Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

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Writing Pains

In Blog,Reflections,Updates on January 6, 2011 by Jim Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

As a development communicator, one of the most basic rules of writing that my mentors taught me was to think about your reader (this also applies to presenting anything whether orally or visually). In doing so, you’ll save time in explaining things or writing something that might sound alien to your readers.

As I’ve started writing my dissertation, I’ve always been guided by this principle, however, I’ve started to doubt myself completely as I’ve submitted drafts after drafts and my supervisors read it as vague. I was clear with what I wanted to do, I was clear with what I did and I was clear with what I wanted to say. However, it just came out off.

There were some concepts that I have mentioned and have explained briefly but I was asked to expound on them. Agreed. The next draft, it’s another story, any mention of the concepts had to be dropped and/or was asked to just explain briefly. I’ve documented the flow of discussions on the drafts but I just don’t feel that it is worth following some inconsistent recommendations. I felt it was my fault so I had to fix it. It literally feels like a roller-coaster ride.

I have stopped writing this month to reignite my passion also my body warranted to me to rest after I hurt my back seriously. I thought the rest will give me a fresh motivation and inspiration. I think I’m wrong, it just aggravated my anxiety.

On a positive note, I think I have learned to look at the big picture and be as detailed as possible. Oh and yes, read your draft before clicking that send button—you might be submitting an older draft instead of the new one. 🙂

Articles

Episode

In Blog,Reflections on September 15, 2010 by Jim Tagged: , , , , , , ,

I am now nearing the end of my journey and it’s a pity that I wasn’t able to religiously document my journey. The challenge of conducting this research project was so big that I had to take extra care in consuming time. I’m supposed to be a trained writer and while I do love writing, I do not have the gift of a story-teller and occasionally slip into blocks and “minor” challenges.

This morning, however, I had the shock of my life. I am not sure what to say or feel.

The day began early as I dropped off my wife to work 4:30am in the morning. I was trying to finish a chapter yesterday and actually slept while writing the draft. Obviously I was tired than usual when I started this day. I tried to sleep again to recover and proceeded to do my chores after I woke up. I prepped the kids’ brekky and picked-up wifey again from the early morning work.  The day was normal, I think.

Ten to 8am, I dropped off wifey to her second job. Drove off. I was about a kilometer from my wife’s work when I realised that I was thinking about what I was going to write today, the arguments, etc. That’s fine, isn’t it? But then I had this feeling of having a bucket of cold water poured on me when I realised that I was driving to uni already! I totally blacked out in the 1km that I was driving and didn’t realise what was happening or what I was doing. I prayed so hard to compose myself and made sure I was back to reality. I wasn’t even prepared to go to school yet!

I drove back home. I thought of visiting the health service. Resorted to just posting what happened online and a nurse friend told me that I had an “automode” episode when the brain processed things faster than usual. He said it was “normal” during stressful episodes.

Bittersweet? Yes but thank God I’m still sane.

Quotes

Maturity

Maturity is:

  • the ability to stick with a job until it’s finished;
  • the ability to do a job without being supervised;
  • the ability to carry money without spending it; and,
  • the ability to bear an injustice without wanting to get even.

Abigail Van Buren

Posted August 18, 2010 by Jim

Photos

Aussies love their lawn

Aussies sure love their lawn. Taken at Bush Court where students spend their free time or take their lunch or just bask in the sun.

Aussies love their grass

Tagged: , , , on March 26, 2010 by Jim

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Articles

Had I knew…

In Blog,Reflections on March 13, 2010 by Jim Tagged: , , ,

Being a student who previously studied in another Australian university has had its advantages—I knew what to expect. Well, so I thought. I was on a different program this time. I registered for an advanced graduate training that I felt like I’m a novice.

Things I know
Having a bit more package, i.e., a wife and three lovely girls, meant that I needed more preparation (and stress) than most students. In a gist, I’ll try to list some of the things that I know that a student (especially an international one with a family) needs to know:

Prior to registration, there were things that I’ve prepared way before I and my family actually travelled to Perth. Here is a quick rundown:

  • Secure your local driving license. Get an international driving license if it is not in English. A translation of your local driving license will usually suffice for you to drive around Perth.
  • Fund for a second-hand car.
  • Fund for house deposit and around three months rent. If you have a family, then the minimum deposit you’re looking at is around $800.
  • Buy a laptop.
  • If you come from a tropical country, buy as much winter clothes as you can. I found it cheaper to buy winter clothes in tropical countries—who’s crazy to don those three layer jackets in a tropical country anyway?!! 🙂
  • If you are privately funded then it is safe to set-aside around three-months worth living allowance otherwise a month’s allowance will suffice to get you by.

