Yesterday & Forever
One of the stories my Great-Grandma Opal used to tell is of her “city” cousins coming to visit her family in the summer. When all the kids would go off running to do what kids do, those “city” kids would have a horrible time trying to keep up. They were used to wearing shoes, so the tough ground hurt their feet and they simply couldn’t keep up.
I’m not sure how long the “city” cousins would visit, but in my imagination I see this happening at the beginning of summer— like the start of all good coming of age books and movies. Then when August comes around and they have to go home, I just imagine what it must’ve been like having to put those shoes back on, and if it felt just as strange as the bare-feet had months earlier.
These past two weeks, I’ve been running around in bare feet (sometimes quite literally) trying to keep up. There are the basic things like knowing the brands of cereal and of finding the right light bulb (they have 100s of options here, and I suddenly find those “how many people does it take to change a light bulb” jokes much funnier) to the more complicated things like opening a bank account (see last post) and registering for courses (more later. Spoiler alert: it’s a process and a hassle and still about as clear as mud).
But the most important part is to just keep trying and to keep smiling and I suppose my “Please help me, I’m a sad, lost, international student” face helps a bit too.
We started orientation with an overnight trip to Cape Point (the falsely advertised “most southern point of the continent) and enjoyed a great night at Slangkop Tented Camp, which was a serious upgrade to my last camping experience in New Hampshire…. The site was beautiful and near the beach where we watched surfers and enjoyed “sundowners” aka docktails, and then spent the evening chatting, drinking, and eating — there was an impressive Braai (grill) and I wow-ed everyone with my spectacular knife skills (#parttimejobperks). I really enjoyed getting to know my cohort, and after a false start of writing my bio about weather (I was nervous), I think I’ve recovered and will make some friends after all.
After the field trip, we spent two days sitting in the classroom listening to research projects from different professors, researchers, and post-docs. I repeatedly had moments where I swore the speaker had switched to a foreign language, but only one bout of giggles because the speaker was so cartoonish that even though I absolutely no idea what he was talking about I wanted to set up an appointment just to speak with him again.
Outside learning, I was settling into my flat, learning more about load shedding (which my flat doesn’t do because a fancy person lives near by #winning), and enjoying some great music — Delft Big Band on Thursday and Freshlyground on Sunday. Both were AMAZING, and I suggest you follow the links to learn a bit more about the groups.
Over the weekend, I also enjoyed catching up with a great contact I had met through my Mom, and we had a wonderful lunch and I amazed myself with my ability to sweat (Did I mention it’s summer here? How’s that feel Boston?)
Moving forward with orientation, this week we had a presentation of electives (which actually just caused me to change my mind 12x and still not be sure if I’ve made the “best” decision), and then it came to actual registration.
Here’s a quick overview of the process:
- You have a paper form you fill out with your core courses and electives. You have 2 core courses, 2 electives, and a dissertation.
- For the sake of time and dwindling interest, let’s assume you’re not taking courses outside the Environment & Geographical Sciences Department.
- You actually choose 4 elective options, go around trying to track down the course convenor, have a quick “Hey how are you? Where are you from? How’s the course” conversation, and if all is well, he or she signs off on your form.
- Then you submit this form, and on Friday the whole department will sit around divvying students into their courses based on preference, background, and your short “hey how are ya?” conversation.
- Classes start on Monday, and I “should” know my courses Friday afternoon.
- If you’re taking course outside the department there’s another form, and a whole bunch of unanswered questions.
- Then it turns out the little paper we had signed is just for departmental use, so we also have to register with the Faculty of Science, which is another form and then once we actually know our courses, there’s another form that may or may not also need to be signed by the course convenors.
- And I think that’s the end of it, but it seems to be an ever changing process. So I’ll keep you all updated. And did I mention this is all happening on paper forms? Hey there 2015. Hey there Africa?
Well that’s the scoop for now. No tears, though I have thought of pulling them out in order to skip standing in the 2–6 hour line that I’m supposed to stand in so that I can get my student ID card…