Studying the Online Way


[Image taken from ]

I said, ‘Hello’ to a new start as a uni student in my new city, Perth, a few weeks ago  and I didn’t think it had been that long since I was last at uni but a lot seems to have changed.

I’m doing some classes online this semester, which is a first, and I’m really enjoying it. I miss the face to face interaction but it’s kind of neat knowing that you are learning with a group of people scattered about the place.  I also like the freedom of when I study and where, tending to spend the days outside studying and listening to lectures.

Another thing I’m loving is the access to e-resources and the fact that so many textbooks are available online. I know that I’ve blogged about the this concept before, and my views were much keep the book and turn the page. I’m still very much a believer in the book, and will still choose a printed book over an e-book, but for textbooks it does make my life easier. I like the flexibility it brings, just like being able to choose where and when I study I get to choose the format of the text.

The only thing I really wonder about is if I’ve sat next to someone in my one and only internal, traditional, face to face lecture that I’ve conversed with at length on twitter or discussion boards. I wonder if switching from social media to real-life situations gets lost in translation.



Shouldn’t we celebrate the friendships we have?

Photo credit:
Photo credit:

As a wanderer, nomad, TCK, relationships are so important to me. We attach meaning to place but it’s the people, experiences and then the memories that help to create that place.  People move on and life changes. Life is in constant flux, so keeping those relationships can become hard, but I always wonder why.

Maybe, it’s because I love to write that I find it easy. Who knows? People are weird, we all know that whether we want to admit it or not. I think about the friends I’ve made along the way, those that I’m still in touch with and those who have dropped off the radar. I wonder if those who are no longer in touch wonder what I’m up to, or if they even think of me at all?

Where has this come from? I received an email the other day from my high school English teacher. Its been thirteen years since I graduated, but we have (sporadically) kept in touch, and I like that we have. He is someone who inspired me and, as an English teacher myself I hope that I’m having the same impact on some of my students.

I have friends scattered all around the globe, I don’t see them too often and I sometimes go months without hearing from them.  It doesn’t matter, because when we do finally get together, it’s like we’ve never been apart. That is the sign of a true friendship.

My friend who lives in London rarely keeps in touch. That’s ok, that’s the way it’s always been. Males are sparse with their communication at the best of times. That said, we both know that there’s a spare room available for the other and when we do hangout it’s like we just hung out yesterday.

I have a friend here, she lives down the road from me. We rarely see each other. Sounds ridiculous, but we’re both busy and also have different circles of friends. Sometimes when we try to arrange a dinner to catchup, it takes a month because of our busy schedules, but we manage.

Then there are the friends that I thought I was close to. The ones who didn’t manage to keep in touch.  Most of these are friends I had at Uni, our lives went down different paths. It’s these friends that make me realise, I was always different.  I’m used to moving away and keeping in touch, that was an unfamiliar concept to them. Or maybe we were friends of convenience?

People we meet, whether it’s a brief encounter or a long affair have an impact on who we are, shouldn’t we celebrate this?

Photo credit:
Photo credit:

Finding a Place to Belong

The changing face of Doha
The changing face of Doha

A friend of mine, obsessed with the Third Culture Kid, movement got me thinking the other day about identity and belonging. Although I am a TCK, I had never heard of this until a year ago. It was this friend that introduced me to the phenomenon, and when she did I finally realised that I had found my people!

Being a teacher, there are moments when I wonder how my students are getting on, and I don’t mean with their school work, I mean with life- living in a place that’s not their ‘home’.  I know that I coped, it was the best thing that could have happened to me, but I do look at some of them and wonder what impact being here, or being anywhere other than “home” is having on them.

When I was a little girl, I was very quiet, shy and had barely any friends. I remember hating school; doing PE would make me nervous, being asked to speak out in class would make me nervous; lunch time would make me nervous.  Everything made me nervous. Everything. I didn’t feel like I was good at anything, I felt like I never really belonged. I was on the outside looking in and I had no idea how to change that.

