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Busy Week

September 27, 2017

I had to push my blog post back by a day because this week I had about double the amount of work. I even jumped the gun over the weekend to get a head start only to have a professor change the reading list at the last minute (it’s okay, less to do next week since I got some of the readings done already!). On top of that, we have double the readings for another class, and I also have a group presentation to prepare for tomorrow (we have to do it once in a quarter and of course our group is on the busiest week!). Needless to say, my time has been very full of reading and group prep!

The BIG and GREAT news–and a HUGE answer to prayer–is that I was assigned the Thesis Supervisor that I asked for. This is a massive relief, because A LOT hinges on who that professor is. They guide you in everything for the year, and if you have one that isn’t related to your topic, or is too busy, or is terrible at communication, then it makes writing your thesis a lot more taxing.

I had been eye-ing a professor back in the spring and even emailed her to ask her some questions but she was on maternity leave. Once I got here, I heard that she is not only a great professor but is also a great supervisor–add that to her field being very closely related to my thesis, and I was just like, “PLEASE, GOD!” The only obstacle is that she’s still been on maternity leave, so a few of us weren’t sure if she would still supervise. Me and another girl in my class have similar thesis topics, we both asked for this professor on a wing and a prayer, and we both got her! **celebration dance**

The rest of the week has just been more of the same as all my other posts: wake up, go to class, read for several hours, eat delicious food in between reading sessions…watch a movie or something relaxing before bed to get my mind off war and conflict….not much else! I did find a fantastic forest to hike in only 5 minutes from my house, so walked through the woods for a couple hours on Saturday. It was so refreshing! And I REALLY am going to try to get to church this weekend. A girl in my classes said she may go this weekend and I suggested maybe if we know the other is going then it will get us both there…so we will see 🙂 I also continue to make friends with my classmates and housemates. Conversations are more natural, inside jokes more common, so things are pretty easy-going in that department.

Thanks so much for the prayers (did I ask for prayer on my blog posts or in my newsletters, I can’t remember…) for my thesis supervisor…SUCH an incredible blessing! Well, I hope anyway…I’ve never met her, but her reputation tells me it is a blessing, so thanks for the prayers!  Until next week!

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School Work

September 19, 2017

I figured I would make this a Tuesday evening tradition since I seem to have the time and energy for it these last three weeks! My days have been mostly filled with getting homework done. I had so much time on the weekend that I thought, “Wow, I can’t believe how light the workload is!” But yesterday and today I reminded myself of what I was told in my interview back in March, which is that this program requires a lot of self-study.

In other words, I read the articles for all these classes, but if I don’t understand something I can’t wait for it to be explained in class–I need to figure out on my own what all of it is saying. Class time tends to be for discussion or debate, so coming in ALREADY KNOWING the course material is the goal. This may seem like a really obvious thing, but mind you I have never been in a Masters level program anywhere at anytime, so it has taken me these two weeks to figure this out. All this to say, I have to start spending more time with the all the content I’m reading about—which I don’t mind because I WANT to learn!

A big moment came today in getting my first graded homework assignment back. I have to say that I didn’t even care what the grade was because all I have wanted and needed these last couple of weeks has been some frame of reference as to what level I’m coming into this program at. What am I doing right, what am I doing wrong? Well, no one really tells you…so ANY kind of grade gives me an indication. First the professor told us as a class what we could do better for next week’s essay—which definitely applied to me so I took notes for improvement—and then I got my grade. It’s definitely a number I am able to improve upon, which is great because I know what to change on the next round.

One interesting thing that came up last night was that I saw that the homework I had done on the weekend (and submitted early) didn’t go through on the automated homework website. My heart sank, and I just couldn’t believe it. I thought, “I’m doing everything at 110% effort, Lord. What more can I do? I’m even triple-checking work and submissions, and then this happens.” As I sat and prayed, and felt two really strong impressions: 1.) that I didn’t need to worry because the professor would be lenient, and 2.) that this little technical glitch was spiritual warfare. So thankfully, I felt a real peace about it, but still felt the need to pray.

As I was praying, I sense the Lord emphasizing the warfare (ironically) surrounding this program I’m doing. We are studying Conflict, Territory, and Identity (CTI)–essentially shining light on war, why it starts, and how to prevent or stop it. How MUCH does darkness HATE being brought into the light?? I already felt like I’d been seeking the Lord in everything, but this reminder helped me to up my game in prayer, so I’ve had that helpful paradigm since. Sure enough, when I went to class this morning, my professor told me it was no problem to turn it in late (but right after class), and so I felt that the whole experience was key to my understanding of the spiritual seriousness of what I’m into here.

