November 23, 2009

The Morning After

Oh, what a wildly exciting life I lead. :P

November 19, 2009

The Alchemist

I just finished the book The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. I'm not sure I expected it to be so allegorical and so in-your-face about it, but it was, and actually, that was fine. Some parts of it spoke more to me than others, but I was glad that I read it nevertheless. It was a quick read and sort of makes you examine your own life. In fact, I almost feel as if it confirmed to me that I am doing an alright job with my life - I can see it affecting me more if I felt like I wasn't. It's all about doing what it is you feel the most passionate about, and seeking knowledge and understanding. But more understanding. It says other things, too, about love and so on. I'd like to read it again in several years and see whether different parts of it mean different things to me then.

Here are some quotes:

"But the sheep had taught him something even more important (than how to speak Arabic): that there was a language in the world that everyone understood, a language the boy had used throughout the time that he was trying to improve things at the shop. It was the language of enthusiasm, of things accomplished with love and purpose, and as part of a search for something believed in and desired. Tangier was no longer a strange city, and he felt that, just as he had conquered this place, he could conquer the world."

"He still had some doubts about the decision he had made. But he was able to understand one thing: making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision."

Movies, Movies, Movies

I knew that Ragtag had a small movie rental attachment, but I went there for the first time last night with Zahra and Allan and realized it was the same place that Mayumi went twice a week last year for her neverending supply of movies. It only cost a dollar to set up a rental account, but still we agreed it would be smarter to put the account in Zahra or my name, since Allan will be going back home soon. In the end, though, only Allan had proper ID - Zahra and I just carried our Mizzou ID's. Fail.

The selection was reasonably good. Not huge (by American standards ;)) but sufficient, and well tailored to the interests of college students. Zahra and I made pact after pact to watch various movies next semester. We're planning on Monty Python, a bunch of Indian films, a random selection of hollywood movies that only one or the other of us has seen, a few of the Scandinavian movies, the Miyazaki collection, and maybe even I, Claudius.

With Allan, Amy, and Esther leaving next semester, I think our Spring will be less crazy and fun. But it can still be nice. Maybe a nice intellectual time. :) Zahra has promised to teach me Hindi while I teach her Spanish. And we have all these movies.

The movie bonanza started with Ponyo. They were supposed to be showing Ponyo for free in Memorial Union last night, and so Amanda, Zahra, Allan and I went to see it. Unfortunately there was some sort of mix up with the rights, so we watched Howl's Moving Castle instead. That was fine - I hadn't seen the English dub of it yet, and I actually thought it was brilliant. Unusually, Studio Ghibli dubs are normally so good that I barely even care whether it's in English or Japanese, in fact, I'd like to watch both. Afterwards, though, Allan and I were talking and he was angry that I still hadn't seen Nausicaa, so that was the first movie we rented from Rag Tag.

Watching it I realized that it was the first movie I'd watched in Japanese since my trip to Japan. And wow, I understood so much of it. I would have understood less if it hadn't been for the subtitles, but it was like, the subtitles gave me an idea of what to listen for, and I continually noted the differences between what was actually said and what the subtitles said. On at least three occasions, for example, I realized that the subtitles read, "I've never ____ed before!", while a more accurate translation might have been "It's the first time I ____!". Things like that. I was pleased to be engaged in the language, however far I might have been from understanding it without the subtitles.

This made me think - I'm going to watch a lot of German movies next semester. My dad gave me the advice of listening to radio. It's good advice, it's probably very useful. But radio is just about the most difficult listening exercise there is, because the quality isn't brilliant and there are no visual cues. If I listen to the German radio, I do understand quite a bit. But a lot of times, the words I miss are the important and interesting ones - and exactly the ones that visual cues often teach you in movies or real life. And it's hard for me to continue paying attention for very long when I'm not understanding it. Listening in the car would probably be good, but I don't drive that much... Anyway, maybe for now I should listen to Spanish radio, while I'm still on the level of movies in German and Norwegian. But getting to the point where I don't need subtitles. :D That is, if I'm 100% engaged and willing to use some guesswork...

