Before I left for England, my friend, Kelsey, who studied at Oxford last year, gave me the best piece of advice. She told me, “You’re not going to know what to do for your first couple of weeks.” You know what? She was correct! At Holy Cross, I have such a structured life (as any of my friends will tell you). I have classes Monday through Friday from about ten to 3:00. I then stay in the library until about midnight (sometimes, I do eat and sleep). Professors give structured syllabi and reading lists. Oxford is completely different. I meet with my primary tutor once a week, and my secondary tutor once every other week. Every meeting is just a demolition of a paper. For instance, my first tutorial this past Tuesday involved my tutor telling me, “You’re completely wrong here” about five times. Granted, it was not the best paper that I have ever written in my life, and a professor at Holy Cross would’ve told me the same exact thing. But I absorbed her criticism because it was delivered verbally. I’m writing my second paper for her right now, and after every sentence that I write, I’ll stop and think, “What is Charlotte going to say to this?” Even if it’s something as minute as “The sky is blue,” I still ask myself that question. I’ve only been in classes for two weeks, and I already think that I’m becoming a much more structured writer.
Even though that’s fantastic, I still have no idea how to structure my time. I’m trying to find my routine, but it’s rather difficult. I mean, I have two papers due within the week and they both have to be brilliant. When do I stop writing one, and when do I start writing the other? When do I factor in a social life (hah!)? I can’t believe that I’m saying this, but I don’t like having all this free time. It’s frightening! Ah, Professor Manoussakis would be proud because he’d see this as an analogy to free will. But that’s another story for another day.
In other news, my History of the English Language course has somewhat directed my future. As much as I love Old English, Latin, Sanskrit, and various other dead languages, I’ve come to the conclusion that I could never be a linguist. Again, I’m enjoying this tutorial – I truly am. But there’s nothing to really analyze. Instead of writing about a text, I’m writing how the text came to be written in English. It’s fascinating, but I do miss analyzation. I also am not liking the obvious barrier to the study of Old English (and all other dead languages, for that matter)- “no one speaks it anymore, so we can’t be sure.” Then again, it’s kind of a nice contrast to my Age of Bede essay prompt, which is “Did Bede unreservedly select “good” models for Christianity in The Ecclesiastical History of the English People?” (My tutor stated it much more intelligently than that.) Sounds easy, right? It would be easy enough to just write a paper laden with examples about how Bede did compliment virtuous people unreservedly and be done with it. However, I know that this tutor knows that the answer is yes, and he wants me to find out why Bede did it. I know that it sounds like I’m complaining, but, honestly, this is so much fun! I do like the standard to which the tutors hold you. Professors at Holy Cross do the same, but, then again, I’m not writing an essay a week for them.
P.S. I have officially maxed out my Oxford University Library card. Every faculty library permits borrowing (you did read my last entry, right?) up to a certain amount. Well, out of all the libraries for which I’m registered (six or seven), I think that I can check out only one more book from each. That’s a problem. See, my library card is like a credit card for some people. Except, I do have an excuse – I don’t have to buy any books for my classes; I just have to rent them. Yes, yes, that’s it! It’s all for my classes…that happen to be exactly what I want to study so I end up getting way too into them. It’s only a problem when the libraries send out collection officers after your hoard. Which they haven’t…yet.
P.P.S. I received my camera charger and card reader in the mail (THANK YOU, PARENTALS!), so expect to see some photos up here!
Colleen Curran '11