Tuesday, 21 August 2012


So, I know I'm studying abroad, but so far I've neglected to mention much about this "studying" part. It is difficult to concentrate in such a beautiful place, and I usually try to spend my weekends on more interesting activities. However, I feel confident that I can give you an accurate depiction of my classes now that they're about half way over. (Can you believe that?! Fun sure does time when you're having a good fly...)

The "Link," which joins the student union and the library together

In general, I've just been trying to adjust to the environment of this large university. Whereas Bowdoin has 1700 students, Otago has about 20,000 undergrads! It is almost impossible to find a spot in the main library in the afternoon, and all of my classes are huge (ranging from 40 to 200 students - at Bowdoin 40 would be one of the biggest classes on campus). This university also uses TAs for tutorial / seminar and grading purposes. (And about the grading - there is a huge discrepancy between the basic level of class material and the extreme harshness of the grading. I'm beginning to welcome the fact that my grades will only transfer back to Bowdoin as pass/fail!) I'm so happy with my decision to come here because of the amazing experiences for travel and learning about a new location and culture, but the actual classes here are making me appreciate my choice of a small, liberal arts college at home!

As I've mentioned before, I'm taking Genetics, Abnormal Psychology, NZ Politics, and an anthropology class on reproduction. My Genetics lecture is fairly dry, but the labs are interesting. We are currently breeding our own fruit fly lines to look for Mendelian inheritance patterns; it results in flies everywhere in the lab, but it is quite fun! Abnormal Psychology is quite the opposite - the lecture is engaging, but the "lab" bores me to tears every week! The "lab," which I put in quotes for good reason, most often involves us watching videos of patient cases and taking notes on them. We occasionally do computer behavioral testing on ourselves, but that only lasts about 5 minutes and leads to an hour long discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of the methodology. Needless to say, Wednesday nights from 7 to 9 pm are not my favorite part of each week.

NZ Politics is fairly interesting, especially when considered as a comparison to American politics. However, although my professor assured us that the course requires absolutely no starting knowledge of the NZ political system (check on that criterion for me), she often assumes that we know basic things and skips over simple explanations. And I'm sure the kiwis do know these basics simply by growing up here, but I tend to get a bit lost at some points!

And finally, we come to anthropology. It is by far my favorite class here. I only have class once a week for a two hour block - we usually have a lecture for the first hour and watch a video in the second hour. The course focuses on realizing the great diversity of practices and ideologies associated with reproductive issues around the world, including birth control, abortion, family size, adoption, trafficking, prostitution, fertility, reproductive technologies, family lineages, and many other topics. I truly enjoy doing the readings for this class each week, despite the fact that they are sometimes rather heavy and can be emotionally upsetting. Having the opportunity to take this specialized class makes up for the weaknesses in my other courses!

what I call "the beehive" in the library - a 4-story wall of study cubicles

So next week is Spring Break, and I'll be gone until September 3rd. I will be out of touch for that time - I'm going further south (yay - even colder!) to Fiordland and Milford Sound, and doing some three- or four-day tramps and a sunrise kayaking trip. I'm sure I'll have a ton of great stories and pictures for you when I return!

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