Sunday, October 09, 2005

The "long" overdue update

I know everyone's been waiting forever for this update. Don't worry I feel the same way. :-)

So, after three weeks in the country, classes finally started! Aaaack! But, seriously, it was almost long enough to forget that I'd come here to go to school and I was getting more than a little restless. My schedule is pretty loose, considering that this is higher ed. I don't have class on Mondays and Fridays this term (next term it will be Mondays and Tuesdays). I've got one seminar on Tuesday and a seminar and a lecture on both Wednesday and Thursdays (note: a seminar is a small group discussion, a lecture is what it sounds like...with the whole class present). It's hard to know how big courses will be right now because so many people spent last week course shopping. Having made that assertion, we do know that our core human rights class will be 80 people, spread between 5 seminars. What is that? 15 each? Math makes my brain go hurty. Let's go shopping! Sorry. I'm back now.

Tuesdays are for Connor Gearty's LL469: Theory, History and Practice of Human Rights. It sounds like we're going to spend much of the term (this is a half module) talking about the origins of h.r., the critics of h.r. theory and some of the discrepancies between h.r. theory and practice in the modern world. It should be really good and Connor (despite a conversation with Welling, I can't really think of my professors in terms of "Professor Gearty, etc.") is the funniest thing ever! He's a middle aged Irish academic: scrawny, slightly unkept, and lacking absolutely none of that classic Irish charm (except that it's devoted to spreading his passion for human rights). He makes loads of jokes about himself, the Irish, academics and human rights devotees...all categories into which he fits, so the self-depreciation is absolutely delightful! It does, however, make me wonder why everyone seems to be Irish? Connor's also the director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights and in charge of our program, so it's not a particularly bad thing to want to be in his classes.

Wednesday lecture is in LL423, International Law: Theory and Practice. My other ideas about I-Law courses were far more "pragmatic" than this one, which is more interested in the theory that shapes international law, its critics and interpretations, but there were a couple of selling points. One major one is that the course is team taught by three people, one of whom, Christine Chinkin, is currently on sabbatical (she'll be back for Lent term). I had really wanted to take the Human Rights of Women course with her, but it isn't offered because of the aforementioned sabbatical and I know that I wasn't the only person who was disappointed. Also, I remember writing in my personal statement that I wanted to use this year to answer my own (mostly) theoretical questions about human rights and i-law, so it's only fair that I do so. Finally, I realize that I can learn the practical stuff in law school (and that it might be the only kind of stuff that I learn) and that I should use this opportunity to understand why and how I want to do the things that I want to do. This might be my last chance to study for the sake of study and I'm going to take advantage of it (although I warn all of you that something about being a grad student makes the idea of a PhD seem even cooler...).

Thursday is for SO424, the core class for the MSc: Foundations and Key Issues in Human Rights. Basically, we have a long series of guest lecturers from throughout the school coming to speak on their particular area of expertise, all related to human rights. And this continues the scary LSE trend of reading the books, then seeing the authors in your courses. Not that that isn't going to happen at every class meeting in LL423, but.... Last class was really for the election of the program's committee. I ran for treasurer, mostly so that I could be remembered by my coursemates, but also because I pride myself on the shiny, multi-colored Excel spreadsheets and skills in looking for cheap airfares (there's a class trip at some point). I lost, but it's not entirely my fault. The other guy has a degree in mathematics from Cambridge and is a chartered accountant. Le sigh.

So that's the classes. I've got loads of reading to fill up all my free time and a secret hideout at the National Theatre (except on matinee days, when it's not so secret and infested with white-haired people). Oh, and I'm doing a Spanish language course, but I have to wait and see where I get placed based on the preliminary assessments. I joined loads of societies at the Fresher's Fair, but only went to one meeting so far. For some reason, they schedule these things during the day and have a knack for coinciding with my few hours of class. Go figure. Time is clear for MUN on Tuesday, and that's the one I really care about.

I've also dispatched the France program kiddos back to Paris. Both Muppet and Sarah arrived on Friday, so I spent much of the day collecting them. And then we went to the grocery store, so they could help me carry stuff back. It was fabulous, especially compared to my last solo attempt (which was awful). Sarah made crepes for dinner and we all trooped off to see Serenity. I think I really need to see it again before passing judgement, although I was most ecstatic over the fact that the theatre was entirely full. Go box office, go! Also, for Irma's amusement: Sarah made an unexpected detour on her way to Chester and ended up in Ellsmereport at 5 in the morning. Don't worry, she made it out alive! Cooking with a bunch of Earlhamites felt like home and I loved it! Bring on the London program or just better friends at the LSE!

Other things that randomly made my day recently: the arrival of my student Oyster card for discounted travel on London's public transportation. I've now got a year pass for the tubes and buses, which involved a significant amount of capital. On the other hand, it's less than one tube journey a day (and that's at current rates...which go up significantly on Jan. 1). Trust me, this will actually save a whole lot of money! Also, falafal sandwiches at Borough market. Sarah and I walked back after we dropped Muppet off at Waterloo and stopped by the market. It was really packed, so we didn't really stay, but got falafal for lunch and ate it as we walked back. Finally, one of my Lib Dem friends was in town for a meeting last night, so we had some time to chat, which was really nice.

I think that's most of what's new!