
  • Film Nights
  • Stonehenge Stone Circles Access
  • Punting

Study Abroad Advisory of Student Risk

Participation in this UC Davis Study Abroad program requires travel to and extended living in a foreign location(s) abroad. UC Davis Study Abroad endeavors to reduce and mitigate risk wherever possible.  However, the environments and risks associated with living in these locations are substantially different than those found during a regular course of study at UC Davis. All participants must download and review the following information prior to departure. Any questions should be directed to the Program Coordinator.

Study Abroad General Risk Advisory

Program Specific Risk Advisories (PDF)


Breakfast will be provided at the accommodations. For lunch and dinner students are encouraged to visit the Covered Market or other local food vendor. Some group meals will be provided by the program.

About United Kingdom

From the instructor, Amy Clarke:

Oxford, England is a near-perfect location for a summer abroad course.  The city itself holds multiple attractions: its history with one of the world’s most revered universities, its rich and varied architecture, the storied Bodleian Library and Ashmolean Museum, and of course the natural environs of the Thames Valley.  For students with limited travel funds, it is a destination in and of itself, as all summer long the Oxford colleges are alive with dramatic productions and musical events. But it is also an easy day-trip into London and from there to other spots in England or the rest of Europe. 

For the purposes of this course, Oxford presents the ideal opportunity to explore how a specific literary form, fantasy, arises out of a particular place. It’s no exaggeration to say that modern fantasy—think Lord of the Rings, The Narnia Books, and Harry Potter, to name the most prominent—has been shaped by Oxford.  Many English fantasies were written by Oxford professors, students and residents (Lewis Carroll, Kenneth Grahame, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Diane Wynne Jones, and Phillip Pullman—again, to name the most prominent). Images of Oxford are deeply embedded in their works—Carroll, for example, is said to have derived his ideas for Alice’s descent down that famous rabbit-hole from the decorative tiles around a fireplace at Christ Church. As we will see, the peaceful life of the river-bank in Wind in the Willows--"simply messing about in boats"--may reflect its author's experiences at school and on the nearby waterways.  Even writers who didn’t attend the University, like J. K. Rowling, have been deeply influenced by Oxford; indeed, the public perception of Hogwarts, the wizarding school in Harry Potter, is partly Oxonian: beyond the fact that iconic scenes were filmed there, the centrality of this institution and its traditions in the fictional world reflects a reality of modern British political life, as the majority of Prime Ministers, for example, were educated at Oxford. 

That being said, many fans of these works make a visit to Oxford just to experience first-hand the places where the ideas were conceived. We'll explore a host of questions, general and specific: What is the connection for fans between place and story? Why go to Christ Church’s Great Hall to see what was, after all, a film location, a third-hand rendering from a novel of a fictional place? What do we hope to experience when we imagine we see the tree the Cheshire Cat sat in, or the place where Tolkien might have found his inspiration for the Shire? Why, in this cultural moment, have we become so obsessed with fantasy?  

This course takes full advantage of its location to take a cross-disciplinary look at the prominence of fantasy literature in the early 21st century. We consider the links between the physical setting of Oxford, including its art, architecture, and other cultural resources, and the birth of modern fantasy in several important manifestations.  These fantasy writers unleashed a cultural phenomenon of genuinely epic proportions: the original fiction sells in the millions of copies, and the last few decades have seen blockbuster film versions of works by Carroll, Tolkien, Lewis, Rowling, Pullman, and Wynne Jones.  Thanks to modern media, though, fans have created an unfathomably rich web presence for fantasy--and games, merchandise, music, even theme parks have arisen around the stories these Oxonians tell. Using the books as our starting point, we will immerse ouselves in some theory, films, fan-sites and of course Oxford itself to try to understand what it is to participate in the fantasy tradition.  If our enterprise succeeds as planned, participants in this program will gain an intimacy with this city much deeper than that of a typical tourist, and gain an understanding of fantasy literature much richer than that of a typical student!