One day, my parents told me that we were going to move. Nothing too strange about that. But, we weren’t moving to a different town, we were moving to another country, a country that I’d never heard of. A country that my parents had never really heard of. We were moving to Qatar. Where?

Qatar. A place that is now on the global radar for many reasons…art, culture, sport, oil and gas, Al Jazeera… but when my parents told me and my brothers we had to get a map. I’ll never forget that. This is mostly because I didn’t know how to feel, it wasn’t like I was really leaving any close friends, but I was beginning to settle into the school I was in. At that time, in my opinion, it was simply bad timing on my parents part. How could they take me away from my school and my comfort zone to a country that no one had ever heard of? Ever.

In short, it was the best thing my parents could have ever done for me. For that, I’m eternally grateful.

Taking a quiet, shy girl out of the Scottish countryside and placing her in the middle of the arabian desert was the beginning of what I will call my awakening. Putting me in a transient community was what made me come out of my shell.  A group of kids who were used to friends coming and going were immediately accepting of me and wanted to be friends. This was a foreign concept for me. Immediately I belonged.

TCK’s will understand this, it’s hard to put into words how this sense of belonging came about. But, it did, and it was the start of me becoming me. So, when I look at my students as they sit in class doing their work I wonder how many of them are like me? How many of them will return in years to come because of a strange pull to the place, to find that sense of belonging.

The Lost Thing: Looking for a place to belong

I went to Melbourne recently and it was a bad idea going in the winter, it was freezing! Despite that, I had a great time and the Shaun Tan exhibition totally made up for the shivering!  The exhibition, which is still on, is about adapting his picture book “The Lost Thing” into a short film.

The Lost Thing Exhibition
“The Lost Thing” Exhibition
The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan
The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan

It might be a small exhibition but it was fantastic. There were a number of stations to listen to the process the team went through, from sound, to animation to capturing  the quirkiness of the protagonist. There were some really interesting sound bites and short interviews concentrating on the process of creating the animation.

I love the layout of the illustrations, there is so much to take in when  reading this book.
I love the layout of the illustrations, there is so much to take in when reading this book.

The short film is a fantastic adaptation (in my opinion!), and it some how makes the story all the more magical. It’s distinctly Australian; the narrator’s voice, the sounds of the trams and even some of the cityscapes placed me in an Australian city, but at the same time, there was still that air of mystery so that I couldn’t feel completely sure of my surroundings, or know exactly where I was. I don’t know how intentional that was, but I really liked that aspect of the production. It’s like mixing elements of the familiar with the unfamiliar just enough to throw the viewer slightly off balance.

Look at all the detail surrounding the text and main illustration.
Look at all the detail surrounding the text and main illustration.

One of the things I love about Shaun Tan’s stories and characters is that he is always looking at this idea of belonging. I love that in doing so, he often takes objects and things that are unfamiliar to  the reader as a way to explore the issue.  The layout of the pages also add to the theme of belonging or not belonging, as is the case with this story. The layers of detail on every page, is easy to miss when you first flick through the book but it doesn’t take long to realise that each page is filled with interesting information. It’s as though the text and illustrations have been stuck on to a text book or department handbook.

The Department of Odds and Ends
The Department of Odds and Ends- Perhaps this is where the missing teaspoons go and the odd sock….

The story is about a boy who finds a lost thing, a strange object that doesn’t fit in to society. He takes it home and tries to figure out what to do with it. We end up following him on his journey to help this object. We go to the Department of Odds and Ends in the hope that they will know what to do, but like all government agencies there are many forms to fill in and hoops to jump through! In the end the lost thing finds a place to belong, which reinforces that everyone needs to feel a sense of belonging.

I now wonder, if it’s the same for objects, all those everyday items that seem to go missing… Maybe my sock isn’t missing after all, maybe it went in search of something…maybe there’s an entirely different world that we don’t know about, just like in “The Lost Thing”, a place where misplaced objects can be free and happy. If only my teaspoons would leave a note before they left….