Firstly, let me wish you all a belated Merry Christmas. I hope that you all had a fantastic day with family and friends. My Christmas was…well, crazy. I flew in on Wednesday and my sister flew in on Friday. On Saturday, the two of us finished some much overdue Christmas shopping and also started to prepare our house for our incoming guests. Oh, yes, we also did manage to see “The Princess and the Frog” with our parents. Disney Princess movies know no age! Anyway, my aunts, uncles, grandmother, and cousins arrived on Wednesday, and that’s where the craziness just took off. My mom’s side of the family is French, which means that any family gathering focuses upon one item: food. My mother was cooking nonstop, and her creations were just delightful (especially considering the fact that I’ve been cooking for myself for the past three months). Christmas Day was filled with Mass, food, presents, and, of course, Wii Tournaments. I am the official master of the 3-Point Contest. Now if I could only play sports like that in real life… This year, I added something new to our traditions. My English friends introduced me to mince pies, and I brought some back with me. So, in addition to having about every dessert imaginable, my English friends will be happy to know that mince pies were also served at the Curran Christmas.
Now, I cannot believe that it’s already December 31st, 2009. A year ago, I was filling out the last forms of my Oxford application and hoping that I would be accepted into the Visiting Student Programme at Mansfield College. Now, I’m preparing for my two tutorials next term and also staring at my empty duffle bag that has to be packed by next Tuesday morning. It truly feels like it was only yesterday that I packed up all of my stuff in Wheeler 331, said goodbye to my friends and professors, and took one more walk around Holy Cross. Now I have one term under my belt, and I’m gearing myself up for the next two. Before I go on about how excited I am to board that plane to England and start another term at Oxford (I am so excited! Did I mention that?), I guess I should first reflect upon this previous term at Oxford (it is New Year’s Eve, after all). Over Christmas, my family asked me repeatedly how Oxford compared to Holy Cross. Obviously, the most striking difference between the two is the tutorial system. Instead of regularly meeting in a class situation with a professor, I only met with my primary tutor once a week and my secondary tutor every other week. The tutorial system also required me to prepare differently than I would for a class at Holy Cross. At Holy Cross, for everyday class, I read the assigned readings and prepared any assigned translations (You can tell you’re a Classics student when…). At Oxford, however, the work was up to me. My primary tutor gave me a list of articles to include in my weekly paper, but she expected me to go beyond her research and contribute my own findings. My secondary tutor gave me a preliminary syllabus, but then expected me to find my own way through the maze that is scholarship on the Anglo-Saxon period. And, of course, whenever I did meet with my tutors, they ripped apart an essay that I had written. I’m not really into physical fitness (well, ballroom dance does count, right?), but an analogy that a physical education teacher told me in high school really stuck with me throughout this past term. In order to build up muscle, you have to tear it down first. That’s what Michelmas term was like. Holy Cross provided an excellent foundation for me, but my tutors tore down the student that I was to create a more refined student. When I explained this to my family and friends, they all asked if I was insane for spending my year abroad doing such a demanding course. Honestly, this is the perfect year for me. Not only will I be able to apply what I’ve learned at Oxford in my final year at Holy Cross, but I’ll also be able to use what I’ve learned to help me along in graduate school (cross your fingers and say a couple more rosaries that it’ll be at Oxford!). This past term has been difficult, but it’s also been enjoyable. So, to any students thinking about participating in the Oxford program, I’d highly recommend it. It is a change from Holy Cross, but, at the same time, it’s well worth it.
I hope that you all have a safe and happy New Year’s. I’m off to sleep over at a high school friend’s house and watch Disney Princess movies (some things never change…). Until next…well, year!