I guess you could say I’m a “non-traditional student.” I don’t know that I was particularly traditional the first time I was in school, when I most certainly did not qualify for this label, but here we are. Going back to school in my 30s is a lot different from my previous experiences in school – I don’t know how much of that is compounded by the travel I decided to tack on this round. Five countries, five campuses, five sets of professors, five student IDs, five sets of online tools. Just as soon as I get used to one set, I’m moving to the next. Personally I find the change exciting, but I am always looking for some equilibrium within the chaos.
Another aspect of going back to school that is both more intriguing and harder is sifting through the web of experience and knowledge I’ve gathered since the last time I was in school. What would have been oblique references to me 15 years ago are now rich with possibilities. This makes picking paper topics more complicated, but I’m enjoying the challenge so far. My grandmother got her PhD in her 50s – I can only imagine how she felt at that stage of her life.
This term, I have 6 papers and 2 class presentations in 8 weeks on top of reading and preparing for 10 hours of class per week plus class attendance and professional seminar activities. This program also extends the privilege of Chatham House membership, so I am attending as many events there as I can. Chatham House is the Royal Institute for International Affairs and provides insight and coordination for dialog and research on a variety of international topics. So far, I’ve attended talks on combatting LGBTI discrimination, the current state of FIFA, Islam in Indonesia, the British military’s challenges in the coming years, Human Rights amid Security and Development in Kenya, and an update on the Millennium Development Goals. Each one has been fascinating in its own right. And this week I also got to hear Member of Parliament (MP) Keith Vaz speak on campus.
Besides the coursework and extracurricular activities, I am also eager to see and explore London and other parts of the UK while I’m here. It’s safe to say no one has ever accused me of not being serious enough, but finding the balance between school and personal goals is an interesting challenge in this environment.
Right about now you’re probably asking yourself what M&M characters acting out iconic British scenes have to do with this post. The answer is nothing; they have nothing to do with this post except to break up my ramblings.
Title quote: F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby