The Last Supper

December 14, 2011

The semester was coming to a close. At this point, finals were done, summer had begun (remember, Australian seasons are backwards from the US) and, sadly, many people, like myself, were preparing to go home. That meant that a plethora of last hurrah’s would have to be packed into the few days remaining before I would return to a cold winter.

Study abroad is filled with expectations. Some are met and, conversely, some are not. But sometimes, maybe even more often than not, it is the things you least expect to meet your expectations that do. Sometimes it is the events you happen upon by chance that leave a firm imprint in your memory.

And sometimes, it is the things you go to out of obligation that become the moments you’ll never forget. I remember getting a text message from my friend coaxing me to come out as it was his last night in Australia, the same night I had already said yes to my final taekwondo dinner. This would be one of my last opportunities to hang out with the taekwondo club, the club that helped me to find my place here. At the same time, this would be my last night in Australia to hang out with a close friend I had made. So, I figured we could just put the night plans on hold and at least go to the team dinner first. They had made a tertiary reservation for my friend because, after spring breaks shenanigans and my midlife taekwondo crisis, he decided he would come to the last few practices that were left. And so we decided we would both go to the dinner and put our plans on hold until later.

What proceeded were the shenanigans and inside jokes I had loved come to live with and would soon have to learn to live without. I could easily say we were having a great time. Soon the dinner was coming to a close and final speeches were made for graduating presidents and jobs well done by coaches. And then a speech was made…for me. A speech was made and a gift was given to the exchange student who had been a part of the club for barely half a semester. People applauded and thanked…me. I was dumbfounded. I was speechless. Most of all, I was touched, sincerely. At that point I didn’t know what to say, but I had to say something so I stood up and spoke. I thanked everyone for being so welcoming and really making me feel like a part of the team. I thanked everyone for treating me like a family and really being my closest friends while I was abroad. And, as I was talking, I realized that all these things that rushed to my head that I just repeated without hesitation were completely true. In a nutshell, these people really helped to make my experience what it was and I can confidently say it would not be the same otherwise. Even days before I left, days after finals, I was still learning. And thus, things you expect to occur do not always do. However, sometimes, those expected things that don’t occur, or the expected one’s that do, make your situation better than you could have possibly imagined.


Sydney Adventures

December 14, 2011

So they say the human attention span limits our ability to focus for extended periods of time. That’s why experts recommend that about every two hours you deserve a 45 minute study break in order to refresh your mind. You know what? I value expert opinions. I mean, after all, they are called experts for a reason. So before my last exam I figured I’d take my study break. But, since I had been studying and writing essays for the past two weeks, I figured that, mathematically, I need a break proportionate to the amount of work I had been doing. And that’s how I justified my one week vacation to Sydney before my last exam. A few other spiders studying at University of Melbourne and I went off to Sydney to stay with a few Spiders studying there. And thus, we were spreading our spider web over Australia…because we’re spiders. Spiders spin web. And that, my friends, is almost definitely the last Richmond Spiders pun I will make.

Anyway, a few friends of ours from Richmond offered to let us stay with them in Sydney. What’s nice is we’re getting an opportunity to see what it’s like at other universities in Australia. They live on campus at their university, but much like University of Melbourne it is very much a commuter school. Still, the smaller minority who live on campus is proportionate to the size of the entire student population. So, there are about 1000 students living here at a time.

The city of Sydney is incredible. We took time to visit some of the famous touristy areas like the opera house and the royal botanic gardens. Before we left to venture out into the nightlife of Sydney, we had to decide whether we would try to catch the last night train, or wait until they started again in the morning. And that’s when I realized you reach a point in life where you tell yourself that all-nighters are over-rated. You come to believe and accept that, after countless late night study sessions and written-in-one-night papers, nothing really special happens at the break of dawn other than a weird bodily sensation of fatigue that you can’t really differentiate between “just woke up” fatigue and “it’s really time for me to go to bed but I’ve had too much caffeine” fatigue.

So, like back at school, we decided that we would catch the last train, feeling that we had outgrown the all-nighter phase. And with that decision, we learned another very important lesson. Some decisions don’t go the way you plan them to. Sometimes, because of things like track work on trains, a changed bus schedule and a very convincing argument that there will be a second “last train”, you just don’t get to avoid the all-nighter…And sometimes you don’t get to avoid it three times in a row. Now, as much as I would love to say that the incredible people we met at 4:30 in the morning showed us a different part of Sydney that I will personally hold dear forever, I can’t, mainly because everyone else was asleep at 4:30 in the morning. What was incredible, though, was the way friends can make up games to keep themselves entertained for hours until the trains start running again. I guess that’s when the creativity kicks in. But you definitely find out who you can and cannot deal with after four hours in the Australian version of Burger King. And I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome.


