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A Typical Week at Oxford: Monday – Thursday

Time October 27th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, England | No Comments by

Hi all,

So I’m finally getting into some sort of a schedule here even though each of my weeks has looked drastically different. When I was considering studying abroad, I wondered how my semester would look different than my typical semester at Hopkins. Below is a breakdown of what I would consider a “normal” week:

Monday

10:15 – 11:15 AM – Management Tutorial: I meet with my tutor for my tutorial on Strategic Management. Even though I’m a student at St. Catz, tutors can be based in any college. Even though sometimes that means I have a long walk, getting to see other colleges is really fun. We meet at Mansfield College to discuss the differences between a resource-based view and an industry-analysis. We also go over my essay (which I e-mailed yesterday) and he highlights my strengths as well as places I can improve.

11:30 – 12:30 PM – Lunch at Home: I go home and make a quick lunch. I’m lucky to have a mini-fridge in my room so I am able to keep some groceries on hand. My room is conveniently located right next door to my floor’s kitchen.

1:00 PM – 4:30 PM – Studying: There are so many libraries at Oxford. I’m pretty certain that if I visited a new one every time, I still wouldn’t see all of them. That being said I’ve had a lot of fun exploring the city by exploring various study spots. Normally back at Hopkins I do most of my work during the evenings, but here it seems most people work during the day and I’m beginning to understand why. The assumption is that everyone is free in the evenings so people get together for dinner, drinks, and all sorts of other events. I usually have large chunks of unstructured time, so I use it to read, write, and prepare for my tutorials.

7:00 – 8:00 PM – Hall Dinner: At St. Catz we’re lucky to have formal hall every night which means I can get a three-course meal for 4 pounds. You have to book your place before 1 PM that day and I usually meet up with some of my friends beforehand. You sit down at long tables, get served by waiters, and share sides family-style.

8:00 – ??? PM –  Drinks at the JCR: After dinner it’s pretty common to grab a drink at the JCR (stands for junior common room which is essentially the name for the student lounge including the college bar) where drinks are school subsidized (my parents thought this was absolutely absurd). It’s a great place to hangout with friends as well as meet new people.

Tuesday

8:00 – 9:00 AM – Breakfast at St. Catz: Our dining hall has a breakfast deal with 8 items for a little over 2 pounds. It’s much earlier than I like to wake up but it’s such a great deal that I force myself out of bed.

10:00 AM – 12:00PM – Staying Up to Date: Even though I’m abroad, it’s really important to stay up to date with things back home. I still consistently check my Hopkins e-mail because I have responsibilities. For example, I am a chair for JHUMUNC (basically I moderate a room full of high school delegates as they simulate a UN conference and pretend to solve world problems…it’s fun) and part of being a chair means overseeing two dais members (assistant chairs) as they write a background guide. I wrote my portion over the summer, but my committee got an additional member in the fall so I’m responsible for allocating work and reviewing what they write. Additionally, I make sure to stay up to date with logistical things such as course registration and trying to figure out my housing for when I return.

3:30 – 4:30 PM – Philosophy Tutorial: I meet with my primary tutor for my tutorial in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. This woman is so inspiring, so intelligent, and so unbelievably kind – every time I leave a tutorial I realize my cheeks hurt from smiling the entire hour. Compared to the U.S. system in which I attend 2-3 lectures a week where and the learning is spread out, here all the learning is condensed into one weekly meeting for an hour. Because it is one-on-one, the entire session is dedicated to your personal needs and you are expected to have completed a substantial amount of work prior to each meeting. You are assigned a substantial amount of reading and required to submit an 8-9 page essay the day prior. Unlike in the U.S. where sometimes it is possible to get away with not reading, here that is not the case. My tutor will ask me what I thought about each assigned text and since I’m the only one there, it’s not like I can hope someone else answers. Luckily for me, my tutor is amazing and she makes our meetings totally comfortable and relaxed.

