Studying for exams: week 2

Oh, the best laid plans…

Your professors write all over them.
Your professors write all over them.

The first week of studying definitely threw me some curve balls, and I didn’t accomplish what I set out to do at the end of my week one post.  For the most part, I am not upset about this.  I guess I sort of expected that I would need a week to sort out the kinks in my plan and see what sorts of adjustments I would need to make.  So, here’s what I learned:

Positive adjustments

1. I realized pretty quickly as I was working through my set of books on British vs. English nationalism that the themes, arguments, and political undertones were falling into place without necessitating a historiography.  Sure it would be nice to have those historiographical essays to review the week before I take the exam, but I think given my time constraints and my level of understanding at this point in the game, I can forgo the essay writing in favor of a brief little outline that organizes my thoughts following my readings in each section.

2. I discovered that my STS advisor is leading an incredibly talented group of my fellow grads in a weekly independent study.  Not every one of their books is on my STS exam list, but the concepts and problems presented in each book definitely overlap with the theories and methods that I’m pinning down for my exams.  So, I’ll be attending those group meetings on Thursdays for the next couple of weeks, in order to hammer out some STS methods in conversation with equally interested people.

The first meeting was fantastic–we spent about three and a half hours walking through the building blocks of practice theory (which basically states that the social structures in our world affect us, but paradoxically we also affect those social structures–either by reproducing them or changing them).  Since the first section of my STS exam list is Practice and Method, I feel like I have a great start on systematically understanding and processing those books.  You know, this wasn’t what I planned on doing last week, but I’ll take it.

3.  Two of my cousins recently started their own kick-ass, fitness consulting business.  I mentioned to them that I would like to be able to do a pull-up, just because, you know I’d like to do a pull-up.  And low and behold, they sent me a month long exercise program that will not only help me reach this goal, but also allow me to train away from the gym, saving me quite a bit of travel time on my days off campus.  Plus, I’ve been looking for ways to mix up my workout and learn new techniques, so they incorporated shadowboxing.  I’m totally pumped about that.

Less positive adjustments…

1. Following a chat with my main advisor, I’ve had to make some rather massive changes to my major field reading list.  I was under the impression that my British medical history belonged on the list, mainly because it’s my primary sub-field within my British studies.  But she asked that I remove it from my list and replace it with books that address more general themes in the history of 19th and 20th century Britain–things like franchise reform, the rise and decline of the Labour Party, the debates over consensus politics in the mid-20th century.

Not going to lie–it would have been nice to know that these were the expectations going in.  I’m giving myself a week to swallow the frustration, pick out my new books, and create a new list that is both manageable and acceptable.  Hopefully I can narrow the list a bit in the process of reformulating it…that’s my attempt at a positive spin.

2.  On Friday, I attended a totally amazing Robert Burns concert at Chicago’s gorgeous Newberry Library.  The Newberry Consort played lovely Scottish music on baroque instruments, and a rambunctious actor performed the bits of poetry that weren’t set to music.  It was awesome.

But, unfortunately, I’m starting to see that I can’t take four hours out of my prime study time to pop off to the events and concerts that I enjoy.  This exam process is definitely going to require that I make some sacrifices when it comes to socialization, especially given the demands I have on my time apart from school and teaching

Extra Commitments

1.  So that I might buy groceries AND pay rent, I work for a private family foundation as a researcher and meeting facilitator.  We do online board meetings about every other month.  The board members are incredibly busy people and they’re spread across three time zones, so when they can all make a meeting, we just have to go for it.  This time around, the board meeting falls on February 3rd, which leaves me in a bit of a scramble to produce the right documents and research, and also cuts into my study time.  It’ll all even out in the end, since I can request that we forgo another meeting until after my exams are finished, but current preparations gobbled up a couple of evenings pretty quickly.

2.  WPCS has a choir fundraising event coming up in April.  As of right now the theme is…TOP SECRET…bwahahahaha.  But I’ll be posting more on it in the near future as my choir historian job is a pivotal part of the event.  Definitely going to be a bit of a trick to work on this project while I prep for exams, but I am 100% determined to figure it out.

*   *   *

Week 2/9 plan:

  1. Rework my major field–return unnecessary books and request the new ones.
  2. Attend the Thursday study group (topic: actor-network theory).
  3. Cook some hella tasty and freezable food (time saver later on).
  4. Outline my choir commitments and incorporate them into my study plan for the following weeks.
  5. Finish preparing for board meeting–Sunday call time.

Historian, novelist, musician, and imagination professional.

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