It sounds like all I do is sit around and study languages! That's so far from the truth. This semester I've probably spent an average of 10 minutes a day actively studying language. Lame, I know. But just living inside the world teaches a lot too. :P And next semester I'll be enrolled in fun language courses again.

It's The Time to Disco

November 18, 2009

Study Abroad Preparations

Study abroad preparations are stressing me out a bit, because there's simply not much I can do before winter break, and after winter break I don't have all the time in the world left to turn it in. Yes, there's plenty of time, but I'd rather get a super early start and make sure everythings going to be perfect. I need to learn how to go with the flow more. I think it's something every serious traveller has to learn, but maybe I'm starting a bit further back than others, thanks to my own family's habits of booking trips months and months in advance, et cetera. Now I'm just trying to find a middle ground. I went to see all the study abroad advisors last year and they said it was great that I was already thinking about it, but that they didn't want to see me for about 12 months. So, I came back this semester and was able to get a bit more information, and they didn't seem as surprised to see me, but it was still all very vague. I know most of the deadlines are in February, but it looks like you can't reall get started working on the paperwork and things until January. Ah well.

Anyway, in my case things are trickier than normal because I am studying abroad for three semesters in three different countries, all three exchange programs (the best type! :D But also the most work for me). Basically, in an exchange you are admitted to the host university. You apply and they accept you. Okay, so they're very likely to accept you because of the exchange agreements and stuff, but there's still a lot of paperwork involved. And, they don't let you know about their decision until pretty close to departure time, and you need their acceptance letter to get a student visa. Why is this fun for me? Well, I won't get my acceptance letter for Pamplona until next fall, since I'm planning to study in Pamplona next Spring. And next fall, I'll be studying in Bonn. It's very possible that I'll have to return to the U.S. to get my Spanish Visa, something I'm not particularly eager to do - I'd rather spend my breaks travelling Europe than dumping 2000 dollars into a round trip to go home and wait in embassy lines.


German Recommendation/Interview

Anyway, one problem I thought I might have has more or less been solved. I've always known that I would go to Spain - I'm a Spanish major, after all. I'm doing that through the J-School and I'm pretty confident about my Spanish, there's really no issue there. Norway intimidates me even less. I can chicken out and take all my classes in English, or I can go for it and take some or even all of my classes in Norwegian. I'm going to look into how much my grades matter before I call that one. ;) I would know enough Norwegian to manage in everyday life even if no one spoke English there, and, well, everyone does.

Germany, now, is the wild card. I picked German last, impulsively, because I wanted to go one more place and I couldn't pick between Finland, Italy, Japan... really, anywhere. When I randomly and maybe even accidentally managed to ace the German placement test, I suddenly realized that if I could pass Intermediate German II, I would meet the bare minimum requirements for an exchange program in Germany. This was a deal clincher - as much as I would enjoy studying in Finland or Japan, my Finnish and Japanese are nowhere near good enough to take my classes in those languages, so I wouldn't be a true exchange student by my own feeling and definition, and I would gain only rudimentary language skills. If I went to Germany and was permitted to take my classes in German, I would come out of it fluent. It was an opportunity that I knew instantly I wouldn't be able to pass up.

But, it scares the shit out of me just the same. My German is terrible. I sort of manage with every aspect: reading, listening, speaking, writing... but I excel at none. I sort of stumble around, knowing that I'm just mocking the language with my horrible grammar. Norwegian helps me in the passive skills but hurts me in the active ones - for every time I magically understand a word thanks to Norwegian, I accidentally say 'verden' instead of Welt. This never happens with any other pair of languages that I speak - not even Italian and Spanish, which I think are even more similar. But it happens.

