Back to School special

Usually, there is such a stark contrast between summer/winter/spring break for me that the transition between the two has been violently turbulent. This term, however, the transition from summer break to fall term has been soft and relatively peaceful.

I guess it’s because I’ve had time to let loose before school started. Between working for ODF and starting fall term, I had a month to kill, and I feel like I really killed it. Between football games, trips to Vancouver (BC!) and hanging out with my friends, I’ve found myself back in the UO/Eugene niche that I’d abandon for 2 months.

And just in time too. With classes starting tomorrow, I need to stay on top of my game in terms of attentiveness and preparation. Where in years past, a sense of restlessness kept getting in the way of me performing to my potential level of excellence, I took my time during break to indulge in that restlessness in order to better focus on my school work and my future career. I now feel more focused and prepared for this year than I’ve ever felt for any school year, and I feel that I need that now more than I ever have.

Dependency

Dependency Theory- The theory that the underdeveloped world is behind that of the developed world because of Western/developed world hegemony. Not %100 complete, obviously.

It’s also the subject of International Communication (J396 for all you UofO kids).

By the end of the class, I’m sure my professor will be expecting me to be able to talk about why the developed world has defeat modernization’s approach to communications development. Of course, there are all sorts of underlying assumptions and value judgments made in this assertion which I hope to bring to light.

We’ll see how it goes.

Barriers

I’ve noticed a reoccurring theme in some of my recent dreams.

In the dream, I’m within arms reach of a certain goal. This is usually a goal that I’ve been actually working toward in life. Every time I think I’m going to achieve it, some barrier prevents me. No matter what I do to get around it, something comes up, something that is bigger than me or beyond me comes up and keeps me from whatever it is that I want. It’s funny because the barrier starts out as something small and easily able to be mitigated, then grows to something huge and unmanageable after trying to fix it.

But last night, I had success. I was on a train trying to get to San Fransisco when my train car detached from the rest of the train. Fortunately, we were still attached to the engine which enabled us to keep moving along. We almost got into a car wreck. There was a hostage situation on the train. The doors got stuck and we weren’t able to get out. My parents called and demanded I come home (trust me, it makes sense in a dream).

But I made it. Stepping off outside of 3Com Stadium, I ran down the street in celebration, eager to call all my friends and let them know I was alive.

I know; silly dream. But I can’t help but wonder if those dreams are some sort of reflection on the direction I’m heading in life.

Do you REALLY believe that?

Something I’ve noticed: in 95% of the arguments I’ve witnessed or partaken in, any of the two positions the debaters take is logically defensible. Excluding the irrational arguments I’ve witnessed, arguments generally center around a small group of positive statements with the disagreements being concerned with normative statements.In high school forensics, we always, always played devils advocate as an exercise in argumentative discourse. The point was not so much as to understand the other side’s view as much as it was to see how easy it was to construct a defensible position on almost any public policy question.

To change subjects slightly (I’ll bring them back around in the end… I promise), my own personal beliefs have been constructed via the following process: investigate the positives, reconcile my normatives with the positives, and form my own beliefs around them. But after starting college, I noticed an interesting trend; friends started adopting other friend’s normatives, then seeking out positives to support them. While I feel my normatives are based on a philosophical structure (in which I hope none of my opinions cause me to ‘backtrack’), I felt because my friends normative values were unstructured because they weren’t a result of their own investigations. In listening to their opinions on various public policy, I’ve found them to have stances on an issue that cause them to contradict a stand on another. I’m by no means saying I’m not guilty of the exact same thing; in fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say I have one or two beliefs that may contradict each other (but when they come to light, I’ll do my best to reconcile them). My concern is that I feel people are taking positions on policy because their friends are taking them. Just because a person can defend a piece of public policy doesn’t mean they’ve thought out how that piece of policy reflects their own personal philosophy. In other words, I really feel that people advocate positions without contemplating how those policies, or what those policies imply on their moral/ethic/philisophical structure (the dashes are ‘or’s because some people have no ‘moral’ structure for philosophic reasons).

In one sense, I really don’t believe it matters, based on my own personal philosophy, but on another level, I think it’s sad for the person because having been easily swayed one way, it’s simple for a person who is adapt at arguing to sway the other person, and that person’s position based on their own highest values is never realized.

Removing the Crutch

I discovered this while studying Japanese, but I think it applies to all learning. The experts that troll this blog can comment and say otherwise if I’m wrong (I’m looking at you, Adelle).

After 1 term of studying Japanese, we had learned both Japanese phonetic alphabets. Each of us had the ability to pronounce any of the characters, but it took us a considerable amount of time. At the end of the first term, and for the rest of our time spent studying Japanese, our instructors posted all lessons in the Japanese phonetic alphabet.

The first time we had to read entire scripts in Japanese was humorous to say the least! Everyone read extremely slow. What’s more, we hated reading using Japanese characters. It was such a struggle because it felt like such a topical regression. In English, native speakers have become so accustomed to recognizing words that we don’t bother looking at spelling for pronunciation as much as we look at word recognition. In Japanese, we experience somewhat of the same phenomenon. Instead of being able to recognize entire words, we were forced to examine and consider every pronunciation. Word distinction at that stage was nigh impossible given that there are no word break markers in pure hiragana/katakana (phonetic reading) Japanese.

But as time went on, and as we learned additional Chinese symbols (they go a long way in helping with word recognition and word breaks), we all became much more proficient in reading comprehension and pronunciation. I can read a Japanese text MUCH quicker than I was able beforehand.

