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?
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?
A new semester has begun! Like, today. As you read this, I’m sitting in my very first class. I’m probably looking at a syllabus and feeling very overwhelmed. Somehow a new syllabus always makes me feel like I have to do ALL THE THINGS right away. Note to self: you have seventeen weeks. Chill out, dude.
But it wouldn’t be a new semester without some freshly sharpened pencils and freshly sharpened attitudes. After a break that involved mucho sleeping in, reading novels, napping during reality television, visits with friends, and harassing my cats, I’m ready to jump back in with a vengeance. I always have bright-eyed ideas like “I WILL READ EVERYTHING ASSIGNED…TWICE! WHILE TAKING NOTES!” and “I WILL WRITE ALL OF MY PAPERS EARLY AND HAVE TWELVE PEER EDITORS AND THEY WILL BE PERFECT!”
And none of that crap ever happens. Let’s face it — the goals we set on day one fly out the window by week three. You just can’t do everything. In fact, it’s not even smart to do everything. I’m certainly a fan of the whole “work smarter, not harder” mentality. Skimming, procrastinating, and half-assing are sometimes part of the game. I didn’t get where I am without knowing what deserves my attention and what I can let slide.
That being said, there are a few things I’d like to work on. We’ll call them baby steps toward better habits (/breaking some of my worst habits). I’m trying to keep this list realistic, simple, and manageable. Here are my goals for spring 2013:
1. Work out every day. All the sitting and studying has really gotten to me. Plus I’ll be sharper mentally.
2. Sit in a desk chair while working. Fluffy chairs and beds are not conducive to productivity.
3. Work from 6-9pm Sunday-Thursday. Start building this habit. If my work is done, I’ll start on the next thing.
4. Go to the library on two different Saturdays before Spring Break to start research for final papers.
5. Finish final papers/projects 1 week before the deadline. This way I have more time for peer editing.
That’s it. Five goals that I think are totally do-able. They aren’t hard rules — for example, I may not work out every day, but I want to strive to work out 5-6 days out of the week. Same with the 6-9pm study time. The goal with that is to clearly define time for studying versus not studying so I can relieve some of my grad school guilt. The set study time will be a difficult habit to build, so I might have to start my bribing myself to do it. Otherwise, I’m hoping other goals (reading more carefully, writing on a schedule, etc) will fall into place under a rigid time block for studying.
I’m excited about the new semester and the cool classes I’m taking (Research Methods, Literacy Research, and Critical Theory & Media). I hope to have lots of cool ideas and thoughts to share as I go. To those of you also starting a new semester, I wish you good luck! Cheers!
What are your studying and/or work goals for a more productive 2013?
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I get to take a few days and spent time with my family. In the middle of the end-of-semester chaos, it’s a few days to relax and remember what we’re thankful for. When I’m buried in a pile of journal articles for all my final papers I need to keep some perspective on just how lucky I am to be where I am right now. So for today’s post, I’ve taken some time to think about all of the things I’m thankful for in grad school:
- Databases — How could I get anything done without databases? I am so glad I live in the 21st century and don’t have to go to the library constantly. I can do my journal searches in my jammies.
- Computers — I could not do this degree on a typewriter. Can you imagine writing a dissertation on a typewriter? Ack!
- The Library — I’m not just saying this because I’m a librarian. Academic libraries are the greatest invention on earth and everyone in them is so helpful. They bend over backwards to make our lives easier, and it’s AWESOME.
- Coffee shops — Because they serve delicious coffee. And they let me sit there for hours to study.
- My Assistantship — It pays for my coffee habit.
- Bibliographies — Those things I hated in middle school are now my new favorite thing. How else would I know what I should be reading next?
- Arts on campus — It sucks when you enter the real world and you have to pay a lot of money to see theater, dance, and music shows (though I understand why!). I definitely appreciate all of the free/cheap shows on campus.
- My classmates — Why would I want to do this alone? I need my cohort to offer advice on papers, cover for me when I’m not in class, and to complain with me when the work gets weird/crazy.
- Undergrads — Sometimes they drive me crazy, but I can’t wait to teach them one day.
