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Johanna's blog

Slightly dodgy saxophonist

First impressions

For my first blog post I decided to start at the beginning of my journey as a student in Cardiff University, to shed some light on what it’s like being a new student (and hopefully to make a few people laugh at how I handled the first few days.) The first week is mainly focused on induction sessions, enrolment and introductions to the course, which are informative but not terribly exciting for a blog post. This post is about when the real fun begins, the week after enrolment.

 

My first proper lecture was for “Elements Of Tonal Music”. When Dr Wilson walked into the lecture theatre I remembered him interviewing me for my place nearly two years before (I deferred for a year). I didn’t tell him this because I doubted he would remember me, (and because I walked into the door on my way out), but it was comforting to see someone familiar, who I enjoyed talking with during my interview.

He often uses very subtle humour, and I noticed when reading through documents he wrote for our course that it’s easy to detect the hand that wrote them due to the tone and punch lines he adds in.

After the lecture we had a seminar, which was also for the “Elements” module, and this focused on putting the things we covered in the lecture into practice by writing out music and following the rules for ourselves. While music theory has never been my strength, it had also been a few years since I did any solid study of it, so it was fair to say that I was rustier than a burnt out car engine. This became obvious during the seminar when Dr Wilson came over to see what I was doing. Unfortunately whenever I am nervous or overwhelmed I have an annoying habit of either completely shutting down mentally, or making a poor attempt at humour to brush it off. In this case, and many others during the first week, it was the former. This is the conversation that followed:

DW: “That’s very interesting…”

Me: Uh oh.

DW: “Why have you done that?”

Me: Error 404: brain cannot be found. “I have no idea, I don’t really know what I’m doing to be honest with you.” Nice one Johanna, that’ll make a lasting impression.

 

On Tuesday I had my first session of “The Full Works” which is aimed at developing writing skills whilst studying Handel’s Messiah. I was worried about this being quite a heavy subject but somehow Dr Ponsford was able to make it digestible. One of the first things I noticed about him was his use of old-fashioned phrases such as, “You really must read through this booklet you know, it’s jolly useful!” or some variation of that. I decided immediately that I liked him and tried my best to impress him. Sadly came an occurrence of the dreaded ‘try covering up your nerves by being funny’ habit. Here’s how that scene played out:

DP: “What are some other ways we can research Messiah?”

Me: Brain disengage. Mouth into hyper drive. “We could try listening to it?” Oh yes, very insightful of you Johanna. He’ll love that.

I didn’t need to see the look on Dr Ponsford’s face to know that was not the kind of answer he was looking for. I resolved to keep my head down and my mouth shut for the rest of the session.

After this my group for “The Full Works” had to go to the library to collect scores of Messiah and when we entered Dr Bickerton was standing in front of the library desk. The most noticeable thing about Dr Bickerton is that he communicates almost exclusively through the medium of humour/puns, so you can expect a joke or dreadful pun of some sort whenever he’s around.

Here’s how the library scene went:

Girl in my group: “We’ve come for the Handel.”

Me: “Y’know, the score.”

DB: “Oh I’m glad you said that because otherwise I would’ve directed you to one of the doors, there’s a lot of them around here.”

Everyone: “Ugggghhhhhhhh.”

By his standards, that was fairly mild.

 

That’s a brief look at my first two days in lectures, and hopefully my less than impressive interactions with my lecturers will reassure potential (or current) students that the world won’t end if your nerves make you say something daft during the first few weeks (or months, or basically ever). I also hope that these situations I’ve talked about will help other students laugh at their own slip-ups (we all have them!)

 

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