Friday, October 22, 2010

A few of my favorite (study) things: Part I many ever I decide to write

I've often heard that Ph.D.'s love theorizing about doing stuff, while everyone else actually does stuff. This got me thinking. Maybe I should aspire to a Ph.D. in "studying."

I have this sort of love/hate relationship with studying. I like theory. I enjoy perusing books stores, drinking large lattes during all-night cram sessions and wearing dark-rimmed glasses and pleated skirts. The problem is that none of these things actually equate to real studying. They only succeed in lightening my wallet.

When I have to sit down, open a textbook and focus, the latte quickly tastes stale, the glasses hurt my eyes and the skirt becomes restricting. It only takes a few minutes before my mind starts to wander and I end up surfing trashy celebrity gossip sites or checking out the daily Woot for the seventh time.

Fortunately, when it comes to my German studies, I've found a way to stay focused...for a little while at least. Instead of paging through one super-intense grammar book after another (which are painfully lacking in the illustration department), I mix it up.

I recently stumbled across a great vocabulary building app for iPhones and iPod Touches called AccelaStudy. Granted, some of the words are bit beyond my immediate speaking needs; I'm pretty sure Die Kapitalbeschaffungskosten (cost of funds) won't come up in too many of my conversations early on...or ever. But, overall, it does a good job exposing you to a wide variety of words.

So now, when I get bored with a book, I switch to my phone. When I get bored with that, I'll watch a children's cartoon in German. When I get bored with that, I'll start contemplating obscure academic degree programs and end up blogging about them here. Welcome to my derailed train of thought.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Giving notice

It's hard to leave a company that lets you get creative with fruit.

Up until recently I've been conflicted...and downing antacids like pink-flavored Pez. It all had to do with this thing called "two weeks notice," or TWN for short.

In the U.S. it's common to give just TWN when leaving a company. In part, it gives the employer some time (albeit, not much) to get ready for a personnel change. And it helps protect the soon-to-be former employee should the company decide to say "How about you just leave today." And this does happen, because unlike in some other countries, many companies here can fire an employee without cause. We call that "at-will employment." And in my case, being prematurely "let go" would not only mean financial loss, but also the loss of health care coverage.

But what do you do when you consider your coworkers good friends? Giving TWN not only feels callous, but it also means you can't share a big step in your life with people you care about. Plus, it makes weekend recaps rather dull:

Coworker asks: What'd you do this weekend? 
I think: I woke up early to triple check pet import requirements...hauled my cats to the vet for vaccinations and international micro-chipping...sold my couch, TV and dining table...had a minor nervous breakdown...started itemizing all of my and re-read German residence card requirements...[inaudible, even to my own mind]...joined several expat forum websites...added eleven to-dos to my list...and finally fell asleep on the floor while streaming a two-month-old episode of the Daily Show because I've had NO TIME to keep up with it...
I say: Not much. Just ran a few errands. Nothing exciting.

So against the advice of my family and non-work friends, I decided to give five weeks of notice instead of two. I gathered up all of my courage, drank about two liters of coffee and took deep breaths until I nearly passed out. Then I went into my boss' office and said I had an announcement.

It's important to mention that I work for the public relations department of a large company, and several of our people have recently migrated to the marketing department. So my boss' first question probably shouldn't have thrown me off.

Her: You're going to marketing, aren't you?
Me:  What? Wait. What? No. no, nothing like that. I'm just moving to Germany.
Her: Wait, What?

The next few minutes were fill with hugs, laughter and a few tears. I felt like a huge moving truck had been lifted from my chest, and upper management said I could stay as long as I wanted. Whew!

Of course, I wouldn't recommend others stray from the TWN rule unless they're sure they'll like the response from management. But for me, giving more notice was definitely the right choice. The antacid market may see a dip though.