Stimulate your mind in pursuit of knowledge as you experience life as a student at Oxford University for a week. Choose a fascinating course of study, live at historic Merton College, and explore the charming town of Oxford and historic sites relevant to your coursework.

Starting at: $5,995 Make a Reservation Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 Merton College, Oxford University
Merton College, Oxford University
 Oxford tutors (July 2018). Credit: Wade Jennings
Oxford tutors (July 2018). Credit: Wade Jennings
 Welcome reception at Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings
Welcome reception at Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings
 The dining experience at Merton College, with High Table. Credit: Wade Jennings
The dining experience at Merton College, with High Table. Credit: Wade Jennings
 Conversation over dinner. Credit: Wade Jennings
Conversation over dinner. Credit: Wade Jennings
 The dining experience at Merton. Credit: Wade Jennings
The dining experience at Merton. Credit: Wade Jennings
 Introduction to Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings
Introduction to Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings
 Smithsonian Journeys travelers at a lecture. Credit: Wade Jennings
Smithsonian Journeys travelers at a lecture. Credit: Wade Jennings
 Merton College Library
Merton College Library
 The quadrangle at Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings
The quadrangle at Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings
 The chapel at Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings
The chapel at Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings
 Interior of the Merton College chapel. Credit: Wade Jennings
Interior of the Merton College chapel. Credit: Wade Jennings
 Smithsonian Journeys travelers at Oxford. Credit: Wade Jennings
Smithsonian Journeys travelers at Oxford. Credit: Wade Jennings
 Smithsonian Journeys travelers during a lecture break. Credit: Wade Jennings
Smithsonian Journeys travelers during a lecture break. Credit: Wade Jennings
 Smithsonian Journeys traveler at Merton. Credit: Wade Jennings
Smithsonian Journeys traveler at Merton. Credit: Wade Jennings
 Enjoying a few moments at a local pub. Credit: Wade Jennings
Enjoying a few moments at a local pub. Credit: Wade Jennings
 Smithsonian Journeys travelers during lecture break. Credit: Wade Jennings
Smithsonian Journeys travelers during lecture break. Credit: Wade Jennings
 Lecture break at Merton. Credit: Wade Jennings
Lecture break at Merton. Credit: Wade Jennings
 The beautiful Oxford skyline
The beautiful Oxford skyline
 Housing at Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings
Housing at Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings
 Garden walkway at Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings
Garden walkway at Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings
 The gardens at Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings
The gardens at Merton College. Credit: Wade Jennings
 An evening walk near Merton. Credit: Wade Jennings
An evening walk near Merton. Credit: Wade Jennings
 Oxford
Oxford
 The Radcliffe Camera, Oxford
The Radcliffe Camera, Oxford
 Bridge of Sighs landmark, Oxford University
Bridge of Sighs landmark, Oxford University
 View near Oxford's Main Street
View near Oxford's Main Street
 Loch along the Thames River, Oxford
Loch along the Thames River, Oxford
 Sculptural detail found in Oxford
Sculptural detail found in Oxford

Smithsonian at Oxford

8 days from $5,995

Stimulate your mind in pursuit of knowledge as you experience life as a student at Oxford University for a week. Choose a fascinating course of study, live at historic Merton College, and explore the charming town of Oxford and historic sites relevant to your coursework.

or Call 855-330-1542

Tour Details

WHAT OUR TRAVELERS SAY

The Smithsonian at Oxford provides an accessible educational experience, nicely balanced with opportunities to visit nearby sites of interest. The Smithsonian at Oxford also provides an opportunity to experience true student life again.

- Christopher B.

Living and studying in a centuries-old setting that famous people have lived is just...awesome!!

- Philip P.

The warm reception we received at Merton College made us feel that we really were Oxford students — a very special sense of belonging.

- Lyn G.

The Oxford University tour was an extraordinary chance to delve into the history, architecture, and erudition of Oxford. The Merton College tutor was prepared and dedicated. Fellow travelers provided the extra inspirational touch! Amazing....

- Katherine M.

JOURNEYS DISPATCHES

See All Journeys Dispatches ››

Overview

Course Descriptions 

Please indicate your top three choices from among the four offered courses offered for each departure at the time of booking. Final assignments will be determined based on traveler interest. Enrollment is limited by class size. Information on the Oxford University experts teaching each course can be found under the Enrichment tab. Each course will also feature a special excursion tailored to its theme.

