Archive for the ‘learning’ Category

Relaunching Saturday lunches

August 16, 2014

So the first of hopefully many more lunch gatherings took place today. Healthy turnout of nine, good food, enjoyable conversations all round that make grad student life meaningful beyond the classroom, as we get to know one another better. Topped off by coffee and ice cream sandwiches at a nearby cafe, and then I did some research work for my MarSec paper at the library.

Overall, I think it was a good day well spent:)

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Trimester Three is over!

May 29, 2014

It’s been an exhausting tri. Maybe it’s my first time taking three modules (and audited one more throughout). Maybe it’s the obligatory midpoint blues that everyone feels in any journey of some length (even though for me it’s more accurately three quarters of the way). I’m just relieved it’s over. Now some much needed R&R before the new tri opens in August.

I should really leave this to its own dedicated post, but I’m going to do it here anyways in case I never get around to it and it’s still fresh now. This trimester has been all Terrorism Studies, which is basically the reason I signed up for the MSc programme. I should be over the moon, but I’m not really wide-eyed excited, which I had said before could have been because not all the stuff was terribly new. 6034 was amazing, although the contemporary stuff left me a little lost. Still I can’t deny it challenged me and really made me work. 6028 was fascinating for its comprehensiveness, and though I had a good grounding in the basics, it still required me to work for my exams.

I think I worked the hardest this trimester to get my exams right. I hope my grades pass muster. I must admit my assignments were less than stellar but I take responsibility for not having been able to pull myself out of the dumps to do an excellent job.

One thing that really struck me doing all the readings and doing the research and taking part in the discussions is how we seem to be learning about the history of Terrorism Studies rather than engaging IN terrorism studies. Anything early post 9/11 was already very familiar to me (which may have contributed a little to my flagging interest because I had already read or heard it all before), but the reading lists seem very light on work done post 2009 that I feel is really key because the threat has morphed and mid 2000s paradigms may no longer be directly relevant anymore. Maybe I should have worked harder to look for new stuff. I don’t know. But one thing I’m certainly grateful for is being introduced to actual terrorism scholarship. It’s a certainly bigger field than the journalistic offerings I used only to have access to on the shelves of Kino. At least now I know who to look out for and how to sort the wheat from the chaff when I’m there.

I’m also sad to see all my classmates graduating when I still have one more tri to go. But I’m happy for them, and I hope we keep in touch regularly on Facebook. One of the things which I really learned a lot taking this programme was navigating cultural diversities and enlarging my cultural quotient. This is not something you can learn from doing your readings or from taking exams, but from regular interactions in and outside the classroom. I hope I can attend their convocation in July as a fitting way to close this chapter.

There were plans to take off for Bangkok for a few days, but what with martial law and changed schedules, it’s probably not going to happen. I might do a solo if the sit gets better, right before the new tri starts. Or I might as well just go ahead and plan my Sydney trip for year end. 

For now, two pressing things await. Need to set up the meet for the Comms Cube, and do the enquiry on the D affair. Let’s see what progress can be made before June ends.

A minus is a plus

March 11, 2014

Contented. At least I improved my CGPA slightly. I feel I’m on the right path, regardless of whether I choose to write that dissertation or not.

Dissertation or desertion?

March 9, 2014

So I’m eligible to write one. And my proposal and assorted administration forms have to be submitted by this Friday. I have just emailed a faculty member as a possible supervisor for assistance and I hope he gets back to me ASAP.

I’m a bit annoyed by this development, to be honest. I’m chuffed to have made the cut to write one, and I should try my best to make the most of the opportunity, but the tight deadlines give me more stress I don’t need. I’m just going to give this a shot and if it comes to nought then so be it.  I’ll just enjoy coursework like I’d always planned.

And it was really good to receive my first A+ for my international law assignment. At least hard work does pay off.

Course shopping as Trimester Three begins

March 4, 2014

So Trimester Three just started yesterday, and I’m already thinking of reading three mods and auditing maybe two. That’s a shitload of work and reading and I hope I can sustain the effort. I hope coming to school four times a week incentivises me to make full use of the facilities and my time as a student.

The results were released yesterday;  pleased that PL and R filled me in on how they did; I was honestly not expecting any news from anyone. I believe we did great but am not crazy to find out the details, not when I’ve a heavy trimester to grapple with.