Wednesday

10:00 – 11:00 AM – Recommended Lecture: As a third-year humanities student, I don’t have any required lectures. In fact the thing that is mandatory for me is attendance at tutorials and since they’re one-on-one meetings with my tutor, it would be very clear if I didn’t attend. However, my philosophy tutor recommended that I attend a specific lecture that correlates well to our text. Since I only have 2 hours of required learning a week, I had no hesitation to attending this lecture. In addition I’ve regularly been attending two other lectures simply out of interest (which is entirely recommended and common). I really like going to lectures because it helps provide structure to my otherwise largely unstructured weeks.

12:00 – 1:00 PM – Out for Lunch: There are TONS of restaurants in Oxford, so even though the dining hall can be really convenient, it is important to get out and explore the city – specifically the city’s food. I recently went to Thai House and ate some great thai food. Additionally, there are great small sandwich stops and the food trucks are almost always a good decision.

3:00 – 5:30 PM – Consulting Career Fair: Something that I didn’t even think about until I got here was utilizing Oxford’s career services. There are so many events happening from the very first day of classes. Because Oxford encompasses such a wide range of colleges, the resources are equally as broad. There are events every day ranging from resume critiques, networking events, career fairs (for every industry), and more. Furthermore, since Oxford is a prestigious university it attracts so many different companies and (at least at the consulting fair I went to) a majority of them have a strong U.S. presence or at least have U.S. offices.

Thursday

9:30 – 10:30 AM – For Fun Lecture: Something really cool about the learning culture here is the strong belief that if you want to learn, you will. This is evident in the fact that many lectures aren’t required, but also in the fact that most lectures are open to anyone who is interested in them. I have looked into lectures in fields of study that I have never even considered before. Additionally, since it is not required you can go some weeks, skip other weeks, add new ones, drop other ones and there are minimal rules except for one: if you decide to sit in on a lecture, you can’t leave half way through. It’s considered exceptionally rude. Just sit through the rest of it and don’t go next week!

12: 30 PM – Weekly Lunch with Jilliann: Jilliann also goes to Johns Hopkins and she is at Oxford (St. Anne’s). Even though we have a lot of mutual friends back at JHU, we’ve only really spent time together after we flew across the Atlantic. Now we have weekly lunch dates to reminisce about our absurdly long nights in the library and how huge Oxford is compared to Hopkins. It’s such a great way to feel connected to home when I’m so far away. She definitely helps the inevitable homesickness :)

2:00 -3:00 PM – Housekeeping: I was completely dumbfounded when I learned that our accommodation (dorms) comes with housekeeping. Once a week a very nice lady vacuums my room, cleans my bathroom, takes out my trash, and changes my bed linens (for my staircase it’s on Thursdays). I was so surprised that the very first time she knocked on my door and said “Housekeeping!”, I responded “…what?” Since then we’ve become friends, and I love not having to wash my sheets because laundry is expensive here! When I return back to my freshly clean room, I can’t help but feel guilted into doing my part. I tidy up my desk, go do my laundry, and wash the many empty cups of water that accumulated over the week.

6:30 – 8:00 PM – Dinner & Networking: As someone who is considering going to law school, I joined the Oxford Law Society. A large component of the organization is being able to attend all kinds of events held by law firms. Many of these events have dinner or drinks as a component of the evening (again the casual drinking culture is still so strange to me). It’s a great way to meet other students with similar interests, meet potential employers, and get a free meal. Win-Win-Win.

Obviously this isn’t a schedule in a strict sense because many of the things I did this week are one time events; however, I will likely attend similar events next week. In some ways the weeks are very stable. I don’t have midterms/exams, so my studying hours are relatively stable compared to back at Hopkins. On the other hand, everything else I do is completely flexible. Since this post is extremely long, I will make a separate post about a typical weekend: Friday – Sunday.

Until next time,

xx

Zaya

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Top 5 Study Spaces in Oxford

Time October 24th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, England | No Comments by

ilyankou_2

5. The first floor of The Radcliffe Camera is very spacious and atmospheric. Read More »

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The Top of Magdalen Tower

Time October 12th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I have been struck, of late, by a curious desire to move my legs. I believe the act is called walking. It’s something that’s alien to me, but the British seem very fond of it; that and cycling, and drinking tea, which are activities in which I have yet partake.

