Work

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I often write about my favourite places to eat and drink, but I wouldn’t want to give the wrong impression. The main purpose for my being here is to work and study, and there’s been plenty of that going on too. Term started on September 3rd and is still in progress, and so, a fairly long haul. Work consists of reading a lot of articles or chapters, and then, either discussing these ideas in class, or writing them up into term papers. I usually enjoy writing, but I grappled for a while with the American academic style, which is much more scientific than the British one. The latter is more discursive, as if you’re having a thoughtful chat with a colleague and musing about different ideas. American academic discourse goes more like this: ” something something conceptual framework dum di dum tease apart blah blah conceptualization something something this is an important piece blah blah empirical question dum de dum negative skewness blah blah blah kurtosis  etc etc.” I was initially overwhelmed (that word again) by this impenetrable language, and even more so by the flow charts used to illustrate conceptual models or frameworks. When my turn comes round to describe these in seminars I am like a rabbit stuck in the headlights and stumble through as best as I can. The pressure really cranks up, however, when working on two different papers at once, as we are doing now, while at the same time attending and reading up for seminars. When this happens there’s absolutely no wiggle room. Someone once called the fuzziness this induces in the brain “an overcrowding of the cognitive workbench”, and at times mine feels jam-packed. But I’m explaining, not complaining. This is the deal around here, and I’m not certainly not alone. The dining room, library, park benches, Starbucks and any free perches are occupied by students with their brown bags, drinking iced coffee and staring intently at their Macs. It’s a product placer’s dream.

This week I have had a couple of moments of human bonding. The other evening a security officer was at his desk clearly unwell. He’s one of the more seasoned staff and you take nothing for granted after 50 these days, so I asked a student to hurry and get another officer for help. I was feeling quite concerned. Fortunately, It was nothing serious, but the officer now greets me loudly as his hero when I swipe in; we have become a pair of old timers bonded by this brief moment of physical vulnerability. The other incident was when a young international student struck up conversation in a queue. He  confided his anxiety about his teacher training placement, which he felt had finished badly due to different cultural communication styles. I tried to offer constructive advice but it made me realise that, however culturally aware we aim to be, we often default to our own cultural expectations when dealing with others.

And now I must stop procrastinating and finish that bibliography.

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