University of Otago’s Summer School – a time when the campus is sparsely populated, the town is relaxed, and the Uni offers unique and intense papers (NZ lingo for “courses”). Most students sign up for one paper. Naturally, I’m overeager and optimistic and ignorant and signed up for two papers. Genius move. In all honesty, though, if you are considering Otago Summer School, don’t be afraid to sign up for two papers. It’s very doable, not incredibly hard, and can be quite entertaining and rewarding. But, if you choose to challenge yourself, perhaps enroll in one less strenuous paper such as Wine tasting. After all, it’s summer time and you’re in a new country; you should have time to explore and chill. I’m currently taking The Vampire On Screen and Forensic Biology. So, lots of blood involved. Actually, even though my brain is getting more a workout than it usually undergoes during the summertime, I love my classes and am happy with my decision to take both. They keep me busy, add structure to my life and, through them, I have been able to meet many intriguing and friendly Kiwis as well as other international students.
Here’s the low down on New Zealand classes: They are laid-back and have small workload. An unnervingly small workload. I’ve been in class for a week and haven’t really had any homework. Is there some secret code embedded in the syllabus that I’m missing? Is it some tacit Kiwi learning tradition to work for hours outside of class on “assignments” that haven’t been assigned but that the prof and all New Zealand students secretly know about? I’m getting nervous. According to my syllabi and other reliable sources, most papers have one or two assignments, a midterm, and a final. That’s about it. Right about know I’m thinking that these papers are going to be a walk in the park… until the final exam week when I get sucker punched in the gonads.
Read ahead if you’d like to do a little vicarious learning. I’ve picked out some of the best stories, points, and quotes from each class….
The Vampire On Screen
- New Zealand class dynamics differ a bit from an American set-up. There are less than 15 students in my paper (which isn’t very unusual) and thus it’s easy to notice when one kid comes in late, sits in the front of the class, and promptly falls asleep (that IS unusual). And surfer-dude-looking Prof Garth didn’t kick him out. Or humiliate him. Or pull some sort of prank so he’d wake up in the class alone and think he’d slept through most of the day. Kiwi students are also rather quiet in class and rarely speak up. Loud and obnoxious American student to the rescue….
- Porphyria is a disease that might help to explain vampirism. Symptoms include: photosensitivity, pale skin, elongated teeth. And part of the treatment involves victims consuming blood to supplement their own deficiency of oxygenated blood cells.
- Succubi is a really fun word to say. Just say it aloud. Right now. Let it roll across your tongue. Now say it to someone else. Take pleasure in the fact that you know such a euphonious word.
- For a minute there, Lord Byron seemed strangely attractive and that made me uncomfortable.
- Varney the Vampire is a character who sounds ridiculous (come one, his name rhymes with Barney), but is actually quite frightening. He appears in some of the first “comic books,” feels some regret over his evil deeds and neck-biting ways, and (spoiler alert) dies after throwing himself into Mt Vesuvius.
- I will view a number of vampire films this year and am using this paper as an opportunity/excuse to watch True Blood. Any suggestions? What are your favorite vampiric texts??
- This class has over 150 students. I’m experiencing my first real lecture hall situation.
- I’m pretty sure this paper is teaching me how to commit the perfect murder.
- I met a guy named Tim. Despite the fact that “Tim” seems a common name, the last time I remember hearing of one called Tim…
- In some cases, dark professions breed dark and surprisingly hilarious sense of humor. My professor, forensic dentist Dr. Jules Kieser, is a hoot and a half as well as a brilliant lecturer. Here are some of his more memorable quotes:
– “This is why people don’t get away with murder. They kill someone and they’re like, ‘Shit. Now what?’ Plan first!”
– “If you’re going to kill your flatmate, leave the body on top of the soil. It’ll decompose faster and, also, it takes a hell of a lot of effort to dig a hole.”
– [while discussing a case wherein a hitchhiker was murdered after a couple picked him up. All three, uh, hung out and then the hitchhiker won a lot of money from the couple under questionable circumstances] “All three had sex. And then played cards. As you do. Smoke some leaf, sex, then cards.” I’d heard that hitchhiking was safe here. Dead hitchhiker stories made me nervous. Then I realized, this case taught me that hitchhiking is ok as long as I avoid having a three way with my drivers and for God’s sake don’t cheat at cards.
– “Every so often people come up with a jerk idea that everyone laughs at. And wouldn’t you know that most of these ideas are French.”
– “Earprints, like fingerprints, are unique. One year I had my students all photocopy their ears like you do your butts, but the machine got really hot and people burned the sides of their faces. Also, earprints are useless because who leaves an earprint at the scene of the crime? [shows us a picture of an ear] That’s Prince Charles, by the way, not a chimpanzee.”
– “Secret services from all over ‘troll’ through Facebook on a regular basis.” I must keep this in mind.
– “Here is a brain specimen. You can see that it’s a female brain because it actually has something in it.” Well done, Professor.
- We were given the following list of information and asked to puzzle out what had happened…
- • Young male calls emergency services about a domestic accident
• On arrival, they can’t open door of the flat, and call police, who break the door down
• They find a dead young man, and next to him, an unconscious young female lying in a pool of blood
• Between them, is a glass sugar shaker • She is resuscitated and has a huge head-wound,
but cannot remember a thing • At autopsy, he is found to have a pair of pink
panties shoved down his throat. Can you figure out what happened?
Then, we were able to watch this video: Suiker
- And to finish, here’s a Sherlock Holmes quote to keep in mind: “It is of course a trifle, but there is nothing so important as trifles.”