Friday, August 13, 2010

Back to school.... part 2

Today I actually had a real class I was registered for! I thought it was about to be a repeat of Tuesday, but the professor showed after 25 minutes (which made it interesting when she gave us a minor lecture at the of class about the importance of being on time to class). There were only about 10 of us, though that may change with drop/add next week. We also found out that the time was published wrong and it is, in fact, a 4-hour class and not a 2-hour class.

It's a little intimidating because I'm the only non-native speaker (there are other foreign students, but from Colombia, Argentina, etc) and I'm pretty sure I'm the youngest. Getting your bachelor's is a longer process here because it includes a thesis after you finish your coursework. A lot of people worked for a while and then came back to the academic world and others are here for a second master's.

The academic culture is also very different -- at least from what I've seen so far. If you're in the academic world here, philosophical debates are totally normal. I hear people spouting off names in conversations that I haven't even heard of (though I'll be the first to admit my philosophy base is rather limited). Yes, part of my master's program is housed in the Philosophy and Letters Department, but people in this program focusing on literature, culture, social movements, economy, etc. Marx is another household name.
That's (part of) what I'm here for though: to learn from a new perspective. I just have some catching up to do!

After class, one of my classmates helped me navigate the search for next week's reading assignment. Unlike in the US where you buy books at the beginning of the semester or the teacher gives you photocopies, locating reading materials is more akin to a scavenger hunt. Sometimes the teacher will leave a hardcopy for the class to photocopy, as was the case with the teacher who showed up to a different room (still trying to track it down from a classmate!).
Today the professor mentioned the name of the book and what chapters to read, so we have to find the book in one of the libraries and either read it there or get photocopies. Apparently it is not uncommon for books to be missing, in bad condition, etc. I'll have to pay better attention to author's names because the catalog search today couldn't find the book by title, only by author. I now know where the Philosophy and Letters library is (split into 2 locations), understand the basic layout of the central library and successfully made copies of the chapters I need. (Now all I have to do is read it!)

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