Well, my 2nd week at Oxford is over now and I have officially completed my first week of tutorials!!! It may be silly but I feel quite accomplished at this point. For this term (they do not use the word semester here) I am responsible for going to three lectures a week, so I go to one on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings along with meeting with my tutor once a week. Now, you may be thinking, um Rory, what do you do with all the rest of your time there???? Well, though I are not required to be in “in class” very long, the amount of reading and time I need to devote to writing a good essay requires that I be in the library, my room, or some other place so I can read and study. I shall skip all the boring stuff about studying in the library and in stead tell you what a tutorial at Oxford University is like!
Yesterday I met with both of my tutors. Interestingly enough, one meeting was nothing like the other! I am taking two classes. My primary class requires that I write an essay, 1800-2000 words in length, every week and meet with my tutor for an hour. Memory and Cognition is my primary class and is taught by Dr. Elizabeth Styles, who wrote the book “Attention, Memory, and Perception.” I think it is totally amazing that my tutor is a famous author and that her family has been attending and teaching at Oxford for over 100 years!!! My secondary tutorial, the Psychology of Religion, requires that I meet with the tutor every other week and write an essay around 1500 words. My tutor for that class is Anne Lee.
So, I of course had expectations and initial thoughts about how a tutorial session would be conducted plus I had heard stories from other students. Well, let’s just say that they aren’t as bad as everyone made them out to be but tutorials, because they are usually one on one, I do not suggest going to one without being thoroughly prepared. It’s not like a classroom full of students where if the professor asks a question you just don’t raise your hand, in a tutorial the only person he or she is talking to is you. Tutorials are a lot of fun though. My tutorial with Dr. Styles was in college (on campus) and I met her in a lecture room (which is a room in one of the staircases that had a table and about 12 chairs or so). For this tutorial she required that I read my paper aloud. I did not know this beforehand that I would have to read it, but I am told that most tutors teach that way. My tutor interrupted me throughout my paper to make comments and so that we could discuss certain points that I had made. I left the session with my next week’s assignment and unless I have any other questions (which I would email) I will not see her until next Thursday.
Anne Lee, on the other hand, prefers to read the paper herself aloud to me and then makes comments as she goes along. Since it was the first meeting she wanted to get to know me so we talked about where I was from, what I majored in etc (interesting fact, the class the Psychology of Religion is not offered to psychology Oxford students but only to theology students and visiting students – I am So glad that I get to take it because it is already really interesting!) I also had to go to her house and we had our tutorial there. That was kind of fun because I hadn’t been inside a real British home yet since coming and I got to see what one looks like. She had a kitchen and living room type area on the main floor, then down a few steps lead into a small room full of books and her desk where we had the tutorial. She also had couple of cats that liked to be present during the tutorial.
I think that I am really going to love school here. I definitely have so far. The independent work is really great. It requires a lot of discipline because I only HAVE to be a few places a week and the rest of the time I am responsible for making sure I organize my time well between studying, eating, volunteer/organization activities etc. The tutorials offer one-on-one instruction where I get to ask questions about the topic and also argue my stance on the essay I wrote. It’s a lot of work, but after the first week I definitely feel as if I have learned and accomplished something. Two essays down, ten more to go!
Another thing that I got to do since being here is sample the “fresher’s fair” which is basically what McKendree calls an involvement fair. There were hundreds of booths with organizations ranging from football (soccer) and rugby to the ballroom dancing society to archery and fencing to racecar driving, a walking club, and different volunteer opportunities. Basically, if you have an interest in ANY area there was a club/organization for you. I so far have taken one archer lesson and I am going to play ultimate Frisbee!!!!!
Life here is exciting and there is always something going on and a place to get involved. A good way to balance between college and social life is to study all day and then be sure to get involved in something and go out at night! Most students do it that way here and it definitely seems to be the best system.
What I have learned:
#3: You have to have a valid ID that shows your birth date in order to buy utensils.
#4: Ming is what they sometimes call dinner
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” ~ Henry Miller