29 September 2013
Charlotte and I had a full day on Sunday. We were both running the Café des Arts table at the Clubs and Societies fair. We would be there for three and a half hours. I arrived at Howlands in time for the free brunch set out. I had reverted to my undergraduate ways in that when there was free food, I showed up promptly. After brunch I headed to Charlotte’s to get ready for the fair.
When I arrived I found Charlotte and her mum and Trish. We had a lovely chat and made plans to celebrate an American Thanksgiving that November. There was no Thanksgiving in England and Charlotte was so curious about what it was.
“Is it like a Christmas dinner?” she asked.
We explained that it kind of was. You have turkey and cranberry sauce and stuffing and vegetables and potatoes and you eat and eat and eat. We eagerly made plans to celebrate on the third Thursday in November. It would be like the first Thanksgiving, but instead of pilgrims and Native Americans, it would be
Americans and Brits.
Charlotte’s mum left to go visit her other daughter in Newcastle. The two of us hunkered down and attempted to print out leaflets and signs for our table. We were foiled though when we ran out of paper. We had managed to at least make some signs which mentioned the activities which we were planning. It was better than nothing. We headed over to Fisher House to set up.
There was already a crowd. We found our table and for three and a half hours we greeted people, collected signatures, and went into our spiel about the Café des Arts. We had met with our leader for the program on Thursday and had set out a bit of an action plan about what kind of programs we were hoping to run. By the end of the afternoon I had that spiel completely memorized and highly practiced.
By the end of the fair, I was tired and hoarse. I helped Charlotte pack up our things and we went back to her flat. We met Trish there and as we were all starving we made a pasta lunch together. I was so unhappy I lived so far from all of the incredible people I had met. I hated that I couldn’t just pop over and have a chat and I hated that I couldn’t offer them my hospitality. There was never any reason for them to be up by my end of town. I had felt this way almost every day of Freshers Week. In fact, that first night after I had met Charlotte, Trish, and Sophie I had filled out a form to transfer to their location. I hoped it would come through.
After our delicious lunch, I headed back to mine. When I arrived back at my flat I went to make myself some sort of rudimentary dinner. It was there that I ran into Laura, another flatmate of mine I had met before. She was studying Paleopathology and I cursed myself for not having the prerequisite science knowledge to pursue something so amazing like that. As our induction was at the same time and place we planned to leave at 7:50 in the morning to catch the bus in good time to be there well before 9:30.
I returned to my room, turned on some more British television, and allowed myself an early night. It would be induction tomorrow, I thought as I lay there. I would finally learn what courses I would be taking and I would meet the other people in my program. Until now I had only met Sophie and she had met only one other person in our program. I couldn’t wait to see who I would be working with all year but I was also nervous. A year was a long time to be with the same people and our program would be small. I began wondering if I was up to the task of completing a graduate degree. As these thought swirled around in my head, I fell into a deep sleep.
30 September 2013
I awoke to a knock at my door. PANIC. It was 7:50 in the morning. That was Laura knocking and I was supposed to be ready to leave. I ran to the door and asked her if she could wait two minutes.
TWO MINUTES? I tore around my room. There was no time to shower. I pulled on an okay outfit, not one I would have chosen had I had time to think. I brushed my teeth, slipped my contacts into my eyes, slapped on some make up, and ran out of my room. I made it to the car park before I realized I had forgotten both Laura and my phone. I ran back upstairs and in a minute I was walking to the bus stop with my flatmate.
I inwardly cursed myself. Why hadn’t my alarm woken me? Had I set it wrong? I look such a mess. How will I impress anyone looking like this? This is the worst thing that could have possible happened!
The bus catapulted us toward the Science Site. I quickly texted Charlotte. We had planned to meet up when we got there so we could find the room together. Laura and I made it to our stop where we changed busses and kept heading on. My heart refused to stop pounding. It was awful.
The bus arrived at our stop and we got off and began walking. We had twenty minutes to find where we needed to be. I was sure that would be the Dawson Building. I knew right where it was. I had been there a few days ago.
“No wait,” said Laura, “We are supposed to be in CM101.”
“Where on earth is that?” I asked. If we were in the Dawson Building it would have said D101. This was CM101, another building entirely. We arrived on the Science Site and desperately looked around, lost. Then I spotted two other girls who looked very much as we did.
“Are you looking for the Archaeology induction”” I asked.
“Yes, we are. We can’t seem to find it,” they replied.
Our pair became a foursome as we tried the next building. Nothing. Then we spotted another three lost souls. They were also looking for CM101. Our four became seven.
“Well,” I said, “if we all can’t find it, they can’t yell at us right?”
A few more joined us before we found where we were supposed to be. The lecture hall was large. Laura and I slid into some seats and saved a group near us for Charlotte, Sophie, Trish, Jess, and everyone else who was coming from Howlands. Two men stood at the front of the hall and looked at us.
“You can tell graduate students from undergrads,” said the younger looking man. “Postgraduates are ten minutes early, undergraduates are ten minutes late.”
We laughed. I relaxed a minute. Even if I did look a right mess, at least I was early. I texted Charlotte to see if they were finding the room alright. Like the rest of us they weren’t. I ran out of the hall to find them. I saw them from a distance and it seemed that they, like us, had picked up a number of stragglers. I escorted the large group to the lecture hall and we all sat and waited.
