Ah, the smell of ink on paper, of pencils and erasers and new books. Every fall I feel an intense nostalgia for "back-to-school", even though most years (all but one, so far, in fact) I am going back to school, myself. But it doesn't have the same feel to it as it did when I was ten, and I would go "school clothes shopping" (remember that?) and I had a new backpack, and a ruler, and glue. Man, I wish glue were still on my school supplies list. I still have like 4 sticks at all times, just in case.
But going back to college--to graduate school, no less--has a much different feel than starting 5th grade. My first day as a MA in literature student felt so far removed from even my first day at Western. I feel so different from the terrified faces of freshmen that I see wandering around campus. In so many ways, though, I am so similar. I am terrified. I am afraid of this strange campus that is laid out nothing like the one I am so familiar with. I am afraid to go get coffee, to go to the gym. I am too scared to set foot outside of Hamilton-Smith, the English department's building. Luckily, due to class arrangements, I rarely have to, though I still must brave the treacherous walk to the bus stop down the street. It feels awkward to be asked to re-acquaint myself with college culture--not only because I have been away from academia for a year, but also because I am stubbornly attached to my alma mater. There's no place like home, there's no place like home.
I could spend hours ranting about Dover, New Hampshire, and this backwards little University I've found myself in (we are required to wear T-shirts at the gym, no tank tops allowed, the buses only come once an hour and then sometimes there are two or three hour long gaps necessitating 8 hour days on campus, and I actually have to specifically request to receive a financial aid check), or extolling the virtues of that blessed haven of scholars in the Pacific Northwest (um, no need. I think you all know, Bellingham is perfect bliss...). But I suppose, like in Perpignan, it took a while to come to love even Bellingham's quirks. I'm not saying I ever grew to adore the dog-poop littered sidewalks in France, or the scary meth-heads that haunt that specific corner of Railroad. But I didn't immediately know my way around Western's campus, and it took time to find my favorite restaurants and coffee spots. And while I don't feel the immediate connection I felt upon my arrival in Bellingham, I am hopeful that I'll be able to walk from the university bookstore to my office without having a coronary soon.
This semester is shaping up to be a doozy (I think that's what happens when you spend the previous academic year having 8 hours of responsibility per week...), and unfortunately a not altogether pleasant one. I am required to take a graduate theory course, and this year's is themed around feminist theory and 19th and early 20th century women's literature (I'll be the first to admit, I actually hate women's literature and feminist theory. GASP!) and then my second course is a pedagogy class tied to my freshman composition class that I am teaching. Next spring should bring some courses that I actually have a vested interest in.
Teaching is a sweaty affair. I am not joking--I sweat more teaching freshman composition than I ever have in my whole life COMBINED. I really, really hope they don't notice. In the first week alone, I have achieved two things: 1. Giant sweat stains under both of my arms, during both class periods and 2. Covering my black skirt in chalk dust. I am on a roll. In all honesty, though, the teaching is going rather smoothly. The students seem talkative and receptive--and while they aren't presenting bright and shiny faces ready to learn everything, ever!, I don't think anyone has yet told them that freshman composition isn't a fun class. I've already got some gems of student writing, but I am little unclear about the ethics of posting that writing on the internet for all to see. If you're interested, see me after class in my office, Hamilton Smith, room 320.