It is almost 2:00am, I am sitting in the second library of the night (the first one closed, technically this one is closed too, but there are loopholes…), and I’m working diligently (well, minus this break to write this post) on a 15 page paper due tomorrow. Due today. Due in ten hours.
Technically, its just a rough draft. So it doesn’t have to be grammatically correct, it doesn’t need to be fully formed, it doesn’t even need to be a full 15 pages.
Thus far, I’ve written two of my three case studies, and haven’t even started my introduction or conclusion. I’ll probably leave my conclusion for the final draft, but if I don’t write an introduction, then I’ll need to write a literature review for the rough draft.
So I’ve basically got half the paper I intend to turn in tomorrow written. (Since yesterday, I might add.)
I’ve written 15 pages.
Technically, I’m done. Technically, I should be cutting what I’ve written thus far down, to make space for the aforementioned and as-yet unwritten intro/conclusion. Technically, my professor said 15 pages minimum.
When I was in middle school, we didn’t get normal grades. Instead of an A,B,C,D,F scale, we had AS, MS, BS: Above Standards, Meeting Standards, and Below Standards. Now, the teachers may or may not have explicitly mentioned this, but the standards were individual standards. Different students were held to different standards in different subjects; if you were strong in one subject but struggled in another, the school wanted to reward effort, not just knowledge.
It seems a bit intense, and certainly took a bit to get used to, but it truly was (and is) a great system. As a student, you learn to push yourself. You learn what truly great work looks like for you. You learn to have high expectations for yourself. You learn to meet, and even exceed them. After all, what is “Above Standards” other than doing better than anyone thought you could do?
15 pages. I’m not that proud of them. I can tell I wrote them in a day. I know that my writing is more cohesive than many of my classmates, that my thoughts are more nuanced, that my citations more thorough. But I’m not impressed. And, most importantly, I know that my professor has standards. Like anyone.
Teachers theoretically grade us all to the same standard, but we all know that isn’t *actually* true. Students joke that being a teacher’s pet makes life easier – he already likes you, so you don’t have to try as hard and he’ll likely grade you highly. But sometimes, a professor has a sliding scale of standards. Sometimes, she sees what you’re capable of, and pushes you to reach that edge. Combine that with the internalized desire to be better than I can be, (yes I realize the impossibility inherent in that statement) and all of a sudden it is 2:03 in the morning and you’re halfway through a rough draft of a paper that has already met the length expectation. Ooops.
See you tomorrow. Or is it today?
I’ve now had two days of classes, and I’ve had at least one class meeting of every class but one. (That one is just on Mondays…) I couldn’t be more excited about them; I’m pretty happy with that fact, since I can’t really drop any of them or anything like that. I’m already learning oh so much, but I can’t help but sharing the few things that I’ve learned and really enjoyed.
First of all, I’ve installed a dictionary app on my phone, which means when I’m reading or my friends are reading, I look up the new words. Not only new words, but also words I know in context but have never actually looked up to get a sense of the nuances. Just today, I’ve looked up five words. Think of it as GRE studying (even though I’m not taking the GRE). Or just living life.
- Ineffable – too great, powerful, beautiful, etc. to be described
- Heady – causing feelings of excitement or dizziness
- Lumpen – of or relating to dispossessed and uprooted individuals cut off from the economic and social class with which they might normally be identified
- Trenchant – very strong, clear, and effective
- Chicanery – actions or statements that trick people into believing something that is not true, deception or trickery
In addition to the words, and the Chinese and Japanese history, (interestingly, I am currently studying Japanese history in my Political Science class, where we are looking at the beginnings of Japanese-American interactions, but I am also studying general Japanese history in my Japanese class in Japanese, of course) I am also learning little pieces of African wisdom in my Dance class. Like these:
Energy is like wisdom – the more you use, the more you get.
Listen now, hear me later.
I’ve also been reading a lot (60+ pages so far today) and setting up my house. I’ve discovered that the necessary steps to living an independent life, like making and cleaning up after meals, keeping the house clean, etc. take more time when you don’t have parents and siblings to fall back on. Life is a lot easier when one person cooks and someone else cleans…
Life is busier than I expected, but I’ll continue posting as much as I can!
This post marks the end of an era. Technically, the end of a summer. An amazing, fabulous summer filled with friends and fun and camping and the most amazing internship I ever could have asked for.
When I decided to apply for and eventually accept the internship at Forum this summer, I didn’t expect it to be what it was. I expected to go in, sit down, get some work done, go home. I expected to love it at the start of the summer, and merely like it (if even that) by the end. I expected it to be just another job that I worked on for a few months. I expected to learn a lot and meet a lot of cool people and work with a lot of radio personalities and have a good time.
But Forum was a lot more that that. I met so many amazing people at KQED who go above and beyond every single day in trying to get the most and the most interesting news to the public. They inspired me with their commitment and their critiques and their professionalism and their passion. I got to see people in a hundred different professions come through, got to talk to them and ask them questions about their jobs. (Too bad I haven’t found my perfect profession yet!) I worked on every single part of the live show process – the research, the calling, the pre-interviewing, the meeting & greeting, the screening, the reading, and the thanking. All that’s left is the actual hosting! I actually looked forward to Mondays. (I was going to continue with the amazing-ness of my summer internship, but I think that pretty much sums it up.)
