Desabafo #13

Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance” – Will Durant
You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream” – C. S. Lewis
No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world” – Robin Williams
Don’t just teach your kids to read – teach them to question what they read. Teach them to question everything” – George Carlin
Minds are like parachutes; they only function when they are open” – Thomas Dewar

I think this post can work as an inspiration, I guess. School and education aren’t always seen with the best eyes by students. We hear probably too many students complaining about it – but I get it though. School isn’t for everyone, much less university (but what we gonna do, most parents think that having a degree is more important than actually doing something that we like even if it doesn’t involve sitting in a classroom every week to obtain a diploma). Despite this being a good matter to discuss, it isn’t exactly my point here (I will leave this for another time).

I started thinking about my first weeks here in the Netherlands – for those of you who don’t know, I’m doing my masters in Leiden – and I decided to use the first quote as a starting point, but then I ended up by googling more quotes and that’s how I came up with this post. In their own way, I believe that these quotes kinda relate to my feelings about my experience here. It hasn’t been easy, I’ll be the first to admit it, but it has been a really good experience so far.

I think the first quote just sums up my first block (each semester is divided in two blocks): I’m doing Palaeoecology and Quaternary Stratigraphy as an extra (wow me doing extra modules, this is a miracle) and it’s been a sort of nightmare. Not that classes are bad or the professors themselves, much on the contrary, but it just makes me think that I’ve spent three years doing nothing. I know this is a very specific subject, it doesn’t matter to every archaeologist, but still, some of this stuff should have been taught us at bachelor level. This is why I chose that quote as the first one – we learn by becoming less and less ignorant. And this module has made me realise (for the 100th time to be honest) that the archaeology bachelor degree at FLUL should undergo a major change. It’s too broad and doesn’t allow a student to semi-specialise in something, and it’s not innovative at all – it looks like it got stuck in the 1900s or something. It needs to change but I don’t see that happening, not even in the next 50 years. I’m probably being too unfair but I think there was (I mean, there still is) major knowledge gaps in my bachelor degree. I’m not trying to blame anyone but I feel like I only learnt half of what I should have learnt. And the last quote relates so much to this: here (in Leiden) I feel like I’m surrounded by open-minded people, whereas back home it was the exact opposite – that’s why I don’t see any changes happening there.

As for the other quotes, the fourth one relates to one of my other modules – Current Issues in Prehistoric Research (my first year option). It’s not 100% related to my masters (for those who don’t know or don’t remember, my masters is on Human Origins – i.e. the beginnings of humankind and its evolution obviously), but I’m glad that I chose it as an option. It has made us work like crazy every week but in the end it teaches a lot. Every week we have to do a paper on a certain article. The goal is to criticise the author (or authors), analyse how the article and the arguments were built. In a few words, it’s exactly what the fourth quote is all about. We aren’t just learning about Bronze Age societies in northern Europe, for example, but we are also learning something very useful: to be critical (and in archaeology, I think this is a fundamental component).

About the video. It was created by one of my professors and it was presented at a recent conference held by my faculty. This conference was organised as part of the official opening of our new building (that looks like it comes from the future or something). But what I really wanna say is that seeing it makes me feel proud, like I’ve never felt before in any of the schools/university I’ve went to. This sounds crazy (and I can admit that) because I’ve only been here for a bit more than a month but I think this already feels like home, it feels like I belong here, despite being an international student surrounded by Dutch students, Dutch professors, and Dutch stuff members. It might be strange but I’m proud of being a student at the Leiden University. This video not only shows a bit of Leiden’s history, but also the history of archaeology at Leiden University.

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