Well-prepared by GCSU professors, senior excels at Oxford University

Produced by University Communications

B eing a history major with minors in museum studies and English—could mean someone has a fascination with antiquity.

That is certainly true about Caroline Cole—a senior from Buford, Georgia, who’s fallen in love with everything England.

True, her first love is Georgia College & State University, where she made friends easily in small classes and the Honors College. It was here, she got the opportunity to work at Georgia’s Old Governor’s Mansion. And it was here, she took difficult classes that fully prepared her for study abroad and the rigors of Oxford University—the oldest English-speaking university in the world.

The quad at Regent's Park College at Oxford University.
The quad at Regent's Park College at Oxford University.
Cole spent a semester away last spring and, thanks to efforts by officials at Georgia College’s International Education Center and Honors College, she’s returning to Oxford for another semester this fall. Or, as the English say: another ‘term.’

“While I love Georgia College and will be glad to spend my final semester here in the spring,” Cole said, “life and education at Oxford really is something special. There is always something going on—people to meet, topics to learn about, streets and meadows to walk in. I just love how connected everything is, and I’m so thrilled to have one last term there as an undergraduate.”

Cole always hoped to go to Oxford, since reading “The Great Gatsby” in ninth grade. When applying for Georgia College, she noticed its “GCSU in Oxford Experience at Regent’s Park College.” It seemed like the perfect opportunity to fulfill her dream.

Aside from a family trip to Exuma Cay in the Bahamas in 2022, Cole hadn’t traveled much beyond the Southeast. She was a little terrified at first, and the first three weeks were rough. But, after that, she settled into the experience, made a bunch of English friends and had “the best six months of her life.”

“Studying at Oxford in some capacity had been a goal of mine for years,” Cole said, “so this study abroad semester really was a dream come true. It didn’t feel real, though, until I was on the plane for London. I had never done something of this capacity before, but I am so glad that I took the risk.”

“Oxford has become a very special place for me,” she said. “When I learned that Regent’s had extended an offer for me to return in the fall, I actually cried with joy.”

Caroline on her first day at Regent's Park College in January.
Caroline on her first day at Regent's Park College in January.
Her first trip to Oxford, January to July 2023, consisted of two Oxford terms. There are three eight-week terms during an academic year with five-week breaks between terms and a three-month summer vacation.

In her two terms, Cole studied at one of Oxford’s 39 colleges, Regent’s Park College, the smallest. She lived in a residential hall and took history and English “tutorials.” These tutorials include one-on-one meetings weekly or biweekly with a professor to discuss essays. Cole had to write an eight-page research paper every week and sometimes two every other week.

During the first term, she studied “The Global Middle Ages” and “Victorian Literature.” In the second, she took “Modern China since 1650” and “Modernist Literature.” This fall, she plans to take “Modern Britain” with a focus on the Second World War and “The Works of C.S. Lewis.”

Taking Oxford’s tutorials would’ve been much harder, except for two professors Cole had at Georgia College.

Before Dr. Bruce Gentry’s “Flannery O’Connor” class, Cole had never formulated her own essay prompts or been subjected to such scrutinous grading. The rigor of Gentry’s class more than prepared her for the one-on-one tutorial-style classes and 12 term papers at Regent’s Park College.

In Dr. William Risch’s “Modern Eastern Europe” class, Cole was expected to read a book each week and write five-page essay responses.

Even after the Oxford tutorials—I can say that these two Georgia College classes were easily the most difficult and most rewarding courses I’ve ever taken. They prepared me well.
– Caroline Cole
“It was a workload I had never experienced before,” she said, “but I adjusted and succeeded through it. At Oxford, I had to do this again except the essays were longer and involved more research. Even after the Oxford tutorials—I can say that these two Georgia College classes were easily the most difficult and most rewarding courses I’ve ever taken. They prepared me well.”

While abroad, Cole joined the Oxford University Intercollegiate Christian Union and Trinity Church Oxford. She’d meet other students for fun in Regent’s Junior Common Room. Her favorite social was the Final Fling, a formal ball in June.

During breaks, she traveled around the United Kingdom and Ireland. She visited Aberdeen, Belfast, Dublin, Brighton and Dover. She enjoyed Edinburgh, London, the Cotswolds and Canterbury the most for their architecture, history and walkability.

Cole said British food isn’t “as bad as it’s made out to be, but that’s coming from a person who can hardly handle any form of spice in their food.” Steak and ale pie were delicious. Her favorite meal was Sunday roast.

“The most English thing I did was attending the Coronation of King Charles III,” Cole said. “It was a spontaneous decision alongside my friends, Tim and Jack. We caught the 6 a.m. train from Oxford to London and spent the whole day standing in the rain in St James’s Park by Buckingham Palace. We saw the procession go by twice, so I can say that I have seen the British royal family in person.”

This time around, Cole looks forward to celebrating Halloween at Oxford and going to the Christmas Market in Bath.

After graduation, Cole plans to get a master’s degree in museum studies and work in a museum.

Study abroad is something she recommends all students experience, if they can. Her self-confidence is stronger, and she’s much more at ease in social situations.

“Truly, my time at Oxford has changed me so much for the better. This hasn't been just a leisurely sight-seeing trip to England,” Cole said. “This has been a formative experience for me that has impacted me in deep-seated ways that I can hardly articulate into words.”

I just feel different—stronger, more mature, more empathetic. I never knew I could achieve so much socially, academically and practically until I did. I essentially had to start over in Oxford, and I’ve learned that once you put yourself out there and get involved, everything will fall into place, and the sooner you do it, the better. This will help me when I have to do this all over again in grad school and beyond.

You have a successful place wherever you are, if you only go and claim it.

– Caroline Cole