Monday, September 29, 2008

Arrival in Cambridge

Landed Thursday at 11:00 AM from an all-night flight from San Francisco, with two bags right at the 50 lb limit and a pretty heavy backpack. The packing process was hectic and started at about 8 the night before the flight, but amazingly took about two hours to throw all my stuff in two huge suitcases, and I didn't have to leave much behind. As they would say here, it was a bit dodgy for me on the tube with all of that kit, but I got on okay. Beautiful fall weather so the train ride up to Cambridge was enjoyable, and I made it in to my new place at Churchill college on Thursday afternoon, took care of some paperwork and crashed.

I'm staying in Whittengehame cottage, an old professor's house that was incorporated into Churchill when they built it in the 1960's. The house is now shared by 12 graduate students, theoretically a random mix from Churchill but there are no British students and only 1 female. Pretty amazing diversity though, my tally of the countries represented is:

India (2)
South Africa
Sri Lanka
USA (2)

My room is apparently among the smallest in the entire university (note the pictures). Fortunately I only had my two suitcases, so I feel that there's enough room and I'm comfortable, except for the heating, which apparently isn't turned on until October, even though it's in the 60's. I had the foresight to get a fleece blanket on permanent loan from Air New Zealand which has seen heavy use already.

Friday and Saturday I spent adventuring around town, mostly trying to buy stuff to fill the room out, which was of course pretty painful for me given my cheapness and the outrageous prices in Britain. Still bikeless, but otherwise I managed to pack an incredible amount of setup into two days, I even have a British bank account doctor. The culture shock is much higher than I anticipated, there's an enormous amount bureaucracy around the university that's accumulated in the last 800 years, and I'm having more trouble understanding the English than I would have expected. Still I guess it's remarkable the amount of errands you can knock out in a weekend given an internet connection. I'm pretty well set up in my room, even have my own water heater and a bunch of snacks I like.

I did manage to go on a few social outings for new graduate students, on Sunday a tour of town and a pub night with Gates scholars. They certainly arrange a lot of get togethers here that boil down to people sitting around drinking and talking. Churchill as well as most other colleges even has a student run bar, that essentially any grad student can get licensed to operate in an hour and then open the bar and serve drinks to friends if he wants.

Finally feeling settled in to the new place now, but ready to depart for the Lake District early tomorrow morning for the Gates scholar retreat. Said to be the most beautiful area of England so it should be a fun week.