WashingtonPost: 7 countries where Americans can study at universities, in English, for free (or almost free)

“What might interest potential university students in the United States is that Germany offers some programs in English — and it’s not the only country. Let’s take a look at the surprising — and very cheap — alternatives to pricey American college degrees.”

Read On To Find Out Which Countries…

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Second Guessing

I had a little bit of the wind taken out of my sails yesterday. Granted, the season change often does that, but this was work related.

I pride myself at not entering things that I know I won’t be good at (I know, there’s so many flaws in that), and so when I am doing something and I find that not only am I flawed in my ability to do the appointed task, but told that I clearly don’t have a grasp on what is trying to be accomplished – I get a little sulky.

So far as a Reader in the writing center I have really enjoyed it, though I have been a bit timid as to where the line is drawn as to what I can and cannot suggest. There are always tons of suggestions I could make to another writer, just as a writer could suggest a ton of things about any one of my pieces. My suggestions would come down to style though, and take away from the uniqueness of the artist.

I don’t know how much I can guide a writer when they’re trying to develop their thesis, or figure out their points or organization and so on. How much can I say “move this sentence here and that one there and then add details here, but make sure you bring in some outside research here.”? Since it is a creative process, and while I’m a tutor, I’m not a tutor, so the lines are fairly fuzzy.

We answer emails as well. Students can email us their work and we will read it and create what is called a Jing. We use a program called Jing to create a video response to the essay. I’ve done one of these so far, and had a person I work with go over it and tell me where I can improve. She said I did fine and covered all the points and delivered the critiques in a friendly manner.

The whole team this week is meant to do a practice Jing so that our boss (for lack of better term – leader? perhaps?) can hear what we’re putting out there. She teaches an online class and the essay we were meant to be going over was one of her students’ who was testing out a new writing style, wanted to know about the layout, the style, organization, and if the photos she added were good or just too much (we also encourage multimodial writing, but that’s something I’ll get into another day).

I was nervus about doing it any way becuase I hate being recorded in any way, and then on top of it our head leader lady would be listening and critiquing us. I read the essay. I read it again – I actually read it a few times and really coudln’t find anything to say on it. The organization was good, the style was good and the photos contributed nicely. At a risk of sounding like I was blowing smoke up the student’s ass and not wanting to look like I hadn’t put any thought into the paper, I had to say something.

But I finally found something that I thought could be unpacked a little bit, and I went on and said so.
Several times I assured the student that the essay over all was pretty good, and they’d done a good job – trying to keep it positive.

The Jing wasn’t going to the student, but to our head lead lady. She Jinged me back within the day, the first thing she said was that by me saying it was a good essay that I was critiquing the essay, and not responding as a reader. She told me that because of this I clearly did not have the right idea as to what the Writing Center was about.

The rest were helpful tips and the like, but that last part really stung. She’s a really nice lady, and I’m sure she didn’t mean to come across so harshly, but to be told that not only was I wrong, but I don’t know what I’m doing had a vague note of “maybe we didn’t hire the right person.” I know that’s me being paranoid and just really wanting to do well, but at the end of the day, I didn’t have a good interview with her when I got the job. The interview was fine, but her response to me didn’t seem entirely enthusiastic and I was fairly certain as I left that I didn’t get it. I was shocked when I got the email that I had – and she’s been nothing but welcoming and sweet to me since I started. Like I said, there’s just that little bit of paranoia.

I of course can make another, more satisfactory Jing using the tips that she gave me, but I want to express to her that I wasn’t looking at it in a critiquing manner, but instead was just trying to keep everything positive. I don’t really know how to do that without coming across as the unconfident, shaky chihuahua I’ve just depicted myself as.

It’s always very scary coming into a new job, no matter how qualified you might believe you are. Once you’re doing it you find yourself second guessing everything you thought you knew.

First Week of the New Job

My goodness but I have found myself to be quite busy! Who knew the effect of added an extra 8 hours to the week would have!

So far I am loving the writing center. It’s extremely inspirational being around people that are not just passionate about the written word, but are passionate about spreading that excitement.