The Spirit of Collaboration: Grassroots Movements

December 9, 2011

On an alternative education program, it is not final exams that we have, but rather, final projects.  After working with communities all semester long, learning about their struggles, successes, and current projects, we as students finally get to be a part of it.  When I initially came I was confused what out projects were.  I did not understand the process; and that process is collaboration.  My final project is unlike anything I have ever worked on because I am not only working with a group of five other students, but with an entire community.  And these people not only want, but need, it to be perfect, because it changes their livelihoods.  (Also, everything has to be translated into Thai.)

For my project, I am working with the Rasi Salai community as they begin the very early stages of starting a Green Market, or an organic market.

We created surveys and the conducted them both in the city with consumers and on potential producers’ farms.  After collecting our data, we returned to Khon Kaen to analyze it, create an educational pamphlet on organic food, and prepare for our annual Human Rights Festival.  What a crazy two weeks it has been!  So now, as it nears an end, I finally have clarity on what it means to collaborate with a community, and I have a better idea of what grassroots movements really are.  I came into this program thinking there needed to be outside involvement, but after having worked with a community that has been organizing for 17 years, I understand that motivation and passion are what drives movements, not power or money.  A dam was built in the community, and rather than giving up, they fight (“sou sou!”)  In this case, that means working within their situation, and making it better.  So currently, that means an organic market.  I know it is early stages, but I am really looking forward to years from now when I return to Thailand and go to the Wetlands Peoples’ Green Market.

As for now, well it’s time to wind down.  (No, that doesn’t mean free time).  We will have the Human Rights Festival, which is a gathering of many communities and NGOs presenting their issues and networking together.  Then off to the retreat to reform the program structure and reflect on my experience.  It is hard to believe that its all coming to an end, but nice to know I have a community at Richmond to come home to.


The Story With a Moral

December 7, 2011

My first in-class exam was in Intermediate Macroeconomics, and I was slightly terrified.

After my three days of non-stop studying (minus the bathroom breaks and nap breaks and food breaks… and Facebook breaks and TV breaks including, but not limited to, Dexter, Community and How I Met Your Mother), I was as ready as I would ever be to take this exam.  I decided I would get there relatively early, and this meant that I would get 15 minutes of reading time before the exam began, almost like a bonus for being early. I was ready to go. I had my pre-exam cup of coffee. I had pencils, pens and a calculator. I was wearing pants, unlike most typical pre-exam nightmares.  The only thing I hadn’t done was the pre-exam workout my housemate had suggested, but I figured I could do without the morning jog.

I went to the general exam hall 15 minutes early, and I learned three very important lessons. Lesson number one: not all exams are held on campus, apparently. Lesson number two: my exam that day was not held on campus. Lesson number three: I would get that pre-exam workout my housemate suggested. After asking around and discovering that my exam was a solid five blocks away from campus, I ran for my life.

When I finally got there, not only did I fail to arrive 15 minutes early, I was 15 minutes late. I jumped into my chair as the gears in my brain jumped into double overtime. I was wide awake at that point, and scribbling answers as fast as I could. I glared at test proctors as they distracted me from my exam by reminding me to fill out insignificant information like my name and student ID number. Sweat was racing down my face as if my eyes were the finish line, forcing me to waste time to clear my vision.

However, at last, I finished without a second to spare and not a second to double-check. I walked out of that exam hall to a shining sun and warm happy smiles all around. The moral of the story is…well… I don’t think it has anything to do with morning jogging, really. Maybe the moral is… “directions a day keep the lost and tardy away!” Okay, you know what? We’ll just go with the moral: “In life, the unexpected occurs.” So, in preparation, be prepared to be unprepared, because preparing can only help you to prepare for that which can be prepared for.


The Work of a Giant.

December 6, 2011

As the final weeks of term loom ahead, I would like to reminisce about being new to this whole living in Europe thing. Back in the day (sure seems like a heck of a lot longer than just 3 months), I felt the electric excitement of exploring Derry and its surrounding areas. Early on in the semester, a group of American students and I decided to hop on a train one Saturday morning and take it to the coast. Two hours and a long stream of breathtaking landscapes later, we arrived at the Giant’s Causeway on Northern Ireland’s Antrim Coast.

