Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Miscellaneous Points on Life Thus Far

Life in Cambridge has been rolling, rolling! Miscellaneous observations and comments about life thus far.

- The academic system is much different here than in the States. I have been informed that the differences are only really found in the "Oxbridge" schools (Oxford and Cambridge), not in the other universities and schools in England. Class etiquette is different, for one. No eating or drinking is technically allowed pretty much anywhere that one would like to eat and drink, including the computer labs and lecture rooms. The only real exception to this is the designated "tea room," where the Department of Chemical Engineering provides free tea twice a day: once at about 10:45 and then again around 3:45. The advantage/disadvantage of this "no consumption of sustenance" rule is that students do not slurp coffee during lecture or while coding massive programs in Matlab. Advantage: no potential spills onto floors or computers. Disadvantage (from a student's perspective): students struggle not to fall asleep in lecture and have a more difficult time concentrating on programming. Whether the advantages outweight the disadvantages is a personal opinion, I suppose... Another interesting observation on class etiquette: students do not show up to class on time. One of the main reasons behind this seeming lack of respect is the 10-minute walk from the Department of Engineering to the Department of Chemical Engineering. Although the lectures are supposedly timed with 10 minutes in between sessions, this does not always hold true. For example, here are the instructions all the students received from the department about class start times:

Nominal Start Time : Actual Class Period
9:00 : 9:05-9:55
10:00 : 10:00-10:50
11:00 : 11:10-12:00
12:00 : 12:05-12:55

I believe this is to allow for the tea break that goes around 10:45-11:30 (note the 20-minute break in the lectures from 10:50-11:10). However, the afternoon lectures are not so carefully regulated. One lecturer was supposed to start at 3:00, but he started around 3:07 (for whatever reason), so he went until about 4:03. However, a group of us had another lecture at 4:00 in the other building (10 minutes away) that actually started at 4:10 to accomodate our walk. Even with all that, we were still late. AND missed the tea break, I will have you note...

Bottom line: the whole system is just interesting.

- One of my lecturers has a Scottish accent, so I keep hoping that one of these days he will break into a tangent about dilithium crystals. Hasn't happened yet, but I keep listening...

- The population of Cambridge triples on a Saturday. Apparently, everyone likes to shop on a Saturday - who knew? The city is decently populated but not crazy during the week, but I declare people come crawling out of the woodwork on Saturday! It's like we were a popular city or something...

- I met a new undergraduate student who is studying Theology in order to become a Church of England pastor. He was very interesting to chat with, but his lack of geography knowledge was comical. Our conversation drifted towards the inevitable "where are you from" question, and I gave the standard "oh, upstate NY but did my undergraduate in OK" answer. The conversation went something like this:

Me: "Do you know where Oklahoma is?"

Him: "No, unfortunately not."

Me: "No matter - do you know where Texas is?" I intended to follow up with where Oklahoma is in relation to Texas.

Him: ".................................."

Now, I don't fault people from England for not knowing where OK is (there are quite a few states in America, you know), but usually they are roughly familiar with Texas.

Me: "Do you really not know where Texas is?!"

Him (somewhat bashfully): "No, I guess not..."

I had to laugh and give him a difficult time about it. Eventually I had mercy on him and drew a scribbly map of America to point out Maine, Florida, Texas, California, and Oklahoma. Upon seeing Oklahoma, he exclaimed, "You have UNIVERSITIES out there?!?!", that would be a yes....

The whole situation was very comical, and still makes me chuckle.

1 comment:

  1. "One of my lecturers has a Scottish accent, so I keep hoping that one of these days he will break into a tangent about dilithium crystals."