Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Day 6: First day of class

I had 5 hours of class today (Monday schedule because next Monday's a public holiday, Martin Luther King Day): a Sociology of Mental Illness lecture, an Intro to Buddhism lecture, and a Sociology of Education 3-hour seminar.

I'm pretty sure I'll stick with Sociology of Mental Illness. We'll begin by questioning normality and definitions of mental illness, then talking about social causes, which should be a nice counterpoint to the Psychology perspective I'll surely be learning more about in the coming years. The lecture hall was literally a hall, with all chairs on the same level and the professor on a stage. This is the biggest class I'll be taking here - about 100-150 students.

Intro Buddhism looks like it's going to be absolutely amazing. The professor had such a captivating presence and charisma about him, he just commanded everyone's attention. (also, we weren't allowed to use phones, laptops etc. in class so that may have been part of it) A really interesting personality. We'll be challenging our impressions of what we think Buddhism is, and trying to understand the internal diversity of Buddhist schools and the "real" vs the "ideals". This class has about 70 students.

Sociology of Education was also quite interesting. We discussed what we thought the top 3 goals of schools should be - Literacy (15/17); Academic excellence (3/17); Occupational/vocational skills (2/17); Promoting good work habits & self discipline (10/17); Personal growth (9/17); Promoting human relations skills (10/17); Promoting specific moral values (0/17); Promoting multicultural awareness/understanding (2/17). (The numbers in brackets indicate the number of people who put that goal into their top 3.) The exercise was meant to illustrate one of the central themes of the course, which is that even among a relatively homogenous group of people, we can't agree on what we want out of the education system, and we can all make strong arguments for competing positions. In the past, this wasn't the case - people expected less and had more consensus on what they thought education should be about, but now we have far more goals and far less agreement. The professor really challenged us to defend our views, and basically everyone in the class engaged and contributed actively, compared to the standard <5 people who usually talk in tutorials at UniMelb. For once, I didn't feel like I was over-contributing! The course looks pretty good, but I'm only about 80% sure that I'll stick with it, so I'll be auditing some more courses (Crime & Human Development, History of Opera, Medical Sociology) over the next week.

After class, I signed up for the gym ($162) and then went and auditioned for an early music ensemble, Ancient Voices. I got in, yay! What's funny about this is, the director told me that literally 20 minutes before I sent him the initial enquiry email about auditioning, he had sent around an email asking the members if they knew any sopranos who could replace a soprano who had left. It was obviously meant to be! :)

Then I got lazy so ate out at HipCityVeg, which was awesome but not that cheap (~$9), because I couldn't stand the idea of going grocery shopping and then cooking in one go. So I did the fresh grocery run, and am definitely ready to start actually cooking on Friday (my residence has a meeting over dinner tomorrow). Sigh, cooking just feels like such an onerous task, even though I value health. I guess I just need to remind myself of that! (but I suspect I will get gradually lazier as semester revs up)

When I got back, we had a section meeting, then cookies at Phil & Amy's (a weekly event at the Faculty Master's house). It was really nice, heaps of people showed up to the cookies event.

Tomorrow, I'm super-duper looking forward to my first Contemplative Sciences & Human Development (henceforth, "Mindfulness" for short) class! I'll also be meeting a post-doctoral research fellow from the Positive Psychology Center, who my mentor at UniMelb very kindly introduced me to, so I'm really grateful for this opportunity.

What went well:
  1. Really engaging Intro Buddhism lecture.
  2. Got into Ancient Voices!
  3. Had a nice random conversation in the kitchen with a couple of Stouffer residents about what they like about Penn.
What did I learn? 
  • The students here are really engaged in the classroom.
  • I have a lazy attitude towards cooking.
  • I need to automate routine activities like grocery shopping and cooking.
  • I have a badass Intro Buddhism professor. He's as awesome as everyone's said he is!

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