End of 2009, after 4 years in the ivory tower, I was so ready to jump out into the world. College was life transforming and I was always grateful for having the opportunity without paying a dime off the hefty price tag, but the bubble was getting suffocating, no matter how well-intentioned the faculty and the students are. The world didn’t break my legs. On the contrary, it has still been real nice to me, and I have never wished college had lasted longer. But what I consistently miss is the richly intellectual environment. I miss taking classes in social theory and molecular biology and theater, miss talking about how Marx’s commodity fetishism is still completely relevant in today’s form of conspicuous consumption while drinking beer from a red solo cup at a dinner party. And then we moved on to deride the military-industrial complex and war and neoliberalism and debate the merits of nonviolent resistance. In class, at the dining hall, in the hallway, on the field, it was not awkward to dance and crawl, and it was never nerdy to talk theories and philosophy.

The internet, for me, is like those days when printing first got cheap and books were mass produced. All of a sudden, all the knowledge is there for you and can become yours. I still love paper books and libraries madly, but the internet, the internet is just pure magical kingdom. Everywhere I look, there are doors and windows leading down wildly different paths but all adorned with fascinating thoughts, strange facts, and gripping stories. Sometimes I’m a little overwhelmed, but most of the time I’m awed and feel incredibly lucky to witness this explosion of cheaply, if not freely, available knowledge. And I read and read. Sometimes it does feel lonely though. I have all these random fun tidbits in my head that I can bring up in casual conversations. But anything more serious? Even at school in Hawaii, not that many people wanted to talk theory. And here in Vietnam? If I say I read Marx, people would think I’m pulling their legs, and then they would touch my forehead to make sure that I’m not having a fever and hallucinating. And if I mentioned Weber or Foucault? Who?

And then online courses happened. I’ve known about them for a couple of years, have looked at and registered for a few, but didn’t actually start in earnest till this past month, pushed by mental restlessness and by a craving for brainy conversations. I’m taking 2 courses on edx, one of which is Global Health: A Biosocial Perspective. And I’m loving it. Most of the concepts like institutionalization, biopower, unintended consequences I’m already familiar with. The best part is the discussion board full of thoughtful comments by people from all parts of the world with all kinds of work backgrounds and living experience. Thank god for the internet!

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