Sunday, October 13, 2013

Oxford Freshers Week

The past week has been Oxford's orientation time for new students. It was like Stanford's orientation week, except... insane. Seriously, I'm knackered and can't remember feeling this exhausted in a long time (maybe not a great sign for the year to come!). I've clearly gotten too old for all these social shenanigans!

A quick recap of the insanity:

Saturday: New Pembroke students got an introduction to what appears to be Oxford's native sport--drinking--with a pub crawl through some of the city's more famous haunts. It started out a bit awkward (as most social meetups are for me!) but by the end of the night I'd met a lot of really nice people and drunk a lot of tasty cider. After my somewhat moping post of last week, I was feeling a little more hopeful as my friend and I walked back on Saturday night (it also helped that we were armed with the best street falafel in the city, which we inhaled disgustingly quickly upon getting home). 

Sunday: Tired of going out from the night before? Why not stay in and drink instead? This appeared to be the thinking behind Sunday's festivities, which were essentially the same as Saturday's except that they occurred in Pembroke's very own postgraduate-only bar instead of out on the town. Still, I enjoyed the opportunity for cheaper drinks and a chance to sit and talk in better sound levels than I'd experienced the night before.

(Meanwhile, it also looked like this all weekend: if only it could be this way all year!!)

Monday: Tired of drinking all that British 'real ale' and cider that they seem so fond of here? Why not champagne instead? And so we did, in copious quantities, after eating a supah classy pizza dinner in our 19th century vaulted-ceilinged hall. Fun fact: the Pembroke MCR (the name for the community of postgrads) does not open champagne bottles; it sabers them. As this is a practice that I'm actually well-versed in, I initially played a little unimpressed... until I saw one of the returners successfully saber a bottle with a glass champagne flute. Kudos. 

(Sabering victims)

Tuesday: For a change of pace, Pembroke decided to take new students out for a night of Britain's most beloved national cuisine: Indian food. As a massive Indian fan, I was super thrilled, though slightly less so when it turned out to be a buffet with only one vegetarian option. Oh well. At least the one option was good. Also, in what was quickly becoming typical form, we were plied with free wine but informed that if we wanted soft drinks, we would have to pay for ourselves. 


Wednesday: On Wednesday, I finally had my first real 'orientation-session' activity of the week (many of the other courses started earlier, but History did not), in the form of a welcome talk from the various heads of Pembroke College and some general housekeeping notices and reminders. A little underwhelming, but we got a free buffet lunch (again, with free wine), so no complaints. 

Thursday: Here's where Freshers Week took a turn from run-of-the-mill to MADNESS. The morning consisted of attending Oxford's Freshers' Fair: basically a university activities fair on steroids, where you are shuttled, one-way, through a mend-bending labyrinth of stalls pitching to you every imaginable club, sport, and society. Highlights: a gregorian chanting club and a 'real tennis' society (aka the original tennis that the nobility used to play in the 16th century). I signed up for more clubs than I could possibly in a million years attend, and my email inbox is still paying the price for it.

(Wending our way through the Examination Schools, Oxford's ├╝ber fancy (and intimidating) building where you sit all your exams at the end of every year)

Then, it was off to a meeting one-on-one with the academic head of the History Department (which, somewhat confusingly, is called the History Faculty at Oxford, the 'Faculty' referring to the actual physical building instead of the professors therein), then a brief pause before my actual History induction (the Oxford term for academic orientation). At last, academics!! The structure of my course looks good, though it's a little intimidating that I'll only be graded on 5 things in two years. Period. Everything else is pass/fail. But the good news is that my first graded assignment isn't until after Christmas, and is only 3,000-4,000 words long (child's play! I say now with possibly massively false bravado). I'm feeling tentatively confident at the moment, but talk to me again in a week after classes have actually started!

It was no rest for the wicked then, as it was then straight on to tea at the Stanford House (very fun!), and then the evening's big event: our first formal hall! So we got to get dolled up and don our very finest Harry Potter robes, drink champagne for an hour before a three-course dinner in our (unspeakably beautiful) hall, followed by coffee and then port and cheese back in the common room. Oh, and then clubbing after that. We didn't get home until 3am (and I left before some other folks!) after over 8 hours of continuous social activity. Wiped. Out. 

(Getting ready! And no, the One Direction T shirt didn't make the final cut)

(Pembroke ladies looking classy!)

 (Me, chillin' with Queen Anne's portrait. NBD.)

 (Our hall is so pretty!!)

Friday: Needless to say, after Thursday's outings, I was nearly destroyed. I had to bury my wish to lie in bed all day, however, to meet briefly one-on-one with the Master of Pembroke, and then start my work for the coming week--ahhh! Already! Then it was time for one more round of drinking at the Pembroke bar, this time accompanied by free pizza. I was pretty much a zombie, though, and failed to have a very good time. A reminder to stay rested as the year goes forward!!

This weekend has been devoted to trying out some new Oxford sports, which I think will have to get a post of its own when I've finished 'tasting' (the term they seem to like using) them all. This weekend's activities included cycling, crew, and fencing. (Needless to say, I'm exhausted.) The next few days promise more crew, some swimming, maybe some shooting and running, and... learning how to play bridge. That's a sport, right?? Wish me luck!


Me said...

Sounds exhausting but also like loads of fun. English cider? I'm jealous!

SprinklerBandit said...

You make it all sound so magical and the pics are absolutely unbelievable. I hope you are loving every minute. :)

Carrot Top said...

Holey crap that place is pretty. So, will they ever let you stop drinking long enough to study?

Katherine Erickson said...

Carrot Top, I hope so! But in all seriousness, it has already quieted down considerably. Oxford is actually a studious place, I swear! But they like to bring you in with a bang, it seems :)

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