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Round Two January 27, 2009

Posted by dolorosa12 in university.
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I’ve been meaning to write an update here for a while, but Lent Term has tied me screaming to the railway tracks and then proceeded to run me over with the force of a train (and caused me to make silly metaphors, too) and I’ve spent the past few weeks feeling utterly exhausted.

Things have been carrying on nicely, however. I felt like I finished Michaelmas Term on a high note. I was pleased with how my Review of Scholarship turned out, and my supervisor was very happy with how I’d worked, and life was good. I then proceeded to have the most unproductive Christmas holidays ever. I had fun, though.

I spent Christmas with Middleton relatives I’d never met before, in Southport (which is near Liverpool). I only stayed for four days, but I had an excellent time. My relatives were lovely, and so welcoming to the Australian stranger in their midst. On Christmas Day, Mum and Mim rang me, and I surprised us all by not falling to pieces. (As Mimi said incredulously to Mum afterwards, ‘I can’t believe Ronni didn’t start crying’.)

I was back in Cambridge for New Year’s Eve, which I spent at the house of one of my M.Phil friends. We played poker with her housemates, ate excellent food and drank mead. It was a very low-key New Year’s, but was exactly how I like to celebrate it. I’d much prefer a small gathering with good food, where I can talk properly to everyone, than a large party filled with inane small-talk.

The rest of the holidays rushed by in a blur of fantasy novels and streamings of Supernatural and Battlestar Galactica. Suddenly it was time for term to start.

That was a bit of a shock. Suddenly I realised that I had eight weeks before my exams. Let me point out something here. I loathe exams. I haven’t taken one since 2004. I don’t normally go too badly in them, but I always survive due to my memory, rather than any actual understanding of the work. In my second-year Old Irish exam, rather than learning any of the grammar, I memorised an entire Táin story, so that when I got to the exam, I simply had to scroll through my mental map of the story to the appropriate part, and spew out my memory onto the page. For my IB biology exam, I memorised the entire syllabus in one night. Can I tell you anything about biology? No.

On Wednesday last week, I was hysterical. Whoever was in the common room at 1pm was treated to the return of PanicRonni. At one point I was so distressed I had to leave the room and take several deep breaths in the kitchen to avoid crying. I’ve calmed down a bit now (mainly because I started revising and realised I actually do know some things about the grammar of medieval Irish and Latin) but I wasn’t very pleasant to be around last week.

I suppose it’s karma. Last term, I was dancing around, carrying on about how much fun I was finding writing the Review of Scholarship. Everyone else glared at me and muttered inarticulately about the lack of resources for their particular subject. Now, all these exam-conditioned Cambridge people are calm, while the Australian interloper freaks out.

Life is going well, though. I’m still inordinately pleased to be here, and still can’t believe it, at times. There’s a surreal element to my Cambridge existence.

This year, the university turned 800. Yes, that’s right, 800. My university is older than my country by a good 550 years. As part of the celebration, a series of images supposedly summarising the university’s many achievements were projected onto the walls of the Senate House. These included very wonderful Quentin Blake illustrations portraying Darwin riding on the back of a Galapagos Island tortoise, and apples falling onto Newton’s head. But the coolest moment came when a photo of Stephen Hawking appeared on the wall, and I looked around to see Hawking himself, watching the display. No matter how long I stay here, I will never get used to such surreal moments.

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