Everything else has been pretty much the same as previous blog entries. Just trying to get to know people and whatnot. I got to spend some time with a former 4K intern who is getting her Masters in Geography just 20 minutes away. She took the train here and we spent a couple of hours talking on Saturday, which was very rewarding. She is a really cool girl and I hope she’ll work for us more again some day!

Not much else going on besides homework and study. I went to church a couple of weeks ago around the corner from here, and I was going to go again on Sunday (they only have it every two weeks) but I was just so tired. Honestly, small talk already sucks the life out of me, and since most of my days are filled with it because I’m still at the “small talk” level of relationship with everyone I know here, the thought of then going and pursuing it just makes me mentally tired. I’ll try and rally next Sunday though—a girl in my CTI program went to a church nearby last week, so I figured I’d ask her more details and maybe try and go this coming Sunday. But again, I’ll play it by ear 😉

Well, that’s all for now. Thanks for reading! Until next time!

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Second Week In

September 12, 2017

I had a feeling that time was flying, and that I hadn’t written a blog in awhile…now I see it’s been a week! It feels like my time has been been comprised of three main things: 1.) class and homework, 2.) getting to know people, and 3.) shopping. I’ll go backwards.

I never thought that “shopping” would be a main feature of my life, but it really feels like that’s all I’m doing when I’m not in class or doing homework. It’s mostly for food since now I have to cook for myself so much more. I have to admit that I’m getting better at it than I ever have been, mainly because the food here is healthy and CHEAP–something I never experienced living in Hawaii. I also think I feel the weight of shopping so much more here because I don’t have a car. If I’m going on a shopping trip, be it for food or anything else, I have to really strategize with the bike in mind: my route, my timing, my load capacity, if I have enough cash physically on me, how’s the weather going to be, etc. It’s just a big part of life now!

Getting to know people has been another aspect of starting the school year. It’s been fun getting to know my housemates more and more, of course. It has also been fun getting to know my classmates with each passing day. There are 20 of us that have ALL the same classes, homework assignments, and teachers, so we are constantly keeping in touch with each other about our progress or confusing questions we may have. I’ve also found a few people a bit closer to my age (and one girl a couple years older than me!), so that’s fun! Those of us who are international students still tend to linger near each other, checking in with each other during break times and whatnot. I’ve met a couple of really sweet Dutch gals, too, though. In this culture it is very easy to make friends because everyone is so nice.

Lastly is the classes and homework. I will start off by saying this: I LOVE being back in school, I LOVE the program I am in (can I love “conflict”?), and I LOVE the assignments. Love love love. That being said, it is a bit stressful at times. The work itself is something I can handle. The assignments are no more crazy than 4K deadlines or doing SBS homework–or doing both at the same time. The homework and stuff really is manageable so far. The challenge is what is expected in how to DO that homework. I realize that I have no frame of reference for some of the assignments we are given, and there is very little grace if we do them wrong. And the MOST frustrating part is that I get the impression that the professors grade very subjectively. This is a problem when you already don’t know how to write papers like this to begin with, and the professors are looking for really specific things. One class I have has ONE paper due at the end of the term and it is worth 100% of our grade–absolutely no room for error. Then he gave us a “re-do” date, meaning if we failed the first time we could try again. That was already an unsettling proposition up until a couple of us heard a rumor that almost everyone failed on the first try last year. This made my “unsettled” feeling turn to “minor panic”, especially since I already sort of feel like I don’t know what I’m doing!

I’ve been praying a lot though, and asking the Lord to guide me in EVERYTHING. I also started reading 1 Corinthians last week, and in chapter 1 it says not to rely on the wisdom of man but rather the wisdom of God. I realized that I could do everything humanly possible in this program and STILL fail, but that I have to rely on Him and His wisdom each step of the way. So today I figured I have two options–either be worried about all of it, or try and have fun. I am doing my best to go with the second option!

Additionally, I do have to admit that today was the first day where I really hit the wall–energy-wise, that is. I was so tired for the first time since being here, so that was a little disappointing. I also was reading the criteria for our Master’s Thesis and for the first time thought, “I’m not sure I can do this.” I only had thought that for a moment though 😉 Another verse then took over my brain waves: I can do all things through Him who gives me strength!

Please pray for a couple of things: 1.) that I would start to get a really clear picture and vision and passion for what I will write my Thesis on for the next year; 2.) that an excellent professor would be assigned as my Thesis Supervisor; 3.) that I would know how to do these assignments WELL; and 4.) that friendships would grow. Until next time!

