On Going Back to School

img_2408I turned in my first grad school paper Wednesday morning and I’ve spent the past two days reflecting on the whirlwind that has been my return to classroom after a seven year hiatus. Happily, I’ve found that I still love learning. Give me an afternoon discussion about TB at the World Health Organization or a morning lecture on human rights and HIV/AIDS and I’m totally hooked — though perhaps that’s not so surprising, as it’s one of the things I’ve always loved about journalism: every day you get to learn and write about something new.

Of course, that goes both ways: Sometimes you have to learn about something you really aren’t very interested in, but you suck it up and do it because your editor or curriculum requires it. School also comes with homework and I’m already a bit nostalgic for the days when I could come home from work, collapse on the couch and enjoy the latest episode of the Mindy Project without feeling a bit guilty about the reading or schoolwork that I could be doing. And while I don’t sweat writing papers, it’s been a struggle to embrace the academic and scientific lingo as they basically go against everything I ever learned in journalism and communications: explain the issue in a way that everyone can understand, without the jargon.

img_2078The biggest surprises so far? We spend a lot more time in the classroom than I expected — my program has 25 hours of lectures a week — and it’s quite the challenge to sit still that long and absorb everything, even though I’m a grown adult (supposedly anyway). The availability of coffee options helps: It seems that a coffee vending machine or cafeteria is never more than a minute away (and the machines are nothing to scoff at; you can get everything from a cappuccino to a chai tea latte for a franc or two, and it’s all delicious). Then, of course, there are just basic structural differences with academic life in the states that I’m still figuring out — for example, GPAs are not a thing here but apparently I need to score a four to pass a class on the Swiss six-point grading scale.

Most of all, I’m incredibly thankful. I’d been playing with the idea of going back to school for a while but the notion of paying thousands in U.S. tuition while losing one of our incomes seemed irresponsible, if not impossible. I’ll try to remember that the next time I’m complaining about how long my day was, or how much it stinks to have to take exams after Christmas. It’s pretty awesome that I can take exams at all. Cheers!


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