Master of my own education

Saturday, November 26, 2005

I wanted to show you a few things about how we get news at Michigan. ;-)
These big cement posts are dotted about campus and covered with a variety of posters, advertisements and anything else you can think of to tell people who, what, where and when. Everything is up there, from concerts to student events.

Chalking is another way that people on campus spread the word.
Of course, there's only one problem with chalking... See below. That's one of our beautifully painted fire hydrants in downtown Ann Arbor. But sometime in October, those white and red stripy sticks were attached to all of them. Any idea why?

SNOW is coming. Lots of snow. The fire hydrants are at least a foot high, so with the snow plowed off the street, it will definitely pile up beyond that. The stripy sticks are to keep everyone from running into the fire hydrants. That takes chalking and most other outdoorsy Michigan activities out of commission. What I like about the fire hydrants with the sticks is watching when people cycle down the street and will flip them, so the stick waves back and forth. It looks like a wagging tail at the hydrant, and with the association of dogs and fire hydrants, makes me chuckle.

University in the US is different from what I'm used to. I thought going back to school would be easier because, hey, I've been working for a few years! Not so. When you work, you get in around 9am and you get to leave at something like 5 or 6pm. And then, you're done. Aaahh. The evenings and the weekends are yours!
Grad school is not quite like that. During my undergrad at Oxford, there was the theory (note, theory - rarely practiced, but it was there) that if you studied between 9 and 5 or 6, you could have all of your evenings and weekends free. That didn't always happen, what was far more likely was that you'd have two days of doing nothing much and then spend the two days prior to your tutorial frantically searching through the Bodleian for something, anything to help you write your essay. This then led into a evening process known as 'the essay crisis'. The essay crisis lasted pretty well all night, while you would write, read, surf the net, get a kebab, complain to your friends about the essay crisis, drink more tea and perhaps learn a few things about metaphysics.
Not the same at Michigan. For one thing, it's a lot harder to find a kebab in the US than Oxford.
Each one of my classes is three hours long. Three hours! That cuts out a good chunk of the day when you spend three hours of it in class, and the you get out at 4pm to realise you have work to finish from that class, and yet, it's almost dinnertime. There goes the 'free' evening. I'm just in class an awful lot more. And in the periods when I'm not in class during the day, I'm usually at work.

I am fortunate to have a great internship for my course, at the Office of International Programs. We coordinate all of the UofM study abroad programs, which is just my area of enjoyment! It's a great feature of my course that we are required to hold an internship during our MA, so we gain some real-life experience of different fields in Higher Education.

I really like my work. I like my supervisor and I'm very lucky to have her! I also like my coworkers, who are all a blast to hang out with. One of the other Graduate interns (check out Dan over here) is also on my course, so we have some great time causing trouble together! I have been able to do some really cool things at work, including making a presentation to one of the campus sororities, Delta Sigma Theta. But that's another story.
It all means though, that I don't have those free evenings and weekends that were once mine through working. One of the funny parts of my job is when we are preparing students to go abroad and we warn them to expect to spend fewer hours in class and much more self-directed study. No one warned me to expect the opposite! Much more time in class altogether. Is it hard to know that I can't linger over dinner watching The West Wing for hours? Or randomly chat on AIM til the wee hours? Maybe. But it's still worth it. :-)

Monday, October 31, 2005

Anyone who happened to be with me on June 3, 2002 in Oxford might have either a better or a worse chance of understanding where I am now. June 3rd I staggered, exhausted, from the Examination Schools into a cobbled street where people known to me as my friends doused me with cheap champagne,tied balloons to my collar and promptly walked me off to drink lots while I babbled a bit about Aristotle...

What pray tell, was such an event for? I had finished my Final exams at Oxford. I had completed my undergraduate education! Hooray! And as I said then and indeed for several months, I was academically exhausted. Grad school? Gimmie a break.

So why am I now in Grad school? 3 years later (has it been that long?!) I'm starting a Master's. And it isn't even in Classics! What happened?

Well, God works in mysterious ways and looking back, the Plan is always so beautifully crafted, if only you were able to recognise it at the time. In September 2002, I started my first job at the Centre for Medieval & Renaissance Studies as the Junior Dean of Students. This was a study abroad program for students from American universities and colleges to come study in Oxford. My job was to make sure they were happy, healthy, well adjusted people who didn't burn the building down. They became a set of great new friends who challenged and taught me, and I hope they learned half as much from me during the year as I did from them. In my spare time, I was volunteering with the museum education program and doing some teaching at my old high school. At the end of the year, I decided it was time to return to the USA and managed to find a job for myself working as a Student Recruiter for the CMRS. Perfect! I could use my talents from my own experience of studying in England, and share with students here. In that position, I traveled to difference colleges and universities, meeting with different people there to talk about my program. I talked with students, attended fairs, prepared them for departure and eventually handed them over to the staff in the UK. I learned a lot about study abroad and how it works, but I missed the interaction that I had with the students. I wanted to be one of the people I was meeting with. I started talking to them and asking how they got into their position, looking at different qualifications and job descriptions. I got really excited! And that's when I started looking into graduate school.

Having not studied in the US since I was 13, the American education system was pretty different and there was a lot I didn't understand. Not just the practicalities, but the deeper sense of why these things matter and what the goals were. How to work with students and institutions, and particularly, how international education worked with the USA. Not just for future jobs, but for my own knowledge and understanding, I needed a MA in Higher Education.

Higher Education is anything past high school. So college, university, professional training, etc. I'm not training to be able to teach in Higher Ed, that would be a faculty job requiring me to get a PhD in Classics or something. I'm training to be able to work in Higher Ed in any of the variety of jobs in an institution that *aren't* faculty. For example, Study abroad, international programs, exchange students, etc. ;-)

God provided me with all sorts of experiences that have brought me here, and every one of them has been valuable in some way. And here I am! My first semester in the MA program in Higher Education at the Center for Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education at the University of Michigan, the number 1 ranking program in the country for years running. Needless to say, I'm pretty excited.