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First Classes

September 5, 2017

Yikes! It’s been 5 days since I wrote! Time flies, I guess 🙂 I spent the weekend doing a mix of relaxing before classes, getting some 4K work done, and reading the remaining chapters of a pre-Masters textbook I’d been given by the head of the department several months back. I’d say all were a success, though the biggest success of the weekend was finding a cafe with a cozy chair, delicious vanilla chai latte, and perfect view of people walking through town. I sat there for about 2-3 hours finishing a “fun” book, and am excited to go back again!

Classes started yesterday (Was that yesterday? Feels like a week ago!). Each class has some configuration of those in my degree program. My Monday morning class is “Preparing Your Masters Thesis”, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, and is only once a week but lasts the whole semester–until February. There are about 100 people in that class, most of which are all the Human Geography Masters students, with only a handful of exceptions. This morning’s class is the big one: “Conflicting Theories”. This is twice a week: on Tuesday we are about 40-50 people from two different Masters programs on campus–Human Geography and Political Science. Our second class on Thursdays splits the two groups, so instead of being combined, the only students are the ones from my particular program: Conflict/Territory/Identity (CTI). I spent 6 hours yesterday reading the two articles for our first class, and have 5 more articles to read by Sunday–3 of which will contribute to an essay, also due Sunday. This class is only 7 weeks long, so it is INTENSE. My third and final class in this ‘Block’ schedule (for 7 weeks) starts tomorrow: “Geopolitics of Borders”. It is only once a week, and is the only course that hasn’t posted its course guide online, so I have no idea how crazy it will be in terms of work. That class is also mostly CTI students with a few exceptions of people wanting to take it for an elective. The professor for it is the one I’m requesting to be my Thesis Supervisor for the next year, so prayers that I would like his course and then get assigned to him!

This afternoon, our CTI group finally met for the first time where it was “just us”, as up to now we’ve been combined with other program tracks. There are about 25 people in the CTI track: 20 are Dutch and 5 of us are international…I am the only non-European, I am the oldest, and I also appear to be the only one (if not, there are only a couple of us) who has had a job and am not just jumping straight from one degree to this one.

So far I’ve really enjoyed the work and content. I have to admit that the topics of war, genocide, violence, and terror may not be the light-hearted subjects, so I’ve already determined to force myself to do as many fun things as time allows. Whether it’s going on a hike, hanging out at my new favorite cafe, or just watching a movie, I see that making time for myself a couple hours a week to just lighten up will be imperative.

On the people-front, I’ve enjoyed making some new friends. I’ve connected with a few people from my program since we met last Thursday for the first time. A few of us have every class together, so we’ve already had some sweet get-to-know you times. My housemates are still pretty cool–I treasure all the little moments in passing where we get to know each other a bit more! I also went to a church on Sunday to see if I could meet people there. It is the only English-speaking church in Nijmegen, and just so happens to be about a 60-second walk around the corner from my house. It is Anglican and small, and I was hoping there would be more young people there (the average age was probably about 60), but they seemed very nice and were super hospitable to me. Their service is every other week, so I will hopefully return there in two weeks time.

Well, that’s all for now. Until next time!

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Mission Accomplished

August 31, 2017

In my last blog post, I said there were two things I was hoping to report on positively in my next blog post. Since both those things got resolved today, it’s time for another post!!  After experiencing a justified blend of disappointment and perplexity after attempting to register with the local city office (they told me that I would have to wait to get my residency ID number for another few weeks, and that I would need to bring in my ACTUAL birth certificate….weird), I emailed the university visa office people. They seem to always work their magical powers on things, so I thought it couldn’t hurt to ask if what the city was asking was normal. They replied that they were very surprised and that they would look into it for me. Today, I received an email from them–my fairy godmothers–which said that I would not only be receiving my resident ID within the next week, but that I did NOT need to send in my birth certificate! PRAISE GOD!!!!  They are literally THE BEST at what they do, I tell you.

The second thing I’d wanted to write about in my next post was if I’d registered for courses. Today was the Nijmegen School of Management Welcome Day, and I am now all registered to start classes on Monday! It was a loooooooong day though. I was assigned to a group that was entirely Human Geography Masters students, which means I FINALLY got to meet some of my classmates. We sat for two hours listening to the welcome speech, a message of welcome from the dean of the School of Management, and a very long IT systems training session for how to use everything for tracking courses, schedule, tests, grades, etc etc etc. I hate to sound like an old lady, but in MY day, we just went to the bookstore to get our books and showed up for class…and if we forgot when and where our class was, we just didn’t go….and we didn’t know our grade until the end of the class. Now it’s like Terminator-style Skynet software running our school lives…I had a funny feeling that mastering all these programs will be the hardest part of the degree program, LOL.