So one door is closing. I said goodbye to my internship for the last time yesterday. But another one is opening. I’m leaving tonight to start my senior year. I’m super excited for all my classes, and I’m excited to be living off-campus with my three best friends.
I sent a box yesterday that weighed 22 pounds and was full of books. (Don’t worry, I sent it Media Mail, and it cost < $15.) But if you looked in that box, or you looked at my Amazon orders list, or you looked at my class schedule, you might be a bit confused. Because … well …
- Particle and Nuclear Physics
- International Relations Seminar – US Foreign Policy in East Asia
- Advanced Japanese
- Physical Chemistry
- Literature of Haruki Murakami
- African Dance
I expect this semester to be a bit difficult, to say the least. I expect Japanese and Physics to have the hardest classes and tests, Lit and East Asia to have a lot of reading and essays. I’m hoping Chemistry is easy, but we shall see. And yes, they’re all part of my majors/minor. (Except Dance. That’s just fun.)
Anyone who’s been around this blog for a while knows that this is my second semester in the most beautiful city in Europe. But I’m not just chilling in Prague, traveling and wandering and taking pictures. (Although that is a lot of what I do here…) I am also taking classes. I’m here, at school, on Monday morning, waiting for my second week of classes to start, and it seems appropriate to let you all in on my schedule. (That, and my Dad emailed, asking that question.)
So here we go:
The first thing to note about my schedule this semester is that I manipulated it and took very specific classes which has resulted in the most amazing study abroad schedule imaginable. The earliest I start is 10:35 (M/W), and I only have classes M/T/W. Aka, I get four day weekends, so when I travel I can do it right (or at least better).
But how? Well, first of all, I’m taking a class called the Films and Literature of Arnost Lustig. A couple of friends took it last semester and loved it, and I’m psyched. The professor is Pepi Lustig, the son of the famous Czech author and director, which means we get an intensely personal view of the material. Lustig and his entire family managed to survive the Holocaust through dumb luck and a willingness to accept said luck, so these stories are really fascinating. I’m really excited about the class. In addition to the overall awesomeness, the class meets for three weekends – I can’t travel those weekends (obviously), but it means my weeks have a lighter load.
I’ve also lightened my schedule stress by taking two classes that meet only once a week. The first, called Nation, Power, and Money, is about the influence of media and propaganda on the Czech Republic and the world. It also got positive reviews from people last semester, and I’m excited to get a bit of this sort of thing from a different perspective. Back at Tufts, I took a propaganda class looking at the rise of Nazism and Japanese militarism, so I’m excited that this class takes the same ideas to look at the popularity of communism throughout East Europe and the Soviet Bloc, as well as how and why consumerism is similar to communism and advertisements similar to propaganda.
My other one-block-per-week class is called Global Crisis, and is about the 2008 financial collapse. This class is taught through ECES, which is Charles University’s center for American students (as opposed to all the programs in Prague that are affiliated with CU, like CIEE). We have our first class meeting tomorrow, but I’m excited. There will be a mix of students from CIEE, students from ECES, and also ERASMUS students from all over Europe, so I look forward to getting to meet some people outside of the program. I’ve never taken an economics class in college, but I think I’ll be okay, and hopefully I’ll learn a lot too.
The last class I’m taking through CIEE is my Czech Language class. There are seven people in my class – four of us from Fast Track last semester, two from other Czech classes last semester, and one whose Mom is Czech, so she has a much larger vocabulary than the rest of us, but never learned the grammar rules. All in all, this class may end up being my favorite (again!) because the people are great, and the professor is great. We had Jana last semester, so she already knows most of us and knows how we study, what we really want to learn, etc. We got new textbooks this semester (that cost $30, not $130 like Amazon says…), and she says we’ll be getting through all 200 pages, in addition to the activity book, so I have a suspicion this is going to be a challenging semester. On the other hand, every day I feel more and more like I’m getting a real handle on the language – I even understood the gist of the news last night. But that is a post for another day.
If you’ve been keeping track, this is only four classes, and CIEE has a strict five-class policy. So what am I missing? My internship, of course! I’ve got an internship at Amnesty International for the semester, which I think (unfortunately) will end up being my least interesting class, because I speak English. Basically, the advantage of having native English speakers for Amnesty and all the other companies CIEE sets up internships with is that we can edit their English documents and publications. It certainly isn’t the most exciting work, but I’m not complaining. I like the people I work with, and I’ve already noticed my opinions and my interpretations of international events changing. Hopefully it gets more interesting, but even if it doesn’t, I’m enjoying it for the most part.
But wait, there’s more! I am taking a sixth class, and I’m in the process of getting it approved for credit. Called Mystery of Words in USAC (another program in Prague), and previously offered at CIEE as Words through History, History through Words, it was the one class that I was most excited about taking before I came here. It is a little bit linguistics, a little bit history, a little bit anthropology, and is basically about how languages evolve over time, and how different languages influence and alter each other.
