01 December 2014

Progress report

It's my last week in Singapore this year. I have two more final exams and one last project to complete, then some errands to run, parties to attend, and packing to do before I fly back to Manila. I'm spending the week there to see some friends and hang out with Cris and his family, then I'll spend the rest of the break at home in Kalsangi. I'm not looking forward to the Manila pre-Christmas traffic, but I guess it's something I'll have to endure if I want to see people I care about.

So, how has the first semester of grad school been? I started off really ambitious but lost steam halfway through. Chalk it up to disillusionment and lack of willpower. Exams and how well I feel I'm doing on them are actually helping me to end things on a high note, though, and I'm looking forward to next semester's classes -- all the classes I'd come here to take in the first place.

Based on my experience, would I recommend graduate school to other people? This graduate school in particular? Let me go back to the reasons I had for coming here myself.

I felt like I'd hit a wall at work and didn't want to company-hop to see what else I could do in my field. I think that this semester has allowed me to do that. But, I also feel a bit disappointed that "what else", so far, hasn't been much -- hasn't been things I suspected and could have jumped right into, if I'd just applied to a new job instead of going to grad school.

I wanted to study new media at Asia's top (and the world's sixth-best) school for communication. So far, the new-media-related courses I've had are introductory; all the really good stuff is still to come. Most of my classes have felt like a review of media topics and research processes that I first learned as an undergrad. I feel that I could have re-learned those things via textbook or free MOOC instead of spending so much time and money on university-based study. The main upside I see to this is that, really, the classes are just one part of this package I'm paying for.

I wanted to live abroad and, by choosing this school in particular, understand other Asian cultures better. I just read a Facebook rant by a friend attending a different Asian university where Filipinos aren't considered "international" enough and where people think it's weird that a brown person can speak such good English. People at NTU have been much kinder, revealing/making no assumptions and asking questions about each other's cultures with sincere curiosity and without [revealing] racist or classist beliefs. Both in the classroom and out, I've developed a broader view of my geographical neighborhood without anybody getting offended. It's been nice. Singapore definitely knows something about multiculturalism.

Honestly, the people with the most questionable beliefs so far have been other Filipinos. Of course, there's no telling how often people of other nationalities dis us amongst themselves, too.

Based on this semester alone, I can't say I'm 100% happy with my decision to invest in graduate studies, and I wouldn't immediately recommend it to other people. Several times, I found myself wishing I'd just gone straight to applying for a new job. The ideal triangle of great classes, great professors, and great classmates remained an ideal. I'd have to be cynical and tell people to do it for the degree, the library resources, and the experience of life abroad.

But, hope springs for how next semester's lineup works out. Like I said, the things I'd wanted to study in the first place are finally on the board, including a couple of classes with professors who are preeminent in their fields. I've also applied for a research assistant position with one professor whose interest is science communication, something that isn't offered as a class.

And, yes, Cris is coming back. Cris's health is much, much better. Cris will be here. Cris will be around for adventures and meals and school and just being near. In the library right now, there is an empty seat next to me, and I like imagining what it would be like to study here knowing he was also studying in that seat. I so look forward to a quietness and comfort that "being nerds together" doesn't quite express.

I guess that's it for now. Later this month, I'll have time to think and maybe write about the year as a whole. Can it really be December already? I can't wait to go home.