The Monarchy and the British Constitution, 1660-2023 (June)

Following Queen Elizabeth II’s 70 years as the British sovereign, it is timely to consider how this institution has survived into the 21st century and why it just might continue for considerably longer. Taking the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II as our starting point, we will explore the long process of constitutional reforms through which the divine and hereditary rights of earlier monarchs were successively eroded and the powers of sovereignty ultimately transferred to the Houses of Parliament. As we will find, this did not mean that British monarchs were ever powerless. Royal influence and patronage continued to operate at the very heart of British politics, shaping the course of events both at home and abroad. Today, the monarchy faces an uncertain future: can it still have a role to play in British public life through the 21st century?

Field Trip: Visit Windsor Castle in Berkshire, the royal residence associated with the English and succeeding British royal family, and explore its rich architectural and cultural history.

Secrets and Spies: Britain and the Second World War (June)

From 1939-1945, Britain fought on land, at sea and in the air against Axis aggression around the world. Existing narratives of this war and Britain’s experiences of it focus on battlefields, soldiers, weapons, and conflict. This course will dig deeper, examining the secret war waged by Britain behind what was seen and remembered. It will investigate the birth, evolution, and development of new technology and military innovation; and the integration of new equipment with espionage and clandestine warfare. It will cover intelligence and espionage in Britain, from MI5 and MI6 to Winston Churchill’s quirky brainchild, the Special Operations Executive. Major battles and operations involving the British and Allied military services will be examined specifically in terms of the intelligence that informed the actions taken, and the personnel who worked to collect, analyse and disseminate this vital information on a daily basis throughout the war. We will consider, for example, how the Battle of the Atlantic and the Battle of Britain were fought effectively and won largely because of technology and intelligence behind the scenes. By the end of this course, it will be clear that there is much more to the narrative of the Second World War than has previously been thought, and that the conflict may have proceeded and ended very differently were it not for the vast web of British intelligence, innovation, and ingenuity in the shadows and behind the battles.

Field Trip: Visit Bletchley Park, an estate outside London where the famous codebreakers of World War II worked to crack the Germans’ Enigma code—as depicted in the acclaimed movie The Imitation Game.

Life, Legacy, and Literature of Charles Dickens (June)

Additional details coming soon.

Field Trip: Visit the Charles Dickens Museum, a typical Georgian terraced house where Dickens lived while writing Oliver Twist.

The Rise & Fall of the British Empire (June and September)

This course will examine the rise and fall of the British Empire, from its unlikely and unplanned origins in an age of piracy, through its rivalry with other powers, its Victorian zenith, and two world wars, to its decolonization in the second half of the 20th century. Such concepts as formal and informal empires; imperial structures; and methods of control, including collaboration, will be discussed.

Field Trip: Travel to Sezincote House in Gloucester, constructed in 1805 when British India was becoming the “jewel in the crown” of the world’s largest empire.

The Archaeology of Great Britain (September)

The archaeology of Britain has revealed a rich culture and heritage dating from to the earliest presence of hunter-gatherers from the Upper Palaeolithic (ca. 40,000-10,000 BCE) to the present day. In this course, students will reference artifacts, landscapes, burials, settlements, and monuments to explore the significant changes in the everyday lives and material worlds of the people who arrived, moved around, and dwelt in the British Isles. Explore Britain’s archaeological history and gain insight into the culture and stories of this unique island archipelago, from the introduction of the great stone henge monuments of the Neolithic (e.g. Orkney, Scotland), rich burial evidence that demonstrates migration and cultural identities (e.g. Amesbury Archer, Wiltshire), ritual and religious practices (e.g. Roman Baths, Bath), and heritage. 

Field Trip: Visit the ceremonial stone monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury, World Heritage sites that present evidence from the earliest presence of human interaction to the present day.

Jane Austen in Context (September)

Since the publication in 1811 of a novel called Sense and Sensibility “by a lady,” the works of  Jane Austen have enjoyed both popularity and critical acclaim. Scholarly interest shows no sign of waning; nor does what can be described as a popular mania for all things Austen, especially in film and television. This course will examine the enduringly popular novels of Jane Austen, considering her novelistic technique and development, and her place among women writers in the 18th and 19th centuries.  We will place each novel in its literary and historical context, looking at 18th-century cult of sensibility, for example, when discussing Sense and Sensibility, and the contemporary vogue for Gothic novels when we study Austen’s burlesque of the Gothic genre, Northanger Abbey.  Other themes that will be covered include Austen’s treatment of class, economics, education, female friendship, courtship, and politics.

Field Trip: Travel to the village of Chawton to tour the Jane Austen House Museum, a cottage where Austen lived for the final eight years of her life. Then visit the nearby Chawton House Library, a historic Elizabethan home that serves as the The Centre for the Study of Early Women’s Writing.

