The first day of orientation was informative, fun, and entertaining. The first people we met were Andrew and Lynn who were discussing English cultural differences. This talk was mostly a set of stories that they have collected over the years of doing this job. They told us about the alleged “baby trick” that’s well known in Europe in which a group of kids come up and throw a baby at you, you catch the baby, and then they run up and steal out of your pockets while your hands are full. They stressed the importance of just avoiding babies all together. Andrew continued to drill into our heads that this is a country of alcoholics and to remember a little phrase, which is that English people are oppressed, suppressed, repressed, and depressed.
Next we met Charlotte, who is the academic officer in charge of our grades. Andrew suggested that we all buy her a nice bottle of gin to ensure that we get all A’s (she kicked him out of the room after that). She gave a nice presentation on the structure of courses and what we should expect from the grading system. During the break I got to meet Anna who was the next presenter. I told her I was planning on playing flute here and so we talked a bit about music. She had studied music all the way up to her A levels and said that playing piano is still her main source of relaxation. During her talk she kept joking that she was drunk (or who knows, maybe she was). She spoke about critical thinking and how the essay writing process in English schools is based on open-ended questions and critical analysis rather than the American closed-ended question and descriptive narrative style.
David Castle, a former policeman, gave the last talk of the day on safety in this country and in Europe. He ensured us that the majority of crimes in England are petty theft rather than violence. He talked about some common sense things like not keeping everything in one bag, not walking alone at night, and watching your drink. I was slightly annoyed by our group during this talk for multiple reasons. There was a moment when half the room whined/groaned when we were informed that carrying knives is illegal in this country. Mr. Castle explained that a swiss army knife smaller than 3 inches is generally okay but for utility purposes only. Even then, people were complaining, which made me wonder how many people really did pack knives with them expecting to have them on their person constantly.