Archive for October, 2011

The Occasional Drawbacks to Studying at Oxford

Monday, October 31st, 2011

I realize that most of the time I’m endlessly gushing over Oxford classes and Oxford life, so I thought I’d share one of my less glamorous moments of studying here in England; namely, staying in for Halloween in order to finish my tutorial paper for tomorrow. The tutorial system is really all about personal time management, so slacking off early in the week (or changing your paper topic three times like I did) results in the lovely ‘essay crisis’. Thus, I’m wistfully glancing out my second-story window (perfect for people watching) at the trick-or-treaters running by and taking Facebook breaks to enviously sneak peeks at my friends Halloween costumes. This essay is on The Taming of the Shrew though, which is one of my favorite Shakespeare comedies (second only to Twelfth Night) so I don’t want to make a halfhearted effort.

However, I did have a ton of fun this weekend hosting again, this time some HC girls traveling over from Italy! We were able to take them to formal hall on Friday (to see us in the full glory of our harry potter robes) and walk around in the lovely mild English weather (sorry about the snow in New England, guys).

Crashing the Oxford Union

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Okay, so the title is an exaggeration, I wasn’t technically crashing, but the Oxford Union is the world most famous debating club, founded in 1823; it’s student presidents have been men like William Gladstone and and have had incredible speakers like Malcom X and Richard Nixon directly after Watergate. Normally the Union building, a gated parliamentary-looking building, is closed to non-members, but since I’m part of the Magdalen Film society, I was able to temporarily enter in order to see Roland Emmerich, the director of movies like ’2012′ and ‘Independence Day,’ talk about his latest film ‘Anonymous.’

For those of you who haven’t been studying Shakespeare 24/7 for the past 3.5 weeks, Anonymous is a new movie coming out this weekend, a historical drama that portrays Elizabethan England during Shakespeare’s work at the GLobe Theatre, and suggesting (well, insisting) that it was actually the Earl of Oxford who wrote the body of work associated with William Shakespeare, who was apparently just an actor Oxford used as a front. Here’s the trailer on youtube:

Anonymous Trailer

This ‘Authorship Debate’ over Shakespeare’s work is nothing new, but this is the first time that it’s been presented so definitively in film. I for one completely disagree with Emmerich and his writers, but I found Emmerich’s talk to be interesting, especially the ways in which he appropriated scenes from Shakespeare’s plays for his film. The Q & A session afterwards was so intense! I’m not used to students being so cutthroat in their questions and accusations, and I was not the only one who disagreed with Emmerich’s stance on Shakespeare. However, he seemed to relish the serious debate and made some great points about no matter which side you take in the authorship debate, his movie really celebrates the beauty of the Shakespeare canon.

Tourist for a Day!

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Now that I’m all settled into Oxford (I just stopped to laugh, since I still get lost at least once a day) I’m starting to carve out a routine- lectures most mornings, the lovely ‘essay crises’ before my tutorials on Tuesday and Fridays, English Plus on Wednesday afternoons, Football on Friday/Saturday and Sunday and lots (lots!) of library time in between.

One of the fantastic things about having other HC abroad students come visit me is that I get to be a tourist for a day, taking a break from behind-the-scenes Oxford and seeing the famous ‘sights’ that I often pass by. My friend Jill from Vassar came to stay overnight, so I put my Shakespeare and Elizabethan History readings on the back burner for a day and joined her in touristy wanderings. As you can see below (and the pictures are all thanks to Jill!) we visited Christ Church (one of the oldest colleges in Oxford), the Covered Market (which never fails to remind me of Diagon Alley), and the Rad Cam (which I spend more time inside of rather than admiring it’s awesome dome). Of course, I couldn’t let her leave without having a proper full English Breakfast as well, from a cute cafe close to my flat. Jill was so much fun to have, especially since she pulls me out of my tutorial bubble. I keep forgetting that not everyone has the same abroad experience; many programs are much more ‘experience’ and ‘culturally’ based than Oxford, but I have to say that despite all of the hard work I wouldn’t’ have it any other way- I can already write 10-page papers like it’s a simple homework assignment- it’s hard to believe how much I used to agonize over writing papers of that length at Holy Cross!

Christ Church

The Radcliffe Camera (aka Rad Cam)

Behold, the glory of the 'Full English'

Champagne, Chocolates and the Humanist Movement

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

That’s a pretty good summation of my weekend so far; I had my first secondary tutorial on Friday on Elizabethan England. The style is completely different from my primary; instead of reading my paper out loud, my tutor started by asking me about different aspects of intellectual growth in Elizabethan England, and so we had a broad discussion that included looking at new primary texts and deciphering how they fit in to our opinions. I didn’t receive my paper with written feedback until the end of class, instead of receiving verbal feedback after my verbal delivery; I think that this style works better for history.

