Sunday, October 26, 2008

The one about blogging

This course began and I couldn’t believe we were expected to create a blog. I really felt like the lecturers were trying something new out on us and hadn’t really thought it through. This of course made me uncomfortable. It wasn’t going to be a hard news article that we would submit after making everything fit into the inverted pyramid. We were expected to create a blog on which I was expected to post things I had written for the whole world to see. I was not optimistic at all.

The prospect of working in a group also scared me because I know enough slackers in my tutorial group and I began seeing myself doing all the work. I believe at this age, with the different schedules that we have, we should have been given the option of choosing our groups. Yet, the group I was assigned in turned out better than I thought. Although I still maintain that group work at the university level is impractical, I did see the benefit of working in a group for the blog plan. In retrospect, I learned to manage my time better in that week because I didn’t always know when I’d have to avail myself to meet with my group. We weren’t always immediately productive when it came to the ideas, but when decisions had to be made, we seemed willing.

When it came to sitting down and writing something, I often found it difficult to beginning simply because I didn’t like the prospect of someone reading and then commenting on my work. With the blogging genre defining what type of work I had to produce, I could no longer hide behind an inverted pyramid- hard news story that only my tutor would see. I wouldn’t say I found the blog restricting, but rather to open to my own interpretation. My personality would be open to judgement and I often found myself altering my work to suite what I thought other people wanted to hear. I saw this with the letter I wrote to myself. I had such a different letter planned, but after reading a few others, I figured maybe that’s what I should be doing. I learned my lesson fast, after reading my tutors comment. From then on, I figured that I had been part of writing the blog plan and the genre we’d defined was what was restricting me. Yes, I was blogging and other first years would potentially be reading it, but ours was a best friend relationship type of blog and I have enough best friends to know that our relationship has its breakdowns. This is how I constantly over came my fear of posting my pieces. Working on the opinion piece was one of my favourite assignments. I found it easy to speak to my source about here first year at Rhodes because I thought she had a story to tell. Our blog was intended to take the best friend approach and I though I’d like to speak to someone who has learned her lesson hard and would just tell her story from her heart. I saw this assignment as a sort of intervention conversation. If I was speaking to my best friend, this profile would have been equivalent to a heart to heart.

My source did have more she wanted to say but constantly held back because of the idea of being interview. Our interview turned into a session in which my source began to open up her heart. Even though she grew comfortable, exploring the dimensions of her lessons, there were often moments where she would stop and remember that I’m taking notes and recording the interview. To truly get the depth of the interview, after many failed persuasions, I agreed to regard her deeper confessions and thoughts as “off the record”. While I was putting together the profile, I would often think about the things she said off the record and wish I could include them in to the profile. Her experience comes with a wealth of lessons and in truth I was tempted to add one quote as I remembered it, thinking she would understand once it’s all written. Now, thinking ethically, this wouldn’t be right, but did I have the right to call her up and convince her that this quote would mean the difference between my a 1st and a 2nd for this assignment? I battled with this one. Journalists are known to be pushy and I know I could be, but I had already promised her it would be confidential. I think to some extent, during the interview I could have pushed a little harder for her to speak on record but the question at the back of my mind from the moment I approached her was, “why do I think I have a right to look into her life and share it with the rest of the world? Why should she tell me her story?” With this question in my head, I decided to use what I had and paint her story and try to capture the essence of what was really on her heart in a way that would liberate those who would read the story.

Overall, I believe that although blogging isn’t a conventional form of journalism, one can use it as a tool to practice the conventions of journalism. I definitely think blogs are a medium as good as newspapers and it’s what people put in there that can make it journalism. I believe my posts aren’t conventional journalistic pieces but I used my assignment pieces to practice what I know about journalism. I was writing and writing well is not something I think I have mastered at the end of my first year, but this gave me some practice. Through immersing myself into first year conversations, I also picked on things that were spoken about, even things said in passing. From that I can say, blogging doesn’t have to be journalism but it can be used to perfect the art of conventional journalism.

The good kind of drama

This has been an interesting year. It’s come to an end so soon and still I feel like at some point it just wouldn’t end. I arrived on campus and the first thing I did was fall over my bag in front of a whole lot of people. Now I feel like I’m still recovering from the bruises I got that day and here I am, almost at the end of that journey that caused me to fall.

I’ve managed to accomplish quiet a lot this year. First I found it really awkward relating to people and making friends. I’d been in England all of last year and my friendships there had formed so quickly and so deeply. Here I actually had to work at finding the right type of friends, friends that I would want to keep for the rest of my life. It’s probably my age that had me standing back and not so willing to give myself to any friendship that came along. High school was full of fickle friends and after a gap year in which one fiends maturity, you realise that there’s more to life than being able to hang out in a large group of back stabbing friends.

No, I’m not cynical, just responsible. I’m responsible for my life and everything I allow in and out of it. I’m also responsible for my friends, and how much value I add to our friendships. It’s so much easier to add value to ten true friendships that will last beyond first year and university than it would be cultivating 50 friendships that will end as soon as you close down your facebook account.

