Anirudh in London: British hazing

    Sigh, classes started yesterday. The fun finally has to die down (a bit). I’m not too worried about it though; I have class only on Mondays and Tuesdays this term, and Leicester Square isn’t going anywhere. Also, the fact that I still wake up hungover on most mornings (like this one, for example) is reassuring.

    But the start of classes brings to mind some differences between NU and UCL, some of which I enjoy and others which I could do without (a.k.a. would rather jump off Tower Bridge into a ‘rubbish’ barge than do again).

    We’ve all had issues with CAESAR more than once before, but you’d rather shoot yourself than use UCL’s Portico. First off, it sucks because Portico refuses to accept intuitive usernames. I guess apm378 doesn’t make so much sense, but it definitely beats the hell out of zctqg31. The password is pretty similar, but underscores are usually involved.

    If you get past logging in, you then have to select your ‘modules’ (not classes) keeping in mind that you have to know the specific module code for the class you want to take (something like POLS6005A). You make your selections for the year and then click submit.

    That’d be the end of it, but the Brits like their shit complicated and redundant to keep up an air of ‘propriety’.

    Because even if you’ve made all your selections on Portico (which helpfully doesn’t list the times the classes take place), two nefarious institutions are still out to undermine the brilliant scheme that is your autumn term schedule: the UCL Timetable and the individual departments. The Timetable has a louder bark than its bite; you log in with your random string of consonants and it’ll tell you if your classes conflict. If they do, go back to the drawing board (Portico) and try again till you get it right.

    But let’s say that you’re all fine and dandy and your schedule works out (and in fact, the Timetable will tell you which tutorials, or discussion sections, work best for you). You still have to ask permission from each and every department you wish to take a class in to be allowed to do so. I don’t mean emailing a professor. I mean physically walking to every department on campus and literally asking “can I take this class?” You usually walk out of the department with a little piece of paper that says in so many words, “eh, we’ll think about it. I guess we’ll keep you posted on our decision.”

    So what now?

    Now you wait. If you get rejected, you’ll get an email and Portico will indicate said rejection so you can adjust before classes start. Ohhhh wait. Forgot to mention — you can be rejected from a class as late as October 28 (over three weeks into term). What happens then? Good luck finding a class. Moreover, good luck getting caught up on three weeks of material in a class you never wanted to take in the first place but ended up getting stuck with (nightmares from freshman year resurface).

    But it’s not all hell. Like I said before, in a given week I have two days of work and five days of play. I have lecture and discussion once per class per week. I have a reading week in the middle of each term. I have a five-week long spring break. So I kinda look at the whole Portico thing as a little twisted and villainous hazing. A very British kind of hazing.

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