I’ve now been in Munich for almost two weeks. Here’s what I’ve been up to for the past seven days:
Munich, I Think I Like You
I’ve done a lot of sightseeing and meeting people from the University. I’ve visited the Bravarian Alps, including Ludwig II’s Schloss Linderhof and the cute town of Garmisch. I’ve visited the Deutsches Museum (all about German technology — it’s huge!) and spent four hours listening to music in German at Der Lange Nacht Der Musik.
I’ve taken a few classes, including my German class, and I’ve started to get a real feel for the city. Of course, you also can’t get a real feel for a city until a filling falls out of your tooth and you have to venture into the world of foreign dentistry. Note: German dentists are SUPERB. She put a post in my tooth and did a build up without any pain killers in 20 minutes. Fast, efficient, and effective.
Not knowing German is such a bizarre experience. There are times when I’m just totally lost. The grocery store, for instance. Did I just buy laundry detergent? I hope so. But who knows…it could be bleach. Fabric softener. DISHWASHER DETERGENT. It’s hard to tell, there’s only soap bubbles on the bottle. Using the washing machine to do laundry was also an experience. I’ve perfected the “wait and see how someone else does it first” approach to many tasks, including how on earth one opens the washing machine door and figuring out which compartment the detergent goes in. And I hope 30 degrees Celsius is the right temperature for my clothes, because that’s how they’re getting washed!
So you can see how this has become an adventure. Why is my wine 6 euros when the sign says 4? There’s a 2 euro deposit on the glass! Is this conditioner or shampoo? It’s conditioner…for people with blond hair! Why does this mouthwash taste so terrible? Because it just DOES. Why is this train not going where it said it was going?! Oh, because the U-3 mysteriously changes, mid-route, to the U-2 during peak times! You get the idea. It’s all about flexibility and going with the flow. And sometimes changing trains across town and using terrible mouthwash.
Getting Down To Business
So in between all of the general chaos is the work I’m doing while I’m here. I’ve learned more about the program I’m participating in, which is a master’s of psychology in learning sciences cohort. This is a degree 100% in English, made up of students from all over the world. They told me yesterday that they take nine different two-hour classes each semester, or about two classes a day.
However, these classes are quite different from ours in the US. As I mentioned in last week’s post, they do less reading, but more in depth. The students really analyze information presented to them and critique the research. I’ve also observed a lot of time given in class for assignments we typically might do outside of class. One class is given three whole class periods (out of fourteen total!) to work on the final projects: a concept map. The other class was entirely centered on presenting progress on research they are working on with professors. So while they have eighteen hours of class each week instead of nine, they spend far less time outside of class doing assignments.
In fact, grades don’t seem to be a big thing. At all. And guess what? The students still come to class prepared and ready to learn. Definitely something to think about when pondering how I want to structure my future classes.
I’ve really enjoyed meeting these students, and they have been extremely kind and accommodating. When I explained to them why I’m visiting their classes, one girl told me, “We need more people like you. Studying how different countries do things and taking the best of each.”
I hadn’t thought of it that way. My excitement is still over being in a foreign country for the summer and being funded to do so. But I do have the very real possibility of impacting positive changes. Maybe not this year. Maybe not in the first few years of my career, even. But eventually. So that feels pretty good, and I’m excited for my next five weeks in Munich (and the following three in Porto!).
What personal experience has greatly influenced your career?
Greetings from Munich! As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I am researching abroad from Germany this summer. I arrived on Friday, and it has been a very busy week so far! We get set up in our flat, visited sites, ate LOTS of food, enjoyed beer gardens, and registered at Ludwig-Maximilian Universitat. Our first German class was on Monday night, and I started my courses in the Psychology department yesterday.
What I’m Doing Here
My research here is focused on experience of global education through a combination of participating in higher education classes and site visits to local institutions (schools and libraries). The goal is to open up the dialogue between European education and US education by connecting between University faculty and advanced degree students. In seven weeks, I will head to Porto, Portugal for a 2.5 week institute where all of the students in the program will listen to lectures and share ideas in small groups. At the end, we will be expected to write a paper for publication with a participant from a different country.
This is a far more independent experience than an undergraduate semester studying abroad. I’m really just sitting in on classes (all start and end several weeks beyond my stay) to experience German higher education first-hand.
