March 29, 2010 - 6:00 AM
The following takes place between 6:00 and 7:00am:
The incessant buzz of a vibrating cell phone atop the nightstand awoke me from my peaceful slumber. Monday had finally caught up to me. With an intense desire to hide in my warm cocoon I reached a hand to rub the sleep out of my eyes - how could spring term possibly be starting already? Spring break didn't last nearly long enough.
Work didn't start until 11am, class at noon...but I had duties to fulfill this morning. If only I had had the foresight to conveniently place my laptop next to the bed so that work could be done without ever having to actually get up. Some mornings the couch seems impossibly far away. I kicked my feet over the edge and shuffled a few steps out of the room. Today is going to be a pretty big day.
One problem: I still haven't decided what classes I'm taking for sure. I only need four credits; one would think it wouldn't be so difficult to just pick a class and show up the first day. But there are still two contenders for the job - Geography 442: Urban Geography and Geography 465: Environment and Development.
Urban geography is described as the study of urbanization throughout the world, the structure of urban settlements; cities as regional centers, physical places, and homes for people; geographic problems in major urban environments.
Environment and development is focusing on the critical analysis of development concepts, economic activity and environmental impacts, sustainable development, and development projects and landscapes in the industrializing world.
Ideally I'd like to pick one of these classes in the next hour, but I may just go the first day to each and pick the one I like better. Before I use up all my time this morning thinking about what class to take I also need to reply to some emails, organize soccer practice for my second grade girls tonight, get prepared for the staff meeting later this afternoon with my coworkers from International Affairs, get dressed, have breakfast and make it out the door in time to get to campus. Nothing like a little life planning in the morning...I'm convinced that this final course I take at the University of Oregon needs to be the gateway course into my Master's education.
I'm trying to objectively weigh my options. On the one hand, urban geography is a little more specific to where I'm going. On the other, environment and development seems to have a business perspective, which I'm going to need. Urban geography focuses more on policy issues, environment and development on more economic and social issues. I don't know the professor of either class, but I can't discount the value of an inspired professor standing before a class. As time marches on it becomes clear why I decided before this. Looks like I'm going to take the time to examine each of these classes personally in addition to scrutinizing how they look on paper.
March 28, 2010 - 9:16 PM
I've never watched a full season of "24," but I understand the show is kind of a hit. I've decided for spring term I'm going to dissect one hour at a time and tell you all about my college life. My own life set to the Fox Network's hit show "24." ...If only I were as sensational as Jack Bauer. In this ‘season' you can expect a thrilling and innovative drama complete with a few unforeseen plot twists.
Set in Eugene, "Caitlin's Day" unfolds amidst the shadows of Hayward Field and Johnson Hall, alongside a few trusted friends and new characters; Caitlin prepares for graduation from the University of Oregon. As the new day begins, homework awaits on the horizon bringing almost certain chaos...
In all seriousness, I'm looking forward to my last term at the University of Oregon. I have one class left standing between my geography degree and me. If I keep my GPA high enough, I can graduate with departmental honors. It seems like its been ages since I've finished my other degree and two minors. It will feel wonderful to have finally completed all my coursework here. I've set myself up as a soccer coach for two soccer teams this spring. And as always, I'm still juggling my job in International Affairs in with this mix. Even though I'm only taking four credits, I've somehow managed to fill my plate with plenty of activities and school hasn't even started yet. The Eugene Marathon is coming up this term, (much more quickly than I'm prepared for) as well as Relay for Life. I have two shows at the Hult Center coming up that I bought tickets to, there is going to be another Street Faire this term...
I just love Eugene in the spring! Can't wait to tell you all about it!
March 27, 2010 - 1:34 PM
I don't even order cable TV service to my apartment. The only thing my TV set is good for is collecting dust and watching old VHS tapes while falling asleep or cleaning. However, that hasn't stopped me from being consumed by "March Madness" with the rest of the country. To watch the games I just had to be a little more creative.
