Research struggles

There are a lot of aspects of research that I struggle with, mainly because of my research interests. I’m interested in sexual violence in Rwanda, Burundi, and the DRC, I want to know if the horrific history and legacy of Belgian colonial rule have had an impact in domestic sexual relations and if so, how, and why, I want to know where development funding is going and what kind of impact it’s having, I want to know if development funding could be better directed (most always it can be, but how and under what kind of program), I want to know women and men’s experiences of sexual assault either through conflict or not. But I struggle with this because I’m not part of the culture. While my research isn’t aiming to tell anyone to change anything (apart from maybe development agendas) and is instead aiming to understand what is happening and why, I worry that this could be misconstrued, that I will be perceived as doing what so many people have done before and just contribute to the continued violence of colonialism. So I’m stuck in this bubble, struggling with myself on whether this kind of research would be a good contribution to knowledge, or whether it’s ideological and would be better done by someone else. 

“There are many maps of one place, and many histories of one time.”

-Julie Freriekse

In the swing of things

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, but I wanted to get back in the swing of things.

Part of me views the past year almost as a break from the academic life because I was very much removed from it – living in Vietnam and working at SRD gave me the opportunity to take a step back and evaluate where I was and where I want to be and I found that I’m very happy with where I am and how things are going.  Vietnam has also taught me to learn how to go with the flow and take things as they come rather than try to control my surroundings which has proven quite useful.

Last week I made the big move to Toronto and started getting everything together for my Masters program and to work as a Teaching Assistant. So far I’ve found that the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo are quite different (at least in my experience), my undergraduate degree offered the benefit of really small classes and I found that I was part of an absolutely incredible group of classmates and friends. Arriving at UofT, I’ve found that a lot of the class sizes are larger, the interests of people within my program are quite varied as are everyone’s backgrounds, so its become interesting to get to know my classmates and to see where I fit in within the group.

I came into the MA program wanting to do a thesis project rather than a research paper, but following conversations with my advisor, it seems that the research paper option is more highly recommended as it provides more experience and exposure with different professors. So it looks like that is what I will be doing. I’m still in the middle of choosing courses as it’s really difficult to get into courses from other faculties so I still have some hoops to jump through.

I’ve also found that my knowledge in certain areas seems to be lacking, so I’m trying to put together a reading list of different books and articles related to my interests and to research methods in general that will help me better understand navigate through the assigned readings for class.

Anyway, in the next while you can expect me to continue to comment on current events and news that I find fascinating and relevant as well as for me to brainstorm on some of the information and readings that I come across as I continue my studies.

If you have any suggestions for readings please feel free to mention them in the comments section, I’d love to discuss them with you.

 

Finding routine

I’ve been back in Timmins, Ontario for exactly six weeks now. I’ve visited family, enjoyed the great outdoors (including an unexpected snowstorm), spent many more hours than I’d hope on buses, and got back in the swing of a new job. I’ve graduated, said hello and goodbye to a great number of friends, begun an apartment hunt, and started to reflect on what the next year (or more) will bring.

The one thing about travelling that I think I had forgotten is how much it makes you appreciate home, makes you appreciate the familiar. And my familiar is different from that of many people. My familiar is hours on a highway surrounded by nothing but trees and the occasional lake or moose. There’s something beautiful and calming about forests, something I had forgotten or pushed from memory while living in the bustling craziness of Hanoi. I love the North, it’s beautiful, its refreshing – its home.

Despite all this, I’m still excited for another change – to experience Toronto, to begin writing and researching and to get back into the swing of academic life. I’m excited to be physically closer to a lot of my friends (as not many live in or return to the North anymore), and I’m excited to be challenged again.

My work has definitely kept me busy and as it’s a new position, it has also enabled me to learn a lot more about finances, credit, and access to funds. This summer has been like a waiting period – a time in between. I’m done a degree but not yet done being a student, I’m home, but not really home. I feel like I’m on the precipice of change when most of the people around me are finding some degree of permanence and I’m still surrounded by uncertainty. I guess that it would be uncomfortable to many people to have so much uncertainty in their lives, but I almost find it soothing. It’s soothing to know that my life is still changing, its soothing to know that things will continue to change as long as I like, and its soothing to know that challenge and adventure are still (and will continue to be) a major part of my life.

Over the next few weeks, I’m hoping to share some preliminary research and readings that I want to incorporate into my studies for next year as well as any preparatory work I do for the University of Toronto. I’m  looking to access as much information as possible about Belgium as a colonial power and Rwanda, Burundi, and DRC pre and during colonial time.  I’d also like to access any legitimate information regarding current laws and attitudes on domestic abuse.

I’m finding my routine and seeing where I fit in for the next few months – then the cycle will start all over again.

Grad School

I have finally submitted (and paid for) my graduate school applications after spending weeks reviewing and re-reading my applications. I came close to submitting them several times before but kept getting intense feelings of nervousness before I could hit ‘send’.

I believe that I am making the right decisions, that I will enjoy my Masters experience, and that I will contribute something new to my field with my thesis. But now it means I have to wait months until I hear back to determine if I will be one of the select few allowed in.

Now, I have to finalize my thesis proposal, proving that my research will be something new; this also pretty much determines what kind of work I will be doing for the remainder of my academic career and what I will be an ‘expert’ in.

Any words of wisdom from the wordpress world?