Sunday, 18 November 2007

On being an undergrad again...

While I am sitting in on graduate-level courses, in preparation for starting my masters in April, the majority of my courses, the ones towards the curatorial certificate, are all at the undergraduate level. Going back is never easy, nor is it a particularily good thing...! I find myself taking classes with Japanese kids 7-10 years younger than me and I often feel more of a connection to the elderly man who sits across the aisle from me!

This is, of course, not to say that I don't love my classes, or that I'm not learning tons, but still...

It is little things like not being able to drink while the professor is lecturing as it is considered rude (but it is fairly common for students to drink and or eat during breaks) have me reminiscing fondly of my days at U of T where the number of Nalgene bottles equalled that of the student population. (I know, I know, me thinking fondly of U of T - yes, it does happen... occasionally!)

What really annoys me (and leaves me feeling old and stuffy) is my Japanese class. This term I am only taking one, an oral presentation class for second year foreign undergrads (Chinese and Korean natives who will be completing their undergrad in Japanese at Meiji). It is a small section, with only 15 students registered. Despite the fact that attendance makes up a large section of the final grade, and missing more than a certain number of classes results in an automatic fail, we never have all present. Class is 90 minutes only once a week, starting at 10:40 am on Tuesday morning. There are normally about 5 people present at the start of class and another 5 or so will meander in over the course of class, with students occasionally arriving past 11:30. In a large class, especially if you sit near the back or hide yourself behind somebody else, nodding off or having a whispered conversation with the person beside you will go over with out comment by the prof at the front. In a class of less than a dozen, however, putting your head down on your arms for a nap is something I'd consider incredibly rude! Carrying on a conversation with the person beside you (at a level loud enough to annoy the stuffy Canadian on the other side of the room) despite being asked to stop doing so by the professor, is something that wasn't accepted in most of my ELEMENTARY SCHOOL classes, but since it has been more than 2 decades since I started elementary school, perhaps my memories are fading with age?! Or, perhaps these other students are simply rude and don't respect the professor or value the education they are receiving?! But that's just my crotchety opinion!

While the students I am referring to are foreigners, they are foreigners who speak Japanese very well and are used to fitting in with Japanese society. My other classes are either much larger or smaller graduate courses, and so can not provide a useful comparaison. Would Japanese students in the same situation do the same thing? The Japanese are famous (infamous?!) for falling asleep just about anywhere and everywhere - especially on trains. It is quite common for people to have a short cat nap after finishing their coffee at Starbucks, and anytime of day roughly half of the students sitting at the university library's study tables are asleep. The average Japanese will explain this phenomenon along the lines of the stereotype of the over-worked and sleep deprived Japanese business man or student.

I must admit to enjoying a nap myself on the train, especially on those lucky nights when I get a seat on the way home after my evening classes!

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