Danielle Pierson




United States





By Danielle Pierson

Michaelmas Weeks 1-2

With only two weeks of classes under my belt, I already feel like an Oxonian – which is conveniently defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as meaning both “a student of the University of Oxford” and a “resident of Oxford”. On the Saturday of Week 1 (all the weeks are numbered here – more on jargon below), I officially became a student of the University through Matriculation. For 800 years, students at Oxford University have been matriculated using the same traditions. We wear sub-fusc (think Harry Potter gowns) and process 2×2 from our college through the streets of Oxford to the Sheldonian Theater, where the Vice Chancellor (aka university president) reads a Latin script. While I was slightly annoyed to find out about the procession after arriving at college in heels, my frustration quickly turned to excitement at the thought of participating in this 800 year old tradition to become an official student of the University of Oxford. Tourists snapped pictures of us as we approached the Sheldonian and we equally tried to capture the memory through photographs. The Vice Chancellor’s speech put words to our excitement: “Today you become something which you were not before: students of the University of Oxford!”

In true Oxford student fashion, I quickly adopted the Uni’s jargon. The three academic terms here are referred to as Michaelmas (Oct-Dec), Hilary (Jan-Mar), and Trinity (Apr-Jun). Each week of the term is numbered, and we refer to activities and classes by referencing the week in which they happen (e.g. a Week 3 debate). All University of Oxford students are also members of a college – again, think of Hogwarts’ houses. At college, we have a pigeon hole, or pidge, where mail is delivered, and we attend Formal Hall, a semi-formal dinner with more Latin speeches, held weekly. The jargon seemed strange at first, but quickly became engrained into my normal vocabulary.

Also like a resident, I know the layout of the city well enough to drive without SatNav (GPS) and bike confidently anywhere in the city – even with my daughter on the bike. We’ve already endured cycling through rain for 2 straight weeks and cycling in the dark. My daughter loves her new “open air” ride, often chiding me for not going as fast as the cars.

After the MBA Launch, a 3-week orientation, classes started with a bang. The workload quickly escalated as I scrambled to figure out what assignments were due when. By the end of the week, the chaos settled a bit. I jotted out my schedule and the assignments for the following week and felt I had a handle on things once again. I used the weekend to get ahead on Monday’s and Tuesday’s assignments, freeing up some time in the weekday evenings for elusive sleep.

With the exception of Matriculation, my favorite memory from the past two weeks was sitting on the steps of the Martyrs Memorial in the city centre with my daughter eating a kebab from the local sidewalk vendor. Despite only being 6:30pm, it was dark and the tourists were in their hotels. Commuters were making their way home and students headed to their chosen event for the evening. It reminded me of living in Salzburg, Austria almost 10 years ago, but this time I got to share the moment with my daughter and wonder how many more amazing things will happen in our lives together and in her independent life as a student (at Oxford?) and beyond. Add Oxford to the list of places we’ve lived; we’re officially a part of it!

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