University Life: English Lesson 5

beautiful South Parks, en route to campus

I was extremely nervous before my first class of graduate school. Not only was it graduate school, but it was graduate school in a foreign country. For all I knew, in England they expected their students to walk around reciting Shakespearean sonnets or give impromptu speeches in the courtyard about the parallels of Ulysses and The Odyssey. (I also assumed they would have an area on campus called the “courtyard.” I think I drew this conclusion from a scene in a Harry Potter movie.)

To my relief, class at Oxford-Brookes University where I did my master’s was strikingly similar to class at Abilene Christian University, where I did my bachelor’s. Of course there was much less class in general, only 4-5 hours a week, and I learned that undergraduates are only in class about 9 hours a week. Most work is done independently, but I got used to it.

While the classroom setting greatly reflected that of ACU’s, many aspects of the UK campus I attended–and probably most UK campuses–were not. For example(s)…

anyone can play sport (drop the “s”) at college who wants to join a team–I tried it. Didn’t go so well (read more).

The words “college” and “university” (uni for short) are not interchangeable. College is a separate education entity,

and the word “school” only refers to what we specify as “elementary school.”

The typical undergraduate degree takes three years to complete, not four.

You’re a “fresher” not a “freshman.”

Dorms are single rooms–no going potluck.

You call your lecturer (not be confused with “professor,” which is a higher level in the teaching field) by his/her first name–this took some getting used to. And still felt weird.

To get your master’s you write a dissertation; to get your D. Phill (Ph. D. in the U.S.) you write a thesis. This switch-a-roo of terms comes in handy if I forget and say I wrote a dissertation. It’s technically true, and makes me look smarter.

I got to know this place well: the library (actually a part of Oxford's campus)
some of my favorites I met at school: Kate, Isac and Taryn

I remember reading Shakespeare aloud in class was always interesting. We’d be going through scenes and suddenly it’d be my turn to read, but compared to the gentle English accents around me, I’d butcher it: “tuh be orrr nawt tuh be…” Sorry, Shakespeare, for ruining your beautiful prose. I’ll leave the reading aloud of it your people from now on.

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9 thoughts on “University Life: English Lesson 5

  1. Good to see you are blogging again, Andrea. Am enjoying reading your latest reflections on your time spent at Oxford. Keep up the great work.

    The schooling/education system is certainly different here! I’ve learned my lessons the hard way πŸ˜‰ how different the training/certification processes are for, say, music specialist/reading specialist in Texas compared to the requirements for certification here (academic requirements are appallingly minimal in the UK by comparison). And yet I cannot even volunteer as a reading specialist — even for immigrants — because of fears I might somehow transmute an American accent onto the students forever. And although I have been blessed to run several secular and religious choirs, it usually takes at least one term and the first performance to allay fears the choristers (and parents’ horrors, if it’s a children’s/ youth choir) have that they will sing only with an American accent.

    Of course, all that hard graft spent at seminary in America on an MDiv in Church Music and childrens’ ministry seems totally irrelevant, especially in our little rural English village. Ahhh, the rich lessons God delights in teaching us academics, his kind mercies never fail.

    Oh, well… At least I no longer feel impressed or intimidated when I meet a toff with an MA(Oxon)!!

    (Eewww! TWO exclamation marks. And sorry to write so much…)

    Cannot wait to hear your take on chavs. The Oxbridge contingent can be a bit sniffy.

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    1. Deb! so good to hear from you! And so interesting to hear from someone whose tried the other side of education overseas: teaching. It’s amazing what a simple accent difference can inhibit. Way to go for proving your musical skills. I think people always sound American when they sing anyways… πŸ™‚

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      1. We could do Broadcast Media. Just tune a few radios and click a few buttons.

        The best thing about the classes was the free tea and cake – I still haven’t been told off for having five slices in that dissertation lecture. I think I took a load of ‘biscuits’ (insert U.S equivalent – scones? crackers? cakes?) home as well, none of which compared to the sandwich you brought in!

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