Courses, Of Course!

I know what you’re thinking.  “What a clever title!”  And to that, I say, “thank you!”  Hahah.

So, I’m about midweek through my fourth week of classes, and things are really starting to pick up.  I have three assignments due this week on top of hundreds of pages of reading.  It’s past midnight here, and I should be reading, but I figure that blogging is definitely one of my priorities too, and it gives me an excuse to take a break from school (ironically, I’ll be writing about school…).

Anyway…

Here are the classes I am taking this semester:

  1. Development Economics
    It’s considered an “honors” class as it is a fourth year course.  Typically, students finish their undergrad in 3 years, but can continue to do a post-grad in their fourth year.  Every week, we talk about a different topic about development (state roles, environment, foreign direct investment, etc.).  As an economist that wants to focus on development, I would eventually have to class on development.  It is really interesting to learn from an African / developing country’s perspective (people critique the US all the time!).
  2. Applied International Trade Bargaining
    It’s essentially a WTO simulation, where each student in the class represents a country in the WTO.  We negotiate trade laws and try to further the interests of our countries by forming alliances and through other trade strategies.  I am Chad (drew it out of a hat).  This slightly concerns me because I don’t know anything about Chad (currently doing lots of research), and as a very poor and developing country, I don’t have a lot of influence in the WTO (like, none).  But, I think the point of the class is to show that international organizations like the WTO have a hard time balancing between the interests of developed and developing countries.
  3. Social Impact Enterprise
    Little did I realize that this class was basically ONLY of graduate students (what I am doing?!).  It’s an applied class too, so we are meant to learn hard skills about project management and leadership.  Most of the class is about a group project where we reach out to start-ups that have a commitment to social impact and the Triple Bottom Line (profit, people, environment).  We gather some observational data on them, draw conclusions, and offer recommendations.
    In this class, we’ve learned a lot about how the world’s resources are not being taken care of, and there are many negative consequences.  So, we need people who are innovative and can think of solutions that will sustain ourselves. Here’s a video that I found pretty motivational:

    And check out the Story of Stuff.  They’ll make you critically think about a lot of things.

  4. Society + Individual
    Sociology course analyzing the South African society.  We talk about relationships in terms of economics, politics, gender, race, family compositions, and the state.  It has really made me think about the relationships that exist in my own life and why that might be.  It has really given me some valuable perspective on what it is like to be living in South Africa.  The theoretical readings are usually from American/European sociologists/anthropologists, but there are always readings about case studies in South Africa.  I definitely want to start reading African texts (and novels).

So, essentially, I am taking two graduate level courses, one third year course, and one first year course.  And the internship with the DPRU, which is going well, I think.

For me, it’s very easy to think, “This is a lot” and question why I’m doing it in the first place.  I definitely feel overwhelmed, but as I mentioned in my previous post, I am going to work hard and overcome my challenges.

I was having a conversation with a friend earlier today, and we were talking about how UCT is hard.  We’ve definitely heard from our friends from other study abroad programs, and they all say that their experiences were more play than work.  For one of my friends who studied abroad in London last year, he was in a different European country every week.  I couldn’t even tell when he was actually in England.  But, for us, we both feel like we can’t skip classes because we miss a lot.  Students work hard here, and the academic culture holds students up to high standards.

Comparing it to other study abroad programs, I kind of wish that academics was easier here.  So I wouldn’t care about them so much.  So I could actually take the time to travel and see South Africa.  So I could go on safaris or go wine tasting or hit the beach.  So I could visit Johannesburg or Durban or Port Elizabeth.  I want to enjoy South Africa, and not be in school mode all the time.  Is that such a bad wish?

I’m not trying to say that I don’t want to learn.  I’m not saying that I don’t value my educational experience.  I just don’t want to have my life consumed by school when I am in a foreign country and lose the chance to experience that foreign country.

But, you know, I really like my classes this semester.  I am definitely struggling through them and not getting a lot of sleep, but I think they are worth it.  In my mind, they are all connected to what I’m trying to do with my life and give me perspective on the wider world.  I’ve been constantly reflecting on what the lessons I’ve learned could mean to my life.  From a trade standpoint.  From a developing country’s standpoint.  From a business standpoint.  From an South African standpoint.  My very limited exposure to all these viewpoints.

I’m hoping to get a lot out of courses and my UCT experience in the end.

Over and out.

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