First semester done; on to second semester

It’s been a wild ride for the last 3 months or so. At times I thought I might not make it. The only thing that kept me going was the money already disbursed for my loan. This degree is so damned expensive, I MUST hold on and do my best or else I’ll be paying for loans with nothing to show for it.

I had two classes this semester last. A theories class and a policy class. I absolutely have no interest in social work policy. Not really. Even though this class made it clear that if I wanted to effect any real change on a large scale, policy is the way to go. But even with that knowledge, even with the frustration with the way things are now, I’m still not interested. I wish they would give the option to skip stuff you aren’t interested in. But then it wouldn’t be as rounded a degree then, now would it?

The theories class was fun and challenging. The first thing I need to do for next semester is review all I learned I first semester theories. That is tough too because a lot of the theories we touched on made no real sense to me. Of course, one hopes that all that will come around this semester.

But I’m rambling.

The good news is I made A and B+ this semester. Which means I get to keep going. The bad news is, as challenging as this semester was, it was an easy one. It gets much harder from here.

/sigh

Here’s hoping I can hang in there.

Business cards from the school

So, I ordered business cards from the university because I thought it’d be cool to have business cards to hand out when I am out and about either for school or not. I mean, the nature of the degree will have me out and about interviewing folks about their work, their lives, and their opinions/views. I think it’d be a nice touch to be able to hand them a card that says, “Oh hey! I say I am a student of USC, but here’s a card that confirms that.” Good idea, right?

Yeah … right … I think …

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I don’t know what I am going to do with so many of them …

First semester — and me — almost done

It’s nearing the end of a semester and I am feeling the burnout.

University of Phoenix did their stuff using weeks and they did 5 weeks of intense everyday activities and no synchronous activities. There was a ton of group work and you had to engage asynchronously at least 4 out of every 7 days. It was quite annoying; especially when group members waiting until Saturday morning to engage with you on stuff that needed attention all week. For me, in the latter classes especially, that was reduced somewhat by the presence of my dear friend Jenn. But it still didn’t make the experience any less annoying. I was happy to be done with that whole mess.

I was remembering my brief stint at Colorado Tech online with it’s once-a-week live sessions with fondness. Enter the University of Southern California Virtual Academic Center and my attempt to do a Masters in Social Work. ( I know right. Such a drastic change from everything I’ve done up until now. ) I thought it’d be great to have a full 15–16 weeks worth of once-a-week class time with the other students and the possibility of less group work.

Sure, there is less group work, and class time is awesome ( when there isn’t a ton of noise outside, I’m not tired, and Rusty isn’t whining to go out and play with the other dogs ), but the intense schedule is maddening. I have two classes on right now. On any given week, I have about 5–10 pieces of reading to do for that week’s class plus right now, I am working on a group presentation and an individual paper as final papers … due in about 3 weeks. I haven’t even started the individual paper yet because last weekend was a quiz that took altogether way too much out of me and the presentation where I felt like I had to go learn everything all over again just to be able to add my stuff in.

I am tired. I have 3 weeks left … nay 2!!! And I am so very very tired right now. I don’t know how I am going to manage when I have 3 and 4 classes in a semester.

/sigh

It is the end of an era … at last.

Well folks … yesterday evening at 10:59pm Pacific time marked the end of an era for me. I have been toiling somewhat laboriously on a Bachelor’s degree in Intercultural Communication for the last 3 or so years of my life … and that is now over and done. For some of you, you will realise just how much of an accomplishment this is because I have started and stopped a degree in one form or another several times in my adult life. I finally found the right set of circumstances that allowed me to stick with it and finish it. I am done.

Of course, I still have to get my final grade and clear financial issues before I am granted that piece of paper, but for all intents and purposes, I am done. I don’t anticipate that my final grade will be a failing one unless I totally screwed up that last paper … and frankly even if I did screw it up badly, I see a “C” grade at worst anyway which is still a pass. For the record, I received a “C” grade only once in these last 3 years.