As always, I’ll be updating as the semester goes on with information about me, my life, and my classes, so check back shortly for information about last weekend’s trip to Berlin, and also last month’s trip to Geneva and the French-Swiss Alps.
The Onion once ran this great article about “studying” abroad. I personally don’t adhere to that impression of studying abroad, but let’s face it: a lot of people see their study abroad semester as a semester long vacation financed by their parents. For those people, as well as people who see studying abroad as taking classes in a new environment so that they can experience a completely different culture while still moving their education forward, the classes you enroll in are really important. A good schedule makes for a good semester; a couple of bad classes can make your semester really suck. So I asked around, and here is a collection of the best and worst classes at CIEE:
If they aren’t full already…
Anything having to do with Czech culture or Czech identity, specifically Contemporary Czech Culture and Alternative Czech Culture as well as Czech Concepts of National Identity and Collective Identity in a Totalitarian Regime. These both come highly recommended. They aren’t a lot of work, but are very interesting and can be easily related to the real world and the city you’re living in. Also, in Alternative Czech Culture, you get to write poetry as the final. How sweet is that?
Karel Čapek class at CU. Apparently this is the best lit class to take if you want to take a lit class, though I’ve also heard good things about the Vaclav Havel and the Franz Kafka classes. It seems like any lit class is going to be a good lit class, as long as you’re willing to do the readings. (Like, actually, do the readings. No faking that in a lit class, people.)
Nation, Power, and Propaganda. If three hour classes are your thing, this is the class for you. But in all seriousness, this is a class that deals with different topics in the Czech media each week, and is apparently particularly fascinating. Be warned, though, this class also ended up on my list of worst classes, so it seems like it is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of thing. (Apparently the teacher is really liberal, and he lets you know…)
Last but not least, a very strange but strangely wonderful class. Literally everyone I know in Pepi Lustig’s Holocaust through the Film and Literature of Arnost Lustig class loved it. They didn’t love the crazy number of essays that came with it, or the fact that they had class three consecutive weekends, but they all said it was absolutely and undeniably worth it.
There’s no doubt about it – traveling to Prague means a new culture, new customs, and a new language. A lot of people in Prague speak English, and you can get away with just a smattering of Czech if learning the language is low on your priorities list. If that’s the case, here are the words current students in Prague suggest you commit to memory. Sometimes, knowing how to tell someone to go away comes in useful, after all…
- Ahoj – Hello/goodbye (it can be used as both!)
- Bez lepku – Without gluten. Very useful if you’re gluten free.
- Dekuju – Thank you.
- Dobry den – Hello. (Literally, good day.) Use this when speaking with someone you don’t know, or someone older/more important than you. Ahoj is for friends.
- Kolik?/kolik stoji? – How much/How much does it cost.
- Na schledanou – Goodbye.
- Pozor – Watch out/attention/be careful. Used in many different situations.
- Prominte – Excuse me. Pardon also works.
- Prosim – Please.
- Pryč – Go away.
- Zatim čau – See you later.
- Zmrzlina – Ice cream.
Learning your numbers is also very useful in any situations. Buying things, arguing with cab drivers over the cost to get home late at night, asking about getting the right tram, you know…
Also, a note about CIEE’s language classes: They are what you make them. I know people who have gotten through the Czech class with a reasonably good grade and literally don’t know a single word. (When asked for words for this list, they responded with “I don’t know anything in Czech.”) But there are also a good number of people who can carry out simple conversations if they wanted.
The intensive Czech course is two weeks of “oh, crap! What have I gotten into?” but you come out with a solid base, with which you can survive if you want to. If you’re really interested in learning Czech, definitely sign up for the Fast Track course. I’ve talked to so many people who say they wish they’d taken Fast Track. Yes, we get homework. Yes, our tests are a little bit harder. But we also learn more about how the language fits together that makes it a bit easier to understand. Obviously, do what you want with Czech, but if you have anything more than a glancing interest and are willing to put in a bit of work, I’d personally recommend the Fast Track course.
Also, if you’re interested in learning Czech in the comforts of your own home, the Pimsleur Czech language course is a great beginning. I did all 30 of their lessons before I came to Prague, and I definitely felt like I had a grasp on the world around me as a result. Even just the first five lessons give you a good idea of the language and some useful phrases if you want them.
Classes started on Monday, and I’m feeling (along with most people, I think) a little bit torn. For starters, I am ecstatic. I managed to create a schedule that I thoroughly love, and I’m really excited about all of my classes. But I’m also like “Wait, what?”, because I got used to having Czech classes all day every day, and they didn’t have 40-60 page reading assignments. So, classes. The reality of being a student, even if you’re a student on the other side of the world. Here we go!
I’m taking five classes: Czech Language Fast Track, Czech and Central European History, History of the Jews in Bohemia, Economics and Politics of the EU, and Czech Politics. Unsurprisingly, I’m taking a lot of politics-based courses, but I surprised myself by enrolling in two history courses as well. I’m not a huge history buff, but I really want to understand the history of the region I’m living in, as well as my own family history, so there you go. I’ll talk about each class in turn, but I’m excited for all of them. (more…)