We went to lunch, at which point I got to know a couple of the people in my program–a few really nice Dutch girls who almost all did their Bachelor’s at Utrecht University. After lunch, they split us into two groups: international students went to get a lecture on Dutch Academic Culture (how the grading system here works, classroom culture, expectations, etc), while the Dutch students went and learned about being with international students. Then we re-convened, walked to yet another building, and spent an hour and a half with just our Human Geography Masters group. The head of the Geography dept—the same professor who interviewed me back in March—answered our questions, gave an overview of each specialization, told us what courses to take and in what order.  For my Conflict/Territory/Identity specialization, almost all our classes are in the first 6 months so that the second 6 months can be spent interning, researching, and writing our thesis. Another fun fact is that I finally found out where our mandatory “Excursion to a post-conflict zone” fieldwork course will be: Bosnia-Herzegovina in freezing, snowy January! I’m so excited! Country #38 coming right up!

From there, we went into another room and registered for our courses in a computer lab. This might be where I probably lost the new friends I’d just made because I was asking them so many questions for help! I finally got it all sorted, registered for my courses, and placed the order for my textbook (I only needed to buy one, crazy hey?). For the next 7 weeks I will have “Applying Theoretical Approaches to Conflict” and “Geopolitics of Borders”, and the second 7 weeks those will be replaced with “Political and Geographic Conflict Resolution” and the “Fieldwork in a (Post)Conflict Zone” course. I will also have my “Preparing Your Master’s Thesis” course for the next 6 months. I will add an elective or two eventually–most likely the “Multiculturalism and Diversity” course, and the “Qualitative Methods in Geographic Research” course. Both of those have some issue with me taking them, so I’m hoping it will all get sorted when the time comes.

After that, the formal day was done, but I still needed to go pay for my textbook (reader) at the print shop. I showed up and she said, “We can’t print it until you give us the order confirmation you received.” I showed it to her on my phone, and she was like, “No, it must be printed. Go over there to that computer, sign on, print it with your student ID card.” I stood in a daze trying to figure out how to do all that, all while the guy at the computer/printer next to me was asking if I could help him with HIS stuff. After about 10 minutes, pushing a lot of buttons and clicking a lot of screens (all while answering my neighbor’s questions), I walked back to the desk with my freshly printed order confirmation, handed it to her with a big smile, and said, “I DID IT!” After ALLLLLLLL that had happened the whole day, I think that printed sheet of paper was what brought the biggest sense of accomplishment. So now I just have to wait a few days for my reader to come in.

Wow, this turned into another long post! But it was a busy day and a lot happened. In additional news, I spent the whole day yesterday focusing on 4K stuff: updating our website map, getting a couple map orders done, etc etc. It’s been a good few days 🙂 Thanks for praying!!

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All Present

August 29, 2017

Our eighth and final housemate moved in yesterday, so (except for one of the girls who moved in last week and then went to Greece) we have all met each other. We will be living with each other for the next 12 months! And we are quite a group, I tell you. I told a couple of them that if you put all our expertise and studies together, we could probably take over the world.

Downstairs are two girls: an American from New Jersey getting her Masters in Adaptive Organism Biology, and a Vietnamese girl getting her degree in Business Administration. They share a bathroom and shower downstairs, but also are located right at the front door where people are always coming in and out. Upstairs, there are 6 of us sharing a bathroom and shower, but all have our separate rooms: a Chinese guy getting his Masters in Information Science, a Thai girl getting her Masters in Creative Management, a young Mexican guy getting his Bachelor’s in Artificial Intelligence, a Danish girl getting her Bachelor’s in Psychology, and a Russian girl getting her Masters in System Dynamics. In case you’re wondering, NO, I do not know what half those degrees mean. They are all super smart, though!

With the exception of a couple instances of late-night/early-morning arrivals after big parties downtown, we have a pretty quiet and chill group. All of them seem really sweet and excited to be here. One thing most of us agree on is that this town is really great to live in. Ever since orientation week ended a few days ago, we’ve seen more of each other, primarily in the kitchen at lunch and dinner time. We all look to see what the others are cooking—we are 8 people from 7 very different nations after all!

The last few days have been a mix of relaxing and getting ready for the start of school on Monday. On the one hand, I’ve had some important errands to run–registering at the local municipality as an international, activating my student ID card, doing a bit more shopping and organizing ,etc. On the other hand, there are stretches of time where its hot and sunny outside with nothing to do, so I’ve found a place on campus to stretch my legs out in the sun and read my last “fun” book for awhile!