My Thoughts So Far
So far, I’m really enjoying Munich. I have never been to Germany, but it is incredible! The German pace is exactly my style. This country is so efficient, but the people also know how to spend hours at cafes and beer gardens. Work hard, relax hard. They don’t even bring their laptops to coffee shops, just a magazine or a friend. Or they just sit and look out the window. I feel like in American we glorify the cult of busy, the idea that we must always be busy.
In my first college class, I attended a master’s seminar in learning sciences/psychology. I never thought I’d be taking master’s psych classes in Germany! But I was surprised by both the laid back attitude of the teacher and students AND the level of participation of all. The class read a journal article and had a really good discussion about the findings. Instead of reading a lot of stuff and barely talking about it (as we sometimes do in my American classes), they really deconstructed a single piece for ninety minutes. I really enjoyed the experience and look forward to more classes.
Traveling abroad is a different experience every time. And I will have different experiences in every city! I’m hoping I can share some of those with you along the way!
Did you ever study abroad? What did you think of the experience?
Before spring break I said I would have some exciting news to share…
I’m spending my summer in Europe!!!!!!!
I was able to join on a summer research experience through the School of Education that will allow me to do self-directed research abroad. I’ve got funding for most of that experience, including eight weeks of research at a university and two weeks of an global studies institute at a different university. Since I have some money saved and a tax refund coming, I’m also able to finally take my dream European travel extravaganza upon completion of the research! I’ve plotted the things I really want to see and places I really want to go, so I think I’ve nailed down my itinerary.
I’ll be going to:
- Copenhagen, Denmark
- Jonkoping, Sweden
- Oslo, Norway
- Stockholm, Sweden
- Porto, Portugal
- Berlin, Germany
- Prague, Czech Republic
- Krakow, Poland (and Auschwitz)
- Vienna, Austria
- Venice, Italy
- Florence, Italy
- Rome, Italy
- Pompeii, Italy
I’ll be there for a total of three months, so it’s a lot to arrange before the end of the semester! I’ve got to cross my fingers that my passport comes in time (it should), arrange for a house sitter, make travel arrangements, and deal with the financials. It’s also really hard to keep my head in lit reviews, papers, and theory when I want to be cracking open my European guidebook to plan my travels. I traveled to Paris and London when I was 16, but this will be my first big trip abroad. Kind of a no-holds-barred, bucket list experience.
As of now, I’m not sure how I plan to “document” the trip. I’m sure I’ll share a little on here, especially anything bookish I do (I plan to read a book while drinking coffee in every country I visit). What I want to know from you, my dear readers, is what I should DO in these countries. I’ve got my ideas, but I’m flexible at this point. Anything I just CAN’T miss? Anything super cool, off the beaten path, or particularly bookish I might consider adding to the itinerary?
Where are you DYING to travel one day? What’s your favorite place you’ve already been?
A long time ago (like, this past summer) I read a post on Red Lips and Academics called “Things I’m Afraid to Tell You: Academic Edition.” She borrowed the idea from the Creature Comfort’s Blog, and it started as a sort of meme for crafty (like, Pinterest-perfect) crafty folks. The idea is that bloggers remove our air of confidence, the facade we wear that says, “We’ve got everything figured out. We’ve got our shit together. We’re so together that we blog about our amazing lives.” Okay, so those are my words, not hers. But today I’m going to share with you some of my vulnerabilities as an academic. I certainly have shared some of my insecurities along the way, but these are the biggies:
1. I’m a 95%er. Meaning, I’m not a perfectionist. I don’t have time to be a perfectionist. You can probably tell by the number of typos on this blog. I believe that perfection is terribly inefficient.
2. I was not a fabulous teacher. I wasn’t terrible, but I certainly wasn’t the teacher of the year. No one is very good in their first few years, so this isn’t surprising. However, I sometimes feel weird talking about all these ideals and theories of teaching when I look back on my experiences and cringe.
3. I get jealous of my friends who have lives. When I look at all my friends having babies, buying houses, going on vacations, getting married, I often feel stuck. Like I have this one thing I can do well (academics) and I’m a one trick pony. I regularly remind myself that things will look very different ten years from now, and I just have to be okay with that.
