Would you call me a “downer” if I were to say sometimes studying abroad feels “normal?” Sometimes you’re just studying, in your room, while it’s raining outside, listening to music that doesn’t care where you’re sitting. You might be in New Zealand, a country that some people couldn’t even point to on a map. You might be studying notes in Albert Park, sitting underneath a gigantic palm tree — can’t do that in Minnesota — but you still get restless, distracted by shirtless frisbee players or sketches of the skyline in front of you. You might have seen some spectacular visions, have grown accustomed to smells and places you’d never seen before. But that’s just it: you grow accustomed.
I don’t have any lectures this week: I have my final exams starting Monday. I noticed most of my American classmates are sliding into midterms, whereas I’m half a term ahead. It’s nice, but for me, outside that paradigm of being “ahead,” it’s just another study period. The apprehension for my exam on Pacific Arts isn’t remarkable because I’m to study a subject that was hitherto unknown to me. Neither are the subjects in biology entirely unique to this region. My third exam will be philosophy essays, which excites me rather than petrifies me. That’s a feeling I’ve known before, too, though far away from here.
So that’s the thing about school. It sort of transcends place.
That very “sameness” of academia is one of the things I’ve always loved about it. I know quite well how to study, and I find that comforting. I’ve had the misfortune to have my uncle pass away last week while I was very far away from him and my grieving family. In my tutorial a few days later, my lecturer asked me if I would consider applying for some sort of special excuse from exams. I slowly replied, “No…because I think it’ll help. I understand studying.” Indeed, in the face of something I can’t understand – death, at a great distance – the familiarity of studying stands beside me, as a companion.
I have a few great things yet to look forward to here in New Zealand, in my last two dozen days or thereabouts. I eagerly await the arrival of my sister from Minnesota. She gets here the day of my last exam. We’ll then take off on a whirlwind tour of the country, making an attempt to show her everything I can in ten days. That means that this study period, with its ambiguity of place and its general lack of novelty, will soon come to an impressive end. I hope to spruce up my blog with some very Kiwi entries soon enough, but for now what’s relevant to my life is poring over biology lectures and the issues surrounding rank and status in Pacific art.