Saturday, February 19, 2011

Water Table Fun

I'm really enjoying my part-time job at the Christian primary school.  Although I'm only there two afternoons a week, I've developed some special bonds with the children.  It thrills my soul when I walk in the door and hear the cutest British voices say,"Yeah!  Mrs. Haaaa-rrell is here!".  They still correct my English on occasion but, all-in-all, they've accepted this Texan girl.

There are so many differences between a private British Christian school and the public Texas school I'm accustomed to.  I wanted to share with you the one of the funniest I've encountered so far.  It is very common to find a water table or sand table in a kindergarten classroom in the States.  This is a great place for the children to explore and generally make the biggest mess possible!  There is a water table in my classroom here and the children love to make the biggest mess are kids! 

As I arrived at school a couple of days ago, I was hanging up my coat and surveying the room to see what the children had been doing that morning.  I saw a sign hanging above the water table.

I wasn't sure I read it correctly so I stepped closer for a better look...

Yep, it's official, I'm not in a Texas public school anymore!

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Two weekends ago, we went on the first MLF "class trip" to Edinburgh, Scotland. About 14 of us went in all, and it was a great time. Also, Edinburgh was one of the schools that I considered so we were anxious to see the city.

We left Friday after class and took a train from Oxford to the Birmingham airport. Then we took a really short flight to Edinburgh. Plane travel is so much easier here than it is back home. Plus our round-trip flights only cost around 30 pounds each!
Me and Lee (one of the other 3 Americans in the MLF program) at the Birmingham airport
 Edinburgh is the ancient capital of Scotland. Its castle dominates the city's skyline from its position atop the volcanic Castle Rock.  Since it was just a weekend trip, our only day to really see the sites was on Saturday and we spent most of the day at the castle.
A view of the castle from the city
The view from the castle into the city
Me and Arne in the castle's great hall.  Arne is a fellow MLF student from Norway.  Thankfully, he resisted his Viking instinct to storm the castle walls and ransack the place!
Another great part of Edinburgh is the Royal Mile, which is a succession of streets running from the castle through the Old Town.  Although this area was quite "touristy," it was still fun to see the Scottish culture.
Of course, there were bagpipe players in kilts
Leah and Karthi admiring the effects of their Edinburgh crash diet
Since we are good students, we had to take a picture in front of the statute of the famous economist, Adam Smith

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Halfway Day

The Oxford school year consists of three terms, and each term is eight weeks long. Last week was the fourth week of the second term, so that made Friday was "halfway day"! To celebrate, we went to Far from the Maddening Crowd (a pub) with some of my MLF classmates.
I am not sure why Anurag decided to stack glasses, but the pub staff was not impressed.
Also, when we woke up this morning, we saw something we have not seen much of lately...
Sunshine!  Glorious sunshine!
To take advantage of the great weather, we walked over to South Park. South Park is the largest park in Oxford and the top of its hill gives a view of the city and the "dreaming spires" of Oxford.

Also, I think I found out why basketball has yet to catch on in this country:
Seriously?  You couldn't even practice free throws on this.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Sorry for the lack of posts lately, but this term is turning out to be way more intense than I expected. As I mentioned, my classes last term consisted mostly of lectures. However, this term I have two seminars every week. A "seminar" is different than a "lecture" in that seminars are student discussions led by panel of faculty members.

Each seminar is usually two hours long, and focuses on a particular topic of the course which has been covered in a previous lecture.  Each seminar topic has a list of discussion questions that are assigned at the beginning of the term, along with a list of readings that are to be read before seminar.  If you are like me, you would probably expect a "reading list" to consist of a textbook chapter and maybe an article or two. WRONG.  The "required" readings for each seminar consist of numerous, lengthy articles. totalling, on average, about 400 pages. Since there are no textbooks for our classes, each article has to be independently found (usually at the Law Library).  On top of that, there are usually about 600 pages of "optional" readings (in case you do not have anything better to do). Here are a few of the 18 required readings from my seminar in my Principles of Financial Regulation course last week:
  • Z Goshen and G Parchomovsky, ‘The Essential Role of Securities Regulation’ (2006) 55 Duke Law Journal 711 (44 pages)
  • RC Clark, ‘The Soundness of Financial Intermediaries’ (1976) 86 Yale LJ 1 (103 pages)
  • S Peltzman, ‘The Economic Theory of Regulation after a Decade of Deregulation’ (1989) Brookings Papers on Economic Activity: Microeconomics 1 (60 pages)
  • S Johnson and J Kwak, 13 Bankers (2010), Ch. 5 (51 pages)
In connection with these readings, we were given a list of 27 questions to be discussed during the seminar (I will not bore you with the entire list, but here are a couple of examples):
  • How can financial market regulation assist in promoting the informational efficiency of financial markets if investors are rational?
  • What is “systemic risk”? How can it be measured? Do all financial institutions contribute to systemic risk? How are we to identify those that do?
  • What effects, if any, does an increase (i) of competition between financial institutions and (ii) in the rate of financial innovation have on financial market efficiency, on consumers, and on financial stability?
  • “Parties governed by financial regulation will always have far more wealth at their disposal than do those responsible for designing and enforcing the regulation. This creates a sort of gravitational pull towards the interests of the regulated, resulting at best in ineffective regulators with low-quality staff, and at worst in the total capture of regulation by the regulated.”  Discuss.
  • What is “regulatory competition”?  In the context of financial regulation, is it (i) feasible; (ii) desirable?
As if the questions themselves are not imposing enough, we are expected to be prepared to discuss them with members of the law faculty (and it is often the case that they are the authors of several of the articles). On average, I would guess that the faculty speaks for about 15% of time in the seminar (mainly to ask questions) and the students talk for the other 85%. Although no one is technically "assigned" to any specific question, if no one is speaking the faculty will call on individual students and question them directly.
One of the best things about seminars is getting to see the various colleges that they are held in.  This is one of the quads at Jesus College, where my Principles of Financial Regulation seminar is held.
The view from the seminar room about 5 minutes before it starts.  The faculty sits at the front, and the students sit around the table.
Although this post probably makes seminars sound burdensome and dreadful, they are actually a fascinating experience.  The opportunity to engage with some of the world's leading academics is truly unique.  Additionally, the learning process is amplified through the process of reading, preparing, and discussing these topics.