Letter From Oxford
|My arrival in Oxford last fall was very momentous, and one that I will never forget. I literally jumped off the bus, planted my feet, and let the sights sink in. This was the moment I was building towards. And then the craziness of orientation began.
The group of Rhodes Scholars I traveled with scattered virtually immediately, since we were all enrolling in different colleges. I felt disoriented at first, but separating in this way afforded me the opportunity to mix with and get to know other students. I joined Hertford, one of 39 colleges in the university. Later I was introduced to my department, immunology. My class has 11 students, and we are drawn from 10 countries.
Eventually, Rhodes House hosted a welcome, or "coming up," dinner for the new class. That's when the 92 of us met for the first time. It was an overwhelming experience, and I still haven't met them all yet. Rhodes House is an elegant historic building, completed in 1928, and the dining hall is quite grand.
E-mail listservs also provide a forum for discussion of various issues, and for the most part I find them quite enriching. A couple of us in the first-year class have been in the habit of meeting once a week or so to discuss topics of interest, sometimes spilling over from listserv discussions. Topics can range from individual holiday experiences to research projects and theses to current affairs. These have been educational as well, and, in my opinion, the most interesting one to date was on feminism. Now that it's springtime, perhaps I could talk about allergies and the hygiene hypothesis?
I think the smallness and intimacy of community at Hertford helped my transition to life at Oxford. Now I can say I am a part of three rather distinct communities: college, department, and the Rhodes group. I settled in well, and have found enough time in my hectic schedule to play in the college's football (soccer) team.
Over time I learned to integrate my communities here more and now have decided to stay in Oxford for an additional year after completing my master's in immunology. My decision to stay came about after learning of a new master's of global health science program offered by the Oxford School of Public Health. I hope to fulfill my fieldwork requirement for the global health program back home in Zimbabwe next year and am excited about the opportunity to utilize the remaining year of my Rhodes funding while exploring this area of interest.
That's where I am now. Time is moving fast. I'm not sure where I will end up after my training, but I am grateful for the luxury to explore my interests, and I am confident that things will work out.
Tafadzwa Muguwe '05 is a biology major from Gweru, Zimbabwe. His mentor at Swarthmore, biology professor Amy Cheng Vollmer, helped him secure research opportunities at the University of Nebraska and at Mount Sinai, where he studied HIV pathology over two summers. Last year, he deferred his acceptance to Harvard Medical School to study immunology at Oxford University. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.