Archive

Archive for the ‘College’ Category

Thoughts On This Past Semester

January 2010 marks the beginning of the Winter semester at university.  If all goes well, this will be my last and final semester as an undergraduate student.  This winter semester will mark the end of the security blanket I have wrapped myself with for the past five years or so.

However, I do want to comment on the goings on of last semester as I hadn’t posted anything regarding it in quite some time.

Last semester was good and bad.  On the good side, I actually made quite a bit of new friends.  I met some great people, fun and full of life.  I had some great times with these people.  They actually made university more fun than it should have been.  On the downside though, the workload I had to endure was utter hell.

For some of my classes, I had assignments due literally every week.  I rarely had any down time for myself.  I didn’t have much of a mental break at all.  I was constantly on the go and constantly studying.  It actually took quite a toll on me.  I had a few major assignments that I had to do which I felt were totally unnecessary.

For example, in one of my geography classes, Latin American Geography, I had to draw up maps and write reflections on what we were learning in class.  I can understand why the professor would want us to do this.  She wanted the class to be constantly engaged in the class material in the hopes that we would retain the information.  But given that this was a senior level class, I find assignments like this to be an utter waste of time.  These reflections on class lectures and material hope to have the student critically analyze the material but in reality this does not happen.  It’s basically regurgitating the information that we have already learned and adding in “I”‘s and “I think”‘s.  They do not force the student to think about what they are writing about.  They only force the student to mind vomit all over their keyboard, print it off and submit to the prof an illusion of what may or may not be going through the students heads.  These reflections were a big part of our grade and I felt that I didn’t gain anything out of this part.  Moreover, as the text book we were using did not provide any maps (regarding the commodity trade in Latin America), the prof forced us to construct our own maps and illustrate the travel patterns of commodities such silver, sugar, cocaine and others.  In theory this sounds like an easy assignment but in reality it was horrible.  The prof wanted us to construct detailed maps, more than what normal maps detail.  I had no idea what the prof actually wanted for our maps, what she wanted us to include and exclude.  Again, I found no benefit to this assignment whatsoever.   At the end, I was pretty disappointed in the class and its structure as I didn’t get nearly as much out of it as I thought I would.

I also was not satisfied with another geography class of mine, cultural geography.  This class has some amazing concepts to it.  The jist of cultural geography is looking at a space from a political point of view.  So  we would look at a space and analyze how it was used, who it was meant for, what power differentiations existed in the space and so on.  The material itself was very interesting but the structure of the class was as such that the information was not readily available.  Notes weren’t posted online and the text book that we used was sub par at best.  Moreover, the prof was good in certain respects but I don’t think she knew how to actually teach the class.  She was actually a grad student who was paired up with a TA who was also another grad student.  Together, they had labs that were bi-weekly.  These labs were alright except for that the TA’s marking scheme for these labs were pretty horrid.  It was almost designed so that the best one could do was get a B on it.  Most people that I talked to in the class got an average of a B- to a C.  Small things like punctuation and spelling were given more weight than the actual material itself.  Moreover, the marking scheme was rigid and there was no room given to explore or extrapolate our own ideas from the content that we learned.  There wasn’t any real academic freedom when it came to these labs.

All in all, I was a bit disappointed with respect to these two particular classes.  Although I had three other classes that went really good, these two classes that I had pinned a lot of my hopes on with respect to interesting and increasing my GPA ended up being disappointments.  Because of these two classes, my GPA isn’t what I was hoping it to be.  This means that I have to now drop classes which I was hoping to take for the sake of interest and take classes where I know that I will get a GPA in.  Considering this is going to be my last semester, I am not really happy with that.

The only thing that will make this semester worth remembering are the extra curricular activities that I am involved in.  With all the clubs and initiatives I am involved in, it is going to be a semester that I know will fly by fast but will be packed with a lot of fun.

I hope you guys had a very merry Christmas and a wonderful new year.  Good luck to everyone this semester.