Currency: British Pound

Language Spoken: English

Weather and Climate

The weather in Oxford during the summer is very difficult to predict. It can get hot, not central California hot, but hot nonetheless. It is good to prepare for all types of weather; bring shorts, pants, and a sweater or light jacket; chances are you will need them all. Normally summers are warm, with occasional showers.

Research Your Destination

Keeping in Touch

Since communication options can vary dramatically from country to country, Summer Abroad advises checking with the instructor or the Program Specific Guide for advice about what might be the best option for your particular program.

Calling the U.S. from Abroad

Many U.S.-based long distance phone companies provide special services that make it easy for you to phone home from abroad. Some provide toll-free access numbers that connect with an operator in the U.S. Some provide the means to charge long distance calls to a credit card or to a third party. Some provide better long distance rates. Others provide access to emergency, medical, legal, translation, and entertainment information. Students are encouraged to investigate these options before departure and to shop for the best services and rates.

Global Cell Phones

Most cell phone companies can sell you a special global cell phone with the option to add more minutes as needed. Also, most cell phone companies can unlock your cell phone for global use, but this requires a trip to a provider at your destination who will give you a SIM card and sell you minutes. Check with your cell phone provider for more information. Global cell phones are also available through travel agencies and online. Be sure to check the policies for both incoming and outgoing calls and text messages.

Cell Phone Rental

Some students choose to rent a cell phone that works at their destination. Some companies will ship the phone directly to the student in advance of the program dates—and include a packet for sending the phone back when they return. Interested students can locate service providers via the Internet.

Phone Cards

Many travel agencies and specific phone providers carry great options for phone cards. Check the rates available from your long distance provider. You can often buy phone cards on site.


Skype is a computer program that you can download for free that allows you to talk (for free) on the phone over the Internet with anyone else who has Skype. Go to to download the program. For an extra fee (as low as .02 cents/minute) you can enable your Skype to call land lines instead of just other computers. You will need a microphone and headset so that you can talk to the person on the other line. Skype also includes a chat option for instant messaging.

Instant Messaging Systems

Instant messaging systems are also a great free way to communicate with people back in the states. There are numerous options for messaging systems from AOL Instant Messenger to Yahoo Messenger. Just about every messaging program can be downloaded for free online.

Internet Access

Computer and internet access varies by program. Information for your site will be listed in your Program Specific Guide.

Internet access is offered in all the countries we go to, but the reliability of it differs from program to program. Internet can be accessed through internet cafes. Some programs also offer access through the dorms or on-campus computer labs. Internet cafes are very reasonably priced and often times have various instant messaging programs installed and headphones available to chat with loved ones. Relying on internet cafes may reduce worry of bringing your own laptop with you. You can upload pictures at most internet cafes, but remember due to the speed of some connections, it may be a better idea just to bring multiple memory cards to avoid spending your whole day on the computer.

Cultural Learning

Living in a new culture can be exhilarating, rewarding, and stimulating. It can also be frustrating. It is one thing to tour a country, but it is quite another to live and function according to different norms. It is important to be open toward a new culture, to try to discard stereotypes, and to learn as much as possible about the culture before departure. If you educate yourself about the country you will be visiting, you will better understand and appreciate your new surroundings!

Even with preparation it is likely that you will experience "culture shock." Recent studies show that there are distinct stages of culture shock. Some of these stages include: awareness of the host culture and preparation, initial euphoria and excitement, irritability phase during acclimation, gradual adjustment, and adaptation to culture. Upon return to the United States, many students face "reverse culture shock."

There are some things you can do to minimize your cultural adjustment. Keep a sense of humor! Treat yourself to an occasional U.S. indulgence like a favorite food, or purchase a U.S. magazine or newspaper. Avoid other Americans who are overly negative or who complain a lot. Keep healthy. Above all, don't be afraid to try new activities!

Resources for Further Study

Ethical Considerations in Study Abroad