Straight from my tutorial I did a rapid-fire change into my football uniform and sprinted (very awkwardly, holding all of my school bags) to the Mansfield-Merton sports fields, where we had our first football match! We won 3-2, though it was a close game, and I was thoroughly exhausted after playing midfield for both 30-minute halves.

To finish the day, Mansfield had a gorgeous champagne and chocolates reception in the chapel. I had just enough time to exchange my sweaty soccer gear for a cocktail dress (and shower, obviously) and enjoy a night of unlimited champagne and tables of English truffles! Of course, this isn’t a typical day in the life of the Oxford student, but it definitely shows the different aspects of Oxford life!

Football, Tutorials and Bikes!

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Hello from Oxford! I realize that between Liz and I you must be sick of the constant tutorial commentary but now that we’re into Week 2 of Michaelmas Term I’m confronted with my Secondary Tutorial, “Elizabethan England”, which meets for the first time this Friday afternoon. While writing two 10-page papers within one week does at times make me want to cry and reach for the nearest Cadbury bar, my tutorials are so well synched that my essays actually overlap in areas, (which is really useful because I can use sources from the other class, saving me the walk to the library- lazy, yes, but also time-saving). Right now I’m looking at gender roles within Macbeth and the “educational revolutions” within Elizabethan England and their impact on gender roles, so it’s nice to have a sort of harmony between my two classes.

In other news, I had my first club football (“soccer’) training practice yesterday (I’ve traded rowing for football, as I reasoned that there’s less equipment for me to hurt myself with). It was very therapeutic to run around in unwashed pennys for an hour and forget about books, and I actually managed to complete a few defensive plays; my experience in recreational soccer in elementary school must still be with me!

While the ‘freshers’ had their official matriculation on Sunday morning (think full ‘Harry Potter’ robes and lots of marching down cobblestone roads en masse) I completed my own unofficial matriculation this morning by buying a bike! Oxford is very much a cycling town, there are bike lanes everywhere, and bikes far outnumber cars and pedestrians. I haven’t ridden a bike in quite a while, but with the 40 minute walk to campus every day it seemed like the most sensible option. I’m slightly terrified of the enormous roundabout at the end of my street, but all the other cyclists seem to take it in stride, so hopefully I’ll adapt!

I'm currently taking suggestions for names!

Post-Tutorial Catharsis

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

For all of you that haven’t taken your Classics requirement yet at HC, “catharsis” is the purging relief that we feel after watching a tragedy. My first tutorial was by no means a tragedy, but I did have to read a lot of Aristotle, and  I definitely need to spend some time vegging on the couch to recover from the last few day what Oxford students call “essay crisis”. Tutorials here are nothing like the seminars I’m used to; I read my9-page essay aloud in front of my Shakespeare tutor (who I’d only just met) while trying not to look too horrified when I realized I’d misspelled a character’s name or written an overly flowery sentence.  However, we did have an excellent conversation afterward about many different aspects of the play (“King Lear” for my first session), and I reconsidered many of the arguments I made in my paper and how i structured certain aspects of my writing. At Holy Cross when i turn in an essay I really never want to look at it again (I’m sure many of you know the feeling) so having to read it out loud really established your ownership- my editing is definitely going to improve!

However, my last week at Oxford has been no means all work- in fact, it’s been so hectic because Ive been scheduling work around the tons of fun activities we have in “1st week” or the first official week of classes. Im attending tons of socials, which are sort of introductory meetings for different extracurricular groups, only here everyone goes out for a huge dinner or coffee instead of meeting in Hogan. I signed up for way too many things during the “freshers fair,” so I may not end up participating in fencing or the C.S. Lewis society, but I am looking forward to volunteering for a community service organization called “Englsh Plus” and playing football (soccer).  However, first a very, very long nap is in order!

Fresher’s Week

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

I can’t believe I’m finally here…I’m catching a quiet moment in the computer library at Mansfield between lunch and registration to blog (my flat doesn’t have wifi yet), but the last few days have been unbelievable. I survived the plane ride over (thanks to my excellent HC traveling companions) and the horrible luggage slog from Heathrow to Oxford, which left a lot of bruise- but we didn’t really care once we got to campus! The Freshers Week here is nothing like HC orientation…I seem to be dressing up in strange costumes more than attending info sessions, but I’m definitely not complaining (in fact, I think we could  learn a thing or two). With all of the general orientation merriment I haven’t been able to focus much on my first tutorial next week (I have an essay due on King Lear), but I’ve been pulling my resources together slowly (which is a feat within itself when your university has dozens of different libraries).  Hopefully when I get my laptop up and running I’ll be able to share more pictures and expound more on this amazing school- right now I have to go find a costume for a “full moon” party, whatever the world that is.

Kelsey, Katie and I embark from Logan