Advertisements

American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein

American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein

I came to learn of a new documentary that has recently come out entitled, American Radical: The Trials of Norman Finkelstein.  It chronicles the life of American political scientist Dr. Norman Finkelstein, the son of parents who survived the holocaust.

For those that are not familiar with Dr. Finkelstein, he used to be a professor at DePaul University before he was denied tenure in 2007.  Through his academic work, he is best known as one of the greatest opponents to the occupation of Palestine and a fervent critic of Israel and the United States vis a vis Palestine.  It is speculated that because of his critique of the Israeli and US body politic through his academic work and a famous debate with himself and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz on Democracy now that DePaul regarded Finkelstein as being ultimately a liability to the University.  Dr. Finkelstein has written 5 books, all of which have gained a significant amount of notoriety.  Finkelstein, a Jew himself, was banned from entering Israel in May of 2008, citing Finkelstein as being a security threat which landed him a ban from Israel for ten years.

I have not yet seen the film but based on the trailer, it seems to offer a fascinating look into the life of one of America’s foremost scholars.  The film shows clips of various confrontations with anti-Palestinian protesters during his talks, chronicles the whole DePaul University debacle and interviews people close to him and even those that are enemies of Dr. Finkelstein, including Professor Dershowitz, who many claim is the primary reason why Dr. Finkelstein was overlooked for tenure.

The film first premiered at the Chicago Underground Film Festival on September 17 , 2009 and is slated to premier in Europe at the Scheffield Doc Fest on November 4, 2009.  The film has also been chosen to premiere at the Montreal International documentary Festival on November 11, 2009.

Have a look at the trailer and if you get a chance, go and see the film.

On This Cloudy Day

The past 48 hours or so have been quite interesting to say the least.  I had two midterms yesterday and of course and inevitably, I fell behind in my readings.  So I began studying some time Wednesday evening, in through thursday until 4am, went home slept for four hours, woke up at 8am, almost slept through my first midterm, got to class at 9.05 am (five minutes late), and began writing my midterm for geog…*takes a deep breath*  ten minutes into the midterm (which is in essay format) I take a few seconds to actually read the instructions and realise I only have to answer two out of the three questions that are given.  I quickly realise I’m writing on the hardest question.  So I scratch that out and start working on the two easier questions.  After that exam was over with, I skipped my next class to review for my midterm which was in two hours.   Studied, went to the class, wrote the midterm, ran out of time and wasn’t able to really complete the last question on the exam but felt good nonetheless.  Thankful that my ordeal was finally over, I went to Friday Prayers, went home and slept from 2-8pm, took two hours to get ready, went to Tim Hortons, grabbed a steep tea, and spent the night at university, getting home at 6am in the morning, having only studied for one out of the seven hours I was there for.   Went to bed at 7, woke up at 11 and now, at 2.45pm, I am planning on getting ready for what I hope to be a more productive night of studying.

Even though I got four hours of sleep, I feel good right now.  I feel happy and positive.  I absolutely love cloudy days and today is one cloudy day.  The plan is to feed off this positive energy that Im feeling by the clouds and use it as motivation to get my assignments and labs done before Monday morning.

Speaking of feeding off positive energy, Im totally feeling the positive vibes by these two:

New Beginnings

September 24, 2009 Leave a comment

This month has marked the beginning of a new year; the beginning of the new school year that is.  Just as how the Chinese have their own calendar, the Muslims have their own calendar, university students have their own calendar as well.  The University Calendar might not be the best one out there, but it will dictate our lives for the next eight months.

So it’s the start of the new school year.  Students have been running around, trying to find their classes, buying books, returning books, and creating massive traffic jams in hallways talking to friends they haven’t seen all summer.  There are many new faces floating around and many more old faces.