- Autosave — Remember the old days when your computer would shut down and you’d lose everything? Even if you saved your work every few minutes, you’d still lose a few lines. Now if my computer crashes, my work will magically appear and all will not be lost, even if I didn’t manually save it.
- The bus — My 40 minute bus/walking commute is a major factor in my ability to read non-academic audio books.
- Christmas break — Public schools get two weeks. Now I get a month.
- My blog — I’m impressed with myself for keeping up with the blogging during this first semester. I’m going to appreciate these weekly grad school posts later on, too, because I can reflect on where I started and where I’ll go. I’ve also meet some wonderful people who have given me great advice!
- Sleep — I’ve actually been getting enough. Learning wears me out.
- Just Being Here — I’m so lucky to be able to pursue an education.
I thankful for so many things. My life is amazing and I’m incredibly happy to be working my butt off and living the good life.
What are you thankful for this year? What are you thankful for in graduate school?
The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — But Some Don’t
by Nate Silver
Audiobook from Audible.com
[#63 in my 75 book challenge]
With the 2012 election season in full swing, I decided it was time to read Nate Silver’s little book about predictions. I finished the book on November 1, just in time to have his ideas rattling around in my head while reading election polls in the days before the big election day. Apparently this Nate guy is a prediction guru and he’s quite trusted in these matters.
At over 500 pages, this is a pretty hefty work of non-fiction. Silver covers everything from the housing bubble and 9/11 to Vegas gambling and sports betting. He can get a little wordy, going very in-depth to each idea, but his thoroughness is part of his process. Silver argues that too many people make overconfident predictions, while his are more calculated and offer probabilites rather than outright “this or that” predictions. It’s more of a tortoise and the hare type situation, which is why I forgive him for his book being moderately long-winded at points.
He’s not boring — never boring — but do beware that is a fifteen hour listen. I enjoyed the audio format such a long book, and I recommend the audio for anyone who likes non-fiction in that format. I learned a lot of tidbits about the housing bubble, Bayes theorem of probability, and weather forecasting that I might even drop in casual conversation. Of course, his insight on the 2008 election polls was the most fascinating. You can check out his popular FiveThirtyEight blog for the New York Times to see what he’s said about the 2012 elections. I’m writing this at 4pm on November 6 (election day), and he’s predicted Obama to win the election tonight.
FINAL GRADE: C Y’all know I love pop non-fiction, and I enjoyed this book. It gets a C for being steady and well-researched and for entertaining me on the bus in the morning. I recommend it to fans of politics and good non-fiction. This is solid adult non-fiction, so I wouldn’t put the book in a middle school library, but I can imagine some high school students finding the information interesting. This read brings me up to nine out of ten books for my personal adult non-fiction challenge in 2012, which means I’m doing better on that challenge than I am on any of my others! Now I just need to read thirteen YA novels by December 31st…
Which adult non-fiction books would recommend I try next? Have you heard of Nate Silver, and did you consult his predictions for the 2012 election?
It’s that time of year again — time for the Goodreads Choice Awards! The initial voting has narrowed down the top 20 books in each category, and now it’s time for the semifinal rounds.
You can vote for your favorite reads in favorite categories like Humor, Non-Fiction,YA Fiction, YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Middle Grades, and Graphic Novels. The semifinal round runs from today (Nov. 12) through Saturday (Nov. 17). Next Monday the final round will feature the top 10 books in each category.
This year I had difficulty voting because I hadn’t read nearly as many of the books as I read last year. However, my favorite thing about the Goodreads Choice Awards is that I have a reading list for Christmas break. I love awards that are selected by actual readers. I’m definitely giving some of the books in my favorite categories a try.
Have you voted for your favorite 2012 reads? Which books do you suspect will come out on top?
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 I’m looking at non-fiction, since it can actually be a fun little “genre” of its own. I’ll spare you the intense, dense, well-researched, theoretical texts I’m loving in my doctoral program, and instead I’ll focus on the more accessible popular non-fiction titles that I’ve enjoyed over the years:
Top Ten Authors in the Pop-Nonfiction Genre
[learn ALL THE THINGS]
1.) Malcolm Gladwell – Author of The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers. Gladwell’s book are hard to describe — they are about thinking, trends, patterns, and society. A lot of folks are critical of his work, since it is more “science-light,” or “research-light,” but I enjoyed them for their fascinating stories and thought-provoking ideas. Take it all with a grain of salt, though.