Which sort of reminds me of something my 4th form (or grade 15?) teacher once told me: “you’ll always be a B grade student, Camille, unless you apply yourself a little more”. It seems she had wisdom beyond her years … or she “put har goat mout’ pan mi” – depending on how you choose to see it. I am a little lazy when it comes to studying … although I suspect that psychologists might say it’s less about my willingness to learn and more about the way in which I learn. Intriguing idea, actually. I learn best when I listen and do, not read – and reading was half of the work on this degree; the other half was being one of only two active people in a team the whole course through. My husband jokingly says my degree is a piece of paper certifying that I am a team player who can and will carry a team.

But now is not the time to bitch about the structure or format of this program. Now is the time to drink alcohol, sing, and be merry about never having to go back into another accelerated 5 week class with a bunch of lazy teammates ever again. I am done and in a couple of weeks, I will have paper to prove it.

Next step, you ask? I dunno. I have this lofty idea that I want to do a Master’s in Psychology. My inner child is in turn both laughing and cringing at that idea. We’ll see. For now, it’s all about revelling in the freedom from classes, finding a job (I can stomach), and just being relieved at finally being done. Whether this degree means anything for the job search remains to be seen.

More anon.

Well, today is the last day …

That sounds ominous. I don’t mean it to be. I am not disappearing into the nether. I’m still here … will be here. Today, though, is a last in a couple different ways. It’s the second day of my last class at the University of Phoenix. In just under 5 weeks, I’ll be the proud holder of a Bachelors of Science in Intercultural Communication. Boom! And I know that some of you are wondering how on earth I ended up doing a non-tech degree instead of just continuing with my tech career. Here’s the thing though, and I knocked the socks off my BFF the other day with this: I ended up in tech by accident!!!

When we were finishing up my second year of 6th form (I can’t think of an equivalent in US parlance; think of it as basic entry-level University classes), my best friend at the time said to me “Bah! It’s easy to get into School of Law. Try getting into the Department of Computer Science! Now THAT one is hard!” I know – it sounds pretty stupid now when I say it, but for us it seemed easy to get into the Law Faculty at the University of the West Indies. In retrospect, and considering I failed to get in, the flaw in our reasoning is pretty obvious. Nevertheless, I took her on and submitted an application to the Department of Computer Studies at the then College of Arts, Science, and Technology (it’s now known as the University of Technology, Jamaica).

Turns out, that was a good move, because I had no backup plan for failing to get into Faculty of Law at UWI. And no amount of begging was able to get them to look past the abysmal failures that was my 6th form exam results. I was never a big studier – I was always the kind of person who either “got it” while doing it or writing it, or not at all. Even today – things mostly sail over my head unless I get a chance to write them down or do them. 6th form studies are just that … studying. There isn’t a lot of classroom work, and teachers expect you to do most of the work on your own. Having been spoon-fed all my school years, I was a complete and utter failure at the self-study deal. So … no University of the West Indies for me, but luckily the College of Arts, Science, and Technology accepted me without so much of a batted eye. And thus I entered the technology field. Luckily for me, not only was I pretty good at it, I actually enjoyed it too.

Anyway, to get back to the subject at hand – this is my last class. I haven’t checked in at all since yesterday except to beg for team favours. It’s pretty appalling how much I am slacking these last couple of classes. The University of Phoenix is … one of the most frustrating experiences I have ever had. I will have to talk about that in another post. Suffice it to say that … teamwork is not my strong suit when there are people who are dimwitted and lazy on the team. Call me callous if you want …

On top of that is it’s also the last day of the Mists of Pandaria expansion in World of Warcraft. Yes – I’ve been playing WoW again lately – a lot. Hubster and I had stopped for a while, and I had even managed to stay away from games almost altogether for a long time. Then the Hubster grabbed ahold of my heart strings and tugged. He said, “I miss WoW. I miss I miss us in WoW. It is where we met, after all.” And here we are, back in-game for yet another expansion. This time it’s the Warlord of Draenor. And if you aren’t in the WoW world, you probably don’t realise just how much of a HUGE deal this expansion is. I have heard a few people say that with WoD, we go back to when things were like vanilla WoW when people actually had things to do other than mash buttons mindlessly. That’s either a good or bad thing depending on where you’re standing. In my case, it means back to the basics of enjoying the game and to hell with the people who are racing to get to end-content on day 2.