Personally for myself, it marks a new beginning.  I officially completed my political science degree in the winter semester.  I tried to find a job in my field but it was quickly evident that that wasn’t going to happen.  So I planned early on to return to school and up my GPA.  In August, I came to a realisation of sorts.  I did a bit of research and talked to a few people and came to this conclusion:  Rather than taking a bunch of random classes to up my GPA, right now is a perfect time to add another degree to my undergrad.  I spoke to my advisor at university and came to the conclusion that based on the classes I’ve taken previously, it would be best if I did a minor in geography.

Why geography?  For a few reasons.  One, I did very well in my previous geography classes.  That is actually something that I didn’t expect.  I don’t love geography but it’s not something that I totally hate either.  Second, I felt that if I take the right classes, a geography minor would be a unique way for me to compliment my minor.  Third, a normal minor requires a student to complete 10 courses.  I had already taken four geography classes and so I only needed six more classes to officially have a minor.  Taking that and a few other things into consideration, I spent a good month researching my classes, researching profs and the material that they were going to teach.

These are the geography classes that I am taking this semester:

  • Cultural Geography
  • Environmental Geography
  • Geography of Latin America
  • Geography of AIDS/HIV

If I don’t change around my schedule, next semester I will be taking:

  • Political Geography
  • Economic Geography

Based on these courses and what is being taught in them, I think it will go really well with my political science degree.   The AIDS/HIV is especially a good class in that it is a seminar type of class.  It’s not a regular lecture format.  Rather, the professor encourages the class to be interactive and allows students to delve into the various academic aspects the disease.  Moreover, it gives me a good idea of what classes will be like at the Masters level, which I hope to persue later on.  The only downside is that the class requires a 30 page essay which is due at the end of the semester.  This will officially be the longest essay I will have ever written in my university career.

I am also taking a few other electives to further boost my GPA so all in all I have a full course load; 5 classes.  I have already become stressed out.  But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  It’s a good type of stress.  Oh yeah, I’m also working at the same time.  It’s going to be quite a busy semester.

When I first began university I didn’t plan on geography at all.  It wasn’t even on my list.  But its funny how destiny directs you to certain paths.  The good thing about the path I have chosen is that nothing bad can come out of my minor.  I’ve added another qualification to my degree and I am confident I will have a whole new perspective to view the world when I am finally done my undergrad.  So really, nothing bad can come out of this.

In the spirit of this new beginning, you may have noticed that I changed the theme of my blog.  I added a few songs on the sidebar from soundcloud.  I intend to add more as soon as I have some more time to surf the site.  There are some amazing songs on there that I would definitely love to share with you guys.  I love this theme.  The colour schemes are perfect and it gives that nice “bloggy” feeling.

I wish the rest of the students out there a fun, happy and prosperous school year.

Departures

departuresDepartures.  The television show that I am using as one of my many mediums for inspiration for my backpacking trip next year.  Essentially what is is two friends, Scott and Justin who travel all over the world for one whole year.

This show is absolutely amazing.  First off, it’s filmed in high quality HD.  The production of this show is stellar.  The music, the picture quality, the editing is all probably some of the best on Canadian television right now.  But more importantly than that, the concept of the show is superb.  It’s not just a show about two people who go to obscure and beautiful places.  Departures really captures the essence of their friendship in the context of travel.  These two friends, while being around each other almost 24/7, get to share some life changing experiences together.  Scott and Justin were best friends before they embarked on this year long experience. But by virtue of them experiencing these different countries together, their friendship has formed a new bond that very few people in this world ever get to experience.  And you get to view that in the show.

The best part about the show is that it has been able to capture the intrinsic value of their travels.  You literally see Justin and Scott appreciate this world and come to these amazing realisations about where they are at that particular point in time.  Literally, their eyes and their minds open and expand right before your eyes.  That is probably the best part of the show in my opinion.

On their one year long journey they travelled to Jordan, India, Ascension Island, Japan, Cook Islands, New Zeland, Thailand, Cambodia, and rediscovered their very own Canada from ocean to ocean to ocean.  The travel bug has bit these two friends pretty hard because season two of this show is set to air on January 25, 2010 where they will have travelled to Morroco, Lybia, Brazil, Cuba, Mongolia, Iceland, Zambia, Madagascar, Chile and Antarctica.

