No Study Break

It has only taken me five minutes of sitting in the library to realize that going to graduate school was the right choice for me. To some of my friends, the idea of jumping back into the world of endless reading lists and long days spent in the library four months after graduating seemed unappealing, and they went off and got jobs. I went back for more. Oxford’s Social Science Library is so much like the library in Wallace Hall that I’ve had to take off my headphones to listen to the English accents of the librarians in order to remind myself that I’m actually in a new country.

To some extent, I do wish that I was actually doing something to actively help the world, volunteering abroad or working at a non-profit. Being back at school feels a bit like hypocrisy: I’m embracing my privilege to do things that interest me, rather than harnessing it to help others. But when you can actually get excited about sitting down to read pages and pages of texts on qualitative research methods, or when searching for an assigned text on development economics you wish you could read the whole shelf, you realize that maybe staying in academia was a good call.

One thought on “No Study Break

  1. While it may be the biggest downer in modern culture to have your Dad leave a comment on your blog, I can’t resist!

    The love/hate relationship with America has been around for years! Having been in Peru as a Peace Corps volunteer during the Vietnam War with kids yelling “Gringo, Baby Killer,” juxtaposed with a group of Andean musicians asking me to sponsor them to move to the US; and having been everywhere in Latin America where people ask why everyone in America carries a loaded gun and believing we are all in constant danger of being shot on the street, then suggesting we help their son move to the US to become a tycoon; this whole business of indignation over America’s faults and simultaneous desire to enjoy our successes (and excesses) is very real, puzzling and at times vexing. The interesting thing is to measure our response to it. It is easy and sociable to pile on and join the critical chorus; it is hard to defend the US and its often absurd and selfish policies. Don’t know the answer to that!

    It is useful, too, to add the cultural variable in the way people from different countries and cultures talk about politics and society. Many people from other countries enjoy spirited and contentious political debate more than Americans do. Generally in the US we talk with our friends, like to agree, and avoid nasty political disagreements at the dinner table, in restaurants, or in social gatherings. Not so with many other countries. Where like to be nice and agreeable in social situations, many others, especially Europeans love a good political argument, love to show indignation, but also hold no grudges. It’s also interesting to note that we may ascribe more importance to a particular phrase or comment than the speaker intends. For example, the “Death to America” comment common in the Middle East is constantly overplayed in the US and may not reflect an actual desire to bring America down. If an Iranian taxi driver gets cut off in traffic in Tehran, he also blurts out “Death to …(whoever has offended him).” It’s a figure of speech.

    I once asked a US diplomat why everyone in the world paid so much attention to the US when our policies were so screwed up toward them. His answer, “Because they have to.”

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