Still, I think I can handle it. I'm scared and I think I'm an idiot for going to Germany FIRST, instead of after having had experience in Spain and Norway, with languages I'm a bit better with. (I'm going to Germany first out of purely logistical reasons which I won't get into here... basically madness about which schools will take exchange students in fall vs. spring semester and so on). But I guess that after just jumping into it regardless, I'll be ready for anything. I know I can advance quickly, especially linguistically, when the need arises. What really terrified me was getting admitted to the program. How would I prove my language proficiency? A multiple choice test I could possible pass. An essay I could labor and deliberate over until it was perfect. I could get a recommendation - for some reason my teacher last year thought I was brilliant. None of these were especially calming options - I fervently hoped that they would just accept my German 2260 credit and call it good - but I had heard mention of an interview, and that, I knew, I would fail. Miserably. I would get nervous. I would speak Norwegian. It would be bad. (I'm actually very good at interviews normally. You know, in English).

Yesterday I met with the German head of department. I meant to ask her ab0ut getting a minor in German, since it was looking possible. Of course part of that discussion was that I would study abroad, so we chatted about that for a few minutes. And then I asked her about the recommendation letter that I'd heard about. The problem, I explained, was that I'd only taken one semester of German at Mizzou so far, and my teacher had left.

"Ah," she said. "Megan! She's in Germany."

"Yes, I know. But I'm wondering if it would be possible to contact her for such a recommendation?"

"Well, you could. But it's not a very big deal. I could write the recommendation for you myself, just based on your record. It's more about the responsibility and maturity of the student than anything else - they don't want to admit people who are just going to get drunk and blow off all their schoolwork."

"Oh! So nothing about language proficiency at all?"

"No, that's different. After you are admitted to the program, you'll just have an interview with me... or maybe with Olaf. (that made me happy, I know Olaf. :D) We'll just chat a bit in German and help you decide what level of classes you should enroll in when you get to Bonn."

"After I'm admitted?"

"That's right!"


So, it's not stressful, it's not pass fail, it's honestly to help us get placed into the right level. That's such a comfort. I'll want to brush up before I go in, of course, because I haven't spoken German in a year and I don't want to be placed so low that I'll be bored in my class after one week in Germany, catching up, but if my admission isn't riding on the outcome of the interview, I won't freak out either.

Things are going well. :)

Chinese in the Dining Hall

I was waiting for my sandwich to be cut at the deli when I heard one of the dining hall workers say to the other, "We're out of cheese." Or, that was the point, that's what we would have said in English. Because, after understanding, it came to my attention that the workers had been speaking in Chinese. I blinked. Chinese is different enough that I sometimes have trouble feeling that it is a language in the same way that German or Spanish is. I didn't really believe that I had understood. I could barely even remember the words that had been used. Mei you, I think, 'there isn't'... It struck me that I remembered the meaning more clearly than the syllables. But, I thought, I'll wait and see what happens.

One of the workers hurried off. She returned with a fresh stack of pepperjack.


November 17, 2009


I was looking at the classes I've taken thus far and those I'm signed up for next semester. And I realized something.

By the end of next semester, I will have taken...

11 credits of Anthropology:
General Anthropology (3)
Biological Anthropology (5)
and Anthropological Theories of Religion (3)


6 credits of German:
Intermediate German Language II (3)
Contemporary German Culture (3)

The point is that minors only require 15 credits.

I had already determined that I would almost certainly take Cultural Anthropology at some point, which would bring me to 14 Anthropology credits. If I take anything relating to Anthropology when I'm abroad, then, which I think is very possible, I'll end up with an Anthropology minor.

German seems more of a long shot at first glance, but think. For a German minor you need 9 credits on campus. If I just take one more German class later on, for example a folklore class or anything at all (and International Studies is super flexible :D), I'm all set for credits I need to take at MU. I'll take at least one German language class when I'm at Bonn, and almost certainly a class about Germany, history, culture, something of that nature when I'm at Bonn as well. Since that class will be taught in German, it counts.

So I think I'm going to end up with a degree in Journalism (with an emphasis in Magazine) and a degree in International Studies (with an emphasis in European Studies) and Spanish, with minors in German and Anthropology. Kind of scary looking. :D But, I think, doable without any extra time, I'll just have to use my Study Abroads wisely.

