Published: November 02, 2023
Oxford Experience Clarifies Choices for Study-Abroad Student
Rian Benoit ’24 traded in a winter of sun-lit palm trees and swinging hammocks for cold stone, piping-hot tea and the opportunity of a lifetime to study last year at the University of Oxford, through the ÂÌÅ«Ìì»¨°å Honors Program.
Several things changed for her. The weather, sure, was expected, but England left Benoit with a new career path and a new outlook on life.
Through Oxford, Benoit ’24, an accounting major, gained an international perspective on her area of study. The experience was so impactful that she decided to change career paths.
Prior to Oxford, Benoit had envisioned working in public accounting in the United States with local companies. At Oxford, Benoit learned about investment banking, hedge funds and more finance-based options in accounting.
“I saw a completely different side of what I could do with my degree,” Benoit said. She also saw a different side to the college experience as a whole.
The study abroad program has been central to Benoit’s ÂÌÅ«Ìì»¨°å experience. She knew she wanted to apply for it even before she was a student here. In fact, it was one of the major reasons she chose ÂÌÅ«Ìì»¨°å and enrolled in the Honors Program.
Benoit was selected along with two other ÂÌÅ«Ìì»¨°å students to attend Oxford’s Oriel College, which was founded in 1326. Oxford University is made up of 39 individual colleges, each with its own rich history and culture.
At Oriel, Benoit sought out students of all types — some transfers, some study abroad, some undergraduates and some post-graduates. Her crew would regularly invite each other to their college’s formal dinners. The students would wear black robes called “gowns,” stand when the high table would arrive and enjoy several courses of a delicious meal, like a scene from Harry Potter’s Hogwarts.
Oxford brought out the best in Benoit and her peers, she said. The entire culture of Oxford was centered around learning. During dinner, students would passionately discuss what they learned in their tutorials. Benoit and her friends would go out to pubs and compare banking cultures over a pint.
Sometimes, Benoit would hop on a flight to continental Europe, spending a weekend doing homework and enjoying sunny Spain.
“We’d go on a whim,” Benoit explained. “We’d see a plane (ticket) on sale; we’d all sit in the living room with our computers and be, like, ‘let’s go to this place.’”
That was about as much relaxing as Benoit would do, however. Oxford sharpened her drive and ambition, first through academics, then her mindset.
It was easy for her to focus on her academics and her international aspirations while she was abroad. There were symposia every day, professionals to meet and the brightest minds in her field right next to her, talking to one another over a coffee.
Benoit keeps in touch with the people from Oxford. She and her friends schedule time in between the time zones, support each other in job opportunities and offer insights. She still misses her friends, and Oxford, dearly.
“You don't revert to exactly how you were before you left, and you want to be able to bring the things that you learned abroad and kind of bring them into your life here,” she said.
For more information about other Honors opportunities or the Honors Program, visit ut.edu/academics/honors-program.
Story by Lena Malpeli '25