I hope that your St. John’s summer has been going well. It seems like it was a bit late to start, but now that it is here, the sunshine and warm temperatures have been absolutely beautiful around the city recently. Getting out with some friends to see the capelin rolling at Middle Cove Beach, taking a trip to Gros Morne National Park to visit with family, and working on some renos around my house have all provided a nice and helpful break from some of my academic responsibilities. As Anna noted in a previous post, these occasional breaks during our schooling are needed in order to stay mentally fresh. Still, there is always a hint of slight guilt attached to these breaks, especially when others around you seems to be achieving so much.
Prior to my family trip, I had been spending most of my time working through one of my rites of passage as a PhD student: the comprehensive examination. Quinn and Patrick have both provided really great tips and feedback about the comp in their recent posts, and I would certainly encourage any of you who have the comps coming up to check out their thoughts on it all. Additionally, you can also read an insightful article by Francesca Boschetti related to preparing for your comprehensive examination. My peers have already articulated very well some of the important aspects related to the comps and I doubt that I can add anything else of substance beyond what they have reported, but perhaps I’ll share one small item. A surprising aspect of my comp that I found more challenging than I had expected was keeping the anxiety about what the comp represented at bay. In other words, at times throughout my comp, I found that I became more stressed out about what the comp meant as opposed to the actual process of the comp itself (although trust me, the process was also highly stressful and anxiety provoking). The comp is certainly challenging (as its meant to be), and I certainly was challenged by it, but if I had one tip to give anyone who will undergo a comprehensive examination, it would be to not let the “idea” of the comp get the best of you because it can lead to self-catastrophizing and derail you. The good news is that your peers and committee members will be there for you. In my experience, this group of people in your academic life want you to succeed and will definitely give support where and when support is needed. Although the comp will likely be one of more challenging aspects of your graduate career (more so than your PhD dissertation defense…but I hear that that’s a matter of personal opinion), the benefits of undertaking a comp will make you a better academic and critical thinker.
With that all said, I’d recommend scheduling a break after you pass in your paper and defend your work. Hence, my trip to Gros Morne National Park. The trip out to Norris Point was something that I wanted to do for a while since moving to St. John’s. Aside from having family move there recently, the scenic views of the park were breathtaking in photos and I wanted to see it in person. At the time of my trip, the western side of the province had much better weather than the eastern side, and I was quite eager to get out and do some trail running, particularly on Gros Morne Mountain. Some of my friends and family have hiked/ran along this trail and reported that it was worth the effort to make the trip across the island to check out. Something that was a bit of a wild experience on this trail was the fact that it still had snow in some places. The picture below was taken just after the Gully.
Just like those who have gone before me, I completely recommend the trip out there for the hike. There were so many options available to explore (e.g., Tablelands, Long Range), but time was not on my side to take it all in. I do hope to go back sometime again. If you do go and want to take a crew of people with you, I’d recommend that you check out the trails with Gros Morne Mountain Company. They know their stuff and will provide you with an exceptional experience. Ask for Steve and tell him Chris sent you! 🙂
Now that I am back in St. John’s, I feel like I have a renewed focus for the tasks I am aiming to achieve for the remainder of the summer. A few of those goals include sending out some papers to journals in hopes of getting a couple of publications, working on a study with a fellow PhD student, and prepping for the studies that will ultimately be the focus of my PhD research. There is no shortage of work left to do, and I’m excited to continue into year two of my program. Thanks for reading and I hope you get to enjoy the better parts of summer before school starts back up in the Fall.
Until next time…