2.) Alexandra Robbins– Author of Pledge: The Secret Life of Sororities, Overachievers: The Secret Life of Driven Kids, Quarterlife Crisis, The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth, and Secrets of the Tomb. I’m personally drawn to her books because they are usually about school or the social aspects of schooling.
3.) Bill Bryson – Author of A Walk In the Woods, A Short History of Nearly Everything, I’m a Stranger Here Myself, and other travel memoirs. Bryson is hilarious! A Walk in the Woods is his account of hiking the whole Appalachian Trail, and the rest are usually about various continents/historical/linguistic pursuits. His books give both a beginners history of the topic and his own hilarious misadventures encountering them.
4.) Jon Krakaur – Author of Into the Wild and Into Thin Air. Books about mountains, essentially. Venturing to cold, unforgiving mountains. Somehow I like reading about such things. I guess real-life survival tales make me appreciate my safe little house.
5.) AJ Jacobs – Author of A Year of Living Biblically, Drop Dead Healthy, and The Know-It-All. Jacobs likes to take an extreme task (following every rule in the bible, following all the crazy health food trends, and reading the entire Encyclopaedia Brittanica) and do them for a year, with a dash of humor.
6.) Lady Commedians – Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Chelsea Handler’s My Horizontal Life, and other books by funny ladies. I’ve grouped them all together because I’ve only read one book by each. Basically good for a good laugh and seeing what it is like to work on TV.
7.) David Sedaris – Author of Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Children in Corduroy and Denim, and Naked. Sedaris writes humorous memoir essays, and he does it well. These as best read as audio books, since Sedaris does the reading himself.
8.) Barbara Ehrenreich – Author of Nicked and Dimed and Bait and Switch. In the former, she takes a job at Wal-Mart and shows how impossible it is to live on minimum wage. In the latter, she poses as an unemployed white-collar worker, showing how hard it is to play the game of job hunting. I like books where people go undercover.
9.) Al Franken – Author of The Truth (With Jokes), Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, and Rush Limbaugh is a Big, Fat Idiot. Franken writes about liberal politics, but he’s funny. He basically spends much of his books hating on Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and the Republican Party. However, he’s a smart dude (he’s a senator in Minnesota!) and he makes good arguments. I did balance him out by reading Coulter’s books, but I can’t put them on this list for obvious reasons (I don’t agree with a damn thing she says).
10.) Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner – Authors of Freakonomics and Super Freakonomics. Economics light for people who aren’t really interested in economics. The books are interesting, made me think, and I enjoy the podcasts. Don’t take it as hard science, just pop science, and you’ll be entertained.
11.) Linda Perlstein – Author of Tested: One American School Struggles to Make the Grade and Not Much, Just Chillin’: The Hidden Lives of Middle Schoolers. These books were important ones that I read early in my teaching career. The former is critical of No Child Left Behind movement and how it affects actual teacher in real classrooms, and the latter follows middle school kids around to show what they deal with each day (because we often forget). Two of my favorites, personally and professionally.
Which of these have you read? How do you feel about pop non-fiction? Does it introduce the public to interesting knowledge or water down/sensationalize the real facts?
I totally meant to post about this earlier, but then I got wrapped up in packing up my whole house and going on vacation for two weeks. But you’re going to want to hear about this, if you haven’t already.
Sync is giving away free audio books each week this summer. And these are GOOD audio books. Each week a pair of books (a YA book and a classic) are available to download for FREE from their website. The books download to Overdrive, like an audio book from the public library, but you get to keep them. Forever.
Today is the last day for the current titles, Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake and The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I already downloaded both! In the previous weeks I’ve also downloaded Sense and Sensibility and The Eleventh Plague. Two new books come out every week, and I couldn’t pass by this opportunity to share the free audio book love with you guys!
I’m most excited about downloading Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson and Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Which books will you be downloading?