Oxford is great place to go walking. Behind the he ivy walls that keep out tourists are gardens, and meadows, and fields that stretch off into cool dark forests. Yesterday my legs brought me to Magdalen College, pronounced “Maudlin”; it’s home to Magdalen Tower, the highest point in Oxford at 144 feet. I was surprised to find that, beyond its boxy courtyards and across a small stone bridge, it’s also home to the water meadow. This is where my legs led me.

The water meadow is a large meadow. It’s surrounded by a great loop of gravel path, perhaps a mile or two around, and a stream, which circles the outside of the path. Deer play in the meadow (I counted around 60 of them), and I heard that when a new fellow of Magdalen College is inducted he gets to shoot one and eat it for dinner. I want to be a fellow of Magdalen College. Not to shoot a deer, of course, but because it’s so beautiful. Alright, fine. I kind of want to shoot a deer.

At strategic points around the meadow are small benches. Some of these benches are dedicated to long departed souls; others are not. Because the dead creep me out, I picked a stone bench without name or bearing and sat down. I took out my notebook and tried to write some poetry, but I couldn’t bear to stare down at its plain white pages when Oxford’s natural beauty frolicked all around me. There were deer, and squirrels eating fallen chestnuts, and the quiet sound of the bubbling stream as it whisked fallen leaves out to sea. The grass, yellowed with fear from the sense of impending winter, was crunchy underfoot; the sky was grey and the wind was cold and there was the smell of snow in the air, but the experience was perfect, the stuff poems are written about, if I could only bring myself to write one. I couldn’t. I couldn’t look away. And as I stared at this beauty, I had an interesting thought. From my vantage point, I could see anyone coming around the meadow in two directions. No one came. I was the only one there.

Where is everyone? I thought. I found them all later that day, in the library, staring at books and computer screens. They were like zombies, those solemn, quiet geniuses, like men of stone. They did not react to the squeak of my sneakers on the hardwood floor. There was not much to see in the library, so I left and got a haircut.

The man who cut my hair was from Poland, and he spent roughly equal amounts of time cutting my hair and staring at me in the mirror. I stared at the hair on the cape and pretended not to notice.

“You have very nice hair,” he said, running his fingers through it under the guise of testing its length.

“Thank you,” I said, and he smiled and continued to cut it.

“Very, very nice hair,” he said after a while, licking his lips.

“I appreciate that,” I said, more than a little scared for my life.

“My friends and I have a saying,” he said. “Nice boys go to heaven, but the bad boys have more fun.”

“Great,” I said, getting up from the chair and leaving a wad of cash in my place. Coins scattered on the floor. My cut was only half done. It looked very European. “Great saying.” I didn’t look back.

As I ran out, I had an image of the odd Polish man sliding a barber’s razor under my neck and letting my blood out onto the floor. That fateful haircut would have been my last. In heaven, when all my ghost buddies and I were shooting the breeze, what would I tell them about my last day on earth? Would I tell them that it had been fulfilling? Was it enough to appreciate the most beautiful place I had ever been? Was it enough to explore the dark nooks and passages of a lonely city, to go on a mission for the best cookie in town, or make foreign friends over the delights of a 16-year-old single malt Scotch whisky? Was it enough, or would I rather have spent my time in the library?

I think I know the answer, and it lies in the curious desire to move my legs.

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The Tower of the Five Orders

Time October 12th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I would tell you that Oxford means “door” in Latin, but it doesn’t, so I won’t. Instead, I’ll tell you that Oxford has a lot of doors, most of which were built to keep out prying eyes. When I visited two years ago, for instance, I got a beautiful tour of Oxford’s facades; the inner workings of the University were closed to tourists. Yesterday, however, I got a golden ticket in the form of a student ID card. I’ve since used it to see behind the large stone walls my own college, about ten other colleges, and the sacred Bodleian library. As a student, very little at this hallowed University is closed to me. It’s awesome. It’s amazing. And then… oh wait. What’s this? A door without a card swipe? You mean to tell me I can’t get in there? That’s just… that’s just elitist!

It was a small metal door in the Bodleian library, an unassuming door, but nonetheless a door I wasn’t allowed behind. I had heard tales of dark passages and darker societies at Oxford, all mentioned in a whisper and with a sideways glance. My thought was that perhaps one of these societies took up residence behind the door. If that were the case, I wouldn’t want to miss seeing it. So when the librarian turned her head, I ducked in.

