Saturday, September 11, 2004

Guess what I've been up to?

Yep, clubbing again. I went out Friday and Saturday night - with two different groups of friends. I had fun both nights but I'm a little tired of clubbing. Fortunately, tonight was a relatively early night (left the club at 12 or so).

Warning: Following Section is Me patting myself on my back

I had my Japan class on Friday and I totally kicked ass. I had to present an explanation of why Japan turned to militarism prior to World War II (a really fascinating case actually) and I did an excellent job. I was very pleased because I was extremely prepared and I went above and beyond the requirement (although I didn't think I did - the assignment called for an accurate explanation and that's not something that can be summed up in a mere 15 minutes). My professor was so impressed that she stated that I had done "an oral disseration" on the subject. She warned the rest of the class to not be intimidated by the depth of my presentation.

Unfortunately for the woman that went after me, she was not really prepared at all. I was a little surprised because I came into this with an expectation of what "graduate" level work would entail. So when I was assigned this task, I went all out. Apparently, some people in my class don't have the same expectation.

Ok - Self-congratulatory moment is over.

At any rate, I spent most of today studying. I have a lot of reading to do and I had not really gotten ahead in my Intro class. So today I spent about 6 hours reading. It's something I force myself to do because the subject material (the origin and history of the different theories to explain inter-state interactions, for example) is not really that fascinating. That's one of the differences between an undergraduate and a graduate class, however. In the undergrad, you only learn the basics - what the theories are and how they are used. At the graduate level, you learn about how and why they came into being.

Tomorrow I have to get started on my research papers. I have two papers due at the end of the month and I haven't really started them. Well, I know what I'm writing about and I've done some cursory research for one of them, but not what I would deem a workman effort.

I have to say, I have found a grudging new respect for my Intro professor. Our class this week was bumped to Tuesday but only 4 people found out about it. So instead of having class, the five of us sat around and talked about some different things. He's a very knowledgeable guy. In fact, his philosophy, the reason why he's teaching at Webster and not Imperial (which is where he started - and is MUCH more prestigious), is that most higher learning facilities are centered around authorship and research and not teaching. He felt that he could satisfy his research/scholarship interests by working at the Royal Instititute for International Affairs and give back to students in more meaningful ways by teaching at Webster. Most PhD's would never turn down a tenured position at Imperial. But he did because he didn't want to be part of the research factory where advancement and salary are solely based on your ability to produce scholarship and have no relation to the quality of your teaching.

Because Webster is a small school with a small program, he's able to do a lot of things that they simply don't do at other British universities. For example, he's secured an impressive list of speakers to come every Wednesday to campus and present information to anyone who wants to learn about different aspects of International Relations. Thus, the investment banker that came on Wednesday to talk about Development in Africa. (I know that this type of stuff is fairly typical at major US universities - but it's not even on the radar in the UK, or so I'm told). He also secured us "student" memberships to the Royal Institute - something no other university in the UK has.

The point is, the education I'm getting here is different than I would get at a Westminster or Imperial (I was rejected at both). But that difference is exceedingly important to me. One of the reasons I feel comfortable is because I know that there is an infrastructure set up to help me achieve the highest of goals. They want me to succeed and they're giving me every opportunity to do so - the rest is up to me. My professor has made it one his missions to ensure that the academic environment is warmer and friendlier than his experience at Imperial (he got his PhD there). And I appreciate the hell out of that.


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