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The Oxford Saga: Part One  
04:25am 02/01/2008
 
 
dwinyhoyw
Oh, the occupational hazards of being a University Student, even outside term-time. Namely, it's 4:00am and I'm still up even though I have to get up in four and half hours to go to work at 9:00. Luckily, it's only across the road, but even so, come on, Duncan!
I think before I go into any detail about how Oxford is I'll have to explain the British university system, particularly as it relates to Oxford and The Other Place (click the link if you don't know what I'm talking about there).

The British University system is, to my mind, vastly superior to the American one, at least for someone like me. The school system generally forces you to specialise a lot earlier than in the US, which means that in University you only study your subject. There's no such thing as a major or a minor, such your degree, because you aren't doing any other subjects. In Oxford, which is full of abstruse and brilliant terminology, we refer to 'reading' something as a way of saying it's the subject you're taking your degree in: "I'm reading Chemistry". The system is the same throughout the country though. So my subject is Spanish and Arabic, or in a more general way, EMEL (European and Middle Eastern Languages).
Now to the organisation of Oxford - there is no single university building or campus, but a series of colleges. You apply to a particular college, not Oxford University, and you owe a great deal more loyalty to the college than to Oxford University itself during term-time, and often colleges have rivalries between them as virulent as the general one between Oxford and Cambridge. You live in college, eat in college, and a majority of students have their tutorials in college too. I don't - I go to a few of the numerous shared buildings, along with everyone else doing either Spanish or Arabic, for my lectures, and to St. Catherine's college for Spanish tutorials.

There's great variation in the colleges - some are large, some small, some are quite poor, and some are extremely wealthy. St. John's is the wealthiest by far, with an endowment of over £300 million pounds, and consequently it's in an excellent position to dole out money to us starving students. It also owns a massive amount of land all over the country, and overseas as well. The whole of Oxfordshire is owned by some or other of the colleges. St. John's also consistently comes near the top of the Norrington Table (the academic rankings) and has been top for several years, until last year when Merton beat it out. That's why we dislike Merton. We also dislike Magdalen and Christchurch because they're extremely posh and full of people who swan off to Dubai for the weekend on "Daddy's credit card". Grrr. We also hate Keble, which is next to John's, because we used to own their land, and still do, technically, but there's no academic rivalry with it - there'd be no point. There's even a Society For the Destruction of Keble, which advocates stealing the bricks from Keble's buildings. This has become quite a problem, it would seem.

The University's shared buildings lie outside the grounds of any of the colleges and are generally specific to a particular degree. The Taylor Institute is the massive language library with a basement full of rolling mechanical bookshelves, an upper reading room with ancient books in Old Spanish, and an entire room full of the works of Voltaire. The Oriential Institute is the centre for Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi Persian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Armenian. Both are happily within about a minute and a half of St. John's - one of the other reasons it's so brilliant.

St. John's has the best attributive adjective out of the whole lot. We are Iohannonites.


In the next installment: the academic structure of Oxford - my tutors - just what are collections? - some geographic specifics of St. Johns - the Oxford Union.
Var är jag? Cheltenham
Jag är I am actually asleep...I am actually asleep...
Jag lyssna på Destination Calabria
 
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(no subject)
 __miaka__
 
04:40am 02/01/2008 (UTC)
 
 
__miaka__
I'll admit it: I'm incredibly jealous.
Hurry up and tell more.
 
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(no subject)
 risssssy
 
08:38am 02/01/2008 (UTC)
 
 
Marissa
Yaaaay! It's fun to hear about all this! It's like a mini trip to England! Erm.... well, kind of.
 
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(no subject)
 saynotoostendm
 
04:34pm 02/01/2008 (UTC)
 
 
saynotoostendm
We'll see the Other Place victorious yet! buahahahaha.
 
