Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Up to my neck in owls

For the next three weeks, my life will no longer be my own. My life will belong to Kyoto University.

I am attempting to enter the Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies as a master's student on a full scholarship. The entrance exam is on February 12. That gives me exactly three weeks to learn as much as I possibly can about global environmental issues.

My days will be spent in the library, studying, reading and making notes. My nights will be spent in my apartment, drinking wine and wasting time on the internet. (What? You thought I was going to devote all of my free time to academia? A girl's got to give her brain a break some time!)

The exam itself is broken down into two parts. The first part tests your general knowledge about environmental issues. The second part tests your specific knowledge about your chosen field (my chosen field is environmental communication studies). Both exams are comprised of essay questions. Both exams are in English. I think I'll be okay on the specific knowledge exam. It's the general exam that scares me.

There’s just no way I'll ever be prepared enough to answer general questions about the environment. Not in three weeks. Not in three months. Maybe not even in three years. There's just too much to know.

Climate change, acid rain, hazardous waste, endangered species, biological diversity, sustainable development, protection of transboundary watercourses, desertification, the Kyoto Protocol, whaling, pesticides, renewable energy, ionizing radiation, persistent organic pollutants, habitat destruction, ozone depletion, urban sprawl, smog, deforestation, disaster mitigation, genetic pollution, overpopulation, collapsing fish stocks, chemical contamination, ocean acidification, invasive species.

The list goes on and on and on.

I may have worked at the David Suzuki Foundation for seven years but I'm no lab-coat-wearing scientist. I'm a writer, which means I know a little bit about a lot of things. My knowledge of environmental issues is a mile wide and an inch deep.

My job was not about delving into the technical details of an issue (that was for the guys with the letters "P, h and D" behind their names). My job was about communicating those issues in a way that was clear, concise and compelling. That meant stripping out the scientific jargon and simplifying the technical details to make it palatable to the widest possible audience.

I may know how to write about environmental issues but I don't know all that much about them. This is something I have to rectify during the next three weeks.

An impossible task maybe but I can't let this opportunity pass me by. At stake is a full scholarship, a master's degree from one of the top universities in Japan and the chance to do exciting and interesting research in a field that I am passionate about.

If I fail the exam, I will be returning to Canada at the end of March. (Homeless, jobless and broke. Sexy!)

If I pass the exam, I will be returning to Canada in 2012. (Homeless, jobless, broke and two years older. Even sexier!)

Anyway, I'd better get back to the books. Blogging will be light to non-existent during the next three weeks. Wish me luck!

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