I found myself on a stone spiral staircase. To my right, the stairs disappeared down into the dark. To my left, they continued upwards towards light. I made a left, clutching tightly to the rusted handrail that ran along the wall. I was dizzy. Stained glass windows the size of dinner plates dotted the walls at odd intervals, and looking through them I could see the entire city of Oxford. I was dizzier. Still, I kept climbing. Up and up, up, up, and up! Then the stairs stopped, and I found myself in front of a wooden door.  It had a keyhole, so I bent down to look through it and took a blast of cold air to the eye. I backed away quickly, but had seen enough: I was at the top of the Tower of the Five Orders, one of the tallest buildings in Oxford.

After I had taken my fill of the view, I walked down the stairs past where I originally entered and continued down into the Tower’s depths. It ended in a locked oak door, and I could hear voices coming from the other side.

“A secret society,” I said.

“I just stepped in some gum,” said a voice from the other side. Needless to say, I had not found any secrets but merely a door leading outside. Turning back, I headed halfway up the Tower and went through the only door I had not yet tried. In front of me was a reception desk, and three librarians turned to look at me as I entered.

“Are you staff?” one of them asked.

“No,” I said.

“What were you doing back there?”

“I went through a door.”

“Well, don’t go through any more doors.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I’m just looking for the exit.” Hearing my American accent, the librarian softened.

“You can head that way with impunity,” she said, and I didn’t know which way she meant, and I didn’t know what impunity meant, but I ducked my head and pressed onwards.

It didn’t take long to find a dictionary in one of the world’s best libraries: impunity means “exemption from punishment or loss or escape from fines.” I suggest that if you come to Oxford and want impunity, you get yourself a student ID card. And don’t go through any metal doors. Or do, but be sneakier than I was. The view is unbeatable.

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Classes and feeling at home

Time April 29th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The TAFL is a wonderful place to learn Arabic. Part of the “Coliat al Adab” in Alexandria University just steps away from the famous Alexandria Library, the TAFL center is buzz of international connections with students from all over the world. Students from Russia, Japan, England, Somalia, America, Germany amongst other places all come to the TAFL center to learn various levels of Arabic.

What really stands out in this small building is the professors. The Arabic professors are experienced, approachable and extremely patient with all the students. The sense of family among the staff is apparent especially with the sad moments that have happened this semester…one professor was killed in an automobile accident, and just the other day the founder and first director of the TAFL Center, the professors’ professor, passed away. It was from these events that I could candidly see the intricate web amongst the TAFL staff as they held each other for support and never forgot their professional obligations to their jobs and students.

My week schedule is as follows (classes are 2 hours each):
Monday: Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), Islamic Culture
Tuesday: 4 consecutive hours of MSA, Islamic History
Wednesday: MSA, Colloquial Egyptian
Thursday: Colloquial Egyptian, MSA

Classes like Islamic History and Islamic Culture are more flexible and have often switched around.

The most important classes to me are the MSA and Colloquial Egyptian. The MSA classes are highly structured and focus highly on grammar, comprehension, and syntax. Arabic is an academic challenge unlike any other I have dealt with. I have tried to learn languages before with some success (Spanish for example), but Arabic is different in that it uses a totally different alphabet with some sounds that aren’t commonly found in English. I am constantly pulling from my Urdu and Gujarati background in order to make some comprehension of this rich language. I know that after I leave I would have barely, just barely, scratched its surface.

Studying is rigorous and tiring. I wake up at 7:30 am and sometimes dont get back to my dorm until 5 pm. I take refuge during my long weekends by running on a track, going to the beach and just lazing around.

I have effective become a resident of Alex, no longer a visitor. I knew this the day I stopped feeling bad for giving the taxi drivers 4 Egyptian pounds (Guinea) instead of the 10 they would demand from foreigners. But truth be told, I have never been treated as a complete foreigner (at least not initially) as some of the other IFSA students for the obvious reason of my skin color. I feel very happy walking around the sook (back alley markets) without being stared at and blending in with the rest of the population. Most of my compatriots are unable to experience such a thing, as they are often somewhat a sort of spectacle. I think I am fortunate for this.

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