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.” ;)