November 12, 2009

Next Semester Courseload

I know I've really neglected the blog lately, but I've been busy. I've been stressed out with classes I'm not particularly fond of, and I've also been busy having a lot of fun with wonderful new friends who aren't here to stay for very much longer. These things take precedence, understand. I'll catch up on everything, but maybe not until I'm in Florida bored out of my mind except for cooking for my family, visiting a bit, and going to writing club once in a while. For now, I want to talk about my schedule for next year. I am fantastically excited about it. You see, unless I just want to kill myself, it's going to take me five years to graduate. (So three years after this year). But, once I accept that, the five years are not especially stressful. Funny how that works out. Part of the reason is that I've taken most of the classes that I dreaded taking either this semester or the semester before this one. So I can have a lot of fun from now on out. I certainly have some challenges ahead, but most of the challenges are things I'm going to care about and be excited by, so I think I'll actually be happier with them than I am with, say, History or Econ or Cross Cultural Journalism now.

So. Next semester. I have to take News, and I have to take 1 more credit of science (Geology - it's the only 1 credit science class), and I have to take an upper level humanities in order to enter my sequence in time for Spain. So, I filled the humanities with Introduction to Catalan Language and Culture, which will be awesome and is taught by my favourite MU professor so far, Monica Marcos-Llinas. So, that's 7 credits, and registration for them went smoothly.

Then I wanted to take some German to prepare for studying abroad in Germany next fall. Unfortunately, the next German class in line is only offered at the same time as the other classes I need. Sad, but I think I'll learn so much German when I'm there anyway, I'm not particularly worried about anything except getting a language ability recommendation (I think I'll have to track down my teacher from last semester, who is off in Germany this year). Still, I browsed through the rest of the German catalogue and decided to take a class on Contemporary German Culture. I'm sure it'll go towards my International Studies major, and I can never take too many of that sort of class for what I want to do with my life.

Then I looked around at other classes, because I only had 10 credits and you need at least 12 to be a full time student. I usually take more - first semester and second I took closer to 18. But this semester has been stressful and maybe it'll be nice to take more time for reslife and preparing for study abroad, so I'm thinking probably 13 would be good - maybe 16 if I like most of the classes. If I like what I'm learning it's not really even a burden for me.

Linguistics was full and so was most of Anthropology. Language classes are pretty much out unless I try to test out of a semester of Italian or Japanese, both of which are sort of longshots, and work. When I came across one Anthropology title, though, I was intrigued. The class was called Anthropological Theories of Religion. Right away, I knew I had to take that class. It was open and it worked in my schedule, too. Right after I registered, however, I realized that it had some pre-requisites I hadn't taken yet. So I emailed the professor about the situation and got his permission to continue in the class!

This was 13 credits, and as I was twiddling my thumbs wondering if there was anything else I should be taking, something hit me like a load of bricks. I'm a Spanish major. And I didn't take any Spanish classes this semester. And I wasn't registered for any next semester. The Spanish curriculum is not very flexible, and I decided from looking at the requirements that I probably needed to take Introduction to Hispanic Literature 1, and pronto. Unfortunately, every section of the class was closed, including the two that fit into my schedule. News is at irregular hours and is messing up everything for me. It manages to spread itself over three normal class slots. So now I'm trying to get a permission number to overload one of those two classes. I have a reasonably good reason for wanting the override, but still, we'll. I also realized that Monica (again my favorite teacher) teaches two Spanish classes I'd love to take at some point, if I get the time. One is an advanced writing class about style, and I'm quite desperate to take it. The other is a phonetics class. If I can fit them into my requirements and schedule at any time, in any way, they're mine. :D

So, it looks like next semester I'm taking:

Journalism 2100 - News
Anthropological Theories of Religion
Catalan Language and Culture
Modern German Culture
Introduction to Hispanic Literature
Special Problems in Geology (1 credit)

16 credits total.