A Breath of Fresh (Academic) Air

I’ve never known college without a media outlet — I started writing for The Maneater the week after I graduated from high school, and I’ve been working for various media outlets ever since.

I also never knew high school without a literary magazine or yearbook.

Hell, I barely knew middle school without a literary magazine, newspaper or yearbook. (I didn’t consider journalism as a career choice until junior year, though. Go figure.)

That’s why the program I’m doing this semester was, at first, a bit alarming. In a country where courses (in the U.S., majors) are highly specialized, I’d be taking modules (classes) that, well, weren’t in my area of study. I’d have the opportunity to learn things I knew nothing about, that were unlike anything I have or will learn about at MU, but in a lecture hall full of students who had devoted the past two years to that area of study. And I wouldn’t have a publication to work on.

But I think this break is exactly what I wanted, even if I didn’t initially realize it.

I came here because this semester, I want to learn more about the world, not more about journalism — I could easily have picked another study abroad program, had I wanted to do that. Being in the moment here — without worrying about deadlines or whether the quality of my iPhone photo is good enough for it to be posted online — will allow me to do that a lot better. And will I become a more informed journalist (and, more importantly, person) because of it? Absolutely.

This week was my first week sans structured journalism, and though classes are already proving to be challenging, I think it will be worth it. All of my classes are essay- and project-based, so they’re a bit more like what I take in the U.S. than the traditional assessment here, where most of the class grade is based on your final exam score. However, they’re still different in that it’s been quite a while since I’ve written an academic essay with in-text citations.

The first class I attended — Sex, Bodies and Money: Gendering International Political Economy — seems to be a nice mix of international relations and women’s and gender studies. We’ll mainly be looking at how women, men and LGBTQ community members have impacted the IPE. The first lecture was entertaining, and at least I have some background in gender studies after taking Human Sexuality in the fall.

The second one, Studying Sacred Spaces in the City, will contain more of the hands-on approach I’m used to in journalism classes. Much of the class is based on a group project, for which we study a sacred space in the city of Manchester. We’ll write an academic report about it and create a presentation for public use (e.g., marketing).

The third module, Islam and Modernity, is a bit in left field for me. I think it’ll be good, though, because I read and edit a decent amount of content involving Islam and don’t have a strong background in its roots. We have to write an essay and make a presentation in this class, too, and I already know what I want to study: Islam in the media.

I’m about to take a break from writing (both personal and academic) and head to a Chinese New Year celebration — it’s really big here, so I’m excited to see it.

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