Sunday, September 11, 2011

First Year Classes and the New Life

Dear all,
Just an update on my new life here.'Hamdulillah, all's well, and I'm adjusting quite well and quite fast to the new environment. I can't stand the heat and humidity here, but I suppose that's no issue. The people are awesome, my classes are just the best, my professors and mentors and colleagues are superb, and I've made some wonderful friends already. I'll tell you about my group of friends in another post ('cause I really need to tell y'all about them! It's such a diverse and united group. See, this is what unity is all about - not being the same, not believing the same things the same way, not practicing the same things the same way, but embracing each other's differences and not deciding who's going to hell or heaven, who's more or less pious, and so on). So you get the point, yeah? They're fabulous people, and I'm blessed to have met them!

The other person I wanna tell you about is my mentor, who'll most likely be my dissertation adviser and whose class on Islamic Law I'm TAing this semester. She's wonderful. She's so sweet, so supportive, so kind, so welcoming! She invited me to her place for an Eid gathering for her friends, but I had plans that same day, so I couldn't go, but we get along very well, and we're very similar (per our academic interests and even some personal beliefs, it seems). I really can't express to you how encouraging she is and how she motivates me (without knowing it!) to be a better student and a better TA. I might be mentioning her a lot in my future blog posts, so lemme assign her a name. Noor. Let's call her Noor. Noor's an Arabic term that means "divine light," but we'll also go ahead and interpret this meaning as "divine guidance" -- she is, after all, sort of a guidance for me already, is she not? :)

So, the class I'm TAing ... well, as I mentioned, it's an Islamic Law course of about 22 students. I just finished grading/reviewing the drafts of the first paper. It was a pleasure -- even though it took a long, long time (because it's my first time being a TA, and I really want to show the students that I care about their grades, whether they understood the material, and their writing abilities). The papers are basically supposed to be 3-5 pages that include a summary of the readings we've covered in class, a critique of the text (content-wise), and a thematic question. Some of the questions were really good and thought-provoking. This is what I was most looking forward to - learning from the students.

I have a ton of reading and writing of my own to for my classes, so that's why I haven't been able to blog much lately. But I'll end this post once I tell you which courses I'm taking and how they are. So, as a grad student, I'm taking 3 classes only (SHOCK! I'm used to taking like 5-6 classes, whether I'm just auditing them or am registered for them officially, so this feels like a light load ... even though the load is thrice as much as what it was in undergrad!). One's a foundations course for Women's/Gender/Feminist Studies; the teacher's a big icon in the field and department, so my adviser strongly suggested I take it. I'm glad I opted for it. It's a fun course, and the professor is very open-minded and welcoming to ideas and suggestions. (Like, she asked me if I might have some articles/readings on Islamic feminism that I'd want the class to be aware of, and, of course, I told her yes! Then Noor sent me a couple of them to share with the class.) The students in this class are also really interesting and smart, so it's fun to be around them. Oh, and this class is offered twice a week.

The other class is an identity-related course, like "the self and the other" type, you know? So for my final paper, I have two options: I can write about this theme in relation to the Pashtun people and Pashtun nationalism, or I can tackle the idea of feminism and identity. The latter seems to have been discussed already in academia, so I might settle on the first option.... in which case, if y'all have any ideas, please share! Oh, and this class is offered once a week for three hours! And, no, that's not "better" necessarily as opposed to a class offered twice or thrice a week for 75 or 50 minutes per session. In this case, though, I must admit I'm glad it's a one-session per week course. As for the teacher, he's Iranian and is really cool. He seems to know his stuff, and we get along well so far.

And the last but extremely important and fascinating course is on music, gender, and sexuality, offered once a week as well. I'll be blogging about this a lot! My God, if only I could blog more often ... 'cause there's this book called My Gender Workbook, available on Google Books, that I think everyone should read. It challenges all traditional (and even some academic) ideas regarding gender and sexuality, and it pushes you to think about your own conceptions of commonly accepted definitions and all. And, no, you don't have to agree with or accept everything the author says, of course. After all, it is the mark of an intelligent mind to entertain a thought without accepting it, like Aristotle said.

k, now, I'll see y'all another time. OHHH! The best thing of alll!!! :D:D :D I have classes only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays ;) That means I always have a 4-day weekend this semester, yipeeee!! My office hours are on Wednesdays after the self/western other class, so my Tuesdays and Wednesdays are a bit long (on Tuesdays, I finish at 6:30 with the music/gender class; on Wednesdays at 5). But my Tuesdays and Thursdays begin at 9:30am, and my Wednesday begins at 12, so I really have no reason to complain and every reason to be grateful for this blessing. I'm getting an education, I love my teachers and classes - what more could I ask for? Alhamdulillah.

Oh, and about the campus and all ... ahhhh! It's beeeeautiful!!! Nazara na shi!!! It's one of the biggest campuses in the nation, but I've finally figured out my ways, so I don't get lost anymore like I did the first week. There's a lot of walking, but that's good, of course. That's the only exercise I get these days, anyway, so I appreciate it. And all the shuttles and city buses are free to the students (with IDs). Really, I love this system. I didn't bring my car, and I'm glad I didn't. But my dad wants me to have a car here for convenience's sake, so I might bring one after the winter break, ka khairee. As long as I know that I don't "need" it and don't use it unless absolutely necessary, I won't be wasting any gas or money. I'm pretty sure I'm disciplined in not wasting money, at least not as a grad student, so that shouldn't be big problems.

O'rightie, peeps! Got loads to write on but no time :) Soon, I promise, ka khairee! Very soon. And lotsa controversial and interesting and informative material to share with y'all, toooo....  Stay tuned.


  1. Your life is so amazing right now! Enjoy every single moment :) I know exactly how you are feeling, grad school is such a great experience :)

    I am so happy for you and glad to see and read about a woman so committed and motivated and content on her chosen path.

    All the best!

  2. Sarah! Welcome - and thanks! :) It really is amazing! Thank you for being happy for me; you're a good friend!

  3. Wow, lots of awesome classes! Enjoy!


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