Saturday, December 7, 2013

Finals, youtube subscriptions, beating up racists

I'm at the end of my first full time semester, halfway through finals and with a Youtube watch-later playlist of 200 videos. If you're looking for me over the Christmas break I'll be cuddling with my laptop with tea.

Life is good! These past four months have been some of the happiest and most fulfilling of my life. Of course I'm stressed about finals. Of course I've cried in the library because I was sleep-deprived and beyond stressed out. Of course I've complained bitterly about my courses.
But really? When I look back on it, it's been exactly what I wanted.

I feel like I've made a lot of new friends as well as gotten to know old friends better this term, I feel surrounded by awesome people, and people that share many of the same goals and interests I do. I even broke my 19 year streak of singleness! WHAT?
I know enough about myself to know that the best way to make me happy is to give me lots of social time, and I really managed to do that this term. I had a class with my best friend, a boy to watch Doctor Who with on the weekends, and an awesome, lovely group of people to study with.

I'm most in love with philosophy, although I felt that all my courses this year were worthwhile. I feel much better equipped to deal with racists and general discrimination since taking Anthro 150 (Race and Racism), I know so much more about western religions from the first half of my world religions course, and despite the prof being pretty bad I still increased my knowledge of psychology a LOT.

Next term my plans are to take two philosophy courses (Epistemology and The Human Person), the second half of Relig 101, and my second junior English requirement. I'm hoping to also do PAC (I think that stands for Physical ACtivity?), this one is all about yoga, which would be very interesting and would maybe be a nice de-stresser.

Then if all goes according to plan, I'll be headed to Germany for the spring term to take my 200 levels! It's an immersive program where you can't speak English at all when you're with the group or your host family and there are excursions to the major cities on the weekend. 6* in 6 weeks plus an opportunity to see more of Europe? Sounds good to me!

I should be writing my philosophy paper and not this blog post, so I'm going to go now, but please let me know how your semester went, whether you're in school or not! Was it the best of your life, or have you seen better terms?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

On post-secondary education and becoming a Student With A Backpack

This is me on my first day of school...ever. Note the messenger bag. That didn't last long.

For most kids, university is a natural expectation. You go to elementary, junior high, highschool, and then some sort of post-secondary is the next step. Duh.
For me, though, I never even really thought about doing a degree. I thought maybe a technical diploma or certificate sometime in my twenties, but I honestly never saw myself as the sort of person who would stagger into the university straight out of Grade 12, backpack weighing heavy on my shoulders, automatically marching my way from lecture to lecture. I had never even been to school!

And yet, somehow I find myself in the last weeks of my first year of university (I decided to do 3 semesters), staring at my full-time fall and winter schedules, my time filled with the requirements to eventually be handed a piece of fancy paper that reads Bachelor of Arts. My backpack is loaded for tomorrow, Contemporary Linguistic Analysis, notebooks, pencils, novels for English, endless granola bars. And a bike lock.

When I first started going to the U of A I had this strange feeling that soon enough someone would figure out that I didn't really belong there. They would tackle me somewhere along my wandering path through the arts quad and remind me that I wasn't REALLY a university student, that I didn't belong. That because German 111 was my first classroom experience instead of the usual Kindergarten I couldn't possibly be attempting to fit into the university flow.

But the weird thing was, I started to feel like I DID belong. What was supposed to be a year of spontaneous language learning through the Open Studies program has turned into a 4+ year trip through the education system. I fell in love with the libraries, with the campus, and with the wide variety of course options. I fell in love with learning German every morning and ASL every night. And this term I've fallen in love with scribbling IPA alongside my notes on Jekyll and Hyde.

I gave up rebelling with my etch-a-sketch themed messenger bag and bought a backpack. I haul myself from building to building, bitching about profs and essays just like the rest of the students. But I'm not doing any of this for any previous expectation or even to be successful later, hell, even the degree is more of the icing on the cake than the real reason I'm here.

I'm here because I was tackle-hugged by university. It sneakily grabbed me and pulled me under without my permission. It knew me, it knew my goals, and it knew that I loved to learn. And that was enough to hook me.

Well, I've got to get back to my books and diminishing bank account now, but if there's anyone reading this, what is or was your university experience like? Did you always anticipate that you would do post-secondary, or were you more like me? Tell me about it!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Learning languages
What everyone asks me when I say I'm learning German, which I find rather odd.

So I'm currently in my second semester as a (part-time) university student learning two new languages! And I love it!
It's made me think a lot about how the language we use influences the meaning of what we're saying, for instance, the sign for "believe" in American Sign Language is literally "thought-marriage", like a commitment to a thought. I'm not sure if a native signer would even notice this, but to an outsider it makes you think about what the word "believe" really means.
Or how in German, word-order is drastically different. Does this change the way you think about your sentence? Just because a German verb generally comes earlier in a sentence than an English one, does it give that verb more weight?
Anyway, I think I need to take a linguistics class because I have a lot more questions than answers!

But I think the point of this post is that learning a second (and third!) language really opened up my worldview, made me think about the way we communicate. Whether verbally or through sign, we all have the same desire for language. I hope to continue my studies to a point where I can communicate effectively in German and ASL, but in any case it's been an awesome introduction to other cultures, vocabularies, and customs.

Well, there's a mini-update on my life! I'll try to post again about some of the other stuff that's been going on!
If anyone's reading this, do you speak any other languages? How have they helped you to think about the world?