Yesterday, my friend Ezra and I put the finishing touches on our application to teach our ExCo (Experimental College) class on Experimental Typography for a second time. It was easier this time around; all we had to do was update the syllabus, update our budget request, and complete the short application from the ExCo committee. No faculty recommendations, no interviews this time. It really couldn’t have been easier. That is, unless we were on the same continent.
I’ve been running into this problem a lot recently—vast intercontinental divides between me and whatever project it is I am currently working on—but I guess it’s my own fault. For the last nine months I have been studying in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
I should probably start out saying that I love it here. Really, for a Hispanic Studies major, studying away is essential. I feel like I am leaps and bounds better at Spanish than I was a year ago. I’ve tried the whole immersion thing at Oberlin, too, but believe you me, it does not match what they have going on here in South America.
Now that I’m nearing the end of my two semesters in Argentina, I am starting to plan my return to Oberlin. I never thought coming back would be as hard as going away, but I now have before myself a slew of preparations that need to be made so that upon my return I don’t find myself (a) homeless, (b) unemployed, or (c) officially withdrawn from Oberlin College. Somehow, I also thought it wise to throw in the ExCo re-application. And I haven’t even begun to think about my travel arrangements…
The problem is basically this: Everything an Obie back in Oberlin would be doing at this point in the semester—registering for next semester’s classes, registering for a Winter Term project, applying for housing for next year, celebratingwildly in Tappan Square—I have to do too. Plus, I need to apply for housing for next semester and find meaningful employment within the State of Ohio. All of that from a distance of approximately 8,718 kilometers (that’s 5,417 miles for those of you not using the metric system yet).
Enter the internets. Email has been my primary mode of communication with people in Oberlin since I’ve been away. Actually, slash that. It’s been my only mode of communication. And boy, am I ever thankful for it. In the past couple of weeks, I have sent approximately 8,718 emails* to various Oberlin parties trying to resolve these issues of utmost importance.
All of that emailing has paid off, though. My laptop keyboard is half-broken, and my neighbors now hate me for crawling up to my roof to borrow their wireless Internet so I can email people halfway around the globe (in English, nonetheless). Oh, and I also now have a place to live when I get back and I know what classes I’ll be registering for on Monday. (For those of you keeping track, that still leaves several items on my to-do list, but don’t worry, I’ve already got my people working on that.)
The bigger implications I can draw from all of this are threefold: First, college is hard; second, the Internet makes it easier; third, I still need a job.
Being in Argentina has also really put things into perspective for me; I have realized how fortunate we are to have such easy, high-speed Internet access at Oberlin. Truth be told, I feel a bit guilty for taking that for granted— it’s hard to come by here, as is the case in pretty much all of Latin America**. I promise that when I return, I shall stop wasting Oberlin’s generous bandwidth by downloading free RIAA merchandise and instead use it for something more productive like Twittering.
And lastly—to return to Experimental Typography—Ezra and really I should be used to working out our vast geographical differences by now. A year and a half ago, when we were first planning the course, we were on different continents too, except I was the one in Oberlin and he was overseas on the Oberlin-in-London program. I bet you he’s reading this right now thinking, “Duh, Chris, I could have told you all of that months ago.”
**I’m not just assuming that. I researched this issue a bit last semester.
This is a photo of where I sit on the roof to check my email using the neighbor’s wireless network. If you’re wondering why it’s a little dark, it’s because I only go up there at night so that the neighbors can’t see me.
If you’re curious what else I’ve been up to in Buenos Aires aside from pretending I’m in Oberlin, check out my other blog at gollmar.org. I’ll undoubtedly be writing more about my study abroad experience here, too.
Also, this isn’t the first time I’ve written about my ExCo class. If you haven’t already checked it out, head over to the Oberlin Stories website. There, you can read the über-short story I wrote about the class. (Hey, if you’re a current Oberlin student or alum and just happen to be reading this, you might even want to submit your own story!)