Thursday, 22 May 2014

There's no place like...


I'm finally back in Norway after what felt like the longest flight ever (2 hours) accompanied by too much luggage, combined with excitement, happiness and a growing concern of something I know I forgot to do before I left. I still haven't been able to work out what that might be. Although I truly love Oxford, Brookes, and the student life, I'm not going to lie; it feels wonderful to be back. Two days after I got back home it was the Norwegian National Day and it was also the Norwegian constitution's 200 years anniversary so it was extra special this year. It's actually the worlds second oldest constitution, only "beaten" by the American one. 


As a student you don't have an awful lot of money, and to be able to survive you have to make some decisions such as not buying the most expensive bread or settle for the second (or fourth) best meat. When I came home, opened the fridge and saw so many things I've been craving for many months my heart was filled with joy. Sounds silly but to me my mum's fridge looks like a luxurious fridge containing delicious cheese, the best orange juice, and yoghurt. And tasty bread not falling apart on the plate when trying to eat it.

Another awesome part of being home is the fact that my dirty dishes magically disappear into the dishwasher and back to the cupboards. And the same with my laundry. Wonderful! And it also feels good not to worry about the electricity prices and planning when to charge my phone as the price usually is much lower at night. I can charge my phone whenever I want to! Student life is pretty much about saving as much money as possible on stuff you don't want to use too much money on, such as utility bills, so you can spend as much money as you want on fun stuff. I think I can get used to my parents taking care of me for some months. Especially the dinner making and grocery shopping. I don't have to plan my weekly grocery shopping for four months! It's just all these little things that make it extra awesome to be home for the summer, and just makes you appreciate things much more. Such as charging you phone. In the middle of the day. 

It has been such an amazing year, and I'm truly thankful for all the experiences and people I've met. My English skills are beyond what I imagined them to be, and I'm now for the first time in my life reading a quite long English crime novel without having to look up every other word, totally missing the author's point.As life in general it has been ups and downs, but all in all it has been a good year. The workload has been almost the same as in Norway except for the fact that a semester in Norway usually is five months vs 3-4 at Brookes, making it more intense, but I kind of like it. And when the summer holiday is four months long I don't mind working my ass off. The last month of this semester was a long, exhausting month with two exams in one day, one of them happening to be the one I felt most nervous about. But I think I did fine, I'll just have to wait and see. 

As of now I'm working hard on my tan after living in a country where the sun rarely shines. I have never been this pale in May, so I have a job to do! I have a couple of weeks left before my summer job starts, and I'm enjoying every second of it. 

To those of you still preparing for exams: my deepest heartfelt sympathy goes out to all of you, but now I'm going to enjoy an ice cream in the sun, not worrying about anything in the world. Except for my exam results. And whatever I forgot to do before I left. 

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Deal or no deal

Sometimes I really don't know what I should write about on this blog. The reason Brookes decided to let some of us be Brookes' bloggers was because many, including my self, wished someone from the inside could tell them what it's really like. To have someone with first-hand experience, being able to tell the truth. Someone that has been through the application process, arrivals weekend, first day, freshers week etc. Freshers' week is really fun by the way, even though it turned out to be the most exhausting week of the whole semester, and resulting in probably 60% of all first year students coughing for several weeks. I will have to tell you more about that another time, when we're getting closer to semester start. The whole truth thing can sometimes be a little tricky.  One the one hand I really like Brookes and appreciate what I've been able to experience so far. But on the other hand it's easy to make it sound like a cheesy advertisement, and that's something I try to avoid. It's always advantages and disadvantages about every university or college. Anyway, as long as someone keeps reading this and appreciate my posts, I'll just continue writing what I believe is useful stuff, and what I wish I knew beforehand.

One thing I wish I knew before I started was what Brookes really can offer me. I remember receiving a lot of e-mails from the universities I received offers from about what they could offer me, why I should choose them, and a lot of that information just didn't make any sense. Of course they're not going to write about old campuses needing work done, or some slightly boring professors just doing they're thing. And the same goes for Brookes. On Brookes' website you can find several reasons why you should choose Brookes. And they are good reasons, but it's not what you want to hear is it? You probably already know that Oxford is a beautiful city, that Brookes is internationally recognised for high quality teaching and research, and that a Brookes degree is respected by employers. You want to hear what it's really like on the inside, don't you? 

