Thursday, September 25, 2008

You Want Me To Read WHAT?

Well, I've done it-I've officially signed up for my courses. No turning back now-looks like I'm stuck in it for the long haul. In the end, I signed up for Medieval Manuscipts and Documents, Internediate Latin (ACK!), and Cloisters to Classroom, which is basically a study of how the first universities were formed and how they dealt with the problem of studying theology and secular academia at the same time. Should be pretty cool. I'm also auditing an undergraduate class in archeology, since the graduate level one was cancelled. Another guy from my course is doing the same, so that should make it more fun.

Now, I realize that graduate school will be harder than undergrad. Obviously, this is how it should be. Not only am I at a much higher academic level, but I'm also going to a much better school (not that I won't always have a fondness in my heart for UM, particularly the on-campus frat parties to which I was so partial). I expected a lot of independent learning, extra recommended reading, private study in the library, etc.

What I did not expect was to receive the syllabus for just one of my courses and find attached to it a full 7-page bibliography. Not 7 books, not 7 subjects with a few books each, 7 pages. 12-point, single spaced pages. Of books. Which I am expected to read.

Oh. My. God. I wonder if I should just commence the suicide attempts now. But unfortunately, my refund cheques haven't arrived yet from the school, so right now I can't even afford a bag of crisps, much less a razor blade. Damn. I guess I'll have to stay the suicide attempts until I can afford to purchase a length of rope or the like. I feel like I'm going through freshmen hell week, when you try to join a sorority but all they do is haze you. My terror has now increased 10-fold.

However, it's not all bad and horrifying. I know a lot of grad students who are treated like vermon, and told repeatedly that they are academically worthless until they prove otherwise. This does not appear to be the case at UCL. First off, all of my professors insist on us calling them by their first names. Secondly, they refer to us as "colleagues", not students, which is weird, but nice. Thirdly, we've already had 2 departmental welcome parties, and both involved a lot of free wine, which the professors drank freely alongside us while discussing things having nothing to do with academia. That bodes well for this year; they treat us as equals, which seems to be a rare find in postgraduate programmes.

As there are only 11 of us in my degree programme, it's very personal. David, my dissertation advisor, arranged for us all to go on a free trip to the Tower of London, where we got to go into the private research offices and handle 17th century letters and archives. Also, we got to try on an original suit of armour from the 16th century. Bad. Freakin'. Ass. After the tour, he gave us £40 to go out to a pub together and get drunk, simply because "it would be sociable to go out and get drunk together before the term starts". Which we did. And it was fabulous. I really like everyone else in my programme, which is good as we're going to be stuck together without escape for the next year. And they all seem to be as petrified as I am. Well, except for the Princeton guy, who's just an anomoly.

Wish me luck.


Mary Beth said...

Hey Colleen!

Are you sure they want you to read all of the books in their entirety? B/c (and I know this isn't on the same level at all) when I studied abroad in England last summer, they'd give like a 2 page biblio for a 4 week course, and they basically just wanted us to get some of them and read parts of them. Maybe its not as bad as you think?


Jake Kim said...

We always have nice tall UCL Hospital building for jumpers, the Thames for divers. But here's your suicide hotline: 0793 1546 822 and ask for Mr. Kim. It may not be a 1-800 toll free number, but it will very likely save your life.

Colleen said...

Haha, about time you finally got around to getting a phone. :)