I was on Twitter and saw this tweet on a talk by Michael Reid at the LAC and I thought how wonderful it would be if I were in Oxford to experience one of those moments that were very common to me in 2017 and 2018. The small, cosy room filled with people getting ready for another talk. Guests from other departments being welcomed by Eduardo and other Professors from the LAC, some moments of talk amongst the participants and then Eduardo starting the evening with an introduction of our guest. People would take notes and ask many questions to the distinguished speaker. After that, dinner at Manos.
My experience in Oxford was made of moments like this. I always had the feeling that I was amongst great people in a great place discussing important things. The LAC gave me the opportunity to be in such an environment. The program (I did the MSc) is planned in such a way that allows you to access the different things that Oxford has to offer. And that is different to each one of us. That, of course, includes getting to know more about Latin America, but it is much more than that. Oxford is a powerful experience.
I had never discussed the topics that we discussed at the LAC with people from neighbouring countries (I am Brazilian) or with people from other regions that cared for Latin America. This made me expand my knowledge on Latin America while amplifying my connections. The LAC stimulates the debate in courses that are actually seminars, where you are continuously encouraged to speak in classes. I have also very nice recollections from the tutorials that took place after we wrote our essays throughout the course. I found that method of learning very beneficial: after delving into a topic, organizing the ideas in a short essay, you attend a tutorial with a Professor. Very challenging and fruitful.
I was exposed to different methodological approaches to the issues I was learning, which opened my mind to the many possibilities out there. Ways of seeing things that I did not know were possible. Both the LAC and SIAS (OSGA today) consider research methods as a priority. Seeing that, I became interested in quantitative methods and did a course at the Department for Continuing Education. It will sound obvious, but in Oxford, there are plenty of opportunities for you to learn new things.
Also, there are big conferences and events, which give you nice opportunities. In the case of Brazil, the Brazil Forum UK takes place annually and students are encouraged to participate. When a former President of my country went to Oxford to give a talk, I was invited to speak on behalf of the Oxford Latin American Society (OLAS) and to attend the dinner after the event. There are many interesting things going on in Oxford all-year-round.
I now work at a law firm in Rio de Janeiro with many clients from all over the world. The academic rigour and the presentations in seminars with to-the-point questions helped me prepare for my professional life as a lawyer. I think that the LAC provides a great opportunity for one to open their mind, think about possibilities while training and improving in important areas: the program requires much writing, speaking, and analytical reading – skills that one profit greatly.
I am very proud to be an Oxford alumnus. I helped reestablish Oxford in Brazil and feel I am part of this large community with a glorious history and present worldwide.
Reflecting on my year at the LAC, I am also reminded of the beauty of Oxford. The sweet city of dreaming spires has wonderful, picturesque places, where the likes of CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien famously had animated discussions.
Gustavo Hirsch, 1st April 20