Thursday, March 25, 2010

Q&A with former Spider David Hille

The former Spider Track Athlete...
is enrolled at the University of Oxford, England

The University of Oxford, England

One of the University's older and most central colleges, Old Souls College...

David Hille came to the University of Richmond in the fall of 2007 as an exchange student from Curtin University in Australia. Hille joined the Spiders track & field team after a lengthy exchange of e-mail recruitment by Spider track & field coach, Steve Taylor. Not only did he join the Spiders program he immediately became one of the top sprinters for the team during the indoor and outdoor seasons in the spring of 2008. While at Richmond he studied mathematics and finance before returning to Australia to finish his undergraduate work and then enrolling in the MSc. in Applied Statistics program at the University of Oxford in England this past fall (2009).

Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world and is unique with much history. There is no clear date of foundation, but teaching existed as far back as 1096. During the 20th and early 21st centuries, Oxford added to its core a major new research capacity in the natural and applied sciences, including medicine. In doing so, it has reinforced and intensified its role as a prominent international university of higher learning and scholarly debate.
David returned to Richmond while on Spring Break and we had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his experiences.

David Hille (pictured left) and a couple of his classmates
at the University Of Oxford.

Where in Australia is your home?

I live in the southern suburbs of Perth, Western Australia. Perth is the only metropolis on the west coast. With a population of 1.65 million, it's the fourth largest city in the nation. Perth is the most isolated major city in the world. We're right on the coast and enjoy a Mediterranean climate and all the benefits of the Australian beach lifestyle. (If you see former UR track-star Jon Molz in the street, remind him of that fact, I'm trying to get him to come out for a visit.)

Radcliffe Camera

Keble College

You came to the University of Richmond as an exchange student. Can you share a couple of your most memorable moments and what you remember the most about your time as a Spider?

When I think back to the time I spent at Richmond I think about all my good mates on the track team. A lot of the my most enjoyable moments were simply things like hanging out at track meets, cheering each other on, and enjoying long dinners at D-Hall joking around with each other. But a couple of specific moments come to mind...

I should preface this first story by noting that prior to coming to the United States I hadn't seen snow – at least not at an age when I could remember it. A couple of months into the Fall semester I went up to the Shenandoah National Park near Charlottesville with a couple of my mates on the team, Neil Slotterback and Calvin Virgilio. It was a crisp morning and there was a little bit of fog in the air, so I wondered if this might be the day I got to see some snow. As we pulled up to the check-point the ranger told us that the snow cover would increase as we ascended the mountains. At this point I began to behave less like a college student and more like a toddler who just had his first taste of soda – I was so excited. The park didn't disappoint. We went on a great hike and I got to see a lot of snow. I still rate the Shenandoah National Park as one of my favorite places in the United States.

Another experience that I recall fondly is the outdoor A-10 championships up in Amherst, Massachusetts. I had suffered an injury during the outdoor season which meant that I missed a few meets leading up to the championships. My injury had rehabilitated well, just in time, thanks to the great staff in the sports medicine department, and the coaching staff gave me one last chance to race for Richmond. I was particularly close with the graduating seniors on the team so I was, and still am, very grateful that I got an opportunity to join them at that last meet. The atmosphere at a meet like the A-10 championships really goes above and beyond to help promote sense camaraderie amongst's a lot of fun.

The University of Oxford

What led you to Oxford and what area of study are you pursuing? When do you expect to complete your program and what do you intend to do after graduating?

For quite some time I've been fascinated with the University of Oxford, its old buildings, rich traditions, and outstanding academics. This, coupled with the fact that my time at Richmond showed me what a great opportunity studying in a foreign country can be, made the thought of another year abroad was very enticing. My field of study was something that I was interested in from the early stages of my university career. Statistics can sometimes be a little dry, but it can become quite engaging when you see how and where you can apply it to real life problems.

I expect to complete my program in September. My post-Oxford plans aren't exactly set in stone right now, but I'd like to think that I'll return Australia and work for the Australian Government, in an area like the Department of Defense...taking some vacation time every now and then so I can come back to the United States and see my mates.

David Hille (2nd from right) and a few classmates with a constable at the University of Oxford.

You’ve studied in Australia at Curtin University, here in the US at the University of Richmond and currently in England at the University of Oxford ….What are some of the major differences between these universities and how difficult has it been to adjust to social differences?

There are major differences, both academically and socially. At Richmond the classroom education was the most intimate of the three, with assessments spread over the semester. At Oxford a lot of the assessment is weighted towards the exams, and Curtin was somewhere in between the two. Socially, the three countries share a lot of similarities (often being referred to as “cultural cousins”) but it's the tiny differences that are most fun. My mates in the US like to joke about some of the funny words I have for certain things – or just the accent in general. And, of course, I used to love getting them to try Vegemite (an Australian spread)...just ask Coach Taylor.

Christ Church College and Quad

I left Richmond as a big fan of the American college experience. Having played sports for all three universities (and three different sports for that matter) I got to see how the facilities and opportunities differed from country to country, and the US has to take the cake. Being an athlete at Richmond gave me exposure to great coaching staff and excellent facilities. The intimate Richmond campus really helped me foster great relationships with my teammates, and that provided a great chance to unwind and relax, outside of the athletics and academics.

University of Oxford photo

Oxford is renowned historically throughout the World for its academic traditions. Can you share some of the traditions they continue to follow and embrace?

Most of the traditions seem to involve bow ties and gowns. Every Wednesday my college (the University of Oxford is made up of 38 colleges), St Edmund Hall, has a formal dinner for the fellows and students. We dress in formal attire with our academic gowns, and are served a four course meal. Graduate students have the opportunity to dine with the fellows at “High Table” which is an elevated table at the front of the dining hall. After dinner, those at “High Table” retire to the candle lit Old Library and enjoy a second desert.

Another quirky tradition is one that requires students to wear “sub-fusc” dress to exams. This consists of a dark suit, a white shirt, a white bow tie and an academic gown. In addition to this, although it is not required, students wear a carnation flower; white for your first exam, pink for a middle exam, and red for your final exam. I'm afraid I don't know the origin that one.

The Parks...

1 comment:

  1. Great interview, Steve! I worked as a residence advisor at Oxford one summer. Great experience...ran along the trails on the Thames and Iffley Rd. track. What a neat exp. for David.