Students from the Tickle College of Engineering traveled to Oxford in the summer of 2017 to study “The Quest for Meaning.”
The Oxford Experience 2017 was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I could not be more thankful for being able to experience everything that was offered to me. From trips to London, a weekend in Salisbury and Bath with a trip to Stonehenge, a weekend in Paris, or time spent around Oxford, I am forever indebted to everyone that helped me get to England.
The class itself centered around where we find meaning in life and how to be intentional about the quest for that meaning. Being a conscious human being comes with the consequence of knowing that we are finite creatures. It is important for us to realize that everything we do in life is a choice and even doing nothing is choosing to do nothing. The class explored how humans cope with the idea of finitude and our relationship to our community and to religion. We considered the works of Becker, Kierkegaard, Freud, and Tillich to see if the ideas they presented could be applied to our own lives and connected it to what psychologists are researching today. We also had the chance to listen to Professor Sheldon Solomon, a co-developer of Terror Management Theory, and Professor Peter Hampson, an Oxford faculty member, give lectures covering Terror Management Theory and the idea of the perspective of the journey of life and how it unfolds.
This trip inspired me to live intentionally in every moment. Life passes moment by moment and taking full advantage of each second is my responsibility. It is all too easy to live on autopilot and coast through days at a time, but that is the exact opposite of what I wanted while I was on my study abroad and what I want going forward.
Some of my best experiences in life happened on this trip including going to Wireless Festival 2017, being inside the circle of rocks at Stonehenge, visiting The Louvre, climbing the Eiffel Tower, walking through the British Museum, and being at championship Sunday of The British Open. These adventures opened my eyes to the possibilities of life and everything that is out there to see and do. Life is too precious to spend it lackadaisically and without purpose. Being determined and putting in the effort to choose right from wrong instead of rolling with what is easy takes a lot of work. It is not easy to live fully in your morals and by what you value most, but when this happens the beauty of life truly shows. I have been blessed with the opportunity, and I look forward to everything that life has coming my way.
Over the course of three weeks in July, around thirty students from UT, St. Joseph’s, and Boise State experienced Oxford through the course “The Quest for Meaning.” While we can (and will) describe the experience by separating the course into the lectures, discussions, excursions, and location, the experience itself is truly ineffable. Our trip combined meeting new people, hearing and discussing new ideas, and experiencing a new place in a way that created an experience greater than the sum of its parts.
When we arrived at Oxford, it was easy to feel overwhelmed. Everything in the college and university had so much history and tradition, in a way that we simply do not have in the states. The building that was the Great Hall in Harry Potter was across the river from our dormitory. C.S. Lewis gave up apologetics after a debate in the common room of our dormitory. However, after our initial shock and awe at the grandeur of the college, we enjoyed living on such a historic and beautiful campus.
We studied the “Quest for Meaning,” that is, the fundamental human drive to infuse meaning into the world. This course was a veritable blitzkrieg of topics, moving from Aristotle to existentialists, including Eastern thought as well. And while the topics were abstract and philosophical, we discussed the practical application of these ideas as well. This course provided an open forum to discuss and challenge ideas about the world with an eclectic group of individuals. Every professor and student brought a different way of thinking to the table, from Freudian analysis to historical, literary, or biological. In this environment, discussing ideas with a wide variety of honors students created a truly unique community.
Part of what made the Oxford experience special was the guest speakers. Besides having great professors from UT, St. Joseph’s, and Boise, our group was able to have two guest speakers. The first was Peter Hampson, professor at Blackfriars, Oxford, and author of 5 books and 50+ papers, publications, etc. Dr. Hampson discussed Metamodernism and introduced us to his perspective on the “quest for meaning.” Along with Dr. Hampson, Sheldon Solomon, one of the founders of a current psychological school, Terror Management Theory, was able to stay with us for about a week. His personal charisma and detailed knowledge contributed to our discussion with wit and evidence. The contributions of Drs. Hampson and Solomon cannot be understated.