Nearly a year in the Oxford system


in Daily updates, Oxford

Boats on the Isis

Of course, ‘a year’ in this context means just 24 weeks, with some work done in the breaks between the eight week terms.

The academic life of a graduate student can seem rather sparse. As an undergraduate, I would have five lectures a week, plus an equivalent number of seminars, plus anything optional. Here, I have two seminars a week, no lectures, and a somewhat greater variety of optional things. Mostly, that consists of the strategic studies meetings, events put on by STAIR, the global health group, and the global economic governance program, as well as anything miscellaneous that comes up. Because basically all lectures are one-off affairs, they don’t provide the kind of progression of knowledge that accompanies a two-month lecture series. While I know graduate school is meant to be about deepening knowledge within an established base, I still feel as though there are so many areas where my knowledge and understanding are still at a rather basic level.

At UBC, I would write about five research papers in a four-month term: based on several weeks worth of research. Here, terms only last two months, and I will write about eight papers of similar length which are nonetheless much less creative and extensively researched. At UBC, you had to find a topic, to some extent, in senior courses. Here, you just need to find a satisfying way of answering a set question.

All told, I am very glad to have gone to UBC before I came to Oxford. I think my level of education, in the end, will be rather higher than if I had done both degrees here or at places like here. The significantly greater reputation of Oxford should be an aid towards getting into jobs and other academic programs later. Likewise, the level of discussion and general accomplishment among members of my program is far above the UBC mean. Even so, I think I learned rather more there than I am here, both in aggregate and per unit time.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

R.K. May 25, 2006 at 11:46 pm

“I think I learned rather more there than I am here, both in aggregate and per unit time.”

I find that there is a baseline level of knowledge about something that I can develop fairly easily and retain almost effortlessly. The great thing about undergrad classes if that you hit that level and really feel like you’ve learned something. Grad classes are shiftier, because they’re just tweaking what you already know about something, and sometimes pushing the boundary outwards a bit in one direction or the other. I just hope my knowledge is becoming more sophisticated.

As for the ongoing desire to learn about new things, here books are your friends. Not the ones you grumble through for classes and papers, but the ones you stay up until 3:00am reading, because you just can’t set it aside and turn off the light.

Rob May 26, 2006 at 8:34 am

The first year is less in-depth than the second: presumably, you’ll not have done any of the finals papers yet, and you haven’t started writing your thesis.

Alena Prazak May 26, 2006 at 5:30 pm

Hf holidays’ the group that we went with to Malta, is staffed by volunteer leaders. You would be wonderful at this job. The people in our group loved you. The holiday fellowship hiking company is based in the UK, but they go all over the worls. This way you could choose a few places after you get trained and get to know Iraland or Scotland for example. They also pay for your transportation and your stay. There is also a hiking group which has many local branches that some of th people in our group talked about, but I cannot remember its name.

Anon May 26, 2006 at 5:42 pm

As someone interested in computer security, I am betting this will amuse you.

Potential clickers, be warned. While funny, it is not entirely in good taste.

Milan May 26, 2006 at 5:46 pm


Thanks for the link, though I also saw it when it appeared on MeFi a moment ago.

To all, links to things I am interested in are definitely encouraged. That said, you can be fairly sure that I am catching anything that comes up on /., MeFi, Boing Boing, The Onion, Savage Love, or The Economist already. Commentary on items from any of those places is welcome, of course.

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