4. Now that I’ve started my Ph.D, I don’t know when I’m going to have children. My life will only get harder when/if I get a tenure-track position! There will be no good time. It’s just going to have to happen anyway, and I get tired just thinking about it!
5. I rarely miss teaching in the public schools. This makes me feel super guilty and I don’t really like to talk about it. However, I just love being treated like a serious adult and a real person. I like being able to go outside at various points in the day, eating lunch without being interrupted, and being able to walk out of class when I have to go to the bathroom. The introvert in me is loving all of the time I have to hyper-focus on things.
6. I have zero experience with research. And I desperately need some. And I will get some (I am already getting some), but right now it’s a huge deficit in my education that constantly stares me in the face.
7. I don’t talk fancy. I mean, my vocabulary has already changed a lot being in this academic wonderland. I’ve never been against jargon and ed-speak and fancy words because they are usually efficient for describing ideas. However, most of the time I just talk like a normal person. This may change over the next three years (…it will likely change over the next three years…), but for now I’m better at writing than talking.
So there you have it. Things I’m afraid to tell you. I know I’m not alone in these, and I know many of them will work themselves out over time. I’m generally a very confident, optimistic, person, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have my fair share of insecurities from time to time.
Also, please note that I’m not asking for solutions from anyone. I’m handling things very well in school and I’m very happy! I’m forging my own way and figuring it all out along that path. I’m fine with some stumbles and questions as I go, that’s life! The purpose for sharing this is to put a little bit of myself out there. It’s about transparency and realizing I’m not alone (and that you aren’t alone!) in the self-doubts of life.
Do you share any similar insecurities? What is one thing you are afraid to tell people?
This week I’ll be reviewing a professional book I read because it sounded interesting and relevant to my future work teaching college students:
Title: On Course: A Week-by-Week Guide to Your First Semester of College Teaching
Author: James M. Lang
Publisher/Year: Harvard University Press/Caravan, 2008
Length: 7 hrs and 14 mins, 319 pages
Genre: Adult non-fiction
Format: Audio book
Source: Purchased from Audible
No book about teaching is perfect, since everyone teaches a little differently. On Course is a great book for beginning teachers on the ins and outs of college teaching for both graduate students and first-year professors. Using the fifteen week flow of the average semester, Lang guides readers through what to expect in planning, teaching, and evaluating students in college-level work without going crazy. Lang also gives specific advice for strategies to try and reasoning behind different choices to be made (papers or exams?), while also suggesting excellent books and campus resources to consult for more in-depth information.
Though the book is organized by weeks in the semester, it is not intended to be read that way. Lang even explains this in the intro. His intention is for the book to be read 1-3 months before teaching the class, and then consulted as a reference throughout the first semester. I really liked how the week-by-week format keeps each topic focused so new teachers can tackle one task at a time without feeling overwhelmed. I also liked how Lang addresses multiple ways of tackling certain tasks, yet often takes time to explain which option he uses and why.
The audio book format works well for this book, even though it is not read by the author (which disappointed me!). I was able to listen on my commutes to work and while walking through campus. It’s a very easy listen, as Lang never throws too much information out at a time and his tone is almost conversational, like that of an experienced mentor. As a former middle school teacher, this was a great read for me to starting thinking about bridging the gap between K-12 teaching and college teaching.
FINAL GRADE: B+ You’re not going to find everything about college teaching here, but it’s a good start. Lang is likable. The resource lists alone make this a good pick or gift for anyone who ever wants to teach at the college level. You may not find anything mind-blowing or world changing here, but that’s not the point — it’s intended to help and comfort teachers without stressing them out!
Assigned Reading: Assigned to all graduate students (Lang tried to keep things interdisciplinary). Check it out from the library if you want, borrow it, skim it, and feel free to say, “Eh, this isn’t for me, I already know this stuff.” But at least give it a try.
Which resources helped you in your first teaching position? If you’ve never taught, which resources helped you as a student?
I’d like rant a little bit today about something that has been happening in my fair state. North Carolina’s governor, Pat McCrory, has recently spoken out about his plans for our university system. In particular, he spoke about funding to this system. It is no secret that our system features incredibly affordable public universities, heavily subsidized by the state government. Apparently, Governor McCrory is not a fan of our system because he feels our graduates fail to get jobs. Instead of giving money to universities based on the number of students enrolled, he proposed giving money based on the number of students who get jobs.
