Classes have officially started! I am doing two classes. Although I was hoping to do more, I will get the necessary credits and will have time to be very involved on campus. The first class I am taking, and perhaps the one I have been looking forward to the most is “Approaches to Gender in English Literature.” Of course, I am excited simply because we will be studying English Literature; however, I am also interested to study the interplay between Genders. I am far from being an expert; however, even my 21-year-old limited experience in life brain has been able to notice the disparity of the treatment of genders in literature.
Having noticed this, and/or had it pointed out to me by many a teacher, I am excited to take this class and find out more about what society thinks (both in the present and in the past), and even more than that, I am excited to discover assumptions I have made, or have been taught, simply because they are a societal norm.
The second class I am taking is one I am also excited for, although I never thought I would be taking it here. Broadly speaking, the class will cover various genres of fiction writing and the technical aspects that separate those genres. We already had our first assignment, and I am waiting to hear back on my (very) short story.
As both of these classes are designed to be for first or second year students, (Swansea advises exchange students NOT to take the final year’s classes) I am discovering that there is a certain amount of repetition in these classes compared to what I have already taken. This is very similar to what I experienced my freshman year.
I was blessed to attend an academically challenging High School, so there were many classes my freshman year that were simply a repeat, or perhaps a slight expansion, of what I had done in High School. I think that speaks well for OBA, but not at all badly for NWOSU. In nearly the same way here, many of these classes are a repetition of what I have already learned, at least in the simplest condensed form. Of course, I have taken most of the lower level English credits, but I think it is more than that. Here, the classes are very structured and in that limited.
Structure is wonderful, as an A-type person, you will likely never hear me complain about the presence of structure. However, because so many of Northwestern’s classes are discussion rather than lecture based, I think we cover a wider area of ground, allowing for both specifically topic related and general learning. With this in mind, I am not saying that Swansea is in the wrong, not at all in fact. I think it is an excellent institution. I do however, know that Northwestern is preparing me as a student, and am so happy to have been placed in that learning environment. I know people often say that distance gives you perspective, and from someone who is an ocean away, I can certainly attest to the fact that Northwestern is a quality institution which inspires learning and creativity.
I must apologize for running on, but I am afraid two things have hit me at once: “Fresher’s Flu” and homesickness. For those of you, who like me are generally unfamiliar with the idea of “Fresher’s Flu,” the phrase alludes to two things, first the concept of a “Fresher,” essentially an individual who is new to campus, so a Freshman or an Exchange Student. The second idea “flu” is self-explanatory. So in its entirety, “Fresher’s Flu” refers to the consequence of throwing a LOT of people (each bearing their own germs) together into various social and academic events: widespread sickness. Seriously though, the class rooms are littered with coughing, the buses must be a breeding ground for death, and even my constant handwashing/sanitizing, refusal to share drinks, and tendency to avoid (most) social events has not prevented my partaking of this wide spread virus.
The other issue this week has been homesickness. It is a strange concept, and one I have experienced before. Camp was always difficult for me, as a child, being away from home for more than a night or two always seemed to induce an all-encompassing ache to be with family. The homesickness I have been experiencing here, however, is different. Perhaps it is a consequence of more maturity (hopefully) than was displayed at 6th grade camp, or perhaps it is the knowledge that this time the absence spans months rather than weeks. Regardless of why, the homesickness has been more of a pressure than an ache.
I would describe it much like having a bruise on your leg. The bruise doesn’t necessarily hurt, but there is a slight pressure on it. The pressure is of course easily ignored, but in the silent moments throughout the day the pressure becomes more noticeable, only to slip below the consciousness again when the mind is distracted. And, the bruise will hurt occasionally, but only when pressed upon. This is the homesickness I have experienced.
Even among the stress with arranging classes, the sniffles, and the pressure, I am glad to be here. I have met so many people from so many other walks of life. I am being forced to examine my beliefs about my own culture, because here American culture (specifically certain aspects of it) are out of the norm rather than expected. Every day, I am challenged to step outside my shell, to ask questions, and to enjoy this experience.
Of course, I miss my family, and I miss my NWOSU family. I so look forward to being on a campus where I recognize (most) of the faces I walk by. I look forward to conversations in the lunch line at the Student Center, English classes where we somehow manage to get completely off topic yet learn so much, and family dinners that end with a hug and kiss goodbye. But, however much I may miss those things, I am not ready for my time here to end. In the silent moments the pressure to long for those things does sneak up, but even in the silent moments, I know that the plan for my life, at least for now, is to enjoy these precious moments at Swansea and remember with joy (rather than longing) my families waiting for me at home.