Thursday, September 21, 2006

back to school

I am aware that my blogs all over the place - birds to headaches to pirates... this reflects my life. I swing between topics, between passions, between jobs and crises. I'm constantly coming up with new projects - many of which fall by the wayside as new ones take their place.

It was partly because of this swinging, this tendency to have too many irons in my weak fire, that I decided to narrow my focus for the next couple of years.

Each September, as leaves turn gold and red, the breeze chilly, I would turn envious of the students going back to school. Even in my university years, I never got over the thrill of starting a fresh notebook - knowing it would fill with ideas and knowledge. I loved that sense of a new beginning.

I thought I had had my fill of school when I finished in 2000. But every fall I would be looking at university programs, considering schools to apply for. I did LSAT trial tests, I studied course outlines...

And so I'm back. Last week I started the masters program in Conflict Studies at Saint Paul University here in Ottawa. It's exciting to be back in school, even though I am at times overwhelmed by the amount of reading I have to wade though. Conflict studies is not, as I sometimes joke, about learning how to box or fight. It's a bit of a misnomer really - what I'm doing is studying conflict resolution. This is a new field and there still aren't many texts, so a lot of our reading is cobbled together from various sources. But it's exciting to be in a field that is still developing - and developing with a sense of urgency as international conflicts affect everyone in the global village.

It looks like it's going to be a really interesting fall - not just for the class work, but also for the classmates I'm studying with. There is a soldier from Tanzania who was highly trained in the military but had a change of heart while stationed at a refugee camp - he realized that war is what had made these people homeless and displaced. There is a girl from Burundi who wants to understand how two groups of people (Tutsi and Hutu) who have so much in common could grow to hate each other so much. There is also a beautiful girl from Somalia and a young man from Ukraine - both of whom want to apply their studies to conflicts in their own countries. The Canadians come from a wide variety of backgrounds - sociology, psychology, political science and humanities.

At St. Paul's I am surrounded by professors and students who are all interested in resolving conflict and bringing solutions for peace to their sphere of influence, however small. As much as I might moan about my readings and assignments in the coming months, I really don't think I could ask for a better place to be.

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