The Foundation Year Programme (often called 'FYP', pronounced 'fip'), a first-year four-credit course at the University of King's College in Halifax, is one of the more interesting university programs in Canada today. The teaching format borrows heavily from the Oxbridge system of lectures and tutorials, allowing for a large (200+) body of students to take the same course while still interacting with a small (~20) group. The curriculum is ambitious, beginning with the five thousand year old Epic of Gilgamesh and ending with 20th century postmodernists like Jean-Francois Lyotard, and covering a good portion of the Western canon in-between. Added to this are nice touches, such as a weekly informal discussion between lecturers and students, oral exams in place of written exams, and an insular campus culture that encourages nerdiness, amateur philosophizing and copious amounts of pretentiousness. The student body is a roughly equal mix of rich trust fund hippies and brainy scholarship students who, imbibing the atmosphere of the place, often dress in black and hope for a day when berets become socially acceptable.

The workload for students (sometimes known as FYPpers) is high: three readings (which are long, dense and/or frustrating) each week, and a paper every two weeks (due on Mondays, leading to the term FYP Sunday to describe when most students actually get down to writing the thing). The payoff comes from being exposed to a stream of strange, weird and wonderful new ways of looking at the world, and trying to sort through the ideas with the people around you. That, and the joy of thinking - if only for a brief moment - that you're the first to find the answer to an ancient, vexing question.

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