I have some health issues that I am taking care of starting tomorrow too. So maybe I can see today as the last day on this side of the solution? /shrug Maybe. Suffice it to say, the next 2-5 weeks is going to be both hectic and surreal. 🙂 I can’t wait.

In any case, if I disappear off the grid again for a while, it’s not quite “business as usual” … I am just super preoccupied with school and WoW and (channeling Arnold Schwarzenegger) I will be back. Heh. 🙂

When money is more important than everything

It’s ironic. Just a few minutes after I mentioned that profiteering in the academic sector is causing ripple effects throughout society which generally ends up causing people to be oppressive to those who can’t afford education. I get a chance to prove it right from my own perspective.

To cut a long story short, and to protect privacy, let’s just say that I have been benefitting from 100% tuition coverage for this course for its duration. The benefits ran out – which is unfortunate since I have been begging for help from day one to figure out whether they would or not. Part of the problem was asking the wrong questions, the other part is that sort of cookie-cutter approach people tend to have when they are dealing with people they don’t know. Bottom line, it’s last minute and I am about to get bumped from class. Which is perfectly understandable, but what isn’t is the fact that my financial advisor is giving me less than the time of day. First he gives me an incorrect phone number, then doesn’t respond to my email saying the number doesn’t work. That was on Monday. It’s Friday, and I finally get a minute to make some calls. He finally responds with the right number – 4 days after I’d asked for it. Turns out, the finance department at the university and his manager did more for me than he did. In other words, everybody else did his job for him.

Several times I thought – to hell with it. When I heard how much I owe and how much I’ll need to pay to make my next class, I thought to hell with it. But dammit – it’s just 3 more classes! I canNOT give up now. So I called customer service and spoke to his manager who sorted me out in 40 minutes – after never speaking to me before, not knowing who I was, not knowing all my situation, looking at my file and recognizing I am not a typical student, and doing her utmost to ensure I was satisfied. His manager did everything he should have been able to do.

But it’s a pattern. When people stop being able to pay, they suddenly become persona non grata. It is literally the same situation I encountered with that half-assed dentist a little under a year ago. It’s especially heinous that it can happen with education – especially education that is over half done. This is what happens when the money is more important than anything else. And it is sad as hell.

Practice makes perfect … in a whole new way

This post started out of a series of tweets:

I am doing schoolwork which requires me to use Microsoft Word and Powerpoint to produce my papers. They have to be APA formatted, which means that Word’s default theming is not going to work. (I mean, really? Calibri? WTF?)

I used to know how to do this – change Word templates so that they conform to a set of standards that have been defined elsewhere. I used to think that changing templates was so simple an idiot could do it. Well, I’ve lived to swallow my own words – whole.

It’s not easy – not unless you know what you’re doing or have the time and patience (and know-how) to poke around and figure it out all over again. And I say all over again because I figured it out once; I was never taught.

So what do I do? I turn to my trusty Pages which I can tell to open up a new document with the template I’ve already created for APA style papers. Even though I know that Microsoft Word can do this as well. I turn to Pages because it’s just simpler to do so. And I know MS Word can be tailored in this way because I have done it before, and I cannot imagine that they would remove that functionality when they were there before Pages was.

Why don’t I spend the time to figure it out again? Well, that’s simple – it’s because Pages “just works” and I can get my paper written, proofed, and exported to Word and I really don’t have the time or patience to figure out it right now. I also know the next time I am faced with this problem I’ll solve it in the same manner because it’s just easier and it feels better having used Pages for so long.

Which is why my tweet says that the statement that a piece of software is non-intuitive is subjective. This may not be true for all pieces of software and all people, but sitting in my chair, at this point in time, this is how I feel. I know if I pinged my friend who lives in Seattle and who uses Microsoft almost exclusively – even on her Macbook Pro – she will say I am crazy because she finds Pages non-intuitive herself.

Oh how we change as we get older. There was a time when figuring it out would be a challenge I was willing and bursting to do. Now all I want to do is finish my paper so I can go play.

Oh the irony.