When researching the must-see sights of Ireland, the Giant’s Causeway always tops the list. Ever since I saw a picture of this geological phenomenon, I knew I needed to see it. My American companions all had the same thought. Just as we stepped off the bus, rain began to fall. It didn’t matter to us, though — we were determined. An advisor here at Magee actually told me that going to the coast in less-than-perfect weather was kind of a good idea. She said that seeing the waves violently crash against the coast made the cliffs and sights dramatic to behold. Anticipation was building as we made it all the way down the winding coastal path, passing signs warning of falling rocks. We rounded a final rock wall, and then we saw it. There is no way to describe it. Pictures don’t even do it justice. It’s one of those sights that you have to experience in person. Here are some pictures to give you an idea:

The Giant’s Causeway is basically a path of huge circular rocks projecting into the sea. Millions of years ago, the lava of an erupted volcano cooled in a certain way to form the almost perfectly circular rocks. It is really amazing because they look completely manmade. Even more interesting than the science behind the causeway is the Irish myth (and its namesake) about the place. The story is that an Irish giant named Finn MacCool wanted to battle with a Scottish giant known as Benandonner. Finn built a great stone bridge to link Ireland with Scotland so that Benandonner could cross. As Benandonner began approaching Ireland, his sheer figure terrified MacCool into hiding. The myth goes that MacCool was disguised as a baby and was placed in a giant crib. Upon seeing the ‘baby’, Benandonner did not want to imagine how massive MacCool would be if that was the size of his child. Quickly he turned around and ripped up the pathway as he ran back to Scotland.

As we were exploring the Causway, the rain finally let up and we were able to see the sights really well. We then took another bus to the nearby town of Bushmills. The attraction here? Ireland’s famous Bushmills Whiskey brewery, of course! We took a tour of the plant and learned about how “the water of life” is made. This is the literal translation of the Irish word for whiskey! They sure do love it here. A picture of the factory even appears on some Irish £20 notes. At the end of the tour we were offered a sampling of the whiskey. I’d have to say it was a wee bit strong for my tastes… Here is a picture of me next to a bunch of Bushmills barrels:

The next stop on our journey of the coast was the resort town of Portrush. Seeing it during the month of September obviously wouldn’t reveal all that the place has to offer, but it was beautiful in any case. The city is a place where many families in Ireland and the UK come to vacation. Here I finally had my authentic Irish Fish and Chips that I had been dying for! Here’s a picture:

Reflecting on it now, that trip really opened my eyes to the wonders that exist outside the borders of the United States. It made me hungry to see more and more of what else is out there! This is probably the reason why Megan and I planned a last minute trip over to Scotland. With only 2 weeks until all my final artwork is due, it’s proper crazy if you ask me! Well, at least I’m making progress. Here’s a wee picture of my latest work-in-progress creation… he will end up being a dinosaur of sorts:

Fun Fact #13: The Titanic was built in Northern Ireland’s capital of Belfast.

Fun Fact #14: The HBO series Game of Thrones is shot here. I met someone who was actually an extra in next season’s filming that took place earlier this semester. Also, Rihanna’s video for “We Found Love” was shot near Belfast. Apparently she was filming in a farmer’s field, but the shoot got a little too risqué, so the farmer kicked her off his land.


Time for Harvest, and Final Projects

December 5, 2011

Harvest time means that all the green fields from the beginning of my journey have turned golden yellow.  It is a physical representation of truly how much time has passed.  Pretty cool, though, because just as the rice has changed through process, so have I, through our group process.

This last unit before final projects was based on mining, and it brought together everything we have learned so far.  Water gets poisoned, land rights are violated, and of course, the farmland is destroyed.  What was most interesting about this unit was its complexity.  I, as an American consumer, contribute to this issue.  At our reading discussion, we had to take everything that had mined products in it and put it at our feet.  Jewlery, electronics from our backpacks, notebooks, pens — everything was sitting at our feet.  It was a scary realization.  Then we went off to the communities, and they, too, use products that have been mined.  It’s really a “not in my backyard” argument, but it needs to happen in our current economy, so whose backyard do we put it in?  More importantly, how do we ensure that those people have a say? That seems to be one of the biggest problems here in Northeast Thailand.  The villagers simply are not heard when the proposed projects will change their livelihood forever.

