Marisa Benoit was determined to earn her DPhil in History of Medicine at Oxford but had to apply three times before she could take her place at Christ Church. Read her story here:
I’m currently in the fourth year of my doctorate in the History of Medicine, and my research compares attitudes towards infertility in early modern England and colonial New England. Infertility is a medical issue that is experienced on a personal and societal level, with deep emotional resonance across time and space. My project examines this seemingly timeless issue within a specific historical context, and provides the opportunity to untangle the web of emerging anatomical discoveries, social ideas about gender relations and the family, and religious beliefs that characterised attitudes toward reproduction in the early modern period.
I come from a small town on the coast of Maine in the United States, and my life changed when I first arrived in Oxford, ten years ago, as an undergraduate study-abroad student. It was an experience that literally opened up my world, and the strong professional relationships and personal connections that I formed in those first few terms made me determined to return for postgraduate study. It took two years of working in the private sector before I was able to take my place in the M.Sc. programme in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology. The M.Sc. programme provided important training in methodological tools as well as the specialist subject knowledge required to embark on more advanced research. Having self-funded my M.Sc., I returned to work, but I was determined to continue my studies and earn my D.Phil.
After two more years working, I was very fortunate to receive partial funding that enabled me to finally take my D.Phil. place. The financial burden of attending Oxford for postgraduate studies is too much for many to bear, especially for international students. I was forced to turn down my place twice due to financial reasons, and it took a great deal of optimism and resolve each time the application period rolled around again. Further funding from generous alumni organisations has supported my studies, funded research trips, and allowed me to participate in conferences. My research has benefited greatly from these bursaries, and I am very appreciative of the support that I have received.
Oxford is a transformative place. It inspires intellectual curiosity, academic excellence, and character development. My relationship with Oxford has shaped my personal and professional growth over the last decade, and I know that it will continue to enrich my life for many more years to come. It is my hope that the work of the development office will enable other students facing financial pressures to join this remarkable community and experience education in its truest form.