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Summer Abroad UK - On Site

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 alternative 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 Science Museum
  • The Pitt Rivers Museum
  • Tour the Salisbury Cathedral
  • Sunset River Cruise
  • The Bodleian
  • Divinity School
  • Film Nights
  • Private Stonehenge Inner 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.

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