Despite all the work that was due, two friends and I decided to take our personal days and return back to the organic village.  What an adventure it was.  I could not stay with my host family, so I stayed with my friends and Paw Wan.  Paw is the local rice varieties expert, so it was cool harvesting rice in his farm.  It wasn’t just Jasmine 105 or Gaw Kaw 6; we were harvesting black rice, and then for dinner, we had the most delicious red sticky rice.  (Which doesn’t mean the rice is sticky — it is a different kind of rice that is eaten in this region.)

The trip back was where the adventure happened.  A driver brought us to the city nearby, then we got on an open air bus to take us to the bus station, and then there was only standing room on the four-hour bus ride.  Plus, the air conditioning was broken.  I found myself sitting on the floor (because it was cooler) scrunched between my friends, and just hoping that time would pass quickly.

We got home safe and sound as always, appreciating the adventure and impressed with our language skills.  It is now time for final projects, so off to the village to assess the feasibility of a Green Market.  But more on that soon…


Adventures in Paris.

November 29, 2011

Since we met each other in September, Megan, Lauren, and I had been talking about taking a trip together. We all wanted to venture deeper into Europe and have a wee vacation away from Derry. We unanimously decided on Paris. We had been told several times that we would fall in love with the city if we visited. A professor had also mentioned that an airline called EasyJet always had cheap tickets for travel within Europe, so our planning began.

We researched several different hostels within the city and settled on one that had pretty good reviews online. The only downside to this particular establishment was that management only spoke French. Having a history with the French language, our little group relied on me to deal with any transactions in my very simple French.  It turned out to be no problem at all.

On our first night in the City of Love we explored a bit trying to find somewhere suitable to eat. I’m not sure about my friends, but I know that I was a bit nervous to walk into a restaurant and order off a menu only written in French. We happily stumbled upon a restaurant/café with the menu posted outside (written in both French and English). The waiter happened to be standing outside when he heard us speaking. It must have been a novelty for him to run into Americans because he seemed excited to learn where in the States we all were from. He guided us inside and immediately recommended the duck- a French classic. Lauren and I decided to try as many French foods as possible while we were in Paris, so we went with his suggestion. It was absolutely lovely. At the end of our meal we chose crème brulee as our dessert to celebrate our trip to Paris. To our surprise, the waiter (who we later referred to as “nice French man”) also brought out a dish of chocolate mousse to welcome us to the great city. As we were leaving he also quickly wrote down metro directions to the Eiffel tower which we were planning to see the next morning. My experience in Paris proved the stereotype that the French dislike Americans completely false.

The next morning we took the lift all the way to the tip top of the Eiffel Tower. The views were remarkable to say the least. I have been in some pretty tall buildings (like the Sears Tower in Chicago) but it is much different to be that high in the open air. Megan and Lauren were a bit skeptical in taking the second lift all the way to the topmost level. I was too excited to look around the be nervous. My knees however did start to quake a bit when we took the stairs down from the second level to the first level. Its very strange to be that high up on an open air structure when you can feel the wind blowing. It will definitely be something I will never forget.

After we made it all the way back down, we walked a good distance away to get a view of the monument from afar. We walked by a street artist with work displayed and I fell in love with some of his drawings. I ended up buying 4 of them and the artist gave me another one for free- see, the stereotype being broken. You can see his work at this website: http://www.mario-paris.com/.

While taking some pictures, we ran into another group of American students. They were all from St. Cloud in Minnesota and were currently studying in Germany. It was very strange to hang out with some other Americans for a while. I love the people here in Europe, but it was just refreshing to talk to people going through a similar experience. From the tower we all walked to the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées. We walked around for a while then made plans to meet up with the other Americans later for drinks. Being the American girls that we are, Lauren, Megan, and I decided to see all the stores lining the Champs-Élysées- a big shopping location in Paris. We grabbed dinner which included a lovely appetizer of snails. I have had escargot before, so I knew what I was getting myself into. It was great to see Megan and Laruen’s faces as they tasted it for the first time. I was then able to check that off the foods-to-eat-in-Paris list.

While talking to the American students we had met, we came up with the best meeting place ever- under the Eiffel tower. That night we actually ended up going to and Irish themed pub which made the three of us feel at home.

