Thursday, November 4, 2010

Back to the salt mines

Well rested after a little more than a week of vacances, I've been trying to be more optimistic about school. The French just seem to do it so well that I sometimes have to remind myself that I'm playing by their rules, on their turf, so they obviously have the home-team advantage. And they also aren't deranged, working full-time in addition to their studies.

Classes have really "started," and the atmosphere has a palpable seriousness about it. The last few weeks had been bombarded with absences (my part and the professors), protests, and a general before-vacation atmosphere. Now that school is back in session and the retirement bill was passed, everyone seems to have hunkered down for the long seven-week stretch that is ahead of us. There are still protests happening, and I was just given some more literature this morning, but I think that at this point, it's kind of a futile effort. But we'll see--the French are not quick to give up, especially the young and unemployed.

Group projects are underway and even though I admittedly work better alone, being forced to work with others isn't the worst thing in the world. I have three group projects, all fairly time-consuming; a mémoire to start (but first, I need to narrow down a subject); and hours of lectures that I need to transcribe. Oy.

Anyway, the learning has begun, even if the un-learning seems much bigger at this point. I spent part of break reading some undergrad media studies and communications books (well, chapters of said books..reading an entire textbook is very, very dull) and whaddya know, I understood more of my lecture classes this week! I knew the sociologist they were talking about! I knew what theory they were talking about! Now I am officially getting, you know, 42% of the material in class. Wooo.

There are definitely some other skills I've been improving on:

Time-management skills. This is the biggest. I have weird gaps of time, and not a lot of it. So I have to make do with what I have, even if it means from 12:30-3pm or from midnight-2am. Since my schedule is so packed with work, children, work, school, sleep, etc. I have to find a way to manage it all. I've always sucked at this, but I've never had such a tight schedule that really didn't give me the option of lounging on the couch for a few hours before actually doing anything. I sadly don't have the luxury this year. I bought a desk from my beloved IKEA last week and ousted the futon chair that was here into the basement. However, I messed up the cord hole and so now it's been rechristened as a cupholder, which coincidentally (or not, IKEA?) holds my favorite cheapie plastic IKEA tumblers, that often contain wine..'nuff said.

Inadvertent Cupholder

Taking notes. I used to consider myself a good note-taker. Maybe it's because the majority of my notes have been in language classes, or maybe because it's been years since I took a large lecture-style class, but I am a (improving) failure at taking notes in French. It's hard to listen for the main points, then write them down, while he says another main point. And might I add that French words seem so much longer when you're in a hurry! I've developed some abbreviations for myself and also adopted the degree symbol for words that end in -sion, -tion. The French do this, so I can't take credit for it, but I'd never seen it before.
Thus, communication ⇒ comm° etc.

I also try to camp out behind students with laptops, which seems to be my best strategy so far. They love to play solitaire in between main points, which adds to my failure-like feeling. On the other hand, every time there's some technical term or theory mentioned, it's usually of a British or American origin, so they sigh and moan about oh non, encore de l'anglais? (Oh no, not more English!) while I silently revel in the one moment where I beat them. I also enjoy hearing my professors talk about zee wourld weyde wehb and zee eeenturrrneht.

I haven't decided yet what to do after this semester. I don't particularly like my program, but maybe part of it is the classes I'm in. I got last dibs on the electives, so I'm in two really boring, really non-related classes that I don't enjoy at all. One's about social representations (a very vague class involving how people are represented in films and literature) and the other is a psychology-based class about evaluating people in the workplace. It's as boring as it sounds. And also, pretty useless to me.

However, the next semester looks more promising, and hopefully I'll have a better chance of getting into more interesting classes. The thing I keep coming back to, though, is language and linguistics. I am such a language nerd. I'm constantly thinking about languages, no matter where I am. I note constructions people use, I carry around a journal to mark new vocabulary down in, I have in a browser on a nearly permanent basis..I wonder if I should just follow what I really love, even if there are few job opportunities, or follow what I still like, but less, with more job opportunities? I keep thinking that I could still use languages with my communications degree, but could I still do journalism with a linguistics or translation degree?

Decisions, decisions..

Well I am obviously not doing too well in time-management today, as I'm cutting into studying time by updating this blog. I must allow myself a little diversion now and then! It's November, the absolute ugliest, crappiest month of the year, and I'm already counting the days until December, when at least I have the holidays to look forward to. Don't think I'll be making it stateside this Christmas, as much as I wish I could. Missing two in a row is not what I'd planned on, but alas, I'm poor, my home country is 4,000 miles understand. Kind of pissed at my compatriots, anyway. What is wrong with you, America?!

I'm just glad I didn't have to listen to all the political ads!

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