Just after I was hired, a group of them went to a Writing Center conference down in Seattle – a conference just for writing centers in colleges – who knew! They each attended lectures from different points of consideration – lectures on accidental plagiarism that all of us do (whether we are aware of it or not), how to work with the ESL (English as a Second Language) students when they approach us with a paper (especially here in Washington, we have quite a few students from Hong Kong, China, Japan, etc), using multimodal formatting (something extremely new to me), the value of using other languages to enhance english – and so on. We have been discussing how we can apply these things that were brought back from the conference all week.

Yesterday was my first day working one on one with a student (opposed to shadowing another reader while they work with the student), and I think I did fairly well. It’s difficult to remember that we are not making their paper to the T basic essay formatting, but rather, helping the student overcome mental obstacles, develop ideas and concepts, and helping them get those ideas to paper in an understandable way. The harsh editor in me wants to add and subtract commas, take out all the I- and you-statements, and so on. But at the end of th day, the goal is to help the student feel comfortable writing, not intimidate them with grammatical rules,, and thus is the philosophy of the English department at Whatcom.

Of course, should a student come in and ask specifically for help with grammar and the like, then we’ll do so.

It’s really a great, supportive, and amazing environment to be in. I’m hoping that I can keep this sort of job through the rest of my school.  This is where my passion is, and it feels amazing being able to do this.

Studying Shakespeare

As an English-Major-to-be, I should have anticipated this. Why it hadn’t crossed my mind that it might come to this, I haven’t the slightest inkling. However, the first wave has been completed, and I am sure it is truly just a ripple in comparison to the flurry the years shall bring.

I am of course referring to the tedious study of Shakespeare.

In my Introduction to British Literature class, we are just wrapping up reading and interpreting several of William Shakespeare’s sonnets as well as the supposed greatest play ever written, Hamlet.

This of course is not an introduction for me. In high school we read Romeo and Juliet, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream – both of which I greatly enjoyed, the latter far more than the former. I knew that Hamlet was one of our required readings for this class, and thought that I might take it at the same stride that I did in high school.

Wrong.

Why I was so wrong, I haven’t a clue. How have I lost so much of my ability to interpret this man’s insane linguistic patterns? How is it that I allow the floral pattern of the words get in the way of my understanding of the core? No matter, I wormedly found my way around these linguistic obstacles – by finding an app for my iPad which read the play to me, and when that wasn’t enough, I watched the movie (which, by the way, I generally don’t condone, but considering that this is a play, designed to be seen and not read as a book, this is an obvious exception).

I spent a lot of time watching, listening and reading. I began to understand the language a bit better, and even enjoy it. However, there were some scenes which seemed pointless, there were times when I didn’t even understand the point of a character being there, or their actions.

Looking at it from a writer’s standpoint, I contemplated what a character or scene or line contributed to the plot as a whole. Ophelia’s character was a completely waste to me. I didn’t understand what she contributed to the story at all until she went mad, and in her own insane songs began essentially calling out the entire cast on their ill-deeds. However, the real contribution she held was in her death, which brought the secret dealings to a head and inspired the duel at the end.

This caused me to wonder: how much of the play was premeditated before it was written? Did Shakespeare sit down with his quill and simply know that he would write a play of the Prince of Denmark and what elements it needed and how to fit characters to them? Did he create tables and have scribbles of notes to himself through which he worked out details?

Again, going back to Ophelia, I felt her to be an empty and pithy character, not even worth having in the play other than to add to the tragedy of it all, however, upon dissecting her, I realize just how deep she really is. She is everything a woman of the time ought to be – gentile, obedient, pretty, quiet,  and so on. However, when all the male figures in her life are gone – her brother in France, Hamlet “insane” and having killed her father only to be sent away to England, she herself falls to mental illness. Then she sings. She sings everything that has been pent up inside of her. She uses the voice of the flowers in order to express herself. With all these things to consider, she truly is a deep and developed character.

