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OBU English Major Spends Semester at Oxford, Wins de Jager Prize

October 13, 2016

During the 2016 spring semester, while most of her friends were back on Bison Hill, OBU English major Elyse Kusakabe spent the latter half of her junior year travelling around England and furthering her education at Oxford University. The experience was part of a program made possible through the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU.)

The Scholar’s Semester in Oxford is an intensive semester-long program through the CCCU BestSemester, partnered with Scholarship and Christianity in Oxford (SCIO.) Students earn 17 credits in 13 weeks after writing 18 essays, attending 32 lectures, going on five mandatory field trips and participating in 10 seminars.

“I knew that I wanted to study abroad since high school, so when I was researching colleges, I saw that this opportunity was possible through OBU,” Kusakabe said. “As an English major, England was an ideal place to go. Even more than that, Oxford seemed like a dream.”

During her time at Oxford, she studied culture and literature.

“My primary tutorial was called C.S. Lewis in Context, and my secondary was on Middle English literature,” she said. “Tutorials ended after the eight-week Oxford term, and then the British Culture course and undergraduate Research Seminar began.”

The culture portion included field trips to English cities such as Coventry, Portsmouth and Winchester.

“I also wrote three essays on British topics in my field of study,” she said. “My favorite one was about the character of Robin Hood, and I examined what made him attractive in virtually every century since the legend began.”

Kusakabe said the semester was one of the best times of her life.

“I did a lot of neat things like visit Stonehenge, explore London, eat scones, wander college cloisters, breathe in the scent of centuries-old books and sip coffee in bookstores whilst looking out across Oxford's dreaming spires,” she said. “I also delivered a TED-style talk to my program, attended the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society, visited several liturgical ‘high church’ services and spent hours writing essays.”

During her time in the program, Kusakabe was awarded the de Jager prize for exceptional academic performance.

“I won for my essays in the British Culture course, and others won for their Undergraduate Research essays,” she said. “From what I understand, the academic director and executive director of the program confer on the essays, deciding together on which student might deserve a prize in each category.”

Although Kusakabe was surprised by the award, Dr. Michael Travers, professor of English, division chair for language and literature, and associate dean of the college of humanities and social sciences, was not.

“Elyse is in the Honors Program here at OBU and has always been an excellent student,” Travers said. “She is always engaged in class and contributes much to class discussions. Not only are the standards at Oxford high, but the system of classes and papers is different from the U.S. system. In going to Oxford, Elyse had to adapt to a new place, a new academic system and greater expectations. The fact that she has won the de Jager award is testimony to her diligence and good success.”

Kusakabe is thankful for and feels changed by her time in Oxford.

“In studying abroad, you allow a city to grow inside of you,” she said. “Study abroad is a time that changes you, that makes you who you are. It’s a time that you never forget. And it’s a time that you never stop sharing.”