Random Musings and Updates

Hello everyone!  I realize it has been quite some time since my last blog post.  The weather here in the UK has taken a turn for the wonderful, with lots of warm sunny days.  Meanwhile, my work has skyrocketed over the past two weeks with German and Egyptology tutorials, as well as an extended essay project that I am working on for Assyriology.  For grad school applications, I discovered that many schools would like a 15-20 page writing sample.  Not having anything approaching that length to submit, I approached my tutor about whether we could work together to craft an essay that would be suitable.  He wholeheartedly agreed, and for the past week I’ve started researching for an 8,000 word essay on the development of kingship in Mesopotamia from Early Dynastic times (3000 BCE) through to the end of the Neo-Babylonian Period (ca. 536 BCE).

As my tutor and I discussed our plans for the essay, it once again struck me how fortunate I have been to be able to study here at Oxford, especially as a visiting student.  The flexibility I’ve been granted here is nothing short of amazing.  Time and time again, I’ve been able to approach my tutors and the director of visiting students here at St. Catz about my interests, and they’ve always found ways to accommodate what I would like to do.  Not once has one of them told me that it was impossible or that I should perhaps reconsider what I want to do.  As a result, this year I have had the opportunity to follow my interests wherever they may lead, which has made me more certain than ever that I would like to pursue a career in academia focusing on the ancient Near East.  The more I study, the more I discover that I want to explore.  Although the work here is harder than anything I’ve done academically before, I’m never bored.  Quite the contrary, I find myself in a state of near-perpetual fascination with my studies.

As the weather here constantly improves, I am reminded again and again of what a beautiful city Oxford is.  The honey-colored limestone gleams in the sunlight, and the “dreaming spires” stand out starkly against the clear blue sky (well, except for today, which has been rather rainy).  Even more stunning is walking through Oxford in the evening, watching the stone slowly turn a rosy pink from the light of the setting sun.  With barely a month of my study abroad remaining, I can feel these moments of beauty becoming more and more dear to me, and I know that Oxford, the city and the university, will always hold a special place in my heart.

Trinity Term

Term has officially started and the work is already piling up.  Trinity term is shaping up to be the most strenuous of my terms here in Oxford.  This term, I am continuing to study Egyptology and Assyriology, as well as starting a new series of German tutorials.  All together, they add up to 16 tutorials over the next 8 weeks; thankfully, at least I don’t have any exams.  I will definitely have to work hard this term and will be pushing my limits.

That is not to say that I will be completely cocooning myself up in my room for the next two months.  The weather has taken a turn for the better, with more sunny days and less rain (knock on wood).  A few friends and I have decided to try to get in better shape this term by eating better and exercising 6 days a week, particularly by going for lots of runs.  We are hoping to take several weekend trips around the UK as well to places such as Blenheim Palace (childhood home of Winston Churchill) and the beaches of Brighton.  We’re also planning a day to make it to the Viking exhibit in the British Museum, a huge temporary exhibit that even includes a genuine Viking ship that was shipped (pun intended) piece by piece from Denmark and reassembled in the exhibition space.

We have plenty of plans for frivolity around Oxford as well, of course.  Just last week was May Day, which takes place every year on the first day of May.  Many stay up all through the night partying til 6am, when they are joined by the less nocturnal crowd (myself among them) at Magdalene Bridge next to Magdalene College to listen to the college choir sing 16th Century madrigals from the college bell tower.  From there, the crowds depart for a hearty pub breakfast and some entertainment, particularly by Morris dancers, who dress up in period costume, complete with bells and colored scarves, as they have from at least the 15th Century.  May Day originally marked the first day of summer (thus making June 21, the summer solstice, Midsummer’s Day), and continues to mark the start of good weather, with all the picnicking and punting that that entails.  Trinity term will be a lot of hard work, but also a lot of fun.  Oxford has truly saved the best for last.