Welp. I’m back. Who knows for how long. I get so absorbed in my schoolwork and I don’t find blogging to be a comfortable or enjoyable procrastination tool and most of the time I am unable to exert the creative effort to write posts while studying. 6 years into my higher education I’ve realized: I am an intense academic sort of person. Not necessarily a brilliant or even smart one but simply intense. I concentrate incredibly hard on my academic ventures. A single-minded academic if you will. Often to the detriment of my social life, my leisure life and my creative life. It’s not that academic work isn’t creative, it’s one of the most creative areas of one’s life I think, but I am an artsy person– I love dance, creative writing, sketching and knitting (cat lady alert). I often completely ignore these needs whilst studying something.

I am not one of those people that is most creative in those areas when under pressure or intensely busy with my schoolwork. It’s during breaks, during ‘easy’ semesters, or when not in school at all that I am most creative in those ‘other’ areas. I think it’s because I concentrate all my creative energy into my research, my reading, and my discussions for school… critical thought is highly inventive and creative y’all. Especially in the social sciences and humanities..you’re dealing with people and their thoughts. Ew.

So mostly during the semester I want to watch TV, read ‘easy’ novels, and daydream nice ‘light’ fantasies about opening pie shops, becoming a famous ethnographic filmmaker, and snagging Lee Pace. Whatever.

But during those breaks, when I am on the Internet browsing through art, music, webcomics, cat videos, blogs, and other people’s creative ventures I am inspired and find I have the mental energy to expend! So here I am.

This semester has been very different from what I expected. Being an International student versus an exchange is like a regular glazed donut versus a chocolate long john. Same sort of premise, but entirely different experience. And a long john is a little much for me to be honest. I think I could have been an international student for undergrad but there is no way I will be doing my PhD outside of the States. It’s a surprise to me too.

Here’s a bulleted list of the major differences, for me:

  • International Students (IS) are not coddled the way Exchange Students (ES) are.   I feel so much more on my own. And it isn’t because I am a postgrad, since the application/enrollment processes, visa processes, and other processes are pretty much the same.
  • It’s harder to be social, meet people, make friends and get connected. There isn’t the built in friendships or social group one has as an ES. You don’t live together necessarily, so the cultural and environment adjustments are a solo affair, which is hard. A week after moving here to the UK I thought I was doomed. Brits are more reserved than I thought and I hadn’t been out, except to buy groceries and to go to campus for admin stuff. The camaraderie I felt as an ES I now realize is a purely unique experience– the result of the temporary nature of exchange, the proximity of people in the same situation as yourself, and the easy relaxed nature of exchange semester schoolwork– I took less classes, wasn’t a postgrad, didn’t work, and they were classes I didn’t really have to work in, allowing for a great social life.
  • I am in an intensive postgrad/graduate program not in a bachelors program. I take 4-5 post grad modules a term and will graduate (I hope) with an MA by next september. MA programs here in the UK are only a year, whereas US MA programs are often 2 years with 3 courses per term at the most. This is hard. It’s a lot of reading (some of which I just don’t do), it’s a lot of writing (5 large essays plus weekly mini papers in one class) and I am expected to be a critical thinker and bring something interesting to every discussion.
  • The UK isn’t as travel/exploration friendly as I thought. It’s expensive to get where I am from to other places in the UK/Ireland, whereas in South Africa it was fairly inexpensive for me to get from one side of the country to the other. That’s the difference of being in the post-industrial North versus the Global South. And the weather actually lives up to the stereotype. It rains a lot. There isn’t much sun. Which is nice sometimes, but I think I am suffering a vitamin D deficiency for real, and it isn’t very pleasant in a tiny city with no real parks. The largest bits of green space are the actual university campus itself and it’s famous for it, ironically. I have to leave the city to see nature. It’s unfortunate.

Well, this is enough bitching for now. We’ll see if I keep this up over the break.

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