I’m grateful my instructors removed the roman letters crutch. I know for a fact that had I been studying by myself, I would have been much more reluctant to use only Japanese characters… or maybe I would have never done it. But by removing that crutch, we were forced to adapt, and that’s something I think we as a species are amazing at doing. The problem, of course, is us not wanting to step outside our comfort zone. But the more we do, the more we learn and grow, and the more that a particular subject/area we’re working with becomes a comfort zone.

Being quick to abandon what’s comfortable, always looking toward the unseen path… that’s a personality trait I hope to develop.

Issues: Everybody’s got ’em

I like being a sociable person. I like talking with my friends. I like having food with my friends. I like studying with my friends.

But I don’t like to involve others in my problems. I like to be along in my times of weakness.

I had dinner with a friends who talked to me about that very issue. We had been in and out of contact for a while, so it was nice to finally see her. After dinner, we were talking about the stresses of life after school, especially pertaining to her status as an international student. Without going into much detail, she admitted the reason she hadn’t seen many of her friends was because she was stressed about being able to work in the US as a citizen and that getting citizenship would be difficult. Her thesis was that in her times of weakness, stress, or difficulty, she tends to shut out people and try to deal with her problems by herself.

I see that in myself a lot. I don’t like to talk about issues. Sure, they exist, and I’m sure others around me know they exist, but I hate talking about them. I’m not even sure why I do. Perhaps it’s because I don’t want to see like someone with “issues.” Perhaps it’s because I want to come off as responsible, as someone who has stuff under control. I have problems admitting to little problems; having bad habits such as procrastination, excessive expenditure of personal funds, and even inheren, out of my control things like learning disabilities. I don’t know why, but I don’t like to talk about or seek help from outside sources about these things.

I also realized that I haven’t been taking advantage of the wisdom of some of my friends. When I was talking to my friend tonight, I couldn’t help but remember another friend express regret about using my friends more in a professional role. I was thinking the same thing with the exception of not taking advantage of her wisdom. She’s been through a lot, confronted the same types of problems that the rest of us humans confront, and is extremely intelligent to top it off. I’m glad she shared some of that with me tonight, because it seems like a confrontation with my isolationist perspective on personal issues was long overdue.

Just on a final note, I hope things go well for her in the future. And I hope after tonight I’ll be more willing to be open with my friends.

Hectic!

Last night was perhaps one of the most successful Halloween events ever put on by the International Student Association. We had 200 students show up by 9:00 p.m. with two more hours to go. I’m sure we breached the 300 person guest list.

However, nothing comes for free. In exchange for an amazing event, ISA personnel sacrificed an enormous amount of  capital in the forms of time, money, and sanity. Everyone put in a lot of time, and I’m sure by the end some of us were questioning whether or not all the effort was worth it.

But in the end, it surely was! We were justified in choosing a larger venue for our Halloween event (in response to record-breaking coffee hour attendance) as the traditional venue would not have been able to hold 300 guests. We’ve instilled the ISA name into a good 300+ attendees who hopefully in turn attend our other events. We had excellent programming for our attendees.

Hats off to everyone who worked to make it happen.

True Story

Once upon a time.. there was a boy who was in this third year of college. He wasn’t stupid, but he wasn’t exactly what you would call smart, either. One fine Sunday, he decided he would dedicate the day to studying. So, he woke up at 12:00 after getting only 7 hours of sleep and remaining in a sleep deficit for the whole day. He decided to remedy this by drinking *2* cups of coffee, which caused him to become an unfocused, caffeine overdosed, sleep-deprived person who couldn’t concentrate on anything.. not even facebook, despite having done the same thing time and time again in his two previous years of school. THE END!

*frustration!*

週末 (My Weekend)

Two things:

One: Had a good weekend. The ISA co-directors were invited to a formal dinner to commemorate the opening of the Mills International center. We were served a three-course meal and had the opportunity to interact with University of Oregon faculty and donors. I was fortunate enough to be seated with the provost of International Affairs and the director of the EMU (along with two other guests whose names escape me).  Also, the University of Oregon president was seated next to me (but at the opposite table; we didn’t have any opportunity to interact).

Hung out with Sean and Adelle that night and all of the next day. We went to the football game (in which Oregon proceeded to slaughter the Washington State Cougars 52-7) and then over to Sean’s house where we were treated to a variety of different foods. My contribution was the wine for the Sanagria (spelled correctly, Sean?). After that was an onslaught of Guitar Hero, Halo, and American Idol Karaoke.  Loads of fun.

Two: I received a message on my Mixi account (a japanese style facebook or myspace) from one of my friends in Japan, all of which was in Japanese. She wrote it  in Japanese, and I could tell she wrote it so that 90% of it utilized grammar and vocabulary I already knew and that 10% of it was new vocabulary and grammar, forcing me to do a little research on my own.

Even now, 3 months after most of those guys have gone back to Japan, I’m still amazed at how much they care about foreigners learning their language. All of my Japanese exchange student friends from last year (and there was a lot of them) always took five minutes out of their day to make sure I was speaking correctly and encouraging me to persist when studying the language became difficult. They always tried to make it interesting and relevant, going out of their way to introduce me to phrases that were appropriate for whatever situation I was in (especially the 飲んで,飲んで,飲んで song… what a horrible song!).

I guess what I’m trying to say is that (1) I have never met any group of people who were enthusiastic about teaching something as they were about teaching me their language and (2) its remarkable that they were so eager to welcome me into their groups of friends and become a part of my group. I think without them, I would have failed out of Japanese Class.