So here it goes. 

You have probably understood that Brookes has different campuses spread all over Oxford. Gipsy Lane is the main campus, where I have all my lectures, and this is also where the new building is. I would say that this is the prettiest campus, especially with the new building (still love it), but according to a YouTube video I saw yesterday, the other campuses will receive some upgrading as well. If you have read David's post about Wheatley campus you'll understand that it's not a campus most Brookes students favour. It's old and grey, with a small library, but if you live nearby you benefit from the fact that you're able to study there because of the lack of students actually being in the library. The new library on Gipsy Lane is noisy sometimes, and the quiet zones are anything but now before exams. But it also is light and airy, and prior to the exam period it's usually quiet. 

As with anywhere else, Brookes' staff varies from young and newly educated to old and experienced. They all have different teaching styles, and I think it's quite subjective what you like. I prefere the over enthusiastic ones, who walk up and down the stairs in the lecture theatre, waving so much with their arms that bracelets and watches fly across the room. There's no way you're able to sleep during those lectures. I think it also depends on the module and whether you like it or not. This semester I've had my last sociology module. I'm not particularly fond of sociology, never have been and probably never will be. However, we had two really great teachers, both being enthusiastic about what they talked about, and it sure does help on the motivation for attending lectures and seminars.

As you can read on Brookes' website, there are students from 120 different countries, and 20% of all studentst are from outside the UK. That means that you have an incredible opportunity to build a network of people from all over the globe. Before I moved to Oxford I had only Norwegian friends. I now have friends from the UK, USA, Canada, Mexico, Turkey, Japan, South Korea, Finland, China, and Germany, just to mention some of them. UK students proved to be the hardest to become friends with (no offence). Of course this isn't the case for everyone, but they can be tricky people. Once you get to know them they're really nice though, it just takes some time. You get to expand your horizon with all these different people, learn about new cultures and customs, and you're all united by being at the same place. This is what makes Brookes a great place to be, it doesn't matter where you're from. It's kind of like getting a new family. And it makes Brookes so much more vibrant.

At many universities in Norway there are certain subjects you don't speak about, criticise or mention in a critical manner. There is freedom of speech, don't get me wrong, but there is at the same time some controversial topics many believes is better untouched. That includes topics like China. We're so incredibly afraid of pisising them off, that you simply don't write anything bad about them, especially if you're hoping to get a visa some day. At Brookes I was surprised that these things actually were discussed and critically written about. I thought I was taking a huge risk when I wrote a quite critical essay about Thatcher during the Falklands War, but that turned out to be just fine. It's room for differences of opinion, but at the same time, if you're going to say something controversial during a lecture, you better have your arguments prepared. Not only will you be asked to elaborate by the lecturer, fellow students will probably have counter arguments. But it's done in a respective manner.

I could also mention all the student led Facebook pages containing pictures, embarrassing stories and confessions from students, but I think I will leave it up to you to find them yourselves. All I'm going to say is that they're pretty hilarious.

As of now, I'm in the middle of my exam period, with two exams on the same day and the last one a week after. The semesters are pretty intense as they last for 3-4 months, and the risk of getting behind is high if you don't do what you're supposed to do. So you better plan your days and make sure you have done all your reading before revision starts. Most of the modules are assessed by essays and exams, but my politics exam this semester is 100% examination, so you have to do good on the exam in order to get a good grade. I can only speak for my self, but revision is the worst aspect of studying. It becomes indifferent which day it is or what time of the day, and your hand aches from all the writing. All I dream about these days is the feeling I get when I hand in my exam answer at 3.30 pm on the 13th May, walking out of the examination room without a slightest worry in the world. At least until the next day when I start worrying about whether I remembered all the theories or not. And the results, not being published until late June.

And of course, in the middle of my revision, my MacBook decided to stop working, so now I'm depending on my iPad. It makes it a little bit harder, but it's not many days left until I'm done, so I'll manage. Please excuse the lack of pictures, it proved hard to upload them, but I'll be back stronger next time. And hopefully with a new, functioning MacBook! 

Good luck with revision to those of you preparing for exams, and for those who don't: enjoy your silence before the storm.