I wish I’d learned this lesson in high school. I could have been saved from so much drama. I look back now as I’m almost at the end of first year and I’m glad to say that the only dram I’ve had is between me and my subject choices; the good kind of drama.

The intersting and the useless

English language and linguistics was a subject that was sold so well to me during orientation week. I believed I loved sentences and sentence construction until the third term of this course. Let’s just say that I know now that it was my high school English teacher Mrs Murphy that I liked.

This department has undertaken to teach two modules at the same time. “There are only two lectures a week,” they said. Sounded like it would be easy, but it only meant one had to learn twice as much.

For me, the Thursday modules were the easiest. They related to people and people are my passion. One learns how children acquire languages as well as how second languages are attained. The more recent module dealt with texts and the ideology imbedded in texts. The Tuesday modules concentrated on syntax, phonetics and phonology and the type of useless information one picks up from speaking to people passionate about those kinds of things.
I wish they would separate these modules and give us the choice of just studying the Thursday modules. I guess I can’t always have it my way. Yet, if Rhodes University had 10 students and I had to reward this department with some, I would send 4 brave hearted students with my sincerest apologies.

Major dissapointment

It’s the end of the year and I’m already thinking about my subject choices next year. I’ve taken four subjects this year and I’m not sure all of them are worth taking next year.
Thinking about sociology, at the beginning of the year I seriously thought I would take this subject as a major. The first two terms were phenomenal. The first term dealt with an introduction to the study of society and the history of sociology. This is all interesting and one begins to look at society with a new understanding.

The second term dealt with social inequalities and although this term required a lot of reading, the lecturer knew what he was talking about and that sets you in the right direction.

The third term presented the greatest difficulty. Deviance was the module and deviant was the lecturer. If you hear that Babalawa Sishutu is lecturing Sociology 1 then I recommend you give this subject a pass in 2009. Don’t misunderstand me, I believe she’s a good lecturer but for this course, she was pushing her own agenda and so one stood a small chance at passing her course. If you knew what her agenda was and you could articulate it in an essay, then and only then were you on your way to passing her course.

The fourth term was fine, really nothing to blog about. All I know is that If Rhodes had ten students and I had to award this subject with some, I’d give it 5 long suffering students. Not too good for a course that could have been my major.

Easy psychology

Do not come to Rhodes University to study psychology. This department does not, in my opinion, know what it is doing. Our tutorials are optional and unstructured. 300 students in one venue hoping to learn something from a tutorial, I think that’s more funny than constructive. Their excuse is that their department does not have enough funds to pay tutors. Yet I have paid my fees in full; something just does not add up.
If you’re in need of an easy credit and are thinking of picking up psychology 101 next year then I beg you to consider a few points. Besides t his department not being sure of what there are doing, they think this subject is part of the sciences so they make you study the brain. If the brain gave you as much grief as it gave me in high school then perhaps you should reconsider.
Come to think of it, perhaps this is the perfect “easy credit” subject. If you can suffer through the section on your brain and its behaviour as well as the disorder in this department then all the other courses are pretty bearable. If you’re rather good at multiple guessing I mean, choice, then the class tests will be set for you! The only problem is that if you do not continue your degree at Rhodes, apparently other universities do not credit Rhodes University’s psychology 101 and 102. I wonder why?

Friday, October 24, 2008

To my University

Dear Rhodes,

You have been the victim of so much hate. People in Johannesburg sit at the breakfast table over Jack Daniels and beer and accuse you of being the drinking capital. I don’t think that‘s right or fair at all.

I almost didn’t come because I thought you would turn me in to a partying alcoholic, but that has not been the case. I’m happy to say that during our time together this year, I’ve learned how to be myself and simply say no. Yes, sometimes people made me feel like I was less of a person because I don’t want to have guys feel me up and breathe in secondary smoke at the clubs or bars that your surrounding town has to offer. I’ve learned to look passed those people and focus on the degree I came to get from you.

Next year it is my mission and my mandate to show first years that they are better people for choosing to stay indoors and do something they’ll enjoy and remember the next day. Serving on house committee is going to be fun and I promise to help those who’ll need the help as they enter the scary world of university.

You were right when you said that this is where leaders come to learn and I’m learning to lead the best I can by only exposing myself to that which will help me become a better graduate and a better person to lead others into their destiny as I walk in to mine.

Here’s to more memories,
Refilwe M

Objective and Subjective Considerations

Homosexuality and the rights of homosexuals is still largely a controversial issue that has caused a lot of debates, often very heated ones. A few issues need to be considered when we debate about issues of homosexuality and its place in society. One such issue is whether we should be objective or subjective in our approach and considerations, or perhaps we should incorporate a careful blend of both. In one of my posts called Response to Homosexuality I comment on an article posted by another author. Am I being subject or objective? It is difficult even for me.

This comment was first posted on where the author of the blog discusses similar issues.