Sunday, October 07, 2012

The University of Oxford: A First Glance

"I wonder anyone does anything at Oxford but dream and remember; the place is so beautiful. One almost expects the people to sing instead of speaking" --William Butler Yeats.

Between the practicalities of setting up life here at Oxford, I have had a few hours to take a look around and snap some photos. Despite joining the Oxford Photography Club (on, as well as the French Speakers club, I have not had time to attend a meeting of either! 

The Department of Education took us on a tour of the Taylor Institute, the beautiful Modern Languages library. In fact, as Applied Linguistics & Second Language Acquisition students (ALSLA for short), we can get priority to take the highly coveted Oxford Language Center language courses if they relate to our research - and take them for FREE! There are two types of courses here --LASR (Languages for Study & Research) -regular, lots of homework, no exams (focused on speaking and grammar) and the intensive OPAL (Oxford Program in Languages) which has exams and certification. Given the intensive "Week 0" (orientation week, see below), I've opted for a LASR course. The placement test suggests that I'm at the (second highest) "Upper Intermediate" Level --we'll see!

Sub-fusc attire, photo from
The slideshow below is a brief overview of some scenery and a couple buildings I've seen so far. The Examination Schools are where students write exams (in full sub-fusc attire, which basically means black and white (skirts for women, suits for men), college robe, cap and gown). Luckily (or maybe not so luckily), we have papers instead of exams in this course.

When I have a chance to actually visit the Ashmolean Museum, O2 Academy (concerts) Picture Palace (alternative movies) and other places of interest, I will add more pics. For now, thsi is just a first glance of where I live now! 

Click into the photos while the slideshow is playing to see descriptions, or view it at

Orientation - A Week of Uni Culture Shock

Anyone who has been at Oxford longer than a year will tell you that if you see Oxford and London, you have not seen England---Oxford has its own culture, rules, and atmosphere. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday of this week were perhaps the most intense, information packed, stress-headache inducing orientation days I have ever attended, for anything. Since I have a postgraduate certificate, I figured Oxford would be around the same calibre as Mcgill -----think again. Apparently, getting honours ( one EVER gets over 80% at unis in the UK; it's out of 100, the orientation leader told us, but not really), will be quite the challenge, as a well a necessity if I plan to apply for the PhD program here. It is very clearly stated that although they love having Mscs go on to study for a DPhil (the Oxford word for PhD), this is highly unlikely unless you have a 70% average.

No problem, I'm up for the challenge,  I thought.  
Ha, not so easy.


  • There is no syllabus or defined reading list for each course -- just a bunch of readings that you could read; you could also read others you find yourself. Your education is in your hands. Great. How do we prepare for class, then?
  • There is one assignment "exam" for each course.
  • No work is "due" during the term, so no feedback is provided
  • There is one assignment per course that is ungraded, but feedback will only be given on format, not content.
  • Profs do not have control over your marks; only the markers do
  •  Each assignment "exam" is double blind marked. 
  • Two professors from the department, not your supervisor, mark it. 
  • Then, a third party "expert in the field" from another university marks it. 
  • Then, the exam board meets to discuss whether or not the average of all three marks is fair or not
  • Then, they tell you your mark. Note: this will be 2 weeks AFTER the application for the PhD program is due, and 2 weeks before our next assignments are due.

So...I guess I have my work cut out for me. Somehow, I will find a way to pursue this DPhil!

At the Fresher's Fair, (which was organized in a ruthless way that ensured you could not leave without visiting every single room and nearly every booth), I signed up for emails from Womcam, a women's volunteer society, Oxford's Kickboxing Club (of course!), Oxford Wine Society, Oxford German Society, The Failed Novelists (a writing club) and AIESEC Oxford (thanks to all the great AIESECers I met in Edmonton). We'll see how much of that will actually fit into my jam-packed schedule.

A Weekend Break before the Storm

Find the ball, Kiara!
Kiara with Uncle Steve
Well, in the spirit of blogging reality, I have to admit that this was LAST weekend (and I will be spending what's left of this weekend intensely reading).

Just a couple pics of our weekend in Dartford, Kent. I have to say, Kiara was thrilled to meet Sunny and Uncle Steve --her new best friends! In fact, Sunny and Nia made a trip down to visit us in Oxford the weekend before and wow...was Kiara ever excited to see them, again, just a week later!

Just a little house note --- you can order ANYTHING from here, and have it delivered for free in just a day or so. Kiara seems to love Amazon deliveries as much as I do! (I swear, this was her idea, not mine!)

Random girl at Purple Turtle
Oh and a final note from this blog post, which is getting quite long (sorry!)...Oxford does not seem the best place to go out. Bars "pubs" close at 11pm, and this, is a picture of the  "club" here (The Purple Turtle).  My new friends Juliet, Sultana and I left after a ten minute walk around, a bunch of laughs, and a few ridiculous pictures. Guess we'll be going to London, if we ever have a moment to catch our breaths and go out, girls!

Stay tuned...I promise to blog more, now that I'm a bit more settled in! I'm off to hit the books and more clearly define my dissertation topic, before wandering across the park to meet Juliet and Sultana for dinner at Lady Margaret Hall.

1 comment:

Nia said...

The Failed Novelists sounds like my kind of society!

By the way, next time we come up to see you, we'll just have to bring loads of boxes of varying sizes and shapes for Kiara to go to town on.