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First assignment- it hurts!

I am so called social historian, that means I need to know well facts from military, political and economic history as well and describe socially important processes. That’s why I really was interested in subject “Sociology of Gender and sexuality: theory and practice” when I filled my Learning Agreement “before the studies”, this was one of the my “must have choices” besides my specialization courses.

This subject is one of the few, that remained in my “Learning Agreement”, after all time-managing. Important to say, that the schedule managing was one of the worst Erasmus+ experience I had…. But somehow, I did it… thanks to my nerves and USOS system! And now I even know where, when, and with who I have lectures!

It is a pity, that I didn’t have opportunity to study any sociology, so now I am using this opportunity here. Erasmus + “for studies” goals! I even had my first presentation on already mentioned course from 15:00 till 16:30 with our group of three people on subject: me, French girl Mari and Polish girl Joanna! How did we decided to work together? What we needed to do?

First, I really liked the subject- we started to discuss such topics as “what is gender?”, “what is sex”, “what are differences between them”, discussed also about non- binary, 3rd sex and LGBT movements. As for me, it is important to know such things for every educated person. I also liked our teacher - dr Beata Belska- young, educated and openminded. After lecture, I also asked her for help to find some materials from Poland about my academic topics. After I wrote her an e-mail, I got 3 e-mails from her!

However, first problem started when our teacher announced what we need to do for the course. And it was painfully. Firstly- we need to work in group - because for first time we used to be a lot of people, and it wouldn’t be manageable (important to say, that after 2 lectures we remained few, so it could be possible to work alone). Secondly, we needed to make exercises (!!!) for other colleagues from the course, not just making a presentation and telling. I was so angry about that!

 At that time, I was thinking and silently agreeing with Umberto Eco’s words from his book “How to Write a Thesis” and also my professor of antiquity in Latvia - universities became more availablefor everybody and this is the other side of the coin-education became something you can buy or sell. Hmmm… Really? Maybe that’s the reason, why in this course we need to avoid normal classical presentation- our teacher just knows that a lot of students not know how to study, do not enjoy this process (why they are at universities, thought?), make plagiarism, their presentations are boring….

But then our teacher mentioned, that we need to use at least 3 academical sauces and at least 3 academical sources from her list and at least one theoretical concept should be described. I thought “yey!!!”, so seemed like we are going to study for this course! So, your presentation need to be academical and entertaining at the same time! But there is also one bad thing for this course - you can be absent just once, but this is not my story for today. Also, you will need to send your assignment on Friday- week before your presentation till 15:00.

And after teacher told us, what we need to do, she gave a list to sign for the list for the groups. People, who were next to me, already choose their groups and topics. I looked for the topics and wanted to choose one exactly topic. I often choose topics I do not have an idea I am going to tell about before my assignments in Latvia, however, here I felt “academical adulthood” to choose topic I researched during my Bachelors’ topic.

I wanted to choose topic Woman studies and Gender studies. Women rights and feminism movements. Men’s movements”, could tell other about developing of feminism process with historical background, and theoretical concepts of Gender studies, I already had some knowledge about. Then I asked- is this topic Nr. 4 already chosen. And there was Joanna- Polish PHD student, who’s academical interests are “Men, meninism, masculinities”- 3rd part of topic I wanted to choose. She told me, that she was also wanting this topic, just waiting for other people and nicely thinking about that according her experience, she can be in every group. Lately we realized wither, that we have same bad exerience about working in groups in school- “one person does all the work” and also post-socialist rather individual education schemes. So we started to discuss. Then we saw Mari- she also wanted to choose this topic.

So, we have group. Quit nice group- because we could divide our work easily- everyone researches topic she knows the best first and the we will discuss together. So, concepts about gender studies and historical background was my part, feminism movements nowadays and theatre (it is her passion) on Mari and 3rd part on Joanna. We added each other on Facebook and created chat.

We thought, that we will we 4 th (so in the middle) of presentations and I thought we had lot of time (we didn’t- we were 2nd ones who presented actually). For my side, I observed list of the literature and wrote girls, that each of us should choose one book from the teacher’s list.

I choose: Ed. Clark, Anna. The History of Sexuality in Europe. A sourcebook and reader. London and new York, Routledge Readers in History, 2011., 358 p.

But 358 pages!!! I started to read and make a conspectus for 2 weeks! Book was interesting- academic and entertaining at the same time- I had a lot of sleepless nights! Also, I realized, that in Riga we do not have this book! A lot of people saw, what I was reading, were interested! Guys, today, I am going to return this book to bibliotheca UMK, so since now this book is available! Then I had an idea to make crossword with all references, and I made it! Other girls accepted and on Friday we met to discuss our presentation and to send it to our teacher! Thanks Joanna for all her editing and good academical advices!

Then we got e-mail from our teacher- she was impressed, however, she told us “it is too much” because of time. So, we needed to shorten our assignment somehow. And of course, it was painful!!! Also, I had an experiment among people – I gave them my crossword, and realized, that it is not possible to do it in 20 minutes! Līva, other Latvian girl even asked, “is it for normal people?”. From my crossword only matching exercise remained- from 22 terms, only 10. But our teacher and Joanna were right, it was better option for studs to make less exercises, the could not be concentrate on a lot of stuff. Mari and Joanna also shortened their exercises, so each of us had 20 minutes.

And the presentation day came. We all- me, Mari ang Joanna were stressed, but we felt support of each other! It is hard to say about work of ourselves, because we cannot be objective in this case- but we had positive backgrounds from our colleges and a teacher. Even at Club Number One I went after my presentation at night I had positive feedback and even academical discussions with Cécile!

To conclude, it was amazing experience to work together- BA, MA and PHD! It was amazing to share ideas between people from Western, Central/Eastern Europe and Baltics! Mari and Joanna, thank you girls! We did a good job! Also, It is always good when you are interested in topic! Can we meet also for some drink? :D Yesterday we realized, that we got maximum points for our assignment! Hurray! Latvians say: “Labs darbs, kas padarīts!” = “Good work is work that is done!”


Smirnova Anastasia 2018-04-12
Konferencja w Toruniu