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.

Turning Point

February 7, 2014

I suppose it had to happen one day.
I don’t know about you, but I knew it would come
Sooner rather than later.
You have been my best friend since forever
But best friends aren’t clones
We all change, grow – apart and together
So we don’t like all the same things anymore
It shouldn’t matter
So I don’t think we need to tell each other everything
That’s called keeping a core of ourselves hidden
For us alone
I guess I realised it early on
That I couldn’t really tell you everything
And couldn’t really tell you everything
But isn’t that normal for everyone?
I used to think being perfectly open and honest was everything
But now I feel some things need to be kept hidden
Or just not said
Because perfect honesty doesn’t have to be the be-all
And end-all of life
There are some people you shouldn’t be honest with
Because it’ll just come back to bite you in the ass
Not that I think you’re that kind of person, mind
But I don’t think you’re open enough for perfect honesty
And neither am I – I guess
So as long as we always have each other’s back for
the really important things
That’s the bottom line
For why we are still best friends

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.

TD: Words that move

September 9, 2013

I don’t believe in Instagramming what’s meant for my eyes only; ’tis an ego that’s mine to savor – alone.

I cannot broadcast gratitude; no, that shall be a wordless communique; or, carried by the ether of instant messaging, one phone to another; nestled.

Enough that enough should be said, or unsaid, wordless.

A quick update

September 1, 2013

Trying to juggle both work and studies is tough. Feeling guilty that I can’t give 100% to both. That no matter how hard I try, I end up shortchanging both. Case in point – I should be working on my assignments already but the marking never stops. Hoping to use the one week break to do something about it.

I don’t regret doing this – I’m still chuffed after the end of class even though it’s so late. I hope the enthusiasm doesn’t die.

It’s Week 2!

July 29, 2013

And I’m still in it!

Ok, so the reading load is heavy, and straddling work and studies is not easy, but I must say it is – so far – invigorating.  Everyone seems nice so far and I wish we had more time to get to know one another better. I guess that will happen naturally in due course, as we work closely in our groups and face hell week aka presentations and term papers together.

Bring it on:)

Post-Orientation thoughts

July 20, 2013

So it’s been a little weird, going back to school again and simultaneously taking a break from school, sort of.

As expected, there was a lot of info overwhelming us and not all of it new, though I learned I need to attend 3 research methods workshops and that means more prep and more lessons. Thank goodness it’s on Monday evenings.

But the plus point is I met quite a few people over the 2 days, and what a diverse group we are, about 200 of us. Am already in a Whatsapp group with a bunch who all hail from different courses, so that’s a nice thing:)

As for Strat, there’s 54 of us and quite a few foreign students, and the gender ratio is skewed as expected. Our first class is on Tuesday morning, so let’s see what happens.

For now, I have to get the AQs out of the way so I can start on my readings! So I’m gonna stop here and update more another day.