It’s 8AM, I’m eating leftover Chinese food for breakfast, and I’m in the Grad room about to finish my readings for my 10AM class. It’s quiet; all I hear is the hum of the lights and the sound of the keys clicking as I type. Last night I was up late; I went downtown to hear a talk given by our resident post-doc at a local pub, so I’m balancing my time by doing more reading in the morning. I love these academically social events that get us out around town.
I really like this space. It’s not fancy, it’s more utilitarian with its computers and bookshelves and filing cabinets, but it’s comfortable and communal, it’s our space, and there’s a constant ebb and flow of energies. Walk in at any point in the day, and there may be a lone PhD student working on their dissertation, or many students having a lively discussion about the book we all hated in our literary theory course, or just a few people working diligently and quietly until someone breaks the silence with a question. And there’s always someone with a question; better still, there’s always someone around with an answer.
There’s a spirit of collegiality here. In my Folklore class (you can take one graduate-level course outside your department to round out your interests) Dr. Lovelace had an interesting observation about the nature of learning: it happens in spaces like these, and not just the classroom. That was true in my undergraduate; it’s true in spades in a graduate program! There’s such a vast spread of knowledge you have to take in so quickly that you rely on conversations with others to help you understand the material where there are gaps in your knowledge. I would be lost without the reading groups we’ve set up, as well as the informal chats that go on.
This semester, I have three courses, a Graduate Assistantship (GA), and the Teaching Skills Enhancement Program. The coursework has been fabulous so far. In Dr. Polack’s contemporary theory course, I haven’t read a book that’s older than ten years, so we’re really experiencing the newest ideas in our field. It can be challenging at times, but it’s so rewarding. In counterpoint, I have a Folklore course that deals with a mixture of material, and in my last paper I got to explore the transmission of tales in a Canadian context and how they impact our local identities. Finally, I have a Medieval Studies course with Dr. Schipper. It’s very exciting to take his course, because in my undergraduate degree, I read his works, and undergraduate professors suggested going to Memorial to take courses with him. I never thought I’d be able to read a medieval manuscript, but now I can!
My GA is a really helpful experience learning about research and grant proposals. I feel like I’m getting excellent transferable skills, and the professor I work with is so professional and precise about the work she needs done. I was a little nervous at first, but it turns out I really enjoy it.
The Teaching Skills Enhancement program is amazing, too. I’m working on a teaching dossier so that when I finish my program I’ll have a strong background in educational theory, and that may guide my next steps in my career. I’m on the fence about doing a PhD as of yet, but that may change over the course of the next few months—that’s why I’m so glad the English department offers this one-year coursework program and I get to experience eight diverse courses to see where my skills and interests lie.
It’s amazing to think that there are only two weeks left in the semester. Time is really complex: it seems to drag on and fly by at the same time, but I get these markers of time when I see, for example, the pile of books slowly building as I work on an assignment, or I tally up the pages I still have left to write. Luckily, I only have one final exam, and it’s an essay—I love those! I’m a little bit stressed, but I’m trying to make study sessions fun with friends, since I don’t have much time for a social life right now. Plus I broke all my final projects up into little tasks I can manage instead of getting swallowed by the whole picture. I’m looking forward to the end-of-semester department party where we can all relax! I find if I keep perspective and look towards goals, I can cope with the stress better. Next time I write, I’ll tell you about the courses I’ll be taking in the winter semester! Until then, good luck with your programs and stay warm in the winter weather!