Accommodation

  • Research for a local migrant community group around the university. Chances are you might find an acquaintance or better yet a friend in the community. I was lucky enough that I have a friend who was also studying at the uni. Her landlord was kind enough to agree to my family staying with my friend temporarily.
  • Research in advance for real estate websites and prospective properties for rent.
  • Secure a letter of recommendation from the Uni’s International Office.
  • Secure a shortlist of accommodation that you like and secure an appointment for inspection within the first week of your arrival.
  • For a student with a family, searching a bit farther from the uni means a better chance for securing an accommodation.

On arrival

  • Don’t bring in any food and counterfeit goods.
  • Things that you need to secure right away:
    • Buy a car so you can get around house inspection appointments easily.
    • Meet your supervisor or representative from the uni’s international office
  • Register
  • Attend the uni’s orientation week. This is the best way to get to know the university and the services available to you.

University

  • Secure ID. This will be your tool to access the internet, print and other services.
  • Get your concession stamp for your public transport discounts
  • Locate the library and befriend the IT guys so they can have you set-up for your learning journey.
  • When taking the bus, research online first where you want to go. You can plan your travel online.
  • Transport cost is by hour/zone. You must know how long it will take you to travel to your destination, this will tell you how many zones and how much you’ll have to pay.

Community

  • Take a stroll and know where your local grocer is.
  • Locate migrants from your country, they are a source of local knowledge from where you can send money home to where you can buy imported goods and food from home.

Things I wish I’d known
The first time I was in Australia was back in 2004 and it was in the East Coast. While it’s been a while, there were things that I wish I’d known. For one, Quokka is one thing I wish I’d earlier known—finding almost anything is almost a breeze if you have your fresh issue of Quokka, which comes out every Thursday.

Accommodation

  • Real estate agents are prohibited from discriminating from families with (lots of) children but based on my experience, it is not always the case. I suggest that you find out which properties are being rented out by owners. These properties are relatively easier to secure although maintaining your relationship with the landlord is hard work.

On arrival

  • Don’t depend on the recommended bank by your sponsor or the uni, research for the best bank that suits your needs. All of the banks have online presence and comparing rates and products is easy if you have an internet connection.
  • Find out what telephone provider most of your friends are in. Depending on your preference, you can either go for a post-paid or pre-paid. I went for post-paid because of the free phone! But if you’re going for post-paid, be wary of your usage!

University

  • Join the orientation week especially the university tour.
  • Enroll or join the lectures on “Introduction to University Learning” TLC120 [http://www.murdoch.edu.au/units/tlc120]. I have never attended this but realized that I should have. This is good for students who just returned to studying after years of working or to students who are used to other systems.
  • Training and Learning Centre lectures and seminars on language and academic skills are very helpful. Make sure that you are able to attend when you sign up.
  • If you’re a postgraduate or graduate student, you might want to attend lectures that are of interest to you. Consult your supervisor first if this is allowed in your program. If you have a green light, contact the lecturer directly and seek permission to attend the lectures. They call this activity as ‘unit audit.’

Community

  • There are a number of Asian shop near Murdoch, the nearest is in Kardinya Shopping Centre.
  • The ‘biggest’ mall and nearest the uni is Gateway Shopping Centre in Success. Easiest way to get there is taking the Mandurah line and get off the Cockburn Station. If you want to see people from your country, chances are they will be in shopping malls on a Thursday night.
  • Most migrant groups have clubs; contact them ASAP so you won’t feel homesick.
  • Learn the local jargons and study how local pronounce some terms—this will help you in communicating with the locals. If it means mimicking Australian accents when your speaking, don’t be ashamed, it’s for your own (and their) sanity.

I reckon these are all the things that I would tell any newcomer. I would put in some things that some people might think are very simple but there are things that locals deem simple but for some foreign students, they are a big deal and needed to be learned. If you have any other questions, I will try to answer it if I’m able. 🙂

Articles

It is finished

In Blog,Reflections,Updates on February 25, 2010 by Jim Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Well, not so much.

