I firmly believe that my brain has melted, drained out my right ear and made a wretched mess on the living room floor. What I have left is the brain of an infant that is overwhelmingly distracted and entertained by anything that is shiny or makes an interesting noise. What has brought about this non surgical lobotomy? You may be wondering, yeah, me too. No wait, I know this one! I just spent the last few nights buried under dozens of over-sized books attempting, which is an operative word here, to write Scotland’s version of an essay. Back home it’s all about regurgitation according to their system, which is tell them what you are going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them. It always blew me away that this formula was the basis for higher learning, especially since the professor would subtly or outright tell you the side you are arguing. My experience of American University is that 90% of your success is based on how well you could read your professor. Me and my psychology degree enjoyed determining the content of tests by the professors tone, body language, how long he spent on it, or referred to it and so on. Many classes I never even read the book, just the professor. I graduated with honors.
Anyway, no such luck here, the professors lecture at warp speed, conveying one idea after the other with fewer tells than a professional poker player. So, naturally, being the American that I am, when the essay was assigned, since I was unable to deduce it myself, I asked the professor what their opinion was on the essay question. In other words, “What do you want to hear?” She told me that her opinion didn’t matter, I could choose any stance I wanted I just had to support it with research. You would think this would be a relief, that I had the extra freedom to actually think for myself. Take a stance and build a case.
I panicked and pursued the professor further, my terrified mind thinking that maybe she was just hiding her opinion so I wouldn’t get a good grade. I am not paranoid! People really are out to destroy my GPA. I clearly had to work harder to get the information needed. So I drew myself up and squeaked, “but don’t you have a direction you are leaning? Maybe just a single finding that makes the one side most logical?” I was staring at my shoes because I knew this was a poor course of action. I knew I looked foolish and I really didn’t want to see the volley of expressions from frustration to confusion to pity to annoyance and finally to surrender cross her face. “Look,” she said, then waited for me to look at her. “Your grade will not be affected at all by whether or not I agree with you. You will be graded on how effective your argument is and how well you support that argument. So, hit the library, do the research, make an educated decision and support it well. My opinion on the subject could very well be swayed by your argument, or maybe not. Whatever the case, it will not figure into my grading. I promise.” I looked down, feeling my cheeks and ears redden. A stern talking to in a Scottish accent may sound prettier, but the final effect is the same. I tucked tail and ran.
Properly scolded, I went to the library of the gods and checked out a small army worth of research books. The walk home was a careful balancing act so my back pack didn’t pull me over backward. For days I did nothing but read book after book, pulling out quotes and concepts that supported my, AAHHH, opinion. Then I spent more days trying to pull it all into a coherent argument. I’m still not sure as to whether I successfully crafted a UK worthy essay, but that is the hardest I have ever worked for school, period. With a train of tears, frustration, and several rewrites, I felt my sweat and blood would show through even if I completely failed to meet their expectations. I met my expectations and beyond. Besides if I did get a bad grade I knew that tissues and alcohol were easy to come by in this country.
My head is still throbbing and that was only the first! I can’t imagine how I’m going to survive one or two of those for each class. Instead of contemplating that thought I occupied my mind with observations of the strange world of the University itself. Right off the bat, they don’t use “the” in front many nouns that we do. For instance, it is not the university as I just said, it is simply university, same with hospital. It sounds odd at first, but now I’m convinced it makes more sense, we don’t need the word “the” as much as we think we do. I believe it is a codependent relationship we should address. But no one cares what I think, they think I belong in hospital with nice white coat that encourages self comfort, or as I like to call it the “hug me” jacket.
The one thing that has really baffled me about University is that I have history mostly and psychology, but I did brave one biology class. Now the strange thing is
sciences, to my experience, is the harder more serious subject which attracts the scholarly types. You know; glasses, combed hair and gelled hair so not a speck is out of space, pocket protectors, and in America, all the latest tech. Not here, oh no, rather this is the only class where the number of facial piercings are greater than the number of students. Lots of facial hair, long hair on men (which I haven’t seen much of at all), torn clothing, that looming smell of pot…er, special cigarettes. Really backwards, now I really kinda wonder what the medical system is like since these are the people that populate that occupation. Free piercing with every shot? Options for a tattoo while you have surgery? Hey, I’d be down with that.
As far as the content of my education here is concerned, most of it is normalish, the truly odd thing I learned was in Women and Gender relations where I discovered a little bit of history on hysteria. It comes from a Greek word meaning wandering womb. Yep, you read that right, apparently 200 years ago the things took coffee breaks every once in a while or hit a pub. But I digress, they actually believed that the womb did not necessarily reside in the body, rather it up and left at times. Naturally, leaving the women with such nasty ailments as freethinking, incessant talking, having an opinion, asking questions, and, of course, that whole fainting thing (which naturally had nothing to do with the corset). Now, whenever I hear the word I have this picture of an ill formed version of Slimer from the
Ghost Busters following the woman around. The word will never be the same and now I have shared the image so when that smirk crawls across my face when someone says it you will get the joke.
Less entertaining, but equally interesting facts (I thought) is that the Torc was a Celt defining piece of jewellery. Did that follow? What I mean is that in writings and pictures from 600bc to 200ad a Celt was identified by that piece of apparel. Along the same lines it was the Celts who invented chain mail in 600bc. I also found out that my Celtic Civilizations professor is from the Bronx. I didn’t even know he was American! I knew his accent was off, he sounded Scottish…sort of. A mix of Bronx and Glaswegian, I can’t even begin to comprehend much less explain. After all that essay carnage he was the one that finally broke my brain.