McCrory argued, “I think some of the educational elite have taken over our education where we are offering courses that have no chance of getting people jobs,” and proceeded to cite gender studies and philosophy degrees specifically as producers of unemployable graduates. (BTW, Governor, if the educational elite shouldn’t be running education — their area of expertise — then who should be? Isn’t that the job they were trained to do? I’m confused.)
This has become, essentially, a battle between vocation and liberal arts education. It’s a very common educational debate: are we preparing student for jobs or are we preparing them to think critically with a broad base of learning experiences? I’ll say up front that I am firmly in the liberal arts camp. I went to college to get a liberal arts education, not to get a job. And this model has been highly successful at schools like UNC-Chapel Hill. It enrages me to see what politicians want to do in the name of “job creation” or “the economy.” The last thing we need is thousands of engineering students (who would rather have been philosophers) flooding the job market and making things worse.
There are many more good points stated in various articles and blog posts that I have seen posted around Facebook: businesses are actually looking for skills taught in liberal arts degrees, that Governor McCrory himself has a liberal arts degree (and a job…), that Republicans are anti-intellectual, that Republicans would have benefited from some gender studies knowledge during the 2012 elections, that the job market is too unpredictable to determine with majors will lead to jobs, etc. It just really makes me sad to see what the leader of my state values. Am I particularly surprised? No. But that does not make the verbal blow hurt any less.
If you want to know more about this issue in depth, you can read this article from The Charlotte Observer.
Or check out this blog post from Religion News Services that examines the politics of this debate.
What do you think is the value of a liberal arts education? Do you stand on the vocational side or the liberal arts side of this debate?
Title: Hex Hall
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Publisher/Year: Hyperion, 2010
Length: 336 pages
Series?: Hex Hall
Genre: YA paranormal
Source: Gift from my blogging secret santa!
After a love spell ruins prom, Sophie is sent to Prodigium juvie, aka Hecate Hall, until she turns eighteen. Sophie is to work on her powers as a witch among various faries, shapeshifters, ghosts, and other magical beings. On the first day alone she is attacked by a werewolf, finds out she’s rooming with a lesbian vampire, is recruited by a coven, and starts crushing on the hottest guy in school. Witty, sarcastic Sophie isn’t quick to to make friends, nor does she love her new school. Things get worse when students are attacked and the only suspect is her only friend. When Sophie starts learning some of Hex Halls deepest secrets, she realizes that no one is safe — especially her.
I received this book as a gift from my Secret Santa, Amanda at Letters Inside Out, to be my first post-Twilight dabble into the paranormal genre. For the record, my reading of Twilight ended in 2007 with me finishing the first novel, screaming, and throwing it across the room. Hex Hall, on the other hand, did not inspire such violent reaction. I actually enjoyed it. Sophie is a likable protagonist, the plot wasn’t entirely predictable, and there’s a boarding school. They had me at boarding school. Y’all, I freakin’ love boarding school novels. Hecate Hall felt a little bit like Hogwarts at times, so I’m guessing Hawkins was influenced by Rowlings just a smidge. At one point, Sophie even makes a joke by calling the groundskeeper Hagrid. By the end of the novel, the Harry Potter similarities fade a away, and Hex Hall stands on its own and sets its own direction.
Can I also say that I loved the very girly lesbian vampire, Jenna, too? She and Sophie are good friends to each other, and I hope Jenna gets more of the spotlight in the later books in the series. Hawkins doesn’t make a big deal over the lesbian part, so that was also nice to see in a YA novel. It’s more like, “Oh, my roommate’s a lesbian? Cool. I love her hair.” And then they move on to more important things. Like demons. And not dying. And not getting kicked out of school.
FINAL GRADE: B A light, but not too light, enjoyable read. I was expecting more fluff, but was impressed repeatedly by how much I was enjoying the novel. I’ll probably read the other books, too.
Assigned Reading: Since I don’t consider myself a paranormal fan, I’d assign this to anyone who is not a fan of the genre, as you may be pleasantly surprised! I’d also recommend it to fans of boarding school books or Harry Potter. In fact, Hex Hall might be the perfect book for the YA female reluctant readers, due to the relatively short length and general “cool” factor.