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(no subject)
 djayha
 
05:53pm 02/01/2008 (UTC)
 
 
Sasha
Sigh. I wanna go to Oxford. :(

I do, however, have to say that while I agree with you that the British University system is vastly superior to the American one, my PERSONAL experience is that the variety of classes (some) students in American universities sample makes for a more enjoyable education. I personally LOVE my religious studies classes, but there are also a wide variety of other subjects I'm interested in, ranging from biology and psychology to creative writing and anthropology. I think I would have had far less fun with my education if I ONLY took religious studies courses and didn't have the opportunity to explore a wide variety of other subjects. However... I do acknowledge that when everything is said and done, U.S. students end up knowing a little about a lot rather than a lot about a little, and consequently we're far less useful when we finish our education. I also wish that I could take more religious studies classes in ADDITION to the wide variety of other courses I’ve taken. I would ALMOST advocate a 6-year degree: 2 years of “exploration” followed by 4 years of concentrated study on ONE subject. Almost. I also advocate attending and finishing graduate school while still young. ;)
 
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(no subject)
 dwinyhoyw
 
07:25pm 02/01/2008 (UTC)
 
 
dwinyhoyw
I agree with you, I think the American system produces people who know a little about a great deal of things, but from a purely personal standpoint the English system is the one which suits me best.
 
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(no subject)
 djayha
 
08:02pm 02/01/2008 (UTC)
 
 
Sasha
The English system especially makes sense with certain kinds of educational pathways. For example, students of chemistry, computer science or foreign language have far less of a need to study other disciplines because their own field of study is so self-contained and intellectually demanding. The American system works really well with other kinds of disciplines, particularly those which are connected to a variety of other fields. For example, religious studies is actually a fairly broad subject area, and it is beneficial for RS students to study a variety of related subjects because each of them gives us a broader perspective on our own major. For example, it helps to study sociology, anthropology, psychology, literature and other subjects, for all of these help the RS student better understand the origins, functions, effects and expressions of world religions on individuals, societies and cultures.
 
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(no subject)
 dwinyhoyw
 
10:36pm 02/01/2008 (UTC)
 
 
dwinyhoyw
That's probably true, but bear in mind that because we're only doing one course, someone reading Theology here will probably study a similar range of things to someone studying RS in America. It's just that we'll lump sociology, etc., into one subject ("Theology") whereas you identify them as different courses. But to be honest I hadn't ever thought of the systems splitting according to subject. It makes a lot of sense.
And...if you're studying RS, would you like to write an article for the Secular Society newsletter? I'm sure you'd be able to come up with much more interesting things than most people who contribute to it. Anything concerning religion will do (preferably negative, after all this is the Secular Society).
 
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(no subject)
 djayha
 
10:49pm 02/01/2008 (UTC)
 
 
Sasha
LOL, yes, I could write something fun and moderately scathing for the Secular Society newsletter. I wouldn't necessarily ridicule ALL religious beliefs, practices and institutions, but I'd certainly get on the soap box about a handful of them. >:D
 
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(no subject)
 dwinyhoyw
 
11:41pm 02/01/2008 (UTC)
 
 
dwinyhoyw
Don't worry, you don't need to ridicule them. The attitude we take is that religious beliefs are all very well, but they should be kept out of public affairs. Having said that, of course, most people in the society are atheists so you don't need to worry. Would you mind? If you think you can get it done this week, that'd be excellent, otherwise sometime before the end of January (assuming you'd like to have your name in print).
 
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(no subject)
 djayha
 
01:20am 03/01/2008 (UTC)
 
 
Sasha
I'd love to. Can you get me a couple samples of articles typically featured in the newsletter, so I can get a feel for style/quality?
 
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(no subject)
 dwinyhoyw
 
01:35am 03/01/2008 (UTC)
 
 
dwinyhoyw
I'm afraid it's not archived online yet, but...

Quality: yes, we'd like quality.
Style: I'd prefer something light-hearted that still makes a point. We have far too many deadly-serious I-Am-Socrates-Listen-To-My-Thoughts contributors. Balance is good. Intelligent yet playful.

Tack.

And so I know, are you saying yes to having it by the end of this week?
 
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(no subject)
 djayha
 
01:43am 03/01/2008 (UTC)
 
 
Sasha
I'm saying yes to TRYING to have it by the end of the week. :P
 
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(no subject)
 dwinyhoyw
 
01:45am 03/01/2008 (UTC)
 
 
dwinyhoyw
Okay, that's excellent. You're amazing and I heart you.
 
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(no subject)
 djayha
 
05:51am 03/01/2008 (UTC)
 
 
Sasha
I heart you too. :)

About how long do you want this thing to be?
 
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(no subject)
 dwinyhoyw
 
01:53pm 03/01/2008 (UTC)
 
 
dwinyhoyw
As long as your heart desires.
 
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