street signs

After seven wonderful days of slacking and exploring London with my friends, term commenced as of this morning, something the bunch of us all noticed as we tried to roll out of bed at 7 am. Lessons don’t start until next Monday, but this week we have various induction sessions where we will be meeting our tutors, go on library tours, choose our modules and in general drink lots of welcome drinks and mingle. Let’s just say that basically we will be getting to know the department that will be our second home for the next three years! (Or is that the library?). Despite my tiredness I soon perked up, as I realized I would finally begin my studies at UCL and meet all of my course mates! Not saying slacking and partying hasn’t been fantastic – but studying History of Art was obviously a very important reason for me moving to London, and I am a person who take my studies very seriously! Seeing my coursemates for the first time was enthralling, although I already knew Lida and Jia Yun from the International Students’ Orientation Programme. We are a really small department, and altogether we are no more than about fourty five students, in which I spotted only five male specimens. We all mingled and chatted for a while, and for some funny reason I was so shocked to find that most of my peers were British students! Because of the International Students’ Orientation Programme, all of the international students arrived at UCL one week earlier – so I’ve been living in my little international bubble, forgetting that the majority of students in Britain are in fact BRITISH! It was really fun and cosy finally befriending some Britons (I am in fact gonna be invading their country for the next three years!), although sometimes Britons will make internal jokes about British television shows and British culture that I am not familiar with, and I stand there dumbfounded. So at the moment I feel as if I am bonding more with the international students, which is probably logical since we are all in the same position in the sense of being completely detached from home and the life we know.

At 9 am the induction talks started. Our head of department reminded me of McGonnagall – extremely intimidating, but at the same time awe-inspiringly cool. In her McGonnagsall manner she strictly remarked that “we are friendly, but we are NOT your friends”, resulting in everyone staring petrified into the air. Britons expect a certain degree of decorum – so unlike the Norwegian mentality of teachers being our buddies and equals. In a way I like that they keep a certain distance in order to avoid favouritism etc. All I ask of my tutors is that they are friendly, helpful and genuinely enthustiastic about what they do – something all of our tutors gave the impression of throughout the induction talk. I love the way UCL emits both a prestigious and friendly athmosphere at the same time. When the induction talk ended, a big bunch of us went out for lunch at the nearby Costa Coffee. All the girls in my year seemed really great. They were all so easy to chat to, and I think I am really going to enjoy lectures!

It is compulsory for all the History of Art students to either pass a language test, or to take a 0.5 unit course in a foreign language. I thought I was the only one not remembering any French or German from Upper Secondary, and expected to be the only one who had to shamefully sit through half a year of language classes while everyone else were exempted. It was therefore a huge relief to see that nobody felt confident enough in their language skills to take the test, and that everyone else were also set on taking the language course. Even if we were to pass the test, we are anyway strongly encouraged to take a course, as being tri-lingual is a huge advantange and a must in certain career paths. I have decided to take 0.5 unit course in Mandarin Chinese. I lost so much when I left Beijing, but I feel as if I can easily pick it up again and start at intermediate level. Mandarin might not be the most natural language to study as I am focusing mainly on Western art in my Bachelor, but if I was to do a Master in Art Business/Art Dealing, which I am strongly considering, it would come in very handy. Also because the art industry in China is booming at the moment, knowing Mandarin will be useful whether you are a freelance artist, and art journalist, art teacher etc. Then of course I also have the personal reasons for learning Mandarin. Not only because of the whole cliché of “knowing your roots”, but also because it would be a huge waste to not continue with it after having lived in Beijing and getting such a good grasp of it. Plus I’d rather know one language properly rather than knowing several just half-way.