Monday, October 22, 2012

Give me my nerds back, please

Before I go any further, I'd like to extend a quick thank you to whoever it was that started playing "Party in the USA" from their laptop earlier this evening. At 500 words into a 2,500 word Art History essay, I was very pleased to hear some Miley Cyrus crooning from another flat.

And while we're at it, I'd like to send another quick thank you to the person playing this lovely club music that is blasting from yet another flat. On a Monday night, I can't think of any better way to occupy your time. Sincerely, wonderful choices coming from the university accommodation here.

Now that I'm done with the blatant sarcasm, I'll tell you a little bit about the terrible procrastination that has hounded me all weekend and will continue to be the bane of my existence for the next couple of weeks.

As you know, or perhaps you know if you read any of my blogs at all, I'm planning some incredibly elaborate trips around Europe. A lot of my future weekends will be virtually unusable when it comes to study-time or being-home-time or even resting-time. I'll be hanging out all over the continent, which means anything that is due in the coming weeks has to be done now. And by now, I mean yesterday.

But I was in Brighton yesterday, so I wasn't about to start doing homework. In fact, I had actually decided I was going to start the homework several days before Brighton. But that didn't happen either.

There is something about being in a foreign country that absolutely destroys your work ethic. You feel as though you're entitled to time off simply because there are people with foreign accents chattering on the street below your high-rise flat. But there's no such thing as entitlement in university. You have to roll with the punches.

I haven't been rolling with anything, quite frankly. Except the laziness.

But then there's that moment when you really devote yourself to something. You walk to the library in the misty hair-frizzifying rain and come back with four books on artists from the nineteenth century. And with a little swipe of your student card, you feel like you're finally on your way to accomplishing something.

This has been a hard place to get to this quarter. For me, at least. When I go to class, I occasionally hear people talking about their progress on term-long projects and assignments. I shudder, because I have barely done any work since I've arrived in England. It was those first few weeks of having nothing to do that really set me over the edge. You can't give me weeks off in England and then expect me to jump into the academic system without reservations and without procrastination issues. This is the eternal struggle of every student everywhere, but it's magnified ten fold when you get to a city where there are theaters all over the place and you can see Helena Bonham Carter or James McAvoy walking 'round town (yes, I've seen both).

It makes me wonder how anyone gets any work done here. Every night I'm surrounded by sounds of speakers blasting, terrible humming bass beats and people yelping and stomping on my ceiling even though I live on the top floor of this building.

Back in the states, my dorm was always quiet. If people made noise, you could go out and ask them to be quieter or take it somewhere else. There was a sense of respect for your fellow student and a commitment to doing work at least for a little while each day. Or maybe just on the weekends. But either way, if you wanted to cloister yourself in your room you didn't have to be reminded that other people were partying just a few rooms over.

I guess this is the "You kids get off my lawn" old man in me getting all upset about the next generation. Maybe it's wrong to be this way, since I'm sure I've made some bothersome noise listening to One Direction from my room. But while in some ways I definitely blame myself for being shortsighted about and thus blind-sighted by my homework, I also can't help but feel animosity for the people nearby who keep making me think "oh, it must be a weekend" when it's actually 12:30 am on a weeknight.

When I was in Brighton hanging out with my friend Danielle, we were talking about our experiences at university in England so far. She expressed to me how much she missed Northwestern, I returned the sentiments though for different reasons.

The truth is, I wanted to come to the UK to study ever since I was a junior in high school. I still remember going up to my guidance counselor and asking her how to use the UCAS system to apply to universities in England. She, dumbfounded, said "no student from this high school has ever used UCAS before." She suggested I print out information about it and give it to her to look over, but instead I just studied the online resources myself and never asked her for help again.

In a way, I'm glad that UCAS wasn't my only option. If I had ended up in London for university two years ago, it's very possible I might've been happy. But it's also very possible I would've been disappointed and discouraged by a myriad of things from the drinking culture, the party culture and the general raucous teen culture that exists in the UK.

Where I fit in is something a bit more random. Maybe it's among the nerdy university students who focus on their studies. Or maybe it's with an entirely different age group. Young professionals, I guess? My maturity level just does not match up with that which I'm surrounded by at the moment and for the next two months or so.

If I'm going to be honest, my realest fear now is that the immaturity is rubbing off on me.

I always thought that my home institution had some absolutely idiotic rituals and traditions (and by traditions, I mean the ones that involve stupid decision-making, not fun school-sponsored or wholesome activites - wow, I really am an old lady), but if I'd been in the UK as a fresher I tend to wonder if I'd even have been able to get through it.

They said when we got here that there would be culture shock. That British and American English are different languages. But I think the most significant difference I've found is that the teen culture that is compartmentalized at my school in the US is completely omnipresent here. And I'm just crying out for some normalcy again.

Give me my nerds back, please.

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