Last Thursday, I mentioned that the end of law school feels a lot less like an end, and more like a beginning. So goes the circle of life. Now I’m thinking about that even more, because yesterday I took my last final exam of law school. There is the bar exam, but I’m trying NOT to think about that for the next week! Mostly, I’m flashing back to Finals at Oxford. They felt very, well, final. About a fortnight before I left, I experienced the tradition known as ‘trashing’ that takes place when you finish Finals, and it comes at the end of what feels like a lifetime of ‘revision’ (studying – there’s an Oxford term for every word!) The day I actually left felt more like a slow fade into the next phase of life, the beginning; trashing was the end that circled into it.
The way it works at Oxford is that you apply and are admitted to a college to study a specific subject. That’s difficult for a lot of Americans to fathom; our liberal arts college system is built on exploring all sorts of academic areas. Oxford (and Cambridge) focus on depth rather than breadth, so that even within History I specialized in a few areas and really learned a lot about them. For that reason, very few American students study as full-time undergraduates – after all, how many 17-year-olds are ready to commit like that? I knew I loved history, and I do wish I could have dabbled a bit elsewhere. Then again, it was the experience of a lifetime, and I would never trade it for anything else. The tutorial system, where students meet weekly with a tutor (professor) and study and read and write on their own otherwise, really suited me, and I appreciated the chance to learn in a self-directed way, through individual exploration.