Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Let it SNOW!

This morning, on our first rowing outing of the new year, I woke up to snow gently dusting the already white city.  There was no way the outing would be cancelled though.  I had been warned at the beginning of the season: rowers are hard-core.  Snow, rain, or hail, they are on the water.  I mean, they have to be or they'd never have a chance to practice!  I wasn't sure if this californian had it in me to row in this weather, but wow, was it worth it (plus, it turns out when you wear three pairs of pants, it's impossible to be cold!).  Sure, Oxford's stunning on any day.  But, when covered in snow, it is absolutely magical.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

This one's for you, Aunt Marie :)

Aunt Marie pointed out that I've been slacking at this blog...and only a month in, sorry!

I've been crazy busy since my last post (I averaged 4 hours of sleep a night this week!) but things are starting to settle down. Yesterday, I submitted the most horrendous assignment for this computer programming course.  I'm definitely a much better programmer now, but the main take-home lesson was to actively avoid this type of stuff!

So, school aside, what's happened since October 17?!

For starters, last week was Halloween, or as the biggest bop in town called it, Hallo-queen (ie cross dressing).  Some girls and I went as the knights from Monty Python's Spamalot.  We played the cheap student card and made our tops out of pillowcases (only a pound each)!!  The guys went all out though and definitely one up-ed us...we spent the night with the German olympic team (which is perfect for cross dressers) and Amy Winehouse!

I've also been rowing for Saint Cross and I LOVE it!! The Oxford rowing culture is insane especially since right now all of the novices are training for what is supposedly the largest novice competition in the world! Just 3 weeks away!  Luckily, it hasn't rained much yet, so there's no better place to start your day than on the water.  And, you know I must really enjoy it because somehow, despite my love of sleeping in, I've managed to stick with the early morning practices!  We have a joint team with Wolfson, another all grad college, so I've met loads of new girls from that college.  And, two of my flatmates also row in my boat! Yesterday after practice a bunch of friends joined us to celebrate one of last sunny days of fall with a post-rowing picnic on the river!!  Don't be fooled though, in England, sunny does not mean warm!

After five weeks of meeting people (I cannot believe I've been here that long!), I'm stoked to get see a familiar face this week...Wednesday through Sunday, MAREN will be here!!!!  Can't wait!! I'll make sure to post photos of our adventures soon! :)

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Today was Matriculation! That used to mean university wide exams to ensure all colleges had admitted high caliber students, but now it's simply a short ceremony to make students official members of Oxford University.  The best part? Hands down, the outfits... :)

Flat J in the St Cross quad! (Alina, Rachel, Me, Tatiana, & Tara)

The whole shebang!

Clearly international students! :)

Running in and out of line for photos en route to the Sheldonian (and trying to avoid getting scolded!)

Inside the Sheldonian (built by Christopher Wren in the 1660s) for the ceremony

St. Cross kids

All the roommies again! :)

And we're matriculated!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Oxford is old.

Like really, really old. The buildings, chapels, streets, books, you name it. Consequently, they also have really longstanding traditions and don’t run quite like most universities.

Most notably, Oxford’s system of the University and Colleges is something that is pretty much only shared by Cambridge (which is a spin off of Oxford, by the way). The University organizes classes, awards degrees, and deals with the other academic issues, but each student is also a member of one of 38 colleges. The college provides accommodation, social activities like sports and “bops” (dances), and even healthcare (which is freeeee!). I’m in St Cross College, one of only a handful of colleges for just postgraduates. St. Cross focuses on international graduate students and brings together an awesome mix of 350-400 students of all disciples and from around the world!!!

About 50 other St. Cross ‘freshers’ and I live in the Annexe (essentially dorms for grown-ups) relatively close to the main college site and just a few blocks from the city center. Our building has 12 flats, most of which have super diverse groups – one has guys from the US, Germany, China, the UK, and Spain. Yet, somehow my 4 flatmates are all from North America…and 3 of us are from within about 10 miles from one another in the bay area! I really lucked out – all four girls are fantastic!