The first man to speak was the older man. He was from the Career Center. He spoke about ten minutes and in that ten minutes I became anxiety ridden again. Jobs. Employment. Applications. Interviews. I hadn’t even started my course of study and I had to start thinking about employment. I decided to book an appointment with a careers advisor for the next week. It wouldn’t hurt to introduce myself and get some information. I was especially interested in the Durham Award. Many apply but not all receive it. I figured it might look really nice on my CV next to my degree from Durham University.
He finished speaking and then rushed out to make his next talk at another induction. It was time for our Head of Department to give his talk. It was filled with information about who is in charge of what. He talked about how we are assessed and the grading scale which differs from the one in the US. We are all used to thinking 100 is the top. Well in the UK 100 is virtually unachievable. If you score above 80 your piece is considered publishable. 70 and above is excellent. 60 and above is good. 50 and above is a pass. Below 50, well, you don’t want to go there. He also talked about applying to PhD programs.
“You have to start now,” was the basic gist of his statement. Ugh! Careers, PhDs and we haven’t even had one lecture yet! He ended by saying we should take full advantage of all of the seminars, programs, and events the department puts on.
Trish had to hurry of to her course induction. The rest of us had a bit of time before ours. We walked over to the Palatine Center and grabbed some breakfast. I hadn’t eaten a thing all morning and I was sure I looked a complete mess.
Charlotte, Sophie, two new girls, and I headed to the café. It turned out that Katie was in Charlotte’s program, Conservation. The other girl was studying Paleopathology like Laura. We chatted over tea and English breakfasts until Sophie and I had to make our induction.
We headed over to the Dawson building and climbed the red staircase. We found the Birley Room Where Helen was seated checking off names. We were handed a packet and told to go have our photos taken down the hall. Photos! I was unshowered and disheveled. Now we had to have photos taken? I sighed. Well, at least it will be a picture worth a thousand panicked words. Sophie and I headed down the corridor and had our pictures snapped. We arrived back in the Birley Room and had a seat.
Others from our program poured in. There were about twenty of us and we all sat rather quietly. Well almost everyone sat rather quietly. Sophie and I were chattering away about my morning’s misadventure, about not being able to find the room, and about all of the things we had done that week. Helen then mentioned tea and coffee in the common room. Sophie and I looked at each other and got up.
“Oh, should we bring our things?” I asked.
“I can watch those for you.” It was an American accent. I turned and saw a tall, brown curly haired man sitting next to us. He smiled.
“Thanks so much,” I said and headed out for something to wake us both up. The tea was brilliant. Probably not particularly good, but it was what I needed. We took our cups back to the Birley Room and sat back down.
I got to chatting with the American guy who had watched our things. He was from Indiana and arrived on Wednesday. He was also in our college, but I had not seen him before today. The three of us sat talking until a blonde haired man with a goatee entered the room. He smiled kindly and looked at all of us. This was our course director, Robin Skeates. In that moment he reminded me rather of Professor Lupin, kind, soft spoken, but at the same time very sharp.
He spoke to us about the Museum and Artefacts program. He talked about our Easter break work placements, our research papers, and our timetables. Then one by one, we went up to meet with him and go over our course selections. Sophie and I realized this was the perfect time for another cup of tea. When we came back he had gotten through five of the seventeen of us. We continued chatting with the chap from Indiana. Several times he tried to go up for his meeting with Robin, each time someone beat him to it. We began laughing each time it happened until he finally had success.
I was next. I went up and introduced myself. I felt completely at ease with him. I showed him the course modules I had selected and asked about the research paper. We talked a little bit about the program and then I was off to Helen’s office to hand in my registration forms. Sophie went next and afterwards we were free until the archaeology drinks at 6:00pm. We found Charlotte, Trish, and Katie and decided to walk into town. I needed to top up my pay as you go phone and withdraw some more cash.
When I came back out of the store, everyone was talking to a woman I hadn’t met before. It turned out she was an archaeologist as well. I swear we are EVRYWHERE! She was starting her PhD and joy of joys she lived near me. Her name was Sam. We began walking into town as a group but decided to split up around Elvett Bridge. I needed to change and shower and make myself look decent for drinks at six. Sam volunteered to walk back with me. She had to pick her two children up from daycare and school. It was nice to have someone to walk with. Not only that, but Sam had spent some time in America. We chatted about the US as we walked back. We agreed to meet up before the drinks. Sam was lucky enough to have a car. She could drive us down to Howlands and then I could walk up to the drinks at six. She had to be back for her induction at five so I figured I could find people to hang with until then.
It felt amazing to shower and put on proper make up and clothes. I felt truly myself for the first time since arriving when I headed out to meet Sam. She drove us down to Howlands and parked. She had to begin walking immediately so I said I would see her later. I met up with Sophie and we walked down to the Dawson building.
It was packed. I had thought it would only be postgraduates but undergraduates filled the tiny common room. Sophie and I found Trish and Jess and we staked out a corner near a window. Charlotte and Katie found us later and it turned out they would be starting lectures on Wednesday. Apparently their course director, Chris Caple, the same gentleman who had pointed me to Helen’s office a few days before, was keen to get started.
After the wine had run out, the room cleared pretty quickly. We all decided to head back to Howlands where they was to be live music. After a few hours I was ready for bed. This time I caught a taxi home. £8.55 later, the taxi driver let me out at my building. He was a very jolly man who called me “flower.” I got his card in case I ever needed another taxi and headed inside.