One annoying thing I found out today is that the Municipality where I register needs to see my original birth certificate. It’s a long, stupid story, but at the end of the day, would just love the prayers that that gets sorted. My mom is ready in a pinch to mail it to me, but I’m going to see if there’s a way I don’t have to do that…I have a feeling it is a really over-eager agent wanting to do everything by the book, and maybe doesn’t require such a fuss. Prayers for this please!

In other news, I finally found my computer mouse, so now I’m all setup at my desk and spent my first stretch of time working at my computer this afternoon—more time than I’ve spent on it in the last 6 weeks! Feels great, and very settled. I spent a couple of hours working on small tasks: filling out a letter of recommendation for a former student of mine, as well as looking at all my course catalog options for electives this year. I meet with my program supervisors on Thursday, at which point I will register for my courses, so I want to be prepared for that! Then ended the day chatting with a friend on Facebook Messenger for awhile.

Hopefully my next post will start with a paragraph that has two bits of good news: registered for all the classes I want/need, and the birth certificate thing got sorted…hoping those will be the headlines…time will tell 🙂

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Settling In

August 25, 2017

Normally when I go on a long trip, the first things I do when I arrive are to accomplish a few key tasks that determine how “at home” I feel. So whether it’s for a month or four months, I know that to be at my absolute best in that place, there are some essentials to take care of. Thankfully, I think I’ve taken care of all those things in just a few short days here in the Netherlands.

1.) Good pillows. I don’t care if it’s a hostel, a YWAM base, a nice hotel, an airplane, or a park bench—pillows make all the difference for me. I don’t truly feel myself until I’ve found pillows that make me feel like I’m sleeping on a cloud. Even my first night here, with a quilt and winter jackets covering me for a blanket, I was okay because I had two amazing pillows I’d bought upon arrival. Side note: totally got these ones during a sale, 6 euros each!

2.) A plug. This is one I don’t always have total control over, but I’ve learned enough times now that if there’s not a plug within arms reach of my bed, my life is about over. I know, I know, these are very first-world problems, but when you’re at a conference or gathering all day, or in class for hours, or mingling with people non-stop, and your only introvert time is cuddled up in bed (on your amazing pillows), watching movies on your laptop or phone—-that plug can make or break the day. Nailed that one the first day I got here too.

3.) Facial cleanser. Yes, this one seems random, but for me in my life, there are two things that I can almost barely live without: Pond’s Facial Wipes for the evening, Aveeno facial cleanser for the morning. A few people in this world know how religiously devoted to Pond’s I am—not Neutrogena, not some generic store-brand facial wipe–POND’S. If I had a will, some of my inheritance would go toward Pond’s. I’ve got about a month’s worth on this trip with me–here’s to hoping my friend coming from Kona in a few weeks will bring some with her! As for the Aveeno? Here’s the devotion, are you ready? Back in February, I packed my Aveeno to take with me to England. I had the whole 4.5 month trip, then packed it in my “leave behind” suitcase. It’s currently in Amsterdam, where I will go on Sunday to pick it up. Guys……Aveeno….Pond’s…..bliss.

4.) A good shower. This is something I have absolutely no control over. What constitutes a good shower, you ask? In my vast experience of travel, I have created a checklist of important shower features: is the shower head tall enough? Is the shower space so small I’m bumping my long arms and legs on everything? Is there a place for hanging towels and fresh clothes? Is it a private space? (Yes, believe it or not, I have been places where only rippled glass separates you from others) Is the pressure strong enough to blast through my cave woman hair? Is the water hot, and if so, how long does it take to get there? All important factors. My shower back in Kona was perfection. The last thing I did before getting on the plane to come here was take a shower before two days of travel, and I literally looked at the shower head and said, “Goodbye. I’ll miss you.” THANKFULLY, we have a pretty great shower in our house here.

All this to say, I think I’m settling in nicely. I didn’t unpack for a few days because I just wasn’t happy with the arrangement of the room, so on Wednesday morning I pushed all my furniture around, looked around in approval, unpacked and arranged things, and am now very settled. Only next thing to do is to find a place where they sell nails or tacks or something to hang things up on my walls. They’re looking a little sad.

Except for a few evening activities tonight and tomorrow, orientation week is basically done. It was a great time getting to know some fellow international students. Now it’s time to get down to the task of preparing for school! Next week is the last free week before classes start–a time to register for courses, tour the faculty buildings, register with the local government for my visa stuff, and get all remaining “pre-masters” homework done. Thanks for the prayers and support, I think it’s safe to say I’m in love with Nijmegen. Here’s to hoping I’ll be in love with the degree program, too!!