Friday, July 31, 2009

Someone find the Ocarina of Time...

Four hundred ninety-five thousand
Three hundred minutes,
Four hundred ninety-five thousand
Moments so strange

Four hundred ninety-five thousand
Three hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure an exchange?

In school days, in beach trips, in hair length
In mountain crossings,
In meters, in petrol, in tramps, tours, or sights

In four hundred ninety-five thousand
three hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life?

How about love? How about love?
How about love? Measure in love

Families with love
Families with love

Four hundred ninety-five thousand
Three hundred minutes
Four hundred ninety-five thousand
Places to stay,

Four hundred ninety-five thousand
Three hundred minutes
How do you measure the life
Of a student who’s away?

In days they revelled
Or in times that they cried
In lies they dispelled
Or the things that they pride

It's time now to sing out
Tho' the story never ends
Let's celebrate
Remember a year in the life of friends

Remember the love
(Oh you got to, got to)
Remember the love
(Remember the love)
Families with love
(Measure measure your life in love)
Families with love
Families with love

Yep, that's a mutilated song for you. As I sit here in my final full day, I look back on what things I've done while I've been here. While at first it seems like things have only been going on for maybe a few weeks, after looking back, I've actually done quite a bit of stuff. From working at the Rally New Zealand to giving an extremely unpopular speech to my school peers, I've done many different things. I've made friends, made mistakes, attended events, dispelled U.S. misconceptions, and have seen a huge variety of different people. I consider myself lucky that I got to be with 5 different families, who all seem to have different styles of life. I've had some nice laid-back time with the Jackmans and Gibsons, combined with more active and outdoorsy lifestyles of the Kellys and Cooks, and I've always had a moment's reprieve with the Taylors before going into a new style of living. So, I'm betting many people will wonder if I've changed or not. Personally, I don't know. I leave the final decision of whether I've changed or not to you, my readers (and you non-readers too) who haven't truly seen me in person (Skype doesn't count, hehehe) since I've left.

I've gotten my trusty school transcript (4 copies, actually), my NCEA exams, and my online math backing me up so I don't have to repeat a school year. I've got my flights all arranged, and I'm excited to spend that 18 hours or so of time in the air. And when I arrive back, I have no doubt I'll find unexpected changes to people and places back home. Apparently my school now has a new principal (yet again), my old school has new buildings that would be fun to visit, and I've got family and friends to catch up with (not like anyone expected anything different). I'm also looking forward to going back into normal things that I do back home, like fencing and actually challenging schoolwork (yes, I'm actually looking forward to that). Of course, I've still got a good month to fully return to the U.S. style before school starts, so I have a good bit of time to fully adjust.

I'd like to thank all of you people who have read my blog from any point in time, whether from your own accord or my constant persuasion. I'd also like to thank the AFS Waikato South chapter for hosting me and working to make sure I didn't change cities in the middle of my exchange. And even though they already know this, I would also like to greatly thank my families that I've been with while I've been here. Without host families, exchanges aren't possible. No matter how good the program, everyone always needs loving families to stay with, to treat you as their own child or sibling, and to help you live in a foreign environment. It's these families that make exchange programs the experiences that they are. If you were in a hotel, you'd be living like a home country citizen in a foreign country, and you would miss out on more than half of the things that make an exchange like this so memorable. So thank you, my 5 families in New Zealand, for making my exchange the experience that it was.

Yet, even though I'm heading back, the path for me, the ambassador, is still not over. Re-entry can be just as hard as first arrival, but I think that with the experience I have behind me, I'll have the ability to handle it quite well. I'll be seeing many of you readers once again pretty soon, probably wishing something along the lines of...

"Good morning! But in case I don't see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night!" -The Truman Show

P.S. I'll still post a while after I arrive back, with various things like pictures and my feelings as I re-adjust to U.S. life.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Contradicting Cases Concerning Conclusions

Sorry I haven't posted in a long time, but there hasn't been any single big thing to merit a post so far. But as I'm now in my final month, I believe now is a good time. But before I get to the title topic, I need to just talk about the entire second term at Fairfield College. Luckily, it's not like a ton happened.

If I had to sum up the main points of term 2 in an annoyingly simple poem or whatnot, it'd be this...

Speeches are fun
while camp's expensive,
so many days off
make me apprehensive.

Those are most of the points of the things that happened at Fairfield this past term. But because I'm evil, I won't even cover those yet! Instead, I'll go chronologically. Anyway, the beginning of term started with me starting to think about getting my final grade sheets together, as well as meeting a few other exchange students (Japanese, w00t!). However, those thoughts were quickly shoved aside as the entire swine flu (ahem, sorry, now I mean H1N1) fiasco started. For those of you that don't know how big New Zealand's role was, it was important because some students at Rangitoto College, a school that was nowhere near Hamilton, had come back from Mexico, and they had this particular strain of influenza. Soon afterward, a primary school nearby had to close for a week on advice of the Ministry of Health, because a moderate amount of their students had gotten the virus. Rumors were flying frantically around Fairfield about whether we'd be closed as well, but we never did. Our teachers set plans for what would happen IF we had to close, students always joked that whenever another student was absent, that they had swine flu, and classes sometimes got eaten up just talking about the virus and its progress around the world. However, it eventually died down, just as any other thing would, even though it was constantly reported on the news.

