Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Kevin L. - Oxford, England - Spring 2009

Warning! Do not come to oxford expecting a walk in the park. I mean, there are parks to walk in, but metaphorically speaking, it’s not a walk in the park- you know. Luckily, I expected that coming in to this experience. Nonetheless, the workload is shockingly intense; though, in an odd way, I am enjoying it. I think I wrote in my personal statement that I wanted to be “overwhelmed by knowledge”. That is very much the experience I am having here. I sometimes wish I had more time to travel and do other things, but I just cannot find the time to skip off to Paris or Prague for the weekend. Oh well. I’ve made arrangements to travel once the semester is over.
Time management is HUGE here. You can sleep in everyday and go out on the weekends, if you choose, just so long as you can manage to still get all of your work done. The first part of the semester is especially busy, because you have to write two essays every week. You get used to this pretty quick. Essays aside, the tutorial system at Oxford is great. You learn so much every week. You learn so much here. Period. Never before have I felt physically exhausted from just sitting around thinking all day (yesterday I prepared two presentations for my seminar, wrote a 2,000 word essay on Dun Scotus’ theory of knowledge AND read Rousseau’ The Social Contract in its entirety- boy did my brain hurt!). Tutors are really cool about everything though. They understand what student life is like- if you have a cold, or if your roommate’s snoring kept you up all night, they won’t scold you for turning an essay in late or coming up a little short on the word count.
The faculty here has been amazing. Dr. Crowe, senior tutor and academic librarian for the CMRS, is an academic god. His first lecture was a little overwhelming, but once you get used to his British accent and his intensely academic vocabulary, you can learn so much from him. I feel very lucky to have him for my philosophy tutor. The integral lectures are cool too. Picking your classes is very important. There are times when I wish I had some more overlap in my classes. My philosophy tutorials are very useful for participating in colloquium discussions, but topics from my Shakespeare seminar do not come up very often. I am not trying to dissuade anyone from taking the Shakespeare course. It’s great! But keep in mind that the program is designed to give you a holistic view of a specific time period. You’ll get more out of all of your classes if you can tie them all together somehow.
The culture shock is not a huge deal in England, especially at the CMRS. We are very much in an American bubble. The most shocking thing about Oxford is how much studying there is to do. The English do do some things differently though. For instance, they drive on the opposite side of the road, and, quite often, they put bacon on top of chicken. Also, beware! English bacon is not like American bacon. It’s more like what we would call ham or Canadian bacon. Other things that I have found shocking are that many fast food restaurants have two floors! This took some getting used to. English McDonalds’s also do not sell a double quarter pounder. Strange, I know, but never fear, it is not difficult to adjust to these cultural differences.
The people in the CMRS program are all amazing. Everyone has a lot in common, and it is easy to get lost in deep conversations that go on late into the evenings. The community here is one of the best parts about the experience so far. Everyone is saddled with the same amount of work, so everyone understands how easy it is to be cranky, which makes it hard to be cranky in the first place, knowing that you always have the support of 30+ other students who know exactly how it feels to be “overwhelmed by knowledge”.
So, that’s it. I should probably start writing my essay for this week…

-Kevin Lepore


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Kevin,
It's Brian L (from philosphy club).
An attitude like that deserves more comments. I don't think I could survive under the work load you mentioned. But you're doing it, so that's awesome. And I'm completely jealous that you're in the UK right now...but hopefully I'll be in Dublin this coming fall. Good luck on your essays!!

2:04 PM  

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