Wednesday, January 2, 2013

"It will be my treat to myself today..."

Italian, French or Spanish?

I spent a fair amount of time in my first weeks at SAIS Bologna debating which language to study. What I did not know was that the language class I would enjoy the most was not among those three. It would be English. The Academic Writing Workshop.

A workshop session
After I took the English proficiency exam at the beginning of the semester, I went to a meeting to receive the results. The meeting was almost over, and I was happy I had completed my first SAIS requirement when, almost as an afterthought, I mentioned that I am a journalist. “In that case, you should consider taking the writing workshop," the professor said. "You don’t have to, but you may find it interesting.”

She had piqued my interest. But I was not sure I would have time to take all the classes I wanted and wondered if the writing workshop should be a priority. After all, I told myself, I am already a writer. Granted, there is always a lot to learn and I am more used to writing in Portuguese. Still …

My curiosity prevailed, and I decided to go to the first workshop session. In the back of my mind I still thought my time would be better spent in other courses. So I arrived in class at least partially convinced I was overstretching myself and that there was a better than even chance I would have to drop the workshop once work in my other classes picked up.

Soon in the writing workshop we had covered academic register, summaries and definitions in such an interesting way that I was hooked. And when assignments and readings piled up, I thought: “I am working hard, and I deserve this. Going to the workshop will be my treat to myself today.”

What is so interesting about the workshop? First, writing an academic paper is not the same as writing a journalistic story. And writing in English is different from writing in Portuguese.

But I had already known this, and these are not the only reasons I enjoyed the classes so much. Every class I had a feeling I was learning something that would be useful in the future -- and not only for my MA papers. I believe even my Portuguese writing has improved due to this workshop.

The teaching method is highly stimulating. As the semester advanced, the professor, Jennifer Varney, seemed to know the group better and better, and she always selected articles that engaged the class. Consequently she presented the grammatical and linguistic information while at the same time sparking lively debates which led to thoughtful writings.

Not only have I learned a lot, I am applying what I learned to my other assignments. I cannot write a paper, even a simple one, without thinking: Is this syntactically correct? Am I using the right cohesion devices here?

Sounds dry? Not if you take the workshop. If you don’t trust me, ask any student from either Dr. Varney's or Dr. Rebecca Hopkins’s class. I guarantee all of them will tell you how happy they are to be in the workshop.

by Ana Luiza Farias

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I second Ana's article and I was in Dr. Hopkins' class. Indeed, my personal treat!