Without watching TV I'm generally clueless to what's happening during primetime on the major networks. So when I do happen to watch TV, you could say I'm a bit consumed by what folks are talking about on there. As a college basketball fan, I've enjoyed watching an interesting post season. As a consumer, TV has never been more shocking.
In my channel surfing during time outs and commercial breaks, I caught wind of a show premiering on ABC - "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution." Reality TV does little for me, but this was a show I had to see. It's about a chef going to the unhealthiest city in America and becoming a catalyst for change by creating this ‘food revolution.' My senior year of high school I spent the year doing a lot of childhood obesity research. To me, seeing a topic like this debuting during primetime television was big news. I guess after reading "Fast Food Nation" or watching "Supersize Me" and "Food, Inc." I really shouldn't have been so shocked at what I saw.
Part of the series shows Chef Jamie working at an elementary school trying to fix all that's wrong with the school lunch system. When kids weren't responding well to fresh foods over processed junk, Jamie decided to go into the classroom to help students get excited about what was going to be served in the school cafeteria. He showed a classroom a tomato and asked them what it was...the students were clueless. One brave boy guessed maybe it was a potato. Students didn't know what cauliflower was, what potatoes were. I couldn't believe what I was seeing! How could a school classroom not know what vegetables were?!
Bless the teacher of that classroom. After she saw the students couldn't name their veggies the class had a unit on vegetables so that they might learn. As a viewer though, the damage had already been done. I couldn't believe a classroom full of children, who had no problem identifying chicken nuggets or French fries, could not correctly identify a potato, or even tell you that's where French fries come from. I'm shocked. I'm rattled. I'm confused. When did basic health in schools become so irrelevant?
It makes me wonder about our elementary education nation-wide, and how it is helping prepare students for high school. In turn, it makes me wonder how that high school education is preparing students for college. How are we preparing future generations?
The short version of this story is: I'm prepared to invest in America's education system and to help be a force for positive change. Perhaps health and PE requirements should come back into fashion even at the college level.
March 21, 2010 - 7:14 PM
It is [almost] officially Spring Break! I enjoy the weekend after finals, and the weekend before the next term, but realistically, they're weekends. That is time I would've had off anyway. Not to be particular but my first "day off" doesn't start until tomorrow. I don't have nearly enough hours in the day during finals week to cook, clean, do laundry, etc. So the first weekend after the term ends is usually spent cleaning up the remnant craziness from finals.
In the meantime I want to take a moment or two to reflect on the blessings Winter Term had to offer. Honestly, there were moments this term I struggled- being sick with mono and strep for most of the term made ‘surviving' difficult. But here I am standing at the other end, and I feel proud of all that I accomplished in the last eleven weeks.
My Top 5 Moments of Winter Term:
Moment Number 5: BUNCO! And homemade tacos with friends. As a little pick-me-up to carry ourselves through finals, a friend and I hosted a dinner for our friends. My hand-crafted tacos are something of a ‘legend' amongst friends, (although the high praise is unnecessary and undeserved). I hadn't had the time to host a dinner all year, which is highly unlike me, so the long overdue event was absolutely lovely. To conclude the night we played four rounds of BUNCO complete with prizes, a game of Cranium and who-knows-how-many rounds of Taboo. Casual evenings with friends complete with food and a few board games are moments of college I will always cherish.
Moment Number 4: A Trip to the Oregon Coast. I love the Pacific Ocean and I feel equally as passionate about the Oregon shoreline. Going away to the beach, even for an afternoon, feels like nourishment for my soul. I had a chance to run out to the beach in late February this term, and am anxiously awaiting my next opportunity to return. Maybe next time I'll take a kite to fly.
Moment Number 3: Taking my last "techniques" course for my Geography degree. A component of the geography major requires students to complete at least 8 credits of "technique" courses, which I fulfilled by taking a series of GIS classes. Part of the reason I added the geography major was to gain the practical experience of using GIS software and understanding the applications and data analysis of geographic concepts. The classes weren't particularly easy, but they were exactly the kind of challenge that I think will eventually separate me from competitors in the job market.
