Everybody lied to me, guys. For years, I had heard about how going abroad was supposed to be an easy GPA boost, no work and partying every night. Problem is, I’m here in Oxford and I’ve probably done more work in four weeks than a usual quarter back on the Farm. A wise, wise man once wrote, “Nobody said it was easy, no one ever said it would be this hard.” I think that certainly holds true in this case.
Between all of my commitments, I’m supposed to write 3,000 words every week. If you think that 3,000 words doesn’t sound too bad, try to fill up 15 pages in Microsoft Word every week while reading two or three books and trying to travel a little bit on the weekends. It’s kind of nuts. I almost forgot that I had to write a column this week because of my pressing academic work — but don’t fear: I’m still here. I think the biggest slap in the face is that I’m only getting 13 units from this quarter. Seriously? Somehow, Stanford deems a tutorial that requires you to write 2,500 words a week as only worthy of six units. Honestly, the writing I’ll do for my tutorial alone probably equals the amount of writing I’d do in a full quarter at Stanford.
Oh, and then, the worst is that I have to hear about all of my friends in other Bing programs who are doing almost zero work. Somehow writing a story in Spanish is somehow equal to my 12 pages on why the English school of international relations differs from constructivism. Some of my friends are actually taking more units than I am and going out six nights a week! So all of you who are in Madrid or Paris or Berlin, live it up while you can.
I’m writing 3,000 words a week. I’m being run academically ragged. My average bedtime has probably shifted toward 4 a.m., and I pull an average of one all-nighter a week. But here’s the weird thing: I love it. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more academically stimulated in my life. I’m obviously partial to the American way of teaching, but the tutorial system is an absolutely brilliant invention. There have of course been times back at Stanford where I would blow off my reading and have to bullshit my way through section, but there’s no possible way of doing that in a tutorial here. (Note to self: ask Oxford students if bullshitting a tutorial paper is actually possible.) You’re actually forced to sit down, read a few books, formulate a worthwhile argument and then defend it in a one-on-one setting. Furthermore, I’m studying the exact topic I wanted to focus on: post-Cold War international relations. My tutorial is nothing more and nothing less. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever done before and it’s incredibly refreshing.
There’s also a certain amount of camaraderie here in the Oxford program inherent with so much work being constantly due. When everyone around you is in the same boat of being absolutely overwhelmed with work, you learn to develop sympathy for others and make friends pretty quickly.
Honestly, I think certain classes back at Stanford could benefit a lot from a system like this. I feel like I’ve learned more about international relations in two weeks than I did in an entire quarter of Political Science 1. For the record, that’s not a condemnation or disparagement of our teaching resources or classes back at Stanford. Rather, it’s simply a product of a completely new learning experience in an almost surreal environment. The academic component here has just been fantastic.
So again, all of you previously mentioned Bing folks spread around Europe, enjoy your wild nights while they last. I’m sure papers are going to terrify you when you finally get back to campus in the fall. While you have a questionably-fueled night at a rave in the Marais, I’m forced to deal with a Red Bull-fueled night in Magdalen College Library to write about democratic peace theory. (And here’s the best part: I still get to party, too!) Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
You can email Shane at email@example.com, but any response would increase his weekly word count. Do you really want to do that to him?