Sunday, January 23, 2011

Holy Crap, Three Weeks Already

How did that happen?!

Things at Oxford have settled into a nice routine, though the work is only just now starting show a glimmer of the intensity that I've been expecting (and slightly fearing) from the start. I'm going to have my first real tutorial on Monday, after what has seemed like an astounding amount of lead up, and I couldn't be more excited. I am, of course, a tiny bit petrified that my paper is going to be deemed utter rubbish (as the Brits would say) and I'm going to be asked to leave the program... but I'm mostly keeping that at bay. I'm more excited at the prospect of strengthening my writing skills (even if it is at the sacrifice of this first paper) and my ability to argue with conviction, both in writing and orally.

Because, of course, the tutorial meeting is more than just a review of the paper. One of the main features of the tutorial system is the "defense" of one's paper in front of his or her tutor; I've heard that this is often more of a friendly discussion than a heavy-duty interview type situation, but the prospect is still a bit daunting as I've never found verbal arguments to be a strong point of mine. I remember my senior year of high school I was made a finalist for a big scholarship at UNC which required me to fly down to Chapel Hill and sit not only three one-on-one mega high-pressure interviews, but also a fourth even more vomit-inducing panel interview in front of six or seven people. The topics of the interviews were pulled from my written application, which of course in my highly disorganized state I had completely overlooked, and so had not only not written my application with that in mind but had also not even glanced at what I had said since I'd turned the application in months earlier. It turned out I had written a large number of my responses on fisheries. I knew nothing. NOTHING. about fisheries beyond a book I'd read for a project in my environmental science class the spring before. Needless to say, I was a delicate shade of green when I sat down for my first interview that day.

And, just like then, I'm feeling like my depth of knowledge in my current field of study at Oxford is very, very shallow; I honestly know not a drop beyond what I read for this previous paper, and so am not feeling super confident that, if pressed, I'll be able to dig down to a bedrock of knowledge to support my written conclusions. Perhaps if all else fails I'll just subtly shift the conversation to anecdotal stories about certain more dramatic elements of my high school experience; that was what I ended up doing at UNC, and it must have worked because I ended up winning the scholarship, and it certainly wasn't my extensive knowledge of fisheries that got it for me!! I have a distinct impression that that strategy might not fly at Oxford, but you never know...

This coming week is a quiet one in terms of planned extracurricular activities, though I'm super excited at the prospect of playing polo again on Tuesday. Hopefully it will be a good chance to rest up, read up, and let my face return to a more normal shape and color after I was hit in the face with a bottle on Thursday night and got a massive and disfiguring black eye as a result. Add that in with my unplanned evacuation of the entire dorm when I set the fire alarm off while cooking last night, and I'm definitely hoping for a little peace in the coming few days, even if my academic schedule looks more hectic than ever.

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