Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Freshers'/Noughth Week

Well, Michaelmas Term officially started on Sunday.  We went to Portsmouth for the afternoon and had a lovely time.  Pictures to follow.  So far, this term, I've gotten a fair bit of reading done, including a novelette Charlotte wrote when she was 18 called "The Spell" and its much better than what she was writing at 13 or 14, let me tell you that.  However, that's not much of a surprise.  When I think of how my own writing improved between 13 and 18...

So, last week was 0th Week, as in, the first week before term starts.  I believe undergradutes need to write practice exams in 0th Week, so it's not exactly part of the vacation.  For new students, it involves many, many orientations (or inductions, as they seem to call them here) and social events.  I will try to recap.

Last Sunday, I started meeting some of my fellow graduate students at Mansfield College at a Welcome Tea.  There was also a welcome tea at our university housing complex, so we finally got to meet some of the neighbours.  Then it was back to Mansfield in the evening for a drinks night in the MCR (Middle Commmon Room, or graduate common room), which is quite lovely.  It's two rooms (with red and green walls respectively) in the upper tower room at the college.  I got to meet yet more people, which was lovely.

Next day, I had to sign the college register and hand over my passport for scanning, as per visa regulations.  I was also given the gigantic Examination Regulations books printed each year by the OUP which outlines everything official about every course.  Yikes.  There was also a college induction in the Mansfield Chapel, which is lovely by the way.  Instead of saints, it has carvings of prominent dissenters (Mansfield was the first college at Oxford non Church of England people could attend, by the bye).  Between events, I visited the lovely, bright and airy Upper Reading Room at the Old Bodleian Library for the first time.  I'm sure I will become quite well-acquainted with that venerable reading room before long.

Tuesday.  There was a graduate student induction from the English Faculty in the morning, which had really useful session on library and IT training opportunitites.  I also found out that about 70% of English doctoral students pass the official transfer for DPhil (aka PhD) on their first try (technically I'm in a probationary period for my first two terms here).  This is good to know.  In the evening, Mansfield had a graduate freshers' dinner, at which I got to meet my lovely college advisor and drink claret while everyone else at the tasty-looking meal in the dining hall (which is also a beautiful room - it all felt very Harry Potter!).  Then there was coffee and drinks in the MCR again and I got to meet more people and renew acquaintances made in the last couple days.

Wednesday, I signed up for Mansfield rowing...

Thursday, I had a second meeting with my supervisor.  I feel like I have a pretty good sense of the direction my work should be tending at this stage, which is really wonderful.  I also got to meet my English graduate student mentor, who knows people who live in Saskatoon - what are the odds?

On Friday, a friend from back home who is starting her DPhil in History at Wolfson and I went gown shopping.  We're both matriculating on Saturday - that is, formally becoming members of the university.  In order to do this, we must wear sub fusc, which means white collared shirt with velvet ribbon, black pants or skirt, black stockings, and black shoes, as well as mortarboard and the graduate gown.  Unlike the undergraduate gown, which only goes down the waist and frankly looks silly, the graduate gown goes down to the knee.  Gown-shopping felt very much like Harry Potter, again, going off to Madame Malkin's to be fitted for robes.  I'll tell you all about matriculation next week and perhaps provide photographic evidence.

Saturday was the rowing induction for Mansfielders (and apparently many other colleges - the Cherwell was crowded!).  I've decided I will continue on with rowing.  I quite like it, when I'm stroking correctly and at the same time as the others in the boat.  It's very disappointing to make a wrong move, however, because it is glaringly obvious to yourself and everyone else in the boat.  This week, I need to pass a swim test in order to become part of the team.  There was also a cocktail night at the Mansfield MCR that evening, plus a Junior Common Room (undergraduate) "bop" (a dance party, usually with a dress-up theme).  The theme this time was the London Underground, which proved interesting in practice.

And then Sunday, we went to Portsmouth, as mentioned above.  Again, more later, with pictures.  We took lots.

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