Now I'll come to one of the four points I mentioned: No school days. I'd say half of the weeks in the term had a day off at one point or another, and on one week, I actually only had 2 days of school. That was due to having no school on Monday, then I personally didn't have school as I went to the Waikato University Law Student for a Day program. I actually found most aspects of the tour quite interesting, and that's part of the reason why over this term break I'm planning to go watch some random trial. I also got a free shirt (jeez, got one at Global Game Jam seems that every time there's an event at Waikato University that I attend, I seem to get a free shirt), free chocolate, and a bunch of random souvenirs, including one faulty flash drive that for some reason could only hold 8 MB, and didn't even work on any computer that I tested it on. Anyway, I then had school on Wednesday and Thursday, but on Thursday a combination of burst water pipes and a drug bust made Fairfield close for Friday. Probably one of the luckiest (or in some ways, unluckiest) combination of events in one school week that I've ever had. The later weeks also had teacher-only days, so we kept having constant 3-day weekends. Now, while that's good in terms of not having to do schoolwork (Not like I ever get much here), it does cause problems for me because I'm already worried about whether these classes will actually help me in school back in the US. All of these no-school days slowly eat away at the time I have here to learn.

Now, I'll go to the next chronological point: That line "while camp's expensive," has to do with my PHD class. If you remember from a previous post, that was the class where I did kayaking. Well, in the second term, we no longer got to do that as it was getting colder, and we had to move to a new topic anyway. We started out with a short unit on sports and its effect on society, but we then quickly moved into risk management. The highlight (for most of the class, AKA mainly just not me) of the unit was the fact that there was a camp near the end of the term that students who wanted the credits for the unit would need to attend as well as take a normal written test to show that they knew good risk management skills. I wouldn't have minded going on camp (as they had rapelling, rock climbing, and kayaking), if it wasn't for 2 things: 1, it would have cost me a good 115 NZ$ if I remember correctly. At this time, ever since my south island trip I've been trying to be as frugal as possible, and that camp would not be good for my wallet. 2, the camp took place during the school week (Wednesday to Friday), so I would miss days in classes, which could be crucial to understanding certain topics. With both of these reasons at my disposal, as well as the knowledge that PHD was probably the only class that wouldn't transfer in any helpful way, I decided not to go on camp. The reasons were good for all parties, and everything worked out fine...if it wasn't for the fact that the week that they went on camp was the week I had 2 days at school, so instead of getting 2 extra learning days, I only had one extra day in my classes (they left in the afternoon after school, so we would still have class on Wednesday). Though, according to some of my friends, the camp was a moderate disaster anyway, and the place that they went to I had already gone to with the Cooks, so I wasn't too worried about it.

Next point! Speeches! The speeches were no doubt my favorite part of term 2. Our English classes required us to give a speech to the rest of our class, trying to persuade the class in one direction on a topic of our choice. Now, I had a lot of fun with this, as did my best friend here, as we thought our topics that we picked were absolutely hilarious (to us, anyway). My friend's topic was why people should hate him (which another one of my friends said "shouldn't be too hard to pull off", as my friends and I weren't exactly the most popular students at Fairfield), and my topic was "Why Fairfield College needs Improvements in Homework". Now, you may be wondering, why did I choose this topic of all things? I had a couple of reasons. First, I thought it would be hilarious to infuriate nearly my entire English class against me (as many didn't like me due to my active class participation), but I also believed that the improvements that I had proposed would actually help Fairfield students in the long run. I had the idea when I was thinking about Fairfield's homework compared to Allderdice's (which, if you remember, is like 15 minutes at Fairfield, while having 3 hours or so at Allderdice). I first was joking about it to my friends, but I ended up sticking with it as I actually could form quite a good argument. Unfortunately, our time for giving our speeches kept getting delayed due to all of the no school days, so it took an age and a half before I could finally deliver my speech. I had a lot of fun saying it, even though it was 7 minutes long, and I ended up only being like 1 tiny thing off of an Excellence grade, which would have been the only one in the class I believe. Either way, it turns out that I'm in the SPEECH FINALS! The speech finals are where the 2 or 3 best speech-givers in each 12ENG class all give their speeches to the ENTIRE YEAR 12 POPULATION. Basically, I get to say my unpopular speech to over 200 different students, some who know me well, others who have never heard of me. Some would call it proverbial suicide, I just call it fun. There's also a chance that my friend's speech (which, like mine, got Merit) may be in the finals as well, and that would be really fun to listen to as well (he loves saying his speech, as it's absolutely hilarious and annoying). So, the speech finals I'm hoping will take place before I leave Fairfield.

