Sunday, September 30, 2018

Grades, Grad School, & Goals: Studying Abroad in Germany

Usually this is the time of the month when I post a book review, but alas, I haven’t had the time to discover many new books lately. In fact, not long ago there was a period of two weeks where I read a grand total of twenty pages. *gasp* Was I dying? Yes, I was. I blame school and work. Note to self: don’t work two jobs and take six credit hours and then invite a friend over to visit. It’s a trap! Somehow, I’m still alive.

When I was a kid, I used to calculate how long it would take me to get out of school. If the average student finished high school at eighteen, and college lasted four years, I should be done by twenty-two. As it turns out, my life took another direction. I didn’t stop after my undergraduate, and now I’m studying for my Masters of Business Administration (M.B.A.), my second graduate degree. And when I say I’m studying abroad, I’m actually studying at an American university this time. I just happen to live overseas.

I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a degree-chaser though. There are days when I get tired of schoolwork and academia and want to light my Writer’s Reference book (the one with all the formats: APA, MLA, etc.) on fire. But as I’m anti-book burning—no matter the book—I will happily watch it collect dust after graduation instead.

Just kidding! I’ve been thinking about going back for another degree. (Maybe I am a degree-chaser?) This time, I’m thinking about a PhD in library sciences. I just have so many questions. Why the Dewey Decimal System? How is it decided whether a book is deemed a classic and placed in nonfiction or still a classic and place in fiction? How can I help budding readers discover the joy of reading?

There are so many things to learn!

That being said, here are just a few things my M.B.A. has taught me:

Not everybody knows what M.B.A. means.

Me: I’m studying for my M.B.A. 
Person: Cool! What’s that in? 
Me: …Business. 
Person: Oh. Pretend I didn’t just ask that. 
(An actual conversation I had.)

I listed it above, but I’ll repeat it—M.B.A stands for Masters of Business Administration. As a military brat, I’ve had to explain that a commissary is a grocery store, and as a writer, I’ve had to explain that Deus ex Machina is the ending of a book that’s solved too easily by some greater force. Academia also has its own lingo.

I don’t care about grades anymore.

When I said this to one of my classmates, she just stared at me like I sprouted another head. But it’s true. After studying in England, where receiving 50 out of 100 is a pass, I’ve learned that it’s not so much the number but rather the learning experience that counts. Instead of focusing on achieving a grade, I try to focus on learning something new, whether it’s how to input finances into an Excel spreadsheet or how to confront an obnoxious classmate about inappropriate behavior.

It’s okay to change career directions.

I started my M.B.A. with the mindset that it would help me in the writing industry. Then, I wanted to start my own editing company. Now, I’m considering opening my own bookstore. I had, in fact, mentioned this final idea to one of my friends when I first visited Oxford. We were walking along the River Thames, watching the horses trot across the fields and the weeping willow branches sway across the water and talking about our dreams and all the possibilities we could achieve.

Things changed when I started my M.A. in English Literature. I moved to England to learn about stories and dragons, and I did. But I also learned about how hard it is for bookstores to survive today. I watched one of the bookstores on one of my college’s campuses close for a while. On Easter Break, my family and I visited Naples, where we got to walk along via San Biagio dei librai (“Saint Biagio of the book sellers’ street”), a street once famous for having hundreds of bookstores but now has only a few. At school, I borrowed most of my books from the library and bought the copies I wanted on Amazon or at the school bookshop.

I wondered how independent bookstores today could survive.

Then, I figured it was time to move onto something more practical than a bookshop and nearly let my dream die.

Just this semester, during my class on marketing, I did one of my projects on Barnes & Noble and remembered how much I liked the idea of starting up a bookstore. So I’ve switched from editing, though I still enjoy it, back to planning on running a bookstore of my own. I spent way more time on one assignment than was probably necessary, researching and writing a detailed marketing plan. While I probably could have saved more time and submitted a less-detailed assignment, I wanted to know what I was getting into.

I didn’t just complete the assignment for the sake of doing the assignment. I did it for my future business endeavors. During my research, I even came across an article that explained how independent bookstores in the United States aren’t actually dying out: “How Independent Bookstores Have Thrived in Spite of”

That’s when I came to realize I can do this. I can start up my own bookstore.

This past year has been quite busy! While I haven’t had nearly as much time to read lately, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Now that I only have one class left, and I’m done with one of my jobs, I can get back to reading and writing regularly.

If you happen to find yourself confronted by a dream that seems impossible or implausible in the world today, may I just encourage you with the lyrics from one of my favorite songs:

Every night I lie in bed
The brightest colors fill my head.

A million dreams are keeping me awake.
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see.
A million dreams is all it’s gonna take.
A million dreams for the world we're gonna make.
(“A Million Dreams,” The Greatest Showman)

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Let’s chat! What about you? What’s your dream? *cue music from Tangled* What have you done to pursue it?


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