It nevertheless is disconcerting to see people posting screenshots of Thank yous on FB like it’s some kind of competition. Haven’t you heard of privacy, people. I guess that’s why I’m not really active on FB anymore,  not when it comes to the really important things.

Gotta stop here and sit in for War in the Global Village and see if I want to audit that as well.

Thoughts on ending Trimester Two

February 22, 2014

So just like that, twelve weeks are over. And so here’s the customary end of trimester reflection.

1. I definitely enjoyed my modules more this time around than the last. There was more time to prepare and read ahead, to think and ponder about ideas, and to have conversations with others about those ideas. Especially blessed to have really good profs who are open to our ideas and make me inspired to learn and read more broadly. Overall, it felt good to be much more with it on the key ideas than struggling to make sense of it all during the last trimester. It was edifying to be regarded as being really on top of international law,  even though there was no secret – just diligent prep and reading way ahead.

2. Can’t say the same thing about exams though. I don’t think I’ll do as well as last trimester.  Seem ironic that I’m more comfortable with the content this time around but didn’t feel I did good on the exams. Oh well. Life is more than just exams. But try telling that to the guy who is looking at your transcript and not at your life history.

3. I’m really happy I’m getting to know more people in school, and no surprises they aren’t from strat. Is it true strat boys are just not collegial types? Oh well. I only hope my links will grow over the new year. It would make student life more real, I guess.

4. They’ve packed Tri Three with so much good stuff it’s hard to choose what to take with just a week to mull. I think I’ll go with my passion and my gut – the former has served me really well and the latter hasn’t been too off, actually.

So how much of a break am I going to give myself before getting back to work? Not much I guess. I’m seriously considering taking three modules in Trimester Three and that means more work. To be honest I think I was a bit too relaxed during Trimester Two and the pace wasn’t helpful to help me adjust to a typical three-module term. Oh well. I’ll just soldier on and enjoy whatever downtime I can get. Hopefully the module content will more than make up for the workload.

Exam Eve Thoughts

February 19, 2014

My Study of War exam is 11 hours away, but I can’t get to sleep.

No it’s not due to nerves. I feel good, quietly calm. I think I know my stuff. It’s the contemplation and the anticipation that is hard to bear.

Met up with SarahHOPS and WY today and we had a nice catchup. It always feels good to see your former students doing very well in the world. And it got me reflecting on the irony that I’m meeting up with more of my former charges than ever when I’m not in school this year. I’ve bumped into quite a few of them on campus too.

Trimester Three starts a week after the exams end. Gotta start thinking about what modules I want to take and then get working on the readings. They’ve already started uploading the finalised syllabi. It’s a ticking clock on a runaway train. Oh my.

But I haven’t felt this quiet peace, this comforting sync, in a while now. I want to savor it as much as I can, while I can. Keep the mental reserves healthy in the assets column while I can, to cash them out when I need them later.

Okay will stop here for now. Need to force myself to get to sleep or I won’t be at Ops One during the exam.

Typing (some of) this on my new Wedge Mobile keyboard

February 3, 2014

Yup, I bought it so that I didn’t have to carry my bulky laptop around, but still be able to do work on my Tab.  It’s a little steep at $99, but pretty solid overall – no lag, keys are firm yet the board is light (the cover adds weight though).  Definitely lighter than if I were to bring entire laptop out. Now I don’t have an excuse not to do work, haha. Oh yes I met a former student working at the store and she gave me a staff discount – yay! Also bumped into XY and ME who gave me a little update on 61. Glad to know they’re working hard.

It was fun spending the afternoon with T, shopping and eating and talking about things, and getting intel about some people in school, haha.

Watched Her over the holidays, in two sittings, because somehow it was too painful to get through it in one.  Jonze really does hit the jackpot on so many issues, but perhaps the one that struck me is how our relationships are meaningful because they’re so limited, because it’s two flawed beings struggling to make things work. Not that all flawed relationships can work, mind. There must be a floor under which some relationships are better off left to die. Ouch.

Now I’m gonna stop here and get started on my last Study of War summary. Time really does fly.

post-packing thoughts

December 9, 2013

So, the table’s cleared, the boxes moved back home, the card returned. Only one reference to go, and then I’m finally done.

This week marks the halfway point of Trimester 2, before a 3-week hiatus for Christmas. Time’s just zoomed by. I’m enjoying my modules; the Study of War and International Law are both very different in very different ways but each gives me its own meaning. The reading load is not too bad so far; I’ve been enjoying the much needed downtime from work; not sure if I’ll still say that come the first quarter of next year. Have to start thinking about the term papers too.