Which leads me into my title topic, the contradicting cases concerning conclusions. What does this annoying alliterative sentence mean? Well, my mind's split into two sides: One that is excited for me to get back home, another that is quite apprehensive about leaving. Many would call that normal, but I'm posting about it anyway to share my personal thoughts. First, from the side that is excited: The main aspects that are good about me coming back home is that I can finally actually see many of my friends and family once again. While I've had more friends here in NZ that read the blog than friends back in the US (Friends, not family, I know my family's reading), I'm pretty sure that most of them haven't forgotten that I exist. I've been keeping in contact with some of my closest friends, and it'd be great to actually see them again. I also have actually found that I appreciate Allderdice's much stricter system in school, because I've found that most aspects of Fairfield (basically everything except for the necessity to go outside to move between classes) have made my academic ability worse. The classes here are much easier even though my age would have put me in them, my procrastination has been getting worse and worse (something tells me my parents are going to read me the riot act on how I am the one who controls that =P, yeah I know but it's hard to motivate myself when the work does nothing to help me and is forgotten by everyone, including the teachers), there is little discipline in many of my classes, and I really find that having 2 lunches actually isn't really necessary. I'd also just like to see my pets again too, not just my friends and family, hehehe...

Now for the apprehensive side: The school here has not been very helpful on many fronts for my education, and I'm in the middle of an online math class to avoid repeating 11th grade. The system for grades here is also drastically different, as the only real grades that seem to exist here are those for NCEA internal and external assessments. While I have not had problems on most of the internals, if you remember, I took the external assessments after only being here for 4 months. I couldn't do most of the assessments, and I failed half of them. Will my university hopes be destroyed because of the school change on my exchange? Due to my own academic problems at home I already was in a somewhat precarious situation (at least I think so), and having unfair time for assessment preparation is not helpful when I'm trying to get the 11th grade year equivalent. I don't want this exchange to turn into a university disaster. Also, many things that have changed about me I most likely won't notice. I don't know how I'll have changed in the eyes of others, but that is probably just me being pessimistic, as I don't think any changes will have been bad.

Those sides of me have been arguing over the past week or so, and they'll continue over this 2-week term break and the last 2 weeks of Fairfield that I have. How I'll feel when the final day comes, I don't know.

That's the end of the official post, but just as a little extra, you might be interested in what improvements to Fairfield's homework I outlined in my speech. For those of you that actually like reading the blog, feel free to read on. If you're only reading this post because I or someone else actually managed to persuade you to read a post (which is extremely unlikely), feel free to stop now.

There were 3 improvements to Fairfield's homework that were outlined in my speech.

First, that there needs to be a bit more of it. Why? Homework is a symbol of many jobs in the world, as quite a few have some sort of deadline for some sort of work that you can't do during your normal hours. Homework can also help many people understand a topic better, and for those who are going to a university, more homework more often can allow you to be better prepared for the upcoming workload that universities will no doubt have.

Second, it needs to be more important to people's grades. There's no point having homework if no one will do it, and if not doing homework leads to not getting credits, that will definitely motivate many people (not all, but many) to do their work. Also, later in life, if you decide not to do the work at your jobs, then you'll most likely get fired. Having more motivation in school will make you more motivated when you leave.

Third, the homework itself needs to be of better quality. This can be done in 2 ways (not options, but both need to be implemented): First, tie the work in to the notes. Many students at Fairfield seem to have different times for doing homework and studying notes FOR THE SAME CLASS. That makes no sense, as homework should reinforce the notes. Some students even need to learn new things in their work, which is also illogical. Second, the work needs to cover all topics covered in class. If multiple topics were covered in class, but only one topic was covered in the homework, the other topics will be wiped out of the mind like dry erase marker off of a whiteboard. If only one topic was covered, make the work shorter to cut down on the mindless tedium while keeping the helpful repetition. These would cut down on total time that students spend doing work.

Well, those are the improvements that I put in my speech. Now, one last thing on a much more serious note.

Even though I'll be doing this as well on my last post, I'd like to thank all of you readers for actually reading the things that I have written. But this note isn't for those people, it's for the ones who don't. I made this blog so my friends could see what an exchange was like, and so they could know what I've been doing. But it seems that over these past 10-11 months, most of my friends haven't even bothered looking at a single sentence of what I've written. I know my posts aren't that interesting in some places, but I put hours of time into writing these. Lack of time is an excuse that is only valid for one person. The rest have no excuse whatsoever. Even if they just read a few sentences, then that's fine. But so many people have treated my writing similar to that of some types of school reading: Something not to be read, but to get a small summary from someone who actually bothered to look through it. But in this case, there are so few sources of that information that people just don't know anything. I know that people shouldn't care about everything that happens to me, but it has been really hurting to see that many of the people I consider friends couldn't even spend a second reading about what has happened with me here. I've managed to speak a little with some of my friends, and they've said often that they have nothing to do. Yet even with nothing to do, they can't bother to read even a small bit of a single post. As I said earlier in the post, I have more friends in NZ than I have in the US who are reading my blog. Family doesn't count, I know that my family reads my blog often, and I'm happy for that. But I truly have very very few friends back in the US who will actually read about my time here. Because of that, I have refused to talk about my time here to anyone who hasn't read the blog, with a single exception for which the excuse of little time actually fits. I actually probably will not talk about it even when I get back until they read something at least.

That's all from me now. That last bit some might call emo or something, but that's just truly how I feel. Thanks for those who are actually reading.