The next morning we had three things on our to do list- Versailles, the Louvre, and Notre Dame. Because Versailles is further out of the city, we decided to go there first. After several buses and trains, we finally got there. And all the traveling was well worth it. The place is massive. And beautiful. In fact, it is so massive and beautiful that there are bikes for rent to take around the gardens and that is exactly what we did. We rode all around the grounds and the pond and just enjoyed the lovely day. Before we left we took a tour of the larger palace and were amazed at the size and grandeur of the place. There are countless rooms with crystal chandeliers and hundreds of pieces of artwork. There were salons with paintings big enough to take up the entire wall. In several rooms, the ceilings were completely painted with Bible scenes. Here are a few  pictures of Versailles:

After we felt so completely like princesses, we decided to head to the Louvre. Not having planned much of our trip in advance, we sadly arrived at the Louvre to find that the museum portion was closed for the day due to a national holiday. This was slightly disappointing, but who can be sad in Paris?! We headed on to the Notre Dame and realized that day was November 11, 2011. That’s 11/11/11. So at 11:11 pm on 11/11/11 we could make the most epic wish ever underneath the Eiffel tower. We had a bit of time to kill so we enjoyed the Notre Dame Cathedral from every angle and wandered the streets of Paris for a while. Then our last night in Paris ended while sitting underneath the Eiffel Tower making wishes. It was magical.

Fun Fact #11: Young people in Northern Ireland are paid a “living expense” to go to school when they are around the age of people in high school. My friend Tomas said, “Aye, I think we were given about 30 quid a week”.

Fun Fact #12: “Aye” means “yeah”. People here never say “yeah”. They also never say “little”. Everything is always just “wee”.


Hallowe’en Night

November 16, 2011

Ever since I got to Derry, I have been told again and again about Halloween night. “It’s a shame you’re missing St. Patrick’s Day,” people would say, “but at least you get Halloween!” People around here flock to the city centre for this holiday. The town puts on a parade and a firework show over the Foyle River. The bars and pubs are packed with costumed celebrators.

My Halloween celebrations actually started quite early. Tomas, my Irish friend, and his father picked up me and my two American friends at the Student Village (on-campus housing) around 4 pm. It felt a little strange walking down the street this early already dressed as Dorothy from head to toe. I’m not going to lie… I got a few strange looks. We headed over to Tomas’ house to eat dinner with his family. His mother made lasagna and served it with chips. All the food here comes with chips… even Chinese. (And when I say chips, I am of course talking about french fries.)

Followed by dinner was dessert. This dessert was extra special, because it was the first pumpkin pie Tomas had ever baked. See, a week previously, Megan, Tomas, and I got together to carve pumpkins and bake pies. Megan and I found it terribly strange that carving pumpkins and eating pumpkin pie are not really part of the Halloween tradition here. Very few Irish people I have met have ever carved a pumpkin, and many didn’t even know that it could be made into a dessert. Tomas was slightly embarrassed to be carrying around our five pumpkins in the supermarket, as he was getting some strange looks. We explained to him that carrying around a bunch of pumpkins in America only inspired more Halloween spirit in onlookers. Not only is it interesting to learn about the culture here, but it feels great to introduce others to some of our fun traditions. Here is a picture of the lovely jack-o-lanterns we made that night (mine, Megan’s, and Tomas’):

Later on Hallowe’en night (how many people in Europe spell the word), we headed into town to take part in all of the festivities. We caught a couple minutes of the Halloween parade before heading over to the banks of the Foyle River to get a good spot for the fireworks. They shot the fireworks high above the river, choreographed to a soundtrack. It was definitely a sight to see. Not only were the fireworks amazing, but the number of people who came out dressed in their Halloween best was astounding. I quite enjoyed watching as all the costumes walked by. After the events in town were over, we headed to a Halloween party held in the Students Union. The night truly was a blast. Here’s a picture of Megan, me, and Lauren in our costumes:

Fun Fact #9: Traffic lights here go from red, to yellow, to green as well as from green, to yellow, to red.

Fun Fact #10: Electrical plugs have on and off switches here. This can get quite annoying for us Americans, because we always seem to plug something in, but forget to hit the on switch… so my phone will just end up sitting there, not charging.


The River Runs Free (or should) and Chiang Mai

November 16, 2011

Here in Khon Kaen, Thailand, working as a member of a group and visiting villages every few weeks, the term solidarity has come up a few times. It seems that the more time that passes, the more frequently the term is used. What does solidarity mean in relation to these issues? What does it mean in the villages?

