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Journals from Hong Kong 2008

2008-10-11 Paying Attention to What's Important

As I sit in my chair, I look at the auditorium around me and think its not much different from any other lecture hall I have been in. The students trickle in slowly, shooting unsure glances around the room as they look for their friends or a familiar face. Their uncertainty reminds me of freshman year. As the room fills, the murmurs turn into animated conversations and the auditorium comes alive with Cantonese. Our French professor arrives just on time and no one seems to pay any mind. He reaches the podium, switches on his microphone and begins to speak in a soft tone while he sorts through his notes for the lecture. I try to listen to his words, but they are lost when the girls behind me burst into laughs. Five minutes pass and the room finally begins to resume calm. His introduction was lost completely and neither he nor the class seemed to care. The class is a political science class of China so our professor thought it appropriate to review Chinese history to better understand the current situations. He begins with dates and important people and monumental changes that the government underwent. It is all interesting, but not in a lecture type setting. I look to my left and see a girl doubled over her notebook, drooling freely. Off to my right there is a boy talking on his cell phone. Behind me I can hear the girls giggling about something again and talking nonstop. This lecture doesnt mean a thing to any of them; they seem to only be here because it is required for attendance. It seems in America, the professors (at least in the larger universities) would rather you didnt come to class if you are not going to pay attention and only distract those who would. In any case, the first lecture was thus conducted and every other lecture has proved to be the same. I first thought that the students' attitude in class reflected their attitude to their education in general, but that was all wrong. I have never seen such dedicated students outside of class. The local students study all the time, not just to cram for a test. So even though they sleep through lecture classes, they are diligent elsewhere in their studies. What this means for me is I need to focus harder on my out of class reading than on lecture notes. Im still adjusting to this new system. -Alyse Newby

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