Saturday, December 13, 2008

Reflections on U of M, FYC and Minnesota

Well I have now successfully completed my first semester as a doctoral student at the U of M. I am overwhelmed with all the blessings I have encountered in my first semester. I absolutely LOVE the program I am in. Being in an Education program has been a challenge (as it is completely new content for me) but I have loved it. My favorite class was "Critical Examination of Curriculum in Context" because it really challenged me and introduced a variety of new concepts that I found fascinating (such as : critical pedagogy, hegemony, heteronormativity, meritocracy, and many others). It had an intense reading load (probably averaged 125-150 pgs of reading per week) but really gave me an opportunity to assess schooling and education in our society through a critical lens and has really re-shaped my view of education (it is likely many of my posts down the road will address these issues).

The faculty I have had the opportunity to work with have been amazing. I have found great mentors in Mary (my boss for my Extension assisstantship) and Susan (my major professor and boss for my Parent Ed assisstantship). All the faculty have been so welcoming and expressed how glad they are that I am here. I am very excited to begin classes next semester (well after a much needed winter break anyway). Lisa (one of the youth faculty) and Jerry (a community faculty) will be instructing the two courses I am enrolled in for next semester. I have been very involved with the faculty in family and am looking forward to courses with the youth and community perspective.

I have also been amazed how quickly and relatively easily I have acquired great friends up here. Believe it or not, in high school I was quite shy (in fact I have been told that people thought I was stuck up because of it). I have become more outgoing through college and mostly through my experience in my master's program at K-State. I think a lot of it can be attributed to an understanding of myself and others as well as an increase in my self-confidence compared to how I felt in HS and college. Regardless, I am blessed that I now have two roommates with whom I have a lot in common and a lot of fun. I have my group of FYC/Family Social Science girls who are an absolute blast! Not sure what I would do without them. The semester would not have been near as fun. And I have met some people in classes who are in different programs or tracks than me and am looking forward to spending some "out of class time" with them this Sunday (Gemma & Jason) and Monday (Sophia and Amanda).

I found a great church (in fact it was the first church I attended up here) that I really enjoy. I still miss University Christian Church in Manhattan, but I really feel that the mission of Grace Church Roseville alligns with my own beliefs. Pastor Jason does a really nice job of presenting God's word in a new way that really allows me to see things in a new perspective. I am so blessed that I have found a place that encourage me to "take one step closer" to Christ each day.

I also LOVE the twin cities! There is so much to do! And yes it is cold, and we've had snow on the ground for a few weeks and I won't see the ground again until March or April, but that doesn't detract from how much I love this area. It is a big city(ies) but without the big city feel so this Kansas girl feels right at home. I really hope that many of my friends will have an opportunity to come visit at some point. Just come in the summer and you won't have to deal with the crazy winter weather.

The only thing that could have made this semester better would be if I could report that I found an amazing guy who swept me off my feet. BUT that didn't happen. :( Although I did meet one of the potential bachelor's from last season's bachelorette. Which was exciting. Quite honestly though I really wasn't looking for anyone this semester. I just wanted to focus on school, work, and building some great friendships...which I think I have. My first semester really could not have been much better. I am truly blessed and especially blessed knowing that I get to return home (to Manhattan then McPherson) next week and spend time with my family and friends.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I don't understand...

This has come to be my most common catch phrase in regard to one of my roommates. I understand that we come from different cultures, different backgrounds, and have very different life experiences living in the US solely as a result of our racial/ethnic identities and the way our society shapes our socio-economic status, resources, and opportunities accordingly. I feel blessed in that this living situation has forced me to become more aware of my own values and belief systems as well as gain a better understanding of others'. But in the face of all this, it is still excruciatingly frustrating. I have taken these foundational differences into account during my interactions with her and believe that to a degree they are an "excuse" (is in quotes because I do not believe that our differences require an am using this word for lack of a better one). I just do not feel that I need to tell a "grown adult" that if you turn it on (DVD player) turn it off; if you cook and make a mess, clean it up; and if you use the trash can it is all roommates EQUAL responsibility to take the trash out. Maybe my expectations are too high (it wouldn't be the first time) but I just feel like I shouldn't have to be a maid or mother to my roommates.

But what I have the most difficulty being patient with is when I have nicely asked something of her and she agrees and then blatantly does the opposite. For example: she not leave laundry in the washer and dryer when she is not home (I feel it is very disrespectful for others who want to do laundry but can't because they are filled with clothes. Also that is just gross, wet clothes get moldy and make the entire washer smell...and I do not want my clothes smelling gross because of someone else). One of my biggest pet peeves is when I feel that people are being disrespectful (whether to me, a friend or someone I don't know). It is completely unnecessary. There are people that I do not respect (for various reasons) but I can still act respectfully toward that person. I guess I just struggle to decide whether she is purposefully being disrespectful or is just completely "dingy." But I must note, I have an extremely strong, accurate intuition. And there are many situations that have occurred that I feel, in my gut, were done purposefully just to irritate me. I know it is not hard to "play dumb." (By the way, there has been much more than what is listed here...including "discussions" where I basically stand there and get yelled over).

Anyway, I decided, quite awhile ago, to be nice to her because quite honestly dwelling on things and allowing anger to build up only hurts me, not her. And I must admit it has required a lot of praying and asking God to grant me patience and humility when I'm dealing with her. But, being only human, it is still frustrating when I go to throw a load of clothes in the laundry, to find it full (and she is out for the night). Anyway, not sure if that was all coherent, but figured I'd share my frustrations with others and maybe see what others think.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Since this will be my first Thanksgiving away from home and my family I figured this was as good of time as any to begin a blog. I cannot tell you how many people have been concerned that I am spending Thanksgiving alone. Honestly, I am not a huge fan of Thanksgiving. I think turkey and stuffing are overrated (yes I un-American). I understand that Thanksgiving now represents a day of spending time with family and being thankful. I just don't feel like I need a special day to be thankful for my family or to spend time with them. I am extremely close with my family and have talked to at least one member of my immediate family everyday since I've moved. And besides, let's honestly assess what we are celebrating...the pilgrims inviting the natives of this country to a wonderful feast and then proceeding to kill them off with disease and steal their land. I realize this is a critical view, but I just feel like Americans are so quick to accept things without critically thinking about what it means. And while I feel blessed to live in this country I feel like we need to recognize how we got where we are now and how far we still have to go. Now, I could spend an entire blog on that alone, but that is not the purpose of this blog.

I want to assure anyone who is concerned about me that I am just fine! I saw my parents last weekend when they visited and will be home for a couple of weeks in about a months time. I plan to spend my day working on my research proposal and presentation that is due next Tuesday, making my own "Thanksgiving" meal (which will consist of bacon-wrapped chicken breast, home-made mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and a biscuit...yum!), and then popping in a movie (Hancock...can't beat a Will Smith film!).

A Thanksgiving blog would not be complete without thanks-giving! I am so thankful for the wonderful people I have met in the Twin Cities. I had at least three people invite me to spend Thanksgiving with their family. I cannot tell you how much it meant for people to invite me into their homes for Thanksgiving and hope that no one is offended that instead I am staying home to get some work done and relax. It goes without saying that I am so thankful for my family and friends who have been so supportive as I left Kansas and moved up to Minnesota to pursue my dream of obtaining my PhD at the U of Minnesota. It has meant so much to have your love and support and I know that I would not have had the strength to do this without you. I hope that everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!