‘Studying at Oxford became the experience that transformed my life’

Marisa in the Rothermere American Institute at Oxford – John Cairns Photography

Marisa is originally from Maine in the United States. She received funding from the University to complete her DPhil in History of Medicine, and she acts as a Student Ambassador. Here she speaks about her experiences at Oxford:

‘When I walked through the gates of Worcester College as a study abroad student from Yale University in 2004, I never would have imagined that ten years later I would still be in Oxford and about to complete my doctorate in the history of medicine.  Studying at Oxford became the experience that transformed my life, opened up my world, and altered my plans for the future. It has been a remarkable journey, and I have been lucky enough to be part of several special communities during my time at Oxford.

Worcester was my first college, and it was a wonderful place to first explore living in a different culture. Everything was new and exciting. From reading my essays aloud in my tutorials to rowing in Summer Eights, my two terms there were spent happily being introduced to new experiences, people, and the rich history and traditions of Oxford.  It was here that I made the connections with tutors who have turned into mentors and friends over the years, and I also began to focus my academic interest in the history of medicine.

After working for two years in the U.S., I returned to pursue the M.Sc. in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology at Lincoln College. Lincoln was a fantastic place to experience life as a postgraduate student. The Middle Common Room was a vibrant group of students from all over the world, and my busy days of lectures and seminars were balanced by dinners with friends in formal hall that casually progressed to drinks and more conversation in the college bar.  It was different than my Worcester experience, but in a good way, and I enjoyed being part of a graduate community within a small and friendly college.

I returned again to Oxford, after two more years of working, to complete my D.Phil. in the History of Medicine at Christ Church.  A partial History Faculty and Christ Church studentship enabled me to take my D.Phil. place, and additional scholarships allowed me to embark on my doctoral research with renewed energy and focus. Being at Oxford as a doctoral student was yet another change, but again I was introduced to different ideas, people, and opportunities that made the experience deeply rewarding. I was able to teach, give papers at conferences, participate in graduate seminars, discuss my research ideas and develop my project through conversations with colleagues.  I participated in conferences that helped me to see the connections between my project on early modern attitudes toward infertility and concerns surrounding modern reproductive technologies, and became part of a network of scholars working on the issue across a variety of historical periods and academic disciplines.

I have been lucky enough to experience Oxford in a variety of ways over the last decade, and each experience inspired confidence and curiosity that has grown through the years. My time at Oxford has taught me to be a better historian and has fundamentally changed my own history as well.’