I’m referring to my data gathering. I was away for about two months talking to participants of my research study in Cambodia and Laos. It was really nice to return in the field and do what I used to do–talk to farmers and probe how they communicate to people.

This is the hardest work I’ve done so far as I virtually became a one-man research team. I was the finance officer, note taker, research manager, interviewer, typist and since I have a translator, I was the assistant moderator. Despite some hiccups, I guess my data might be enough for me to earn me a degree.

A trader in Laos. They will eventually stop near the border and walk the animals to cross the border. Officials from the opposite border don't care much about permits as they have a big demand for cattle.

Initial Insights

There were a number of things that I’ve learned while I was in the field. I will only name a few and will not discuss them in detail here. Corruption is one of the roots of the continuing failure of policies in Southeast Asia–regardless if it is in politics, economy or animal health–it is bound to fail. Farmers were almost encouraged to trade illegally as they could not afford what some industry stakeholders are asking from them.

I was thought that development communication is participatory. However, at this stage, my belief that a purely participatory development communication can be achieved is being challenged. In a highly technical field such as animal health, giving stakeholders the freedom to participate in the decision-making might not be the way to go. This is just my first thought, I might be wrong, I might be right, I still have to think more about this. It is just one of the many reflections that I made in the field. Farmers, traders and other stakeholders, while possessing indigenous knowledge about animal health, will have to trust the technical knowledge of veterinarians how to address transboundary animal diseases.

Lessons learned

In a communication research, communication is of vital importance, no pun intended. Your translator could well mean your success or your failure. While I’ve learned this already in the first phase of my research, funding constraints however forced me to stick to my old practice of depending on my local partners to provide the translators instead of relying on a professional translator. This was a way of promoting ownership among the local partners, however, it also gave some unnecessary burden in the research that I have to blindly trust my local partners/colleagues on their judgment of who is a “skilled” English speaker among their staff.

Sometimes, excellent English skill is not that important as long as my translator, who also acted as the moderator during my research, is a seasoned moderator or someone who has extensive experience in talking to farmers or conducting focus group discussions. However, at some point both didn’t happen—satisfactory English skills and experience in FGDs/interviewing farmers. If that was the case, the FGD is not considered in the study.

Practical side

How about my family? Well, the family coped without me when I was in Cambodia last December as my father-in-law, who was visiting us from the Philippines, spent his last month in Australia. It was unfortunate that he was not given a waiver of the “no further stay” clause in his visa because he has no “compelling” reason to stay.

I was able to return to Australia by end of December just in time to spend New Year with the family. By second week of January, my father-in-law and I had to leave for Southeast Asia—I was off to Laos while he returns to Manila. Fortunately, my wife had enough leave credits that we were able to cope with the ‘partial loss’ of income. They survived almost a month without me, getting to summer activities and first week of school by public transport.

Articles

There is nothing beyond the reach of determination

In Blog,Reflections on October 6, 2009 by Jim Tagged: , , , ,

This has always been one of my life mottoes. I reckon that this will be the first thing that I would give to anybody considering Uni.

There is nothing beyond the reach of determination

I came from a developing country where education is becoming a privilege rather than a right. To be given this chance to pursue further studies abroad is beyond privilege, it is a blessing.

I do not belong to the well-off strata of Philippine society but I guess my determination to get to where I want to go is part of the reason that I’m here. My properties consist of small items and nothing major—no real estate, not even a decent car back home. International students pay double the tuition fee compared to what their local counterparts pay here in Australia but thanks to the Partnership Scholarship of the Uni, my tuition fee is waived and I get to receive a very basic living allowance.

Studying is both a fulfilling and stressful phase in one’s life but I suppose most of us will agree that it is important in any person’s life—whether you do it formally or informally.

I remember missing the shortlist of a scholarship offered a few years ago but I was determined landing a spot and still hoped. Call it a miracle but one of the shortlisted candidates withdrew and the rest was history.

So, in weighing your options for college, assess whether you’re up to the challenge and will you be determined to overcome those challenges? If you see any current adversity, I suggest you see beyond that, while weighing seriously any implications of it on you, and pursue your goal. For those contemplating a PhD, you might want to read an earlier post I wrote.

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This is an entry for the Murdoch University Blogging Competition. If you like this post, please vote for me here.