A Day in the Life: Research Day

IMG_2594 Hello, world!

I think at home my friends and family often to tend to wonder what it is that I do at Oxford. By the looks of my Instagram account, it appears that I spend my days in states of contrast, varying sharply between a general reverie over all things Oxford, English, and Atumnal, and feverishly stewing my brain over fat books till it turns to intellectual oatmeal. Incidentally, I think that really about sums up my life here, but to indulge any further curiosities and my own whimsical mood, I have recorded below a day in the life of an Oxford student.

A Day in the life of an Oxford Student: Research Day

7:00 AM: A steady, growing beeping noise enters into the land of your dreams where Pope urban discusses with Richard Dawkins if science really is at war with religion (you really have been reading too much.) As the beeping grows more distinct, you find yourself groggily coming to grips with reality. You are groggy due to your late night last night which you spent A) writing a paper that is due at 10 (Oh no!... I need to edit that paper) B)Having  the sorts of deep theological/ridiculous conversations that only occur after 1:00 AM with your floormates C)Watching episodes of Sherlock (because, you deserve a break, yeah?! Yeah!) D) Writing a blog post, because 2 2,000 word essays a week is not enough, and you just wanted to wring you brain a little more dry. Either way, the past is past, and you need to go to the Library and get out those books before your lecture at 10. It is time to greet the world.

7:56: After an epic war of mind over matter, you finally managed to make yourself get out of bed and assemble a presentable appearance for the day ahead. You congratulate yourself for making it out of your room before 8:00 AM. This is going to be a productive day. So productive, I think you deserve to make eggs for breakfast instead of a bowl of cereal. It won’t put you behind that much!

9:20: Okay, so eggs took a while. Eh! I’ll just save the library till after the lecture. It’s fine. As my friend John says, I’ve got oceans of time.

9:48: You are now walking to your lecture through the university parks AKA the wonderland of fall and Oxford. You can’t believe you live here. You triumphantly crunch a perfectly goldened leaf under your foot. You breath in the autumn air, as crisp and reviving as an apple. You smile at the old man with the umbrella (why does he have an umbrella? it’s sunshiny!) who is walking his dog. What a day! What a world! What a life!

9:57: It begins pouring rain.

10:04: Your walk was slightly dampened (pun intended) by the rain, but you are unbeatable, and this is your favorite lecture: Beowulf! The professor (who holds the same position as Tolkien) opens by reading a fitte of a poem in old English, which sounds like a language Gimli would speak. The LOTR nerd in you rejoices, and you draw a heart in the margins of your notes. The lecture is full of references to dragons, duels, pre-Christian England, and friendly jabs at Tolkien’s translations (did I mention the professor holds the same position that Tolkien once held at Oxford?). You get caught up in the story and ruminate on the deep impact the arrival of Christianity had on England. Hmm.

11: 42: The lecture was so wonderful you just had to discuss it with your friends and the other students afterwards (this will help with ideas for your paper right? Collaboration? You also want to hear the Scottish girls say “dragon” just one more time). You look at your phone and realise its almost noon and you still haven’t retrieved the books for your paper. Ah, well. Almost noon. You’ll eat first; a woman has got to eat, hasn’t she?

1:11: You have eaten and are finally in the library. You’ve written down the call numbers for all your books. You start on the ground floor, where you easily retrieve your first two books, and generally feel like a pro. The Bodleian is a maze, but you are the master. Now for the Gladstone lower link... you descend into the abyss of the basement of the Bodleian through not one, but two ominous stairwells. In the basement you find your particular shelf and begin to role away the others to get to it (these shelves are all one tracks to consolidate space, you see). You go down the long corridor of books, and as you do so, someone starts to role the other shelf, enclosing you in between rows of metals shelves. You suddenly panic... what if you get locked in? Crushed by the shelves? You contemplate whether it would be better to cry out, breaking the eternal silence of the library, risking the wrath of the librarians, or be crushed. You can’t decide, but luckily the shelf stops rolling. All is well.

2:15: That took longer than you thought, but you finally have your books! Time to frantically read until your lecture at 4:30.

2:22: You are settled in a corner at a tea shop, a whole pot of tea heartening your strength. Let it begin.

4:27: Two hours later you have successfully read/skimmed a source, extricated 24 quotations (22 of which you won’t use), and posted a photo on Instagram. Lecture time.

4:31: You are now in your lecture. This lecturer is not quite as compelling, and prefers reading off the page for the entirety of his 55 minutes session. This gives you ample time to contemplate (read: become anxious) about how much you have to research for this paper. You ponder whether it will be practical to try to read while you are walking home. The lecturer just said something which sounded important. You write it down.

6:25: After the lecture you walked home at almost superhuman speeds and settled down in an abandoned corner of the common room to feverishly make up for lost time in your reading. It is now dinner time, and you promised yourself you would leave early, but as you walk in the kitchen full of rich smells and laughing faces, you realize these people are a gift, and you shouldn’t rush. You each your fill, you share the moments of your day, you ask what they thought of that one lecturer’s fascinating claim, you laugh and nod with your fellow dine-ers. What a wonderful thing it is to be a human, and to interact with other humans.

7:45: You are not seated in the common room with the same people you sat with at dinner, except now laughing faces have been turned sombre as the night of research looms ahead. Almost 12 hours ago you were congratulating yourself on efficiency, and you are now gazing at a pile of untouched books to read for your paper, making a pact with yourself that it will not be so again. With the resolve of a mouse intent on consuming a whole wheel of cheese, you open your first book and dive in.

11:46: You shut the book, and wave goodbye to the faithful few with their noses still buried in fat books. The night flew by, but you did make progress. As you patter about your room, ticking off your nightly rituals you contemplate your day, the beauty you encountered, the stories you engaged with, the food you tasted, the leaves you crunched, the people you laughed with, the ideas you wrestled with. What an un-ordinary life it is you are getting to live for a while. You wonder how it will help you live your life when you return. As you wearily crawl under the covers, you pray and thank God for the special time he has allowed in this beautiful and strange place called Oxford. As you close your eyes, you smirk to yourself and tell yourself emphatically that tomorrow you will be productive. But as you drift off to sleep, your mind seems to brook a rebuttal: perhaps after all this, the growth truly isn’t in the productivity after all, it’s in the process... and what a wonderful process it is.