Which brings me to my point: I truly hated reading this play and his sonnets. However, understanding the characters of Shakespeare, the time he was living in and the echos of his life, mentality, family, health, and the politics of the world during that time, shows how in depth of a writer he was. In order to grow as a writer, I believe that studying his work would be highly beneficial, especially as someone who wants to write fiction as well.

His works have gone down in history as literary genius for four hundred years, dude must be doing something right.

The Second Job and Unemployment

It’s been a while since I’ve written about my financial situation as a student, aside from the odd comment here and there. Well, since my financial situation has altered slightly and I am sure I am not the only one to fall into this predicament, I thought I had best bring you along this stretch of the educational journey.

A recap:
I was laid off in February 2014 and decided to use this opportunity to go to school. Since the degree I am going for isn’t a “trade”, technically I shouldn’t be collecting unemployment. However, my advisor at the college told me not to lie to the unemployment office, though not to offer up the information that I’m going back to school, either. In the process of getting myself all set up for school, I continued on with my job searches, keep a written record of them all, and I even managed to get a job selling goat cheese on the weekends at farmers’ markets.

The Recent:
After having a busy and somewhat stressful summer, the season for the farmers’ markets is coming to a close. While the market that I work at on Saturdays is still open through to December 20th, my Sunday market is no more. The pressure has been on to find a way of replacing those hours. I had been bouncing back and forth with the idea of attempting a waitressing gig, or even going back to my old job (which I loved) as support staff for adults with developmental disabilities – though I worried about the potential workload affecting my school work.

Thankfully, after five long weeks of waiting, I finally heard back from the Writing Center at the college, and I am hired! Hurrah! The hours I would be accumulating are equal to the hours I lost from my other market (on average).

And here is where it gets a little bit complicated for the two-semi-part-time-job-working-on-unemployment-student: While doing my weekly filing for unemployment online, it asked me if I only had worked for the one employer. I said no, that I had worked for a second employer. When I got to file for the first time stating that I finally had a job with Gothberg Farms, it just had me enter in the job details onto the page and it was sorted. However, it is now wanting me to call Unemployment and give them the details. Until I do so, my unemployment is suspended.

I won’t lie, I’m pretty scared. I don’t know what kinds of questions they will ask, or how I should answer. I ought not to lie, but if I don’t answer these questions in just the right way, then I will lose my unemployment for being a student.

Course of Action: I will make an appointment with my advisor today at the college and see what words of wisdom he might be able to bestow upon me. I am not qualified at this moment to make this phone call without botching it up.

My advice to any student in this predicament: Ask for help, ask for helpask for help, ask for help!

This is not to say that I am attempting to be dishonest or scam the system. No, not at all. As I mentioned before, I am following to the T what my college advisor advised that I do. There was no interpretation, he literally gave me step-by-step instructions to do just this.

Wish me luck!

A HUGE First

Ther have been two bouts of goods in my life over the last week and a half. One is far more worth singing about than the other, so I shall start with the kinda cool thing that I think only excites me:

finally procured a car. There’s a little bit of the One-Up value to it as well, since I was told that I would not find a car which reaches my criteria for under $1500. Well, My criteria were: must be a hatch back, must be a manual, and must get at least 30 mpg.

Enter Maud. I found Maud via Craigslis, and she is a 1994 ford escortsport wagon, a manual, and averages at 34 miles per gallon. And I love her. And she was only a grand – and the lady that sold her to me was her only owner as well. Win all around!

Like I said, not very exciting.

Howeve, the next bit of good news is a huge step for me, something which is more proof that I am on the right track. I finally got my first job involving writing.

This is the whole reason I wanted to get a degree – so that I could be paid to somehow be involved with the written word.

It technically counts as work study, and I don’t know how long it will last, but for the time being, I now work in the college’s writing center, helping students construct and write essays. I am thrilled. Words cannot express how truly thrilled I am.

This will not only be helpful because I really need a job (My goat cheese hours have just been cut in half now that one of the markets has closed for the season), but because this will look great on a college application as well.

With a little luck, I’ll be given the opportunity to prove my worth and they will keep me on for quarters to come. But for the moment, my W-4 is turned in and my information in the system – I officially work with writing.