Studying Abroad: Existential Crises and Bread

This fall I have the opportunity to study abroad at Oxford University. At Oxford, where I will be studying solely philosophy, I will be taking an 8-week tutorial in German philosophy and a 4-week tutorial in symbolic logic. Teaching in the classical tradition has long been a desire of mine, and I am hopeful that this semester will help me grow both in my ability to think well and also to explain my thoughts clearly.

Colin Burden, Class of 2020, anticipates studying abroad in Oxford this semester.

Throughout the eleven weeks that I’ll be studying in Oxford, I fully expect to be pushed into a greater sense of independence. I have become very accustomed to the structured life that Eastern provides. My class schedule is typically arranged for me, and for the most part, teachers and coaches tell me where I should be for most of my week. The Oxford tutorial system is not so structured. I’ll typically have one to two tutorials every week during the term, and outside of those times, I will be free to arrange my time and complete my readings and essays. With this freedom, I will need to be very intentional with my time, ensuring that I’m using the time that I do have productively, while still immersing myself in another culture. I’m hoping this freedom challenges me to become more intentional in the ways that I spend my time, so that when I transition into life out of school, I will be equipped to work well without forfeiting times of leisure and rest.

Along with this freedom, there is also the ability to experience a culture and history that is different than my own. Oxford will offer me the chance to meet and build relationships with British students through various clubs and events. That chance to learn new perspectives is something I value greatly. I hope the connections I make and experiences I have at Oxford will expand my worldview and provide me with perspectives that I could never have imagined on my own. When I return home, I also hope that I will be inspired to continue seeking out relationships with people different than myself, so that I can gain a greater understanding of the diversity of experience that is all around me.

Academically, I expect this semester not only to be challenging but also vastly different than I’ve experienced before. Studying twelve credits of philosophy in a different country, without my usual support system, and writing essays every week seems like a perfect recipe for some existential crises, if you ask me. While the subject matter does at times feel daunting, I am really looking forward to learning about philosophical ideas and systems that are currently foreign to me. This semester will be my first opportunity to focus on philosophy, which is an exciting chance to pursue topics that I find deeply interesting.  If nothing else, I certainly expect to be a faster reader by the end of the semester.

Travelling is not something I’m that familiar with, and I am expecting to use the freedom of my schedule to explore Europe as much as I can. There is so much rich history and beauty to learn about and to see in the world, and I hope to get a brief glimpse while I’m abroad. The countries that I currently want to visit the most are Spain, France, and Italy. I’m hoping to visit friends in Spain, who will be studying abroad there at the same time. I also plan on eating fresh bread in each country that I visit. I really love freshly baked bread, and I will not be able to pass up the chance to visit as many French and Italian bakeries as I can!

In addition to eating a lot of good bread, I hope that, over the course of the semester, I intentionally expand my horizons, enjoy the rare chance to travel to many different countries, meet diverse groups of people, and wrestle with ideas that I’ve never encountered. I look forward to updating you all with how these expectations actually turn out soon. Wish me luck!


Colin Burden (’20) is a Templeton scholar double majoring in Philosophy and Chemistry Business. When he is not studying, Colin also plays golf on the Eastern University Men’s Golf Team.

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