Moment Number 2: Finishing my hardest term yet. So far, I have an A and an A- for grades from my classes, and there were moments early on I seriously considered withdrawing from the term entirely. I was sick. I got behind. It took some determination and focus to succeed academically. I'm really proud of all that I was able to accomplish. It was defeating to think I was enrolled in my last term of my undergraduate life, only to get ill and eventually withdraw from one of my courses. In the end I learned so much, learned how strong and motivated I can be, and am sincerely looking forward to one last term at Oregon.
Moment Number 1 : Being accepted to graduate school! The more I've gotten used to the idea of being a Spartan next year at Michigan State, the more excited I've allowed myself to become. Moving to Lansing, Michigan will be a big change. But then again, I packed myself up and moved to Australia for a semester of college; in a way knowing things will change excites me. However, as much as I can I'm trying to focus on where I still am here at the University of Oregon. There is far too much left waiting for me to enjoy this spring term! I'm looking forward to the next few months in Eugene. Before I get too ready to move on to the next chapter of my life I want to devote myself to finishing this one first.
March 20, 2010 - 3:21 PM
I signed my name near the bottom, folded the paper into thirds and shakily sealed the form inside its envelope. The decision hadn't come easy, but I had done it. A million thoughts must have raced through my mind as I slid the envelope with its powerful cargo into the mail slot. Was I making the right choice? Was this the right time? Was it too far away from friends and family? Only time will tell. For now, I'm feeling excited and relieved to have made a choice. My intent to enroll form is in the mail... I'm accepting my offer from Michigan Sate University.
I'm going to be earning a Master's in Urban and Regional Planning from one of the oldest academic urban and regional planning programs in the United States. That's exciting! But...I haven't even seen the school with my own eyes yet. That is a little intimidating. I have been doing a lot of compare and contrast between Michigan State and Oregon lately:
Quarter vs. Semester School - Both systems have their perks and downfalls. In a quarter system a student can take more classes, therefore has more opportunity to engage with different curriculum. But the quarters fly past and it can be difficult to really explore the depth of the subject before the term ends. In a semester system the exact opposite is achieved - more time with the material, but less exposure to a variety of classes. I've always been a fan of Oregon's quarter system, but as I move on to a graduate level study the semester system has become equally enticing.
Number of Students - After being enrolled in a smaller University (a year at Western Washington University and again as a study abroad student) I can honestly say I love the ‘big' University atmosphere. Oregon had a great balance of large campus feel while maintaining the charms of smaller city life. The UO student population totaled 22,386 last year, 3,872 of which were graduate students. At Michigan State the student population is more than double those figures, with 47,278 total students, 10,789 of which are seeking graduate or professional level degrees. That's a lot of people to think about.
Pac10 vs. Big 10 - I love my Ducks. I love the west coast. This morning I felt a small drop in my stomach when I realized how far away from the Pacific Ocean I'd be if I moved to Michigan. I've delighted in watching the Michigan State basketball team do well during the NCAA tourney, but I think a spot in my heart will always belong to the Ducks. Athletics don't weigh much in my decision, but I have thought about it. I've never been a big supporter of the Big 10 in athletics, but I've been rooting for the Pac10 my whole life.
Lansing vs. Eugene - Eugene will always be a small piece of home to me. I'm reluctant to accept that all the things that make Eugene special could possibly be found anywhere else on earth. But Lansing, Michigan sure is putting up a fight. A friend of mine is currently enrolled in law school in Michigan, so I've been able to see pictures and hear stories. Everything I've been able to uncover about Lansing leads me to believe I'm going to love it.
There is so much to consider while picking a University and program of study. I have browsed through more University profiles in the last six months than I can count. More often than not I return to realizing what Michigan State and the University of Oregon have in common. For instance, both are members of the prestigious Association of American Universities, a group of 60 U.S. and two Canadian universities regarded as the top research-intensive institutions in North America.
I'm hoping to make the trip to Michigan soon to visit the campus. Until then I can rest assured that at least I've made the first step. I'm getting excited to think about my life in Michigan, even if it only lasts a couple of years. Although the anticipation of leaving has me equally determined to make the most of every last second I have in Eugene.