Finishing the year strong

Finishing the year strong

            Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone back home and around the world!


        Last Sunday officially marked the end of the semester thanks to completing my fourth and final exam.  Now that the holidays are here, I’ve had some time to reflect on all the crazy stuff that happened this semester and how I adjusted (am still adjusting) to the Ghanaian way of life.  A lot of you have asked me to give more details about my Masters program, so this post is dedicated to summing up the fall semester.
My graduate work here in Ghana has encompassed the most rigorous academic program I have ever taken on.  This semester I took five classes: Philosophy and Scope of Adult Education, Psychology and Andragogy, Management of Adult Education Organizations,  Education Research Methods, and a special topic paper.  I ‘crunched’ some numbers last night to help put my work and class assignments in perspective.  Of those courses, the assignments included:
10 papers 
5 group presentations
2 qualitative research (fieldwork) assignments
64 pages written (typed) for independent papers
48 pages written (typed) collectively for group papers
42 pages written (by hand) for exams
Total pages of final drafts completed for assignments and exams: 154 pages

My class notes strewn over an office table as I prepare for exams and stream Christmas jams on Youtube (I counted over 400 notes for Adult Psychology and Andragogy class alone) December 7, 2014.
Believe it or not, this approximation is pretty accurate.  The hostel was always too noisy to study in and the library too far to walk so the majority of my time each week was spent studying at my department.  I’d usually arrive around 9:00 on my mornings off from class and study until about 4:00 or 5:00 in the afternoon.  The Teaching Assistants would visit often to see how I was doing.  They would always say, “Sierra, you’re here all the time—are you sure you’re not working too hard?”  Or, “Sierra, you always seem to be the only one here—where are your classmates?”  I would think to myself, how in the world do I know where they are, am I their keeper?  But instead, I would simply respond that I didn’t know how anyone could successfully complete the course without putting in the hours I was putting in.  However, to their credit, I knew that some of my classmates were most likely studying somewhere on campus, working, or at home tending to their families.  

Handwritten notes from class.  McClusky’s Differential Psychology of Adult Potential
was my favorite unit, December 7, 2014
Out of the 14 graduate students in our department, only about three of us were unmarried and/or without children.  I remember the first week of class one of my professors went around the room asking everyone if they were married and how many children they had.  For each person who at least had a child he congratulated them.  I’ll never forget how I responded when it was my turn.  I said something like: I’m Sierra Nicole Butler, before I came here I worked in administration for a non-profit, and I’m a full-time student.”  He could tell that if he asked me if I was married with babies I was going to give a long explanation about how women can do more than be baby making machines.  He simply nodded his head and moved on to the next person!   I smiled to myself and mumbled “Good idea.”  I know that the volume of work for the program presented a challenge to me, but when I think of my classmates who were mothers, fathers,  workers, and teachers, it made me think that my lot wasn’t quite so bad.
  Fortunately, I was able to complete all of my papers before exams.  I was determined not to go into exam week with term papers hanging over my head.  And I was right to think that I needed all of my remaining strength for exam week.  Each exam began at 9:00am and lasted for three hours (one hour per exam question).  As I studied for my exams, I daydreamed of when it would be all over, of how I would run out of the exam hall, dance and do somersaults in the street.  But by the time I finished my last exam, turned in my booklet, gathered my belongings and walked out the door into the sunlight, I could believe it was over.  It was as if a weight had been lifted and I had been set free.  Walking down the street to the tro tro, the sun felt wonderful as it funneled through the tree shade and warmed my face.  I want to say I went home and took the best nap of my life, but I went to the mall instead to get some groceries for dinner first and then went home to fall asleep (some chore or responsibility is always around the corner rearing its ugly head).  Since that time, I’ve been extremely thankful to have rest after what has seemed like a much longer time than five months.

Bread pudding I made after exams.  When I took it to the chef at the hostel cafeteria to put it in the oven for me, he asked for the recipe so he could make it for his family over Christmas in Togo,  December 15, 2014.
Topped with being in a foreign land, learning a new culture, way of life, and everything that goes with it, needless to say that finishing the year strong was no easy feat.  Having half of my graduate program behind me is an amazing feeling.  Soon I’ll have to begin doing research for next semester’s research proposal, but for now that’s nowhere in my mind!  Next week, I’ll discuss spending the Christmas holiday with my host family and taking part in a most lively weekend.  Until then, happy holidays!

One thought on “Finishing the year strong

  1. Very proud of all you have accomplished thus far, that is quite a boatload of work you described. I have really enjoyed reading your posts and your dedication to keeping everyone informed. Have a very joyous Holiday season and relax as much as you can.

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