Friday, 17 January 2014

Day 8: Assessment options, cooking, free concert

So today, I went and saw my Intro to Buddhism professor to ask him for advice on what assessment option I should do. Basically, I have the option of either writing 8 one-page reading responses (40%) due each week and a 3-5 page film response (10%), or a massive 20-22 page original research paper (~6000 words!!!!). Hardly any undergrads choose the research option. Anyway, the professor was really helpful and was happy to talk to me about it. I still wasn't entirely sure though, so in typical Jessie-style, made a pros & cons list:

Short paper option
  • Low-risk option: each paper is only worth 5%, and the lowest grade is automatically converted to an A
  • A chance to improve my writing productivity?
  • Means that I will gain a decent understanding of every topic in the course
  • Realistically, it's only about 350 words of writing a week
  • Weekly, inflexible deadlines
  • Need to be on the ball every week, whether or not I'm interested in the topic
  • Less depth and opportunity for original research/going outside the course
  • It takes a lot of time to formulate a good understanding of philosophical & ethical issues & produce a good piece of writing in a week
  • My habit of producing only about two extremely high-quality assignments a semester will probably mean that I'd spend a disproportionate amount of time on these small papers
Research paper option
  • A good chance to develop research, time management & self-discipline skills
  • I enjoy the research process and crafting an original piece of writing
  • Gives me a chance to thoroughly explore the topic that I'm most interested in and that drew me to the course in the first place, Buddhist meditation
  • Could be a good experience to have the independence & autonomy, along with guidance from "supervisors" (professor & TA)
  • It's essentially a chance to learn more from taking this course: I get everything in the course + everything else I read in my research
  • As long as I put in the effort and work consistently and my professor & TA see that, it really can't turn out to be disastrous
  • It seems like a massive and daunting task when looked at as a whole. i.e. it's scary!
  • Could turn out to be significantly more work than the short paper option because it still requires doing the weekly readings (though perhaps not in as much depth) as well as extra time spent on research each week

Ok, so in summary, the short paper option seems like the safe option, but the research option looks far more interesting, exciting and rewarding. The only thing that would hold me back from the research option is FEAR, I've now realised, so since I've realised that, and since my goal of exchange, after all, is to embrace everything that scares me, I should obviously write the huge paper! Gah, wish me luck...

What went well? 
  1. My Intro to Buddhism professor was nice enough to be willing to meet with me this afternoon to talk about the assessment options, even though I'd only emailed him at noon.
  2. One of my interlibrary loan books arrived, only 2 days after I'd ordered it!
  3. Cooked for the first time here and got 4 boxes of leftovers out of it:
  4. Went to a free medieval music concert, performed by an ensemble called Trefoil.
What did I learn? 
  • It is so important to shop for classes. I sat in on an Intro to Opera class today and it was the most boring thing EVER and I had no idea what the point of the lecture was.
  • Course readers here are ridiculously expensive. Just gah. I paid $49 for my Sociology of Education reader (so yes, I'm definitely taking it now!)...ridiculous!
  • Professors are really awesome resources.
  • Be sure to google what events are on around Penn, to find out about free events.
  • Check what page numbers are assigned. I spent ages last night reading this monster 29-page critique of the DSM-V, only to realise just now, looking at the syllabus, that we only needed to read pp. 1-13. Oops.

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