Sunday, March 28, 2010

March Madness

Not as in the basketball. Which I have missed...March Madness as in the month that just came and went as a blur, and I think I survived? We will see how I go with the grades...

So yes, there was (is) a strike going on at school. They don’t go on strike indefinitely like at home. The way it was explained to me (because this is a semi-normal thing here) is the union that is going on strike chooses certain days that they are going to strike and announce it ahead of time, make their demands known and then unless things change they follow through with not working on those days. Well long story short, the professors want more money so they picked 3 days this semester they won’t teach. So I miss two weeks of class (there are only 13 in the semester). Calculated out, we (international students) pay about $200 a class. More than the money, it completely jacks with the syllabus/due dates/reading assignments, everything really. It has been frustrating, but more than anything the frustrating part is them acting like they don’t have a say in the situation, “we are so sorry that this is affecting you”, um, no you aren’t you are choosing to stay at home. Its just interesting to finish up a 2 hour lecture on the issue of POVERTY and then oh yeah by the way we won't be having class next week because I WANT MORE MONEY. Anyway. Other than than I actually really do like the professors. Their crazy liberal approach to everything really challenges me and makes me think about why/what I believe. They haven’t referenced Obama’s healthcare reform as an example of anything good, right, or wonderful yet so as long as we stay away from that topic I don’t think I will blow smoke out of my ears due to anger. If I am not studying, I am at work, in class, in the library, or working on a project. Those of you who know me (which I would assume would be everyone that cares enough to read this blog) know that regardless of what the task at hand is, I have a hard time drawing boundaries and not giving 110% of myself to it. Maybe a little extreme. Well surprise, surprise, here we are midway through the semester and what am I struggling with BALANCE. If I could I would switch to a part time plan and do 2 courses a semester over 2 years, but they don’t let international students go part time. I have met some of the greatest people through school, church, work, and just living here really. I hate not being able to accept invitations for dinner, beach, shopping, coffee, you name it. I don’t want to get to the end of my time here, whenever that may be and not have any meaningful relationships because I was hidden away in the library. Yet, at the same time, that was my reasoning in coming here and I want to do it well. I feel really, really, really bad everytime I have to say no. It means so much that people are so sweet to reach out and invite me to do stuff. Sooooo yeah, I need wisdom in making decisions regarding that. I feel like I have been dropping the ball here and at home relationally. Not writing/skyping/emailing as much as I would like to. ☹

Because the first 2 paragraphs are so upbeat and happy let me leave you with a happy one. The projects in school are super interesting. They are really cool about letting us choose topics we are passionate about as long as we tie them back to class and format them as assigned. So far I have been working on designing a micro-financing project in Spain for women rescued from sex-trafficking. Tomorrow I will start research on a paper about failed international aid to the Sahrawi refugees between Morocco/Algeria (I did work there a couple spring breaks ago), and then my favorite is a project comparing education programs for immigrants/refugees in Australia/U.S. Another happy note is that if we have had a conversation going something like this, “Kate I’d really like to come see you, but its just crazy expensive…” Well, tickets are only (ha) about $1000 roundtrip in June/July. So come on down. I know I sound like I would be a blast from the rest of this blog but I promise I will be much more fun during those months, because I won’t be in class at the time, so come on down, where the sun shines brighter, all words are shortened into a nickname of some sort, and there are more…um, sharks?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

So today was a big day. It felt like things came full circle, being that the initial prompting of my move to Sydney was in fact to attend grad school and today was my first day of classes. I kind of felt like school started last week, as I have been preparing for classes for almost a week now because we had assignments given to us ahead of time. I will be getting my Masters degree through the University of New South Wales, which is a HUGE university here in Sydney, about 40,000 students attend. It is quite different than my undergrad experience to say the least, being that OBU may have had 5,000, if that? My degree will be in social development with an emphasis on refugees/forced migration. My first semester courses are Issues in Social Development, Community Development, Politics of International Aid, and Rights Based Project Design & Evaluation. Classes tonight were great! The most exciting thing to me was probably the class sizes being small so you can get to know people and that people were from ALL OVER. I have classmates from Sudan, Nepal, Romania, Malaysia, Indonesia, England, to name a few. We did brief introductions but I can't wait to hear more of peoples stories. It should make for some interesting class discussion with so many different cultural backgrounds, work experience, life experience etc. One of the professors asked me in front of the class if I ride horses a lot at home, and she was dead serious. That is better than how the conversation normally goes..."Are you from Canada or the States? I'm from the States. Oh which part? Texas. Oh, isn't that where the fattest state in the already fat U.S? If not the obesity issue, its capital punishment, or gun laws. Maybe I will start claiming Wyoming, since I was born there, there aren't any stereotypes about Wyoming are there? Thursday we had a wine night with the professors to get to meet them and other people in our program. My professors are from Australia, England, Italy and New Zealand. I found out more about the internship programs that are available. There are opportunities to do some work on the Burma/Thailand border with refugees there, work on the Indian side of the Indian/Burma border, a project in New Delhi, India (which I have already been to), and a chance to go to the annual refugee conference at the U.N in Geneva to do some lobbying on behalf of Australia. The programs are competitive, based on grades and experience, so we will see! I will definitely apply.
I am so glad have had so much time to settle in and felt very prepared to begin school. School aside, my time here has been so incredible and so worth all the prep, uncertainty, working extra jobs, etc. Still miss Woodview, but that will never go away regardless of where I am. Such a special place in my heart. Perspective gained there radically changed my views on so many issues. If you are reading this and are one of my Woodview friends hug a 4th grader for me that was one of mine and start a political debate with Ruben on my behalf.