Keeping the Home Fires Burning: Life in Britain 1939-1945 (September)

This course explores the experiences of the British people on the home front as they lived through the dramatic challenges of the Second World War. Never before had the civilian population been asked to make so many sacrifices and to endure so much dislocation to their daily lives. Faced with threat of invasion and nightly bombing raids on towns and cities, people had to adapt to conscription, evacuation, rationing, and widespread restrictions to normal routines. How does a population find the resources to cope with such unprecedented conditions? With reference to the many contemporary accounts of life on the home front, we will seek to discover how men, women, and children succeeded in keeping “the home-fires burning” from 1939-1945.

Field Trip: Visit the Imperial War Museum and gain insight into the experiences of everyday people during the war; and tour the Churchill War Rooms, top-secret underground headquarters where Churchill and his network determined the course of World War II.

The Smithsonian at Oxford provides an accessible educational experience, nicely balanced with opportunities to visit nearby sites of interest. The Smithsonian at Oxford also provides an opportunity to experience true student life again.

- Christopher B.

Living and studying in a centuries-old setting that famous people have lived is just...awesome!!

- Philip P.

The warm reception we received at Merton College made us feel that we really were Oxford students — a very special sense of belonging.

- Lyn G.

The Oxford University tour was an extraordinary chance to delve into the history, architecture, and erudition of Oxford. The Merton College tutor was prepared and dedicated. Fellow travelers provided the extra inspirational touch! Amazing....

- Katherine M.

Itinerary

2025 course selections include:

June

  • The Monarchy and the British Constitution, 1660-2023
  • Secrets and Spies: Britain and the Second World War
  •  Life, Legacy, and Literature of Charles Dickens
  •  The Rise & Fall of the British Empire

September

  • Archaeology of Great Britain
  • Jane Austen in Context
  • The Rise & Fall of the British Empire
  • Keeping the Homes Fires Burning: Life in Britain 1939-1945

Full course descriptions can be found under the Tour Details tab. Please indicate your top three choices of course subject at the time of booking. Final assignments will be determined based on traveler interest. Enrollment is limited. 

Day 1 — Depart the U.S for London

Depart the U.S. for London on individual flights.

Day 2 — London, Oxford

Arrive in London this morning and transfer to Oxford. Settle into your en suite dormitory lodgings at Merton College, the university’s first self-governing college, established in 1264. This evening, gather for a welcome dinner and plenary talk. (Meals: R, D)

Days 3–7 — Oxford

Delve into life as a student during morning classes in your chosen course at Merton College. Meet for lunch at the dining hall and in the afternoons, enjoy an organized excursion, expert lectures, or free time to get acquainted with the university and the town. Take part in an Oxford tradition with a High Table dinner, typically prepared for university fellows and their guests. 

Excursions: Take a guided tour of the historic and cultural highlights of Oxford town, and gain insights into the British educational system and the university’s role in it. Hear the story of James Smithson, a leading British scientist who attended Oxford—and later became the founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution. Alternative afternoon excursions are available for return travelers. In addition, take a field trip tailored to your specific course:

  • The Rise & Fall of the British Empire: Travel to Sezincote House in Gloucester, constructed in 1805 when British India was becoming the “jewel in the crown” of the world’s largest empire.
  • The Monarchy and the British Constitution, 1660-2023 :  Visit Windsor Castle in Berkshire, the royal residence associated with the English and then the British royal family, and learn about its rich architectural and cultural history.
  • Secrets and Spies: Britain and the Second World War: Tour Bletchley Park, an estate outside London where the famous codebreakers of World War II worked to crack the Germans’ Enigma code—as depicted in the acclaimed movie The Imitation Game.
  • Life, Legacy, and Literature of Charles Dickens: Visit the Charles Dickens Museum, a typical Georgian terraced house where Dickens lived while writing Oliver Twist.
  • The Archaeology of Great Britain: Venture to the intriguing World Heritage site of Stonehenge and Avebury and learn about the latest theories about the sites’ significance  and recent archaeological finds.  
  • Jane Austen in Context: Travel to the village of Chawton to tour the Jane Austen House Museum, set in a cottage where the author lived for the final eight years of her life. Continue to the nearby Chawton House Library, a historic Elizabethan home that houses the Centre for the Study of Early Women’s Writing.
  • Keeping the Homes Fires Burning: Visit the Imperial War Museum and gain insight into the experiences of everyday people during the war; and tour the Churchill War Rooms, top-secret underground headquarters where Churchill and his network determined the course of World War II.

On your final evening, gather with your fellow Smithsonian students for a farewell reception followed by a celebratory dinner. (Meals: 5B, 5L, 1R, 5D)

Day 8 — Oxford

After breakfast transfer to Heathrow Airport for individual flights back to the U.S. (Meals: B)

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)

Related Tours