On a journey to discover what solidarity really means, one telling village was Ban Huay Top Nai Noi. Not only does this protest village share passion and drive, but they have a plan. Made up of villagers from two different surrounding villages, this village was formed to protest a dam project upstream. These villagers’ homes were not going to be flooded, but their farms and their livelihoods were. In 1995, the protest village formed in the flood zone of the proposed dam project. Paw Sampone said, “We moved to the flood zone because if they want to build the dam, build the dam. But, if you retain any water, you will be killing people.” The power of their mission is not just for themselves, however —  it is for the land and the people around them.

For communities we visited during unit 4, which are potential or previous dam sites, the river is more than a source of water. The flooding created or exacerbated by dams is not just detrimental to the crops in the farmland or the homes in the area, but completely destroys livelihoods.

For example, in communities in Rasi Salai, the end of the rainy season has led to absolutely no source of income for the people. The wetlands, their original source of food and crops, is flooded. They cannot gather crops that have been sustaining their families for hundreds of years. Because of the dam reservoir, their farmlands are also flooded to the point where they can only get around some parts by boat. Many cannot even walk to their farms to see how much damage has been done. The final portion of these villagers’ income comes from handicrafts made and sold at the local learning center. The center is up to the roof with water because the land the people were given for the project is located on the banks of the reservoir. The supplies to make most of the crafts come from their fields, as well. So without farmland just a few weeks before harvest, plus no crafts and no place to sell them, the dam has led to no financial stability or security for the people of Rasi Salai. Their homes may not be flooded, but they continue to band together because without the other community members, some families could easily go hungry.

This community serves as a mentor for that of Ban Huay Top Nai Noi. They have provided guidance, comfort, and support during the hard times. They inspire the people of Ban Huay Top Nai Noi, and encourage their fight. Even through the violence that occurred, the people of the protest village stayed in their new location. Their presence is a fight, and it is a message. “We do this for the land. Land cannot regenerate, but people are born everyday.” Their strength comes from each other. “Wherever we go, we go together. We share everything, not just knowledge.” These words of the community members is what enables the movement they are part of. They have a cause and support and the strength of their community is what true solidarity looks like. They stand, fall, live and fight together.

After the water unit was our four-day break, which came and went quickly, and what an amazing adventure it was! Just a quick summary — I went to Chiang Mai and saw the floating lantern festival. It was the most amazing thing, and it is a time to pay tribute to the river, so it was fitting following our water unit. I rode an elephant, played with baby tigers, and went bungee jumping (never thought I would…)  Although I indulged in foreign food like burritos and falafel, it’s good to be back in Isaan where there aren’t tourists and I get to speak Thai.

Onto the mining unit, which should be really interesting and I’ll have more time with internet to blog in a more timely fashion!



Level 13 Academic Warrior

November 14, 2011

Lately, a large portion of my collected fan mail has been flooded with requests for me to describe how different schooling is in Melbourne in comparison to Richmond. So, I figured that now, during the exam period, is a perfect a time to fill you in.

First off, the University of Melbourne is held in pretty high regard. It’s prestigious in Australia, and I think about 40,000 students attend school here. That’s about ten times what I’m used to at the University of Richmond. Classes are divided into lectures, which equal one professor teaching an auditorium full of 200+ students — for a little more than an hour if you’re lucky, and for two hours if you’re not. Unlike Richmond, the lectures are so big there’s no way they can actually take attendance. That would probably take about the entire lecture to complete. So, of course, if a few students don’t show up, a lecturer won’t notice. On the other hand, like in my Human Rights in East Asia class, if only 24 students show up to a lecture of 100, the professor has a pretty good idea that some people aren’t showing up. Also, classes are called subjects here, and subjects are called courses (Note: be on the lookout for an upcoming Australian to American English lingo translation guide).

Anyway, university here taught me a few very important lessons.

Number one: there is no actual cap or regulation on the amount of red ink that can be used while grading a paper.

Number two: the grading system starts a lot lower here than it does back in America, so the category for failing is consequently a lot lower.

Number three: in a panic attack induced from receiving a very low grade, refer to number two.

Number four: even though classes here are pass or fail, grades still made a difference to me. I’m not sure if it’s some sort of self-instilled personal high standard, or simply a way of judging my own abilities, but I still wanted to do well. At the same time, it taught me to do something because I wanted to, not because I had to. After skipping a few lectures, I realized that I would only have one opportunity to see education from this non-American point of view. This would be my only chance to see, in a completely unbiased manner, how other countries see the United States. As soon as I started listening, I realized how incredible of an experience that was. There was now this new category of an “American perspective,” and it drove me to learn everything I could. It really is an experience I can’t quite put into words, but if I tried, I’d say it’s one that’s worth it.


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