My sabbatical is over.
I’ll meet all my Kent State students for the first time this week, back in Franklin Hall, parking in my usual spot and watching black squirrels outside my window.
But it’s not like I’ve been on a semester-long vacation, as those outside higher education might think. That’s really not the case. The official explanation on Kent State’s website says:
The university permits a tenured faculty member who has completed at least seven years of full-time service to the university and has the rank of assistant professor or higher to be freed of instructional or official responsibilities and granted a faculty professional improvement leave (PIL) for the purposes of upgrading professional skills; acquiring new skills; or intellectual and professional development that will be of benefit to the individual and to the university.
Soon I have to submit a report of what I accomplished during my PIL and how the university and I benefited. It will be formal and official and cover what I was supposed to be doing. Yes, I pretty much did what I promised, but I also did a lot not on my “concise proposal of no more than 300 words.”
And all those other experiences probably offered more benefits than the official stuff. For that reason, here’s the start of a few more blog posts, this time about my quite varied Top 10 Personal “Lessons Learned.”
10. It’s impossible to capture everything photo-worthy in Prague.
I snapped a lot during my two months there. Some I shot with the iPhone to capture a image for a future blog, like a series I planned to title (but never wrote) “Things you should have just left in the U.S.” Those included McDonald’s, KFC and not one, but two Hooters Restaurant and Bar locations. Or sometimes a lovely window with bright red flowers or the reflection of a building on the canal would catch my eye as I walked to the bakery. Then I was glad I had my phone.
Because the Nikon 300S and Nikkor 18-200 zoom are heavy, an outing to shoot with the good equipment was usually planned. Those included two hours on Charles Bridge, once at dawn with my son and stepson — and a few dozen other early risers — and one with former journalism teacher, now mom and photographer Karen Barrett as we tried (and finally succeeded) to get just the right halos around street lights before our hands froze.
When my days in Prague dwindled, I began snapping more and more shots. As I came around a corner, I had to capture the slant of the sun on that building, the old man sitting on a park bench, one more shot of an especially colorful stand at the farmers’ market. But then I realized there was no need for mild panic. The sights are there for other photographers and, perhaps, for me to capture another year.
9. Schengen is a timely and important concept. When I transferred planes in Brussels, the connection was tight, and the terminal was under construction and lacked its usual signage. The back of my United Airlines boarding pass indicated, if I was going to a Schengen country, I had to go to one terminal; if I was going to an international country, I had to go to a different terminal. Huh? It seemed to me from Brussels to Prague would be international. Yes?
No, it’s not. Luckily I found out in time and made my flight, but I later learned I’m not the only U.S. citizen who hadn’t heard of the Schengen Agreement. I soon heard lots about this understanding among members of the European Union. It allows EU citizens to cross borders with ease and eliminates border checks in many areas.
I hadn’t been in Prague two weeks before the refugee/migrant issue became a major topic of discussion and even protests. Some EU countries welcomed the Syrians and others fleeing their war-torn homelands. Others were not so sure. Definitely the open borders between EU nations were creating issues.
Now, four months later, the situation has worsened. As Austria ended Schengen movement and added border controls Jan. 18, 2016, headlines read “End of Schengen Would Destroy Euro, Warns EU’s Juncker” (Wall Street Journal) and “Austria Suspends Schengen, Warns EU is Threatened” (Newsweek).
And suddenly those in the U.S. are learning, as I did, this word means more than which terminal is the right one when flying between countries in Europe.