St. Cross is one of the smaller (i.e. poorer) colleges, which means we get to partner with others for squash, rowing, dining events, etc. Two of my flatmates and I signed up for our joint rowing team. It’s blast and the team supposedly rules the All College competitions! This weekend, we joined hundreds of novices at the college boathouses for a BBQ/training session in the river. J

The rich also take pity on us poor kids by sharing dining privileges. I now have no excuse for playing up the grad student card and living off frozen food! I get to dine in massive halls with huge vaulted ceilings and stunning stained glass windows. They look straight out of Harry Potter – in fact, on Sunday we had brunch at Christ’s Church where Harry Potter was filmed (check out the photos above)! A group of friends and I have challenged ourselves to eat at all 38 college dining halls before the year is up…3 down, only 35 to go!

As for academics, classes started today! Out of the 20 students in my program, how many other girls? TWO. The first assignment is already insane, but it seems like it will be a great group. J

Word of the day: chav (someone who’s trashy…but can afford not to be). As in “She’s loaded, so how is Paris Hilton such a chav?”

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The first week :)

Hello again! My first week in Oxford has been epic, to say the least. I’ve met so many fascinating people and enjoyed a myriad of welcome activities. Plus, the weather’s been beautiful (until today)! Let’s see if I can recap a little of this week without putting you to sleep…

I arrived last Wednesday morning just minutes after the International Postgraduate Orientation started, dropped everything in my room (which is a corner room and has 2 windows!), and miraculously made it to orientation for the tail end of the first speech. When the second presenter didn’t show up, all of the international math and science kids had plenty of time to mingle, and you know I love talking to strangers. I quickly met 2 biomedical engineers from Australia, an environmental change and policy student from NYC, and applied statistics students from Iceland and Australia. Considering the remaining session was a small information fair, we collected our brochures and decided to go punting instead. This is the British “sport” of floating down the river in a flat-bottomed wooden boat, propelling the boat with a long metal pole (if you’re picturing the boats in Venetian canals, you’re spot on). Best decision we made all day!

That night the Punting Team, as we’re now officially calling ourselves, met up again at The Turf, the pub where Bill Clinton famously smoked “but didn’t inhale.” I was able to catch up with Will on his last night in Oxford after wrapping up his M.Sc. in Biomedical Engineering. He’s the one who originally inspired me to apply for this program and proceeds to inspire me – he was awarded a prestigious fellowship to continue his research in Thailand for the next year! I’m now looking into the possibility of working with an international facility for my research project too… J

The rest of the week was filled with events like crochet, tea and biscuit receptions, pub-crawls, a garden party, meet n' greets, and a surprise visit from my cousin Michael (who’s studying in London), just to name a few. And, my new Icelandic friend, Svienn (yes, Svienn!!) hosted an Icelandic cocktail party for the Punting Team complete with Icelandic music, 2 types of liquor, candy and dried fish!

It’s been an absolutely perfect first week at Oxford! I’m continually blown away by the credentials of everyone I meet, and by the thought that classes were first held in these buildings hundreds and hundreds of years before the USA was even a country. This is going to be an incredible year!! J

Word of the day: knackered (extremely tired). As in “I’ve been slacking on this blog because I have so many activities that by the end of the day I’m nearly too knackered to write.” ;)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

So long California (I love you far too dearly for this to be goodbye)!

Hello there and welcome to my blog! Growing up I was that kid who would get really pumped about keeping a journal but each time I started one, I would only write a handful of we'll see how well this blog endeavor pans out (fingers crossed!).

I just landed in England (yay!) and am on the bus en route to Oxford. That's right, the buses have wifi. The UK already rocks! It's 9 am and I'm in the middle of a little contest with myself: how long can I stay awake and still be semi-functional?! I'm shooting for 32 hours of nonstop activities. The minute I get into Oxford, I'm tossing my bags in my room before running to the International Graduate Student Orientation. Then it's off to drinks with Kim (from Menlo HS) and Will (a classmate from Davis). It's fantastic to get to see familiar faces on my very first day!

And, in an effort to make sure you can all understand me when I'm back in California (because I fully intend to sound British), I'll be posting a word of the day or, more realistically, a word per post. I invite you to take on this foreign language with me. I'll start off easy...todays word: queue (a line).

Oh and the weather? As I was about to report that there was no rain, it just started to drizzle. Welcome to England! :)