Jolly Old England

Saturday, October 08, 2005

A Week in Oxford

I took a few pictures today on my walk to get lunch. I walked through the park to get a couple shots there, and I took a number of pictures of the building and my room. You can see all the locked doors I have to go through to get into my room, which is 25 feet or so from the entrance. :) The pictures are available here. For those of you wondering, the pink stuffed animal is a Love-A-Lot Care Bear. It's on loan to me by Ana.

Also, I discovered that I hadn't yet posted the pictures I took the last day in Wales. They're just pictures of the house I stayed at. You can find them here.

I've been behind on blogging, so I'll summarize day-by-day:

Our first "compulsory" meetings were interesting. Now, in the UK, treating you as an adult is big. However, even bigger than that is their love for rules. In the U.S., if you were to skip a "mandatory" meeting, you'd simply be liable for whatever damage was caused by you missing that information. For example, if they were giving out your University ID, you wouldn't get one and you'd have to spend a lot of time tracking down and sweet talking the right person to get yours. Here, they actually made us check off our names. Anyone that didn't turn up for the meeting was referred to the Dean for disciplinary action.

We had a fire awareness meeting. We watched a video of how quickly a fire takes over a room, heard about how there was a fire here a few years ago (luckily in one of the all concrete buildings, so it didn't spread past the room). Having candles or anything that's a fire hazard will get you expelled from the University immediately. You will be gone within 24 hours.

The fire safety talk was given by a guy named (booming voice) "THE BURSAR". He's in charge of all things money-related and he's the college fire officer. From what people have said about talking to him one-on-one, he's a decent funny guy. But, he is incredibly serious about his rules. Using blue-tac on the walls is against the rules and nets you a £1 per spot fine. Using push pins on the walls will get you a £20 per hole fine, but he'll be nice and cap the fine at something like £200 or £240. The reason the fines are so steep is that those are the costs to repair the damage. They don't go through the rooms during breaks to the extend done in the U.S. because during breaks, they host conferences. These conferences bring in about £500,000 a year for this college alone. That's what helps subsidize the cost of education here. (Remember, £1 is between $1.75 and $2.00 these days.)

We had a couple boring talks on Wednesday morning. The first one was terrible, as the guy had such a thick accent I couldn't follow half of what he was saying. Most of this was like "welfare" stuff... basically, "If you have a problem, you can come talk to this person, or that person, or me, or me, or me, or me, or ..." There were several people there that introduced themselves and talked about their role in the welfare system.

After that, the Bursar talked to us again. This was when he went over the what-not-to-put-on-the-walls rules I talked about earlier. He also talked about electrical equipment. He said we had to have all of our kit inspected. The receptionist in the Bursar's Office said that I should file my request with the guy in my building, since I'm living out. That guy came and looked at my stuff and said it'd be fine. He said they're worried about old stuff, shoddy equipment, appliances like mini-fridges, poor power strips, and cheap voltage converters. I'm glad I got that out of the way.

During his big boring talk, several people came in late. I wouldn't want to be them. He pointed out his extreme disappointment with them, and told them to stay after. I don't know what happened to them. He also totally stopped mid-sentence to single out a kid for falling asleep. I thought he was talking to me at first, as I was pretty bored. The kid next to me also thought it was him. Good thing we kept our mouths shut, as he was waiting for a response from the kid he was looking at. It was someone behind us. Yeah, after that, I think everyone in the room was wide-awake the rest of the meeting. I know I was.

I've decided, though, that it would be cool to be like the Bursar. If you could just switch on that I'm-totally-serious-don't-mess-with-me mode, that'd be pretty sweet, as long as you could be normal the rest of the time. I also decided that the Bursar doesn't have a name. I mean, he must, but I don't know if they told it to us. He's just "The Bursar" to all of us new students.

We had a formal dinner on Wednesday as well. It had a couple sentences in Latin for opening/closing, a speech about the hall, a ceremony (which basically means the pro-principal read a promise to act in the hall's best interest and we said, "I promise.") The speech was good. The theme was the history of the Hall, so he was like, "You see all these other colleges proudly displaying their dates of founding: 1857, 1615, 1550" (numbers not quoted exactly, but accurate to a decade or so) "You notice we don't display ours. It's because we're so old, we don't KNOW when we were founded." For sure, it was here in 1317. It's the only surviving medieval "Hall".

Thursday morning, we had more boring and useless meetings, this time on "study skills". Then we had a talk from the college IT officer. He's from Toronto, Canada. He was pretty nice. Afterwards, I talked to him for a while. It was also nice to finally get a talk from someone who didn't have a British accent. He was easy to understand.

After the presentation, these guys were asking me questions about what sort of computer stuff I do, and I was telling them. During the presentation, the guy mentioned the University (as opposed to him, the college-level) IT staff were thinking about blocking MSN. I mentioned to the guys that I didn't think that would work. And I said, "I'm a developer on an IM client and I happen to be working with the MSN protocol some." Alex (a student from Ohio that came with the Butler program and is studying physics) asked which one. I said, "Gaim". He's like, "really?" I said, "Yeah, I'm a developer on Gaim." He said, "No way!" and hugged me, then said, "THANKS!" It was pretty random.

I decided not to drink any more Sprite over here. It's not very good. 7up is fine, but Sprite is just poor. Things are customized a bit to the local tastes, so they're not exactly the same as in the U.S. anyway, but on top of that, I hear they use more sugar here and less corn syrup as it's cheaper.

Friday, I met the Tutor for Visiting Students. I probably won't ever need to see her during the term, but she wanted all of us to know where her office was, in case we had problems that we couldn't resolve by talking to our subject tutor. I attended an induction (which was an orientation, not a formal ceremony or anything like our dinner) at the Computing Laboratory. They didn't have a record of me, so it took me a while to get my account, but I'm all setup at the computer lab now.

I also finally got to meet my tutor. His name is "Tom". They didn't have my courses figured out like I had thought they would, so we talked about what I should take. He's checking into a couple things and we'll get it all finalized Monday.

Throughout this week, disorganization has been the theme. Unstructured is fine, but unorganized simply shows lack of effort. At least my tutor was nice and said, "It's not your fault [that we don't have your courses figured out.]" Apparently, they had some computer problems, so it's been a mess the last week anyway.

Today I slept in, sat around reading funny stuff on the Internet, then went to get some food (and took pictures). In a couple hours, I have the big Fresher's "bop" (dance) at the college.


  • You better be taking care of Love-A-Lot-Bear, she's fragile! ;)
    Have some good, clean England fun for me!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:03 AM  

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