Yesterday I began the topic of explaining about my new home: an English university. Speaking now, I’ve been living at uni for a whole week, experiencing this new kind of life.
As you may well know, we have terms instead of semesters and it is likely that the dates are different. Autumn, ‘Michaelmas’ term is October to December; Spring, ‘Hilary’ term is January to April; Summer, ‘Trinity’ term is April/March to June/July.
But these are typical of most British universities. What is unique to me? The flowing red brick and emerald ripples of the quad, and, in a separate thought, the curving caress of the road on which I live and where I can entered a softer part of the university. Yesterday, I also saw some of the fascinating town and the more remote parts of the campus, green fields of jolly England.
You may recall me ranting lyrical yesterday about my new home, but Wantage Hall is a place beyond its mere architecture and ideas: it’s also a place of people and of living rather than existing. Yeah, I’m talking about our bar. 😉
Or rather – our Baa. Why is it named a sheep-call? Because, according to legend and Wikipedia, old Wantagians used to let sheep onto the quad at the end of the academic year – black sheep, indeed!
This is one of the traditions of the hall, alongside its notoriety for wonderful formal dinners and not walking on the grass. These things, unlike the sheep, are fact and things to which we are exposed, although not all the time. We have two pool tables in the Baa, along with a foosball table and an electronic pub-quiz machine. Yes.
As you can see above, we live compact in our hall’s corridor(s). No spaces exist between the rooms (that would be flawed architecture) and my neighbour-across-the-way is a metre-stick length across the corridor. I’m in the top storey, but the two flights do not bother me and the view of the rest of the building is nice. However, the rooms themselves are bigger than I definitely expected. One, the modern student, could argue that not having an en-suite is a bad idea; everybody wants the privacy of their own bathroom, but, in the end, is it really worth it?
I’m not sure about the system in other countries, but a lot of other universities have rooms with no en-suite. Mine has a useful washbasin, and the rooms on the arms of the C-shape of New Court do not, but they are just as big. These rooms are not defined by their possession or absences of items, nor, of course, by their space. If we’re being true to life, they’re defined by those living beyond the doorways.
Enough specifics. I’m not sure what else there is to say about my hall for this evening.
Often the question asked around campus – or at society meetings – is actually ‘are you a first year?’, but the term ‘freshman’ has been used around campus for those of us (the majority being 18 or 19 years old) just starting university. They don’t call our first, or welcome, week ‘Fresher’s Week’ for nothing.
I suspect, however, that this British term has been stolen from the Americans. I find it odd to hear that pupils in US schools bear the terms along with ‘freshmen’ on their way to finishing school. We just call those years by various numeracies.
On the other hand, maybe the tradition has been stolen; at uni, we don’t address first years as freshmen in general, and we never call the second, third (or fourth if it comes to that) years sophomores and juniors, respectively.
To make the situation more confusing, some secondary (high) schools use the system of first to fifth or seventh years – think Harry Potter.