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Arts and Culture, Everyday Life, School, United Kingdom

Oh yeah, there’s a “study” in study abroad, or getting off intellectual autopilot

I am a Type-A overachieving nerd.

There, I said it.

In general, I like school. I like school a lot. Hell, I’m even seriously considering getting a Ph.D. in English and becoming a full-time professional student to (sort of) support my pretentious creative writing habit. There is little better to me than reading great literary works and getting into loud, lusty arguments about them (or, ahem, cracking snide, innuendo-laced jokes).

So . . . why do I feel so unmotivated here at the University of Strathclyde?

It’s not that I despise the classes or anything. I’m taking Enlightenment to Romanticism, Order and Nature in Renaissance Writing, and Detective Fiction (which is pretty much my trying to address the part of literary history I’ve conveniently ignored in my Agnes Scott career, i.e. most literature before 1800). So far, I’ve found something(s) to like in each class, whether the literature (The Moonstone? Yay! The Rape of the Lock? Yay! ) or the professors/tutors (my Renaissance professor does something awesome-sounding called Animal Studies. Yeah, that exists.) or both.

I’m not even technically slacking off. I finish my readings before lectures, take notes for discussion, and during tutorials, talk. A lot.

(I actually fear I’m becoming the sterotypical loud American. Or the angry feminist/postcolonialist. Or what-have-you.)

But still— why do I feel like my brain is only half-turned-on all the time?

I’m sleepwalking through my classes:  rushing through my readings, scribbling down shallow answers to discussion questions the morning of my tutorials, and writing this blog post near midnight instead of taking notes on Ben Jonson’s masques.

Maybe it’s because I’m taking three classes as opposed to my usual four or five. Maybe it’s because I have only six papers and exams all semester as opposed to 20. Maybe it’s because I’m taking all these classes pass/fail. Maybe it’s because, as a local student in my Enlightenment/Romanticism class pointed out, “It’s like a holiday for [me].”

There’s a booming voice in my head that is shouting, “YOU ARE ON HOLIDAY. YOU ARE NOT AT AGONY SPOT (hahaha). YOU ARE IN EUROPE. PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY, etc.”

There’s also another, quieter voice in my head that is gently but persistently telling me that just because I am “on holiday” doesn’t mean that I should disrupt the classroom experience of my fellow students who are not there “on holiday,” who are not taking these classes pass/fail, by being woefully unprepared or downright contemptuous of the proceedings.

Then again, the last sentence I just wrote is unnecessarily judgmental. Who am I to say what works best for individual students studying abroad? Who am I to deem all local students as necessarily more “serious” than exchange students?

Not to mention, even though I am an aspiring academic, the whole point of studying “abroad” is to have the whole experience of living in a foreign country, not just lock myself in the library.  There’s a new country and continent for me to explore and frolic about on. If I shut myself in, I might as well have stayed home.

In the end, I really just need to find my happy medium, between getting off intellectual autopilot and having fun on holiday and to have both the “study” and the “abroad.”

Look how much work I've done since tutorial ended at 11 AM! What time is it now? Uh, midnight. . .

About Anna Cabe

I'm your average over-stressed Asian-American overachiever, your typical moderately talented wannabe writer, your everyday nerd with subpar social skills. I'm pretty boring really.


6 thoughts on “Oh yeah, there’s a “study” in study abroad, or getting off intellectual autopilot

  1. Anna, I’m glad to know I’m not the only one struggling with motivation! Like you, I do my work for class, but I don’t quite feel like I’m doing enough… then again, I don’t want to spend my entire semester locked away reading. I think it’s hard to find that balance at Agony Spot (heh heh heh) and even harder abroad. But we can do it!

    Posted by Kathryn Dean | February 16, 2012, 6:09 am
    • ¡Si se puede! 😀

      Part of me wonders if the reason I feel like I’m not doing enough is because I’m used to having so much more “graded” material back at Agnes (more papers, more exams, etc.). But still, I do feel like my comments and notes could be so much deeper and more thoughtful than they are currently during tutorials. . .oh well, we’ll get there!

      Posted by annaisabe | February 16, 2012, 6:30 am
  2. Hmmm, I don’t know. I’m definitely not stressing about my readings as much as I do at Agony, but I’m feeling extremely intellectually engaged. My mind is just twirling with awesome connections between my classes, especially Applied Theatre and Premodern Cultures of Performance, which are both pretty interdisciplinary and simply fascinating.

    At the same time, I’m considering planning a trip to London the weekend before my first paper is due, so I see your point.

    Posted by princesscaitlin | February 16, 2012, 7:10 am
    • I mean, the stuff I’m reading is definitely connected to each other and fascinating (my readings are really obsessed with notions of class and order and Empire and race and gender, and I actually have a post prepared about castles as the symbol of the mythic grandeur of the monarchy), and I now see those themes everywhere. However, other times, I really have this niggling sense that I could be doing better work. Damn you, Agony Spot, for heightening my standards too much. :-O

      Posted by annaisabe | February 16, 2012, 10:34 am
  3. I felt the same way. Do you have tutorials/have the started yet? I studied politics at Strathclyde but my tutorials were amazing. They’re like the discussion parts in Agony Spot classes, but more intense and focused in the best way. You’re given a lot of work at Strathclyde but it’s much more self directed – I wasn’t the greatest student so the lack of structure was difficult for me, but generally, Strathclyde coursework seems ‘easy’ compared to ASC…until exams!

    BUT you are also on holiday. Your study abroad grades will…matter less, to an extent. You can go back to the UK and Europe but you will never get the chance to have this particular experience again. I wish I understand that as well as I do know when I was there.

    Posted by Mary | March 26, 2012, 8:17 pm
    • I’ve been overall enjoying my classes here at Strathclyde, although the fewer assignments/fewer classes/fewer grades have been throwing me off. I’m a lil worried about exams because of that. . .

      But I’ve made so many weekend trips — to Doune Castle and Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument and Edinburgh and Belfast and London — and I wouldn’t trade those times for more studying for the world. 🙂

      Posted by annaisabe | March 27, 2012, 4:55 am

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February 2012
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