I realise I haven’t been blogging much lately; that’s because there isn’t anything terribly significant to say at the moment. But one thing I can guarantee – being an adult full-time student is going to be a whole new experience for me.

Thoughts upon ending Trimester One

October 24, 2013

Sat for my second and last – for now – exam today.

I actually had fun writing about asymmetric warfare between guerillas versus conventional armies. It’s been a long time since I sat for an exam, but I really enjoyed doing the question, not so much because I had brilliant, earth-shattering ideas, but because it gave me a chance to think through the ideas, instead of being all frazzled sweating the details. I even got the chance to choose my phrasing for rhetorical effect, as opposed to the madness of writing down as much as you can remember or understand. And yes, my handwriting has gotten REALLY bad. So I do empathize a little with my charges. Even though it’s been fifteen years since my last written exam.

Even though it was grueling, I can safely say I survived these 12 weeks. So what are my takeaways from this experience?

Firstly, I’m thankful for good lecturers who make time and try to make learning as meaningful as possible, given the constraints of adult education and all. Of course there were hiccups, but good people at the helm make you want to do your best as a student.

Next, I’m thankful for good classmates, especially those in my syndicate, who were a tightly knit bunch and came through always when needed. Whether it was sharing stuff on Dropbox, or giving me a ride to the MRT after class, or just saying hi in the library or along the corridors, it was good to feel solidarity with the people you’re learning new things with, because in one way or another, everyone grapples with the same issues, and it was good to feel you’re not in your own boat suffering alone. Especially important since you can’t really talk about stuff to people at work, who aren’t in the frame, so to speak, although working while studying meant I was always rushing and couldn’t spend more time just chilling with my classmates. I look forward to getting to know more people next trimester, now that I’m finally going to be a full-time student, and more fun times doing group assignments and projects together.

Thirdly, I learnt that we need to do the smart things, not just the right things. I should have prioritised getting started on the term papers sooner, instead of obsessing about getting through the weekly reading load. Rookie mistake, and no matter what people said to me, I suppose it was my way of trying to get a handle on things, what with having to juggle work as well. I realised it’s so important to reflect and not just read read read, that we need to devote some time to actually think about and think through the ideas, the concepts, and the context behind all of them. That’s why I don’t agree with the idea of high-stake exams at the Masters level, because what kind of reflection, synthesis or consolidation can we do with a ticking clock over our heads?

Anyway, I felt I really learned things after sharing views with others, in class and outside, and thinking and reflecting about things. The point is not to get an appreciation of the evolution of strategic thought over thirteen weeks, but to get started on appreciating it, long after the module is over. Similarly, I’m glad I started developing an appreciation for the analysis of defense and security policies over those weeks, especially when my initial impression was that the module was too operational and too utilitarian to be meaningful. I’m glad I got the opportunity to change my mind.

And that said, I’m glad I’m starting to not get obsessed over grades anymore. Of course, it would be nice to ace modules, but at this stage of my life, it’s more important chasing knowledge than As, because you can never catch the totality of knowledge even if you catch As. I personally feel I don’t deserve the grades I got for my term papers, because I really should have disciplined myself to use my time more productively and turn in a much higher quality of work. I want to earn the grades I get, not be the fortunate beneficiary of some bell curve policy. So I hope I will do better next trimester, not necessarily in terms of grades, but in terms of being more academically disciplined. I feel that’s the best way I can be a role model for my charges, since I won’t have any next year.

And finally, I’m glad I had my charges alongside me at the start of this journey. Although it was really difficult having to teach and study at the same time, in the end I benefited most from having to fulfill responsibilities at both ends. Having the privilege and luxury of learning again, of being at the back of the class again after such a long time being off the books, made me all the more resolute to do my best when it came time for me to be at the front of the class. I will definitely miss my charges, and while I will not have the privilege of leading them on the charge over the GP hill next year, I think I have done enough to pass the torch on to better hands.

So what happens now? Most immediately, it’s back to wind down work and then back to school for a brand new Trimester Two starting 5 November. The timetable is already out, and course details and reading lists will follow tomorrow, and before we know it, results will be out next month. So I suppose there’s not much time to catch a breath, literally, but it’s important to take time out to pen these things, so that it stands as a record and reflection of what happened when I made the small decision of going back to school this July.