Amazing, isn’t it?

Every time I watch this show it gives me drive and motivation to make this trip a reality.  I realize that I too can experince with my friends what these two are experiencing on this television show.

The website for the show is here and their youtube channel is here.

My heart calls out for Southeast Asia.  All I need is a bit of patience and discipline.

One Step Closer to Achieving Balance and a Goal

work-life-balance2I have officially crossed one major hurdle that was standing in the way of my goal of backpacking through Southeast Asia and (what I realised earlier this year) an imbalance in my life.  Allhamdulillah I found a job.

This job could quite possibly be the key that I needed at this point in life.  The job itself is nothing big.  I’m going to be working part time at this new hockey store that’s opening in this massive mega mall near my house.  I was praying hoping that if I were to find a job this year, it would be something that is going to be fun.  I’ve had way too many crappy jobs to just take anything that was available and do it.  I can’t work in a poisonous work environment anymore.  This new job is exactly what I was looking for.  It’s fun, it’s exciting, there is no pressure being put on me and the environment is relaxing.

Like I said before, I have fulfilled all the requirements of my degree now (Allhamdulillah) but I am going to go back and take some extra classes so that I can raise my GPA.  So this coming fall semester, my aim is going to be focused.  I am not going to be very social at all.   Rather, I am going to focus on my classes, raising my GPA and working as much as time can afford me to.  I am confident that with a dedicated attitude, I will be in Malaysia by this time next year.  It might not be the best regime in the world but once I find myself on an island looking at the Pacific ocean, standing on a white sandy beach, I know that the sacrifices that I will have made this year will all be worth it.

Perhaps more importantly however, I think this job, as small as it may be, will play a vital role in creating structure in my life, something that I desperately need.  All my studying, all my socialising and everything in between will revolve around my work schedule.  This may seem kind of unappealing to many people but I ever since my family bought a business, I haven’t had a real structured regime.  After we bought the business, I quit my part time job to help out with the shop.  As it turned out, I could go to the shop whenever I wanted to and ultimately didn’t become much of a priority on my list.   With this new part time job, working is no longer an option.  But best of all, it’s actually going to be fun.

All in all, it seems like its all working out.  I just hope and pray it does.  I have this feeling that I might be romanticising my job right now as I’ve created this picture in my head as to how its all going to look.  I don’t want to get my hopes up if it doesn’t work out the way I want it to.  But I am confident enough that it’ll be all that I pictured in my head and more.  The people that hired me seem really laid back and I told them I am a student they seem very accommodating to that.  Inshallah it’ll work out for the best.

Right now, I am in a very ‘at ease’ state of mind.  It feels good.

Youtube EDU

Youtube.edu

This is one of the most unique things I have come across lately in my daily surf of the Internet.  Youtube has created a specific directory of all of their college and university partners.  Educational institutions from all across North America and the world have their own channels on youtube where people from anywhere in the world can view whats happening on their campuses.

Youtube.com/edu offers a directory of a number of post secondary institutions that post videos.  The nature of these videos range from recent and past commencement speeches to guest speakers and even classroom lectures.  So one could literally sit in on a class on the fundamentals of physics class or a game theory lecture without leaving their home.

This part of youtube is great for those that are wanting to research which college of university is the right one for them.  They have some of the top schools in the world posting videos all the time.  There are even a handful of Canadian universities such as the University of Manitoba and SFU that have partnered up with youtube.

This is perhaps most phenomenal in the sense that it allows one to explore academia from the perspective of a student without having to pay the necessary tuition and money to acquire an academic knowledge.  Now obviously not all classes and subjects are posted.  This is all at the discretion of the institution but its better than nothing.

Have a look and perhaps a lecture on one of the classes you are taking is somewhere up there.

Because I am a political science student, I am going to post a lecture from poli 114 (Political Philosophy) from Yale by professor Stephen Smith.