T-minus 13 days. Less than two weeks. I’ve been thinking recently about how I felt when I was two weeks away from arriving in Sweden, and those two weeks felt like the longest weeks of my life. Now, these two weeks feel like they’re going to disappear in my hands like fog if I try to grab them. Maybe that’s also because I have so many major papers to do in a very short period. Who could say?
It really is beginning to feel like the beginning of the end of my semester at this point. It’s been feeling like that for a month, but now classes are coming to a close, I’m starting to return my books, and I’m having final assignments thrown at me left and right! Now it’s impossible to deny: we actually do have to leave quite soon. How tragic. Also, the logistics of returning to the USA after being abroad for a not-insignificant amount of time I’m sure is normally difficult, but during pandemic times seems to be quite exacerbated. Remember way back at the beginning of this blog when I was complaining about all the papers I had to carry when leaving the US? Try coming back after a good amount of the general population has finally gotten vaccinated. It’s definitely a situation and a half to figure out. There’s also a big Swedish holiday the weekend that we’re leaving, so that certainly doesn’t make anything any easier. Whether or not you like it state of Washington, I’m comin’ for ya!
I wanted to take this post of my few blog posts left to give you a more academic insight into my time here at DIS, because I don’t think I’ve really done that much on this blog. I’ve written a lot about the fun and unique parts of taking classes at DIS, but I don’t think I’ve really written much academically about what it’s like to study at this program. At the close of my core course, let me earn my Whitman blog writing stipend and give you some academic thoughts.
One of the most interesting parts about studying at DIS, and I think actually the most giving, is the difference in credit weight than when taking classes back home. For me at least, in a general history class back at Whitman one earns about four credits, and for an upper-level class like I take, this usually includes several small writing assignments, quite substantive reading before each class, maybe a presentation or two, and a pretty major final research paper for each course. Here at DIS, most classes transfer over as three credits, and this translates into a more relaxed class environment in terms of papers and assignments. Of course I have quite a few projects (which I should be working on currently but blog is more fun), but compared to back home, I don’t spend hours upon hours in the library working on research and source collection. Classes, on average, are less work than they are back home.
But here’s why: learning at DIS certainly does not most often take place in a classroom. Of course taking physical (or online) classes in the DIS building is a big part of the experience, but I’ve also been to several different cities in Sweden, traveled all over the countryside, seen so many different old buildings, studied so many old rocks, that I couldn’t even recount them all if I tried. And if this were a more normal DIS semester, I would have visited different cities and countries in Europe as well throughout the term. Part of the learning is traveling, sightseeing, experiencing, and it’s truly integral to the DIS mission. The credit weights may be different, but it’s certainly just as much time/work as things would be back home. I don’t need to travel around Washington State every weekend visiting sights and places, because I’ve grown up there. Here, just taking a day trip out to the countryside to see some castles with my family is a learning experience.
Just this week, we finally finished up our World of the Vikings Core Course, and I was reflecting on my experience and what I’d learned over the semester. Besides getting to know an absolutely fantastic professor, I was able to apply my own historical process that I’ve acquired back home to an entirely new situation and geographical context and come out with so much. Not only did I learn some fascinating interdisciplinary theory about how to analyze the Vikings, but I was also able to experience firsthand the effects of that history, on the land, the people, and the modern state that exists within that historical context. I got to see places like Sigtuna, Uppsala, Gotland, and Öland that are direct links to this historical past, and that’s not an experience I often have with my ancient history studies in Walla Walla, Washington.
This all goes to say that I certainly will have a difficult time readjusting to having to sit in the library for 12 hours on a Sunday to get all my homework done and not being able to run off to an ancient cathedral for a day. That I truly will miss. The glimpse of another country’s academics that I have had over these past couple of months was certainly a breath of fresh air, and I like to think that it will revitalize me to go home and begin my last year of college. I haven’t exactly come up with a fantastic original and groundbreaking senior project idea yet, but I still have two weeks. And to Kim, Tess, and James, you all have made this absolutely wacko semester the absolute best! Definitely need to visit more Viking and medieval-themed eating establishments in the future to relive our experiences.
Oh also, I ran a half marathon today instead of doing my homework? Definitely not a part of the curriculum but very giving all the same.
Last week of classes this week! Final exams! Say it isn’t so!!!!