Sunday, January 27, 2008

confusion as a lifestyle

My first impressions of the VU were confusing (a feeling that stayed with me for several months). The information/orientation sessions though strangely uninformative did not curb my enthusiasm much. The meetings with the graduate adviser/department head (the department has not seen anything like a, *gasp!*, administrative coordinator/secretary in living memory), on the other hand, increased the confusion to worrying levels*.
In the coming months I was going to find that the VU as an institution of higher learning is not so much 'cutting-edge' as it is a place where your academic and professional future is balanced on the edge of the unknown.

Stay tuned for the structure of the academic year, grading system(s), professionalism of the professors, and the amazing story of the quest for the 'Bio' in the Insitute for Geo&Bio-Archaeology.


*Tip: if that happens, go to life-plan B, hanging around and hoping that the situation will be straightened out and your sleep pattern will return to normal are not the recommended activities.

Friday, January 25, 2008

welcome, new students

First, some introductions: we are four (at the moment) graduate students, all from different countries and educational backgrounds, who found the Geo-Bioarchaeology program at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and were intrigued. The web copy on the VU website was promising: this would be a two-year English-language master program with an interdisciplinary approach that combines geology and archaeology. It's a fairly new program in an expanding field, and at the end of two years jobs would be falling into our laps, we were told. Each of us, for our own reasons, tied up the loose ends of our lives and moved to Amsterdam to start the program.

Skipping ahead to now, halfway through the first year of the program, we're all a little wiser and considerably more frustrated. Part of it is that the Dutch education system is different—in myriad ways—from what each of us has been used to. Another part of it is the Dutch attitude toward organization and information distribution. And another part of it is the increasing realization that very little about this program is as it was advertised.

We're not here to rant, or to complain, or to rail against the people who are making our experience more frustrating than it should reasonably be. We may do a bit of that—sometimes it's hard to hold back—but the main purpose is to lay out, as objectively as possible, some of the stories that illustrate what it's like to be an international student at the Institute for Geo and Bioarchaeology under the direction of Henk Kars.

We weren't told the whole story when we decided to come here; since the IGBA isn't going to disclose everything to prospective students, we will.