This fall, Stephanie Malaska will see one of her childhood dreams come true.
She will be in England for about nine months and while many kids’ dreams of traveling abroad involve fame and fortune, the 19-year-old Redmond native’s ambitions lean more toward the academic.
“I’d wanted to go to (the University of) Oxford since I was in eighth-grade,” Malaska said. “I was the nerdy kid that had the campus as my screensaver.”
From mid October to mid June, not only will she be able to see campus for real, but Malaska will also be experiencing campus life at Oxford. She will be attending the prestigious university as part of the Institute for Study Abroad, Butler University (IFSA-Butler) program at Butler University in Indianapolis.
Malaska attended The Bear Creek School from fourth- to ninth-grade and transferred to Eastside Catholic High School, which she graduated from in 2009. She is currently a student at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va. but is doing her study abroad through a different school because IFSA-Butler works with many different colleges and universities nationwide and provides a full-immersion academic program.
“They do a great job of integrating you, which was exactly what I was looking for,” she said.
Malaska will be enrolled at Oxford with other students at the school. In addition to attending lectures, she will be living in campus housing and will even be able to participate in school sports and clubs. Malaska hopes to participate in the school’s equestrian team, the Oxford University Riding Club.
At Washington and Lee, Malaska is majoring in politics and at least minoring in philosophy but has also been taking many physics classes in hopes to petition for a full physics major as well. When she gets to Oxford, she is planning to study politics and philosophy.
Malaska wasn’t sure about studying physics in college, so she has had to play the catch-up game, but she has enjoyed the subject since her first course in high school.
Bob Severson met Malaska when she was a student in his Advanced Placement physics class at Eastside Catholic. He said when he met her, he saw that physics ideas resonated with her, adding that her infectious and creative sense of humor would carry her to unusual ideas regarding concepts learned in class.
“For instance, as we learned about acceleration and the force of gravity, Stephanie would wonder what it would feel like to move at nearly the speed of light near the surface of a neutron star,” Severson said. “At first I worried that her exhuberance would stand in the way of successfully mastering physics principles, but later I saw that this was an outlet for her pure joy of learning.”
Severson, who has been teaching at Eastside Catholic for six years, said Malaska is also interested in applied physics and takes the opportunity to learn new things, even outside of school. When he learned about her attending Oxford, Severson was extremely proud.
“I am happy for her beyond words,” he said. “I hope that Stephanie will bring her zaney sense of humor to every new learning environment.”
Despite her dream of attending Oxford, Malaska is nervous about being in a new learning environment. She will be assigned personal tutors and meet with them and turn her work into them. Malaska said this learning style allows her to be more independent and she will be able to learn at her own pace. However, more will be expected of her and she is a little worried about the level of academic rigor.
While Malaska has concerns about being successful at Oxford, Eastside Catholic AP English teacher Gary Stein has no such worries. Malaska was enrolled in two of his AP English classes at Eastside Catholic, and Stein was very impressed.
“As a sophomore both her written work and the depth of her thinking were remarkable,” he said. “Easily the equal to the college students that I had previously taught at the University of Michigan.”
Because he knows how dedicated of a student Malaska is, Stein’s advice for her is to make the most of her experience abroad and travel.
And Malaska fully intends to. She said some of her friends will be studying abroad around Europe and hopes to visit them, adding that she would really like to go to France. She said her French is “decent” and would like to be in a place where she could use it.
“I’m really excited,” Malaska said about her trip as a whole.