Recommendations: Librarians can feel comfortable putting the novel in a high school collection, and daring librarians (I hope you are all daring!) should consider it for middle school, too (there’s mentions of sex, and the obvious witchcraft).
How do you feel about paranormal books? Do you have a favorite in the genre?
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the bloggers over at the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers from all around create lists based on the chosen topics, and post links to the host blog to share our love of books. This week we are setting goals for our 2013 bookish lives. Reading goals, blogging goals, buying goals, reviewing goals…and more. Here’s what I hope to accomplish this year:
Top Ten Bookish Goals for 2013
[Not resolutions. Goals.]
1.) Read 80 books. – I read 75 last year, so I’m going to amp it up a tiny notch this year.
2.) Read 10 debuts. – I’ve never specifically participated in the debut challenge, but it sounds like a fun way to discover some new authors and great books.
3.) Start reviewing books I read before I started this blog. – I’ve always wanted a list of books I’ve read, and I often wish I had reviews of older titles that I could point back to in newer reviews. I think I’m going to start that project in 2013.
4.) Give myself more time to read before bed. – I sleep better when I read for 30-45 minutes before bed, and I also read more. Win-win.
5.) Write more opinion posts. – I have a list of topics I’d like to write posts on, and I haven’t written one of these types of posts in many months.
6.) Buy more books.– Review copies are lovely, but sometimes I just need to shell out money and buy books because I really want to read the books. I feel like I’m not contributing financially to the book industry anymore. My goal would be to go to the brick and mortar book store and buy physical books, because I’d hate to see them ever go out of business.
7.) Propose a bookish presentation for a national conference. – Time to start combining my hobby and my career for realz.
8.) Join a book club. – There’s a Forever Young Adult book club that meets near me, so I think it’s time to finally join a book club. I’ve been waiting years to find people with similar reading taste who will actually follow through!
9.) Read the 2014 Printz winner – Obviously I won’t know if I accomplish this until January 2014, but it’s always been my goal to have them pick a book I’ve already read and loved so I can be all like, “Yeah, I read that before it was cool.” (I will keep making this goal until it actually happens!)
10.) Participate in something bloggy and social. – A conference, BEA, a meet-up…something outside of my hometown. If anyone has any recommendations for this, let me know!
What are your bookish goals for 2013?
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the bloggers over at the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers from all around create lists based on the chosen topics, and post links to the host blog to share our love of books. This week’s category is a fun one, since it’s imagining a scenario that would never actually happen: getting trapped on a desert island with exactly ten books of my choosing. Honestly, for this one, I’d just go with the biggest, longest books I own just to keep myself busy. I’d also have to take into account the optimism in the books (don’t want to depress myself) and the overall variety of the books. So these, my friends, are the 10 actual books that I currently own that I would take with me to a desert island:
Top Ten Books I’d Want on a Desert Island
[...a three hour tour...]
1.) The Bible – Mostly because it’s big. There’s a lot in there to keep me busy. But also because I’d probably need a little faith to keep me going.
2.) The Norton Shakespeare – I’m pretty sure these would keep me busy. This volume is MASSIVE.
3.) Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – A lengthy book that I own but haven’t read yet. It’s going with me.
4.) Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – This “long book that I haven’t read yet” thing is going to be a theme here.
5.) Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen – I think I own too many classics that I haven’t yet read.
6.) The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Waterson – I’ll need some lighter reading and good laugh on that desert island.
7.) Enormously Foxtrot by Bill Amend – I haven’t yet read the Calvin and Hobbes in #6, but I have read my Foxtrot books over and over. This one’s coming along for comfort. I will always love Foxtrot.
8.) The Backpacker’s Field Manual by Rick Curtis – To help me survive. I’ll need to know which nuts, berries, and leaves I can eat and how to find a water source.
9.) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling – My favorite Harry Potter book. If I can’t bring the whole series, I’ll bring my favorite to read over and over.
10.) The Stand by Stephen King – Okay, I’m cheating with this one. I don’t actually own it, but I’d go and buy it to say I do. I want to have it on hand for emergencies. At 1153 pages, I’d have plenty to read to keep busy on the island.
Which books would you want with you on a desert island? What would your criteria be?