And so the adventure continues: I am officially a student again.
Yes, it’s another undergraduate degree. But I’m OK with that. Because it is simply a tool for the credentials necessary to follow God’s call and go to Ethiopia. They (being SIM, an international Christian missions’ organization – see last year’s post) tell me I need a degree in an agricultural program, I find Goddard College, with their self-oriented and created curriculum and I am able to tailor-make my own plan of study within the Sustainable Agriculture course. They say jump, and I’m a Tigger.
But truly, it’s the right move, and it’s been a fast move! As of two months ago I wasn’t even seriously considering going back to school. I was trying to evade academia, actually, and count on God to change the Ethiopian government’s international worker standards (that’s legit, right?) Instead, He chose to give me a simple connection with Goddard at an art show fundraiser, stir my heart to start thinking about the possibilities of paying and arranging for school (as an added bonus, He even put the school in my backyard – I’m riding my bike 2 miles north everyday for the residency this week), provide some finances and a stellar internship program to complement the degree requirements…..and I’m off! Student ID card and everything (it’s even a decent picture.)
So here is where I’ll download on you some of the challenges and struggles of being an “adult learner” (per Goddard-ese) in the BAS program, as part of the UGPT umbrella, starting off at a L2 with 11 “dangling credits,” and having to orient myself to using the SIS, the LITS database and the APL protocol. You got all that right? Neither did I, and I’m in my third day of residency. (There are enough acronyms here to put the military to shame.)
First of all, something I already have a love/hate relationship with, is the ability to design my own curriculum. Instead of teachers, we have a faculty advisor each semester, who guides us and prompts us in our areas of passion, helping to streamline our focus and build a 15-credit-hour semester with material that we mostly seek out and prescribe ourselves. They provide narrative assessments of our work and progress, namely looking for how we are developing as a person and life-long learner. And though I came into the program with a pretty good selection of broad ideas I’m passionate about, whittling those down into titles and definite subjects is the hard part: sustainability as pertaining to agriculture and community life; indigenous farming methods, specifically in sub-Saharan Africa; faith-based approaches to poverty relief and social justice, and; cultural appropriation and sensitivity. While I do so appreciate the scope of independence I’ve been granted, it’s also a little unnerving to have so much freedom in designing my topics and study plan. (As an independent thinker, I still appreciate having a ‘box’ from which to gauge whether I’m inside or outside.)
Just like you after reading these few paragraphs, my brain is fried, my eyes are bloodshot and I’m fighting for windows of time to deflate and process. And we’ve only just begun.
Here’s to 5 more days of residency as the semester kicks off. Here’s to books on my night stand with titles like,
“Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples,” and
“Research is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods,” and
“When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself.”
Here’s to Ethiopia. Here’s to Goddard. Here’s to God.