Lessons Learned

My first week of classes is done!  So far I’m auditing five, all within the Russian Studies department, and they are: Recent Russian Diplomacy, Current Russian Diplomacy, Geopolitics and Diplomatic Culture, A General History of Russia, and Sino-Russian relations, all of which have been real interesting so far.  I have to say, all are interesting and all the profs started the week with very in-depth yet seemingly unprepared two-hour lectures.  I’m impressed.  My classmates are mostly first year grad students, so a good amount of time in several classes was spent covering how to pick a thesis topic, research resources, recommending relevant authors etc. which are just as useful to me.  One highlight from that topic was one professor’s breakdown of the differences between an undergrad, master’s, and doctoral thesis with using roast pork as a metaphor.  I’ve reproduced it here:

Undergrad Thesis:

I. Definition of pork roast and categories.

II. The differences between and unique features of each type of pork roast.

III. Features of Dongpo pork roast.

IV. Methods of making Dongpo pork roast

Conclusion: How Dongpo pork roast can be made even tastier.

Master’s Thesis:

I. Selected works on methods of cooking pork.

II. Historical mutations in pork roast cooking methods.

III. An introduction to and comparison of previous research into pork roast.

IV. Influence of Marxist values on pork roast.

V. Cooking method of Marxist pork roast.

VI. How Marxist pork roast is new and suggestions for further research.

Conclusion: Pork roast is tasty, but when eating it we must remember that Marxist pork roast better supports the progress of socialism.

Doctoral Thesis:

Introduction: Historical pork recipes, significant theories and where they fall short of modern standards.

I. (Parts 1-3) How to raise pigs.

II. (Parts 4-5) Uses for different cuts of pork.

III. (Parts 6-7) The influence of Marxism on pork roast at different stages of history.

IV. (Parts 8-9) Research on the production of pork roast.

Conclusion: Whether or not a pork roast is tasty depends on many complicated factors, but in general under defined conditions pork roast is both healthy and delicious.  But while cooking it one still must strive to truly understand it, truly use Marxist values where appropriate and revise one’s viewpoint to make it even tastier and healthier.


I sadly have to miss two weeks of lectures due to the Taiwan Fulbright conference that I leave for on Sunday, but having no obligation to homework makes it much easier to just enjoy the classes.  Russian history and (academic) diplomacy are two fields I can’t say I know much about, so I’m really just relishing the new content.  Drinking it in as it were.   One of my friends from Shanghai recently paid me an amazing complement by telling me I should move on from Chinese.  I value his opinion not only because he makes fun of my Chinese when it’s bad.  In his words “your marginal utility is decreasing, study something besides Chinese.  Well here I am studying a lot of new things, in China no less!  I’m still so shocked I have this amazing opportunity, and so thankful to be studying this stuff in northeastern China of all places. Thanks again to all who’ve helped me get here.

As it is, I’ve got five classes with nothing on Mondays so looking pretty good.  May try to fit a Russian class in there somewhere, but starting when I come back three weeks into the semester might be hard.  May just hire a tutor or continue with self-study.  What’s fun too is that the profs liberally drop Russian into the lecture, which because they usually follow it up with Chinese means I’m building my vocabulary too.  We’ll see how things feel when I come back I suppose.

Two funny highlights, the first of which is from my history class taught by my advisor.  Chinese people like to refer to Russians as a “fighting race”, but when discussing the spread of Proto-Slavs from the region near the Black Sea, my advisor referred to them as a “strolling race” to emphasize how they spread all over the place, so that’s what I’m going to think of them as from now on.  It’s just funnier.

Lastly, I’m getting endless enjoyment from the music.  Every Chinese university I’ve studied at (this being the third) plays some sort of sound between class periods, just like in grade school.  This might be a simple bell as it was in Xi’an, or some mellow sax/Taps as HIT had.  Heilongjiang University, however, plays Mozart’s Turkish March.

Besides being classy, most of you will recognize this piece from the sitcom How I Met Your Mother, where it accompanies the episode “The Playbook”, explained here.

In the original episode, this piece accompanies the explanation of each “Play”, and as a result, I see Neil Patrick Harris’ winking face whenever class starts.  Pure beauty.

Lower notes of the week have involved paperwork and being sick as all hell, fortunately symptoms have subsided aside from a terrible wracking cough (as normal).  Hopefully the warmer weather will do me well.  All for now, see you on the flipside!



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