Saturday, October 8, 2011

Technically, I survived my first week!

Technically, I did. But not really because you see, this week was Week 0 or naught week (throw a British accent in there and it sounds more like 'not').

This first week was flooded with information: about the department, the college, the course, the new rules, the old traditions, the terminology, the schedule, the library, the new IDs and passwords, the dissertation, the examinations, the expectations, the exceptions, the norms and the very rare deviants.

There was something called Freshers' Fair where all the university's clubs and teams tried to get people to join their hobby. Think auctioneers but with costumes and throwing free stuff at you. Anyway, one of the free 'swabs' was a large year-long calendar. Best thing EVA! Why? Because with it I'll be able to plan every month (if not every week!) of my academic year in terms of dissertation planning. By Christmas, I need to have a solid idea, a working title, documents processed, field work set up (if not already started), and lets not forget: exams, projects, presentations and other academic wonders. By Spring (at the latest), I need to be finishing my field work to write drafts of this puppy. After IV-bag-consumption levels of coffee and seemingly endless drafts, re-drafts, and proofreading, it all needs to signed, sealed and delivered on Friday, July 27th 2012. Zing!

Saturday morning, I went for a bike ride with the Oxford Cycling Club. It wasn't a strenuous ride but the turnout was good, and even better were the flat country roads. The roads were fairly narrow but the green pastures rocked gently toward the horizon. Seeing as how the area has so many cyclists, it's comforting to see drivers completely at ease and respectful of cyclists.

On Saturday afternoon, a friend from my college and I went to the Covered Market to buy groceries for a get-together that evening. A few of us who are in the same department and at the same college decided to have a small wine-and-cheese to celebrate our first week and expand our social circle. So, off we went to this market... and happily so! Fresh fruits and vegetables, local (and impressive cuts of) meat hanging from hooks, local cheese, and naturally, some good grape juice!

Today (Tuesday) was our first formal seminar (or class). It's not so much a class where the professor lectures and the students quietly absorb the material. Instead it's a discussion where students are to critically discuss, assess, analyze, critique and question the theorists, authors, philosophers, economists, etc. students were assigned to read. Our professor, an expert in the field, was more of a moderator interjecting with questions, comments and every now and then, insightful reflections. This means that there's no set objectives as you might find in a traditional class, allowing great flexibility, fostering ideas and tangents. To give you an idea, here are some of the topics discussed today: the definition of 'comparative', can globalization be defined- is it even necessary? special needs education policy (at both ends of the spectrum), Russian 'defectology', historical hindsight, educational fraud, migrant workers in Beijing, boarding schools in the US, British wit, UNESCO's role, ethical obligations, 'diploma disease' in an increasing number of countries, Indian slums, is education even worth it?, human capital, standardized testing, and the ever popular discourse of, is education a discipline?

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