University of California - Bureaucracy

A new semester, and as usual I’ve spent most of the past week running from office to office trying to persuade people to bend the rules for me.
I really can’t decide whether there is something wrong with me or something wrong with the system that makes this such a pattern. As far as I understand, normal people do not do this. They sign up for classes online, show up, and that’s that.

Me, well…

Having to juggle multiple departments is a big part of why pulling my schedule together is always such an epic drama. As an undergrad, I completed 3 majors in 3 years, and now I’m working on two Master’s degrees simultaneously. So I have much more bureaucracy to deal with, and much less room to maneuver.

This semester’s big upset came from trying to join a journalism school class on Burma. International reporting, Southeast Asia – what could be more perfect, and (thanks to my past research and reporting in the region, not to mention those 3 majors competed and 2 Master’s in progress) something I’d like to think I’m pretty well qualified for. But of course there was a catch. Because of the way the dual degree program I’m in is set up, I have not yet taken one of the prerequisite J-school classes. But I applied anyway, and early last week a loophole, somehow, was found.

And then the next obstacle. The lecture component of the Burma class conflicts with Indonesian, which I’m absolutely required to take to remain eligible for my funding. So I had to convince my Indonesian teacher to let me take her course as an independent study, showing up twice a week instead of three times and working on my own to keep up with the class. Then I had to convince my advisor in the Group in Asian studies that this was okay. Then I had to double-check with the people who administer graduate fellowships that I could use an independent study course to meet their requirements. Then I had to get the department of South and Southeast Asian studies to sign off on my course plan for Indonesian.

It’s been raining like crazy all week, and I discovered it’s very, very hard for people to say no to me when I show up in their office wet and disheveled, making a sad face, and holding out damp papers for them to sign. It also helps that, unlike in Madison -- where I had an actual nemesis who seemed to take personal affront at my I’m-such-a-special-snowflake attempts to bend the rules, and threw obstacles in my path at every possible opportunity (this woman is, to the infinite benefit of the students who follow me, no longer employed there) – everyone I met with actually wanted to help me. The University of California - Bureaucracy (just in case you were wondering what UC-B stands for) can be an absolute nightmare, but my experiences with the individual tentacles of the beast have been pretty good so far. The paperwork is still grinding through, but it looks like it’s all going to work out.

The upshot of all this is….I’m going to Thailand and Burma in March!

I won’t know for a few more days exactly where I’m going to be sent, and my project will obviously be location-specific, but no matter what, it’s going to be pretty amazing.