As summer has finally arrived, most of us have taken on summer projects. Whether it is taking a summer course, doing summer readings, or even working towards deadlines, this summer looks to be fairly busy for us. In this week’s post, we share with you a small glimpse into what our summer is going to consist of.
One of the many unspoken requirements for grad school is the expectation to become a published scholar and the summer months serves as the perfect time to reach that goal. I write my term papers in a flurry, with an idea I may have been thinking of for the entire semester, but the hard research is done in the last few weeks, at the same time as writing. The summer gave me ample time to come up with an idea, talk to my professor about it, research, and write. Currently, I am editing a paper I wrote in the aforementioned flurry, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I set monthly goals for myself, and coming up on the beginning of June, one month into the break, I haven’t met the first goal, but I’m on the right track. Writing with no deadlines except your own, is freeing in the sense that I can put away my paper to handle more pressing issues when I need to, but it also means I can put away my paper to play Animal Crossing. Tell people about your goals, including your advisor, and strive to meet them, but allow the freedom in not quite making it there. Publishing a paper, unlike writing for class, is about making it as perfect as possible, so even though I am disappointed I didn’t finish everything I wanted to in May, I know that taking the time I need will create a better paper. It takes self-discipline, but also self-awareness of your limitations to walk that balance in creating a publishable paper.
With the Covid-19 pandemic increasing my time spent at home, I’ve had the chance to start working on several possible research projects. Some are new, others are a continuation of work from my master’s program. While I am still navigating a possible dissertation topic, I am beginning to map out some avenues of research which will hopefully give me a head start once the semester gets under way in August. This time has also been a good opportunity to reflect on what kind of research I hope to do. Making sure the research is actually useful and doesn’t reaffirm white supremacist ideas that are ingrained into the structure of academia, to start. Re-engaging with some theoretical writing has been a good way to challenge some of my ideas and push them into new directions.
As an incoming PhD student who has been away from academia for a year, I think that taking the summer to get myself back into the mindset and groove of graduate school is going to take top priority. Since I don’t have any summer classes to take, publications to finish, or even projects to work on, my summer is fairly open. As a result, I will be taking this time to refresh my memory and understanding of theories and methods I learned during my master’s degree. My plan is to go back to readings I had done, look at my notes, and make sure that I understand the basics. I also plan to look at what has recently been published in my area of focus to understand what questions are being asked and what topics are being debated. I think that it is also important to communicate with my major professor during this time to see if there is anything else I should be doing. Should I start thinking about dissertation topics? Do I need to narrow down my focus to a specific country and, if I do, what language do I need to start learning? As the summer progresses, I’m sure that there will be a lot more things I’ll be working on, but this seems to be a good starting place.
Graduation is more like a beginning than an end. This summer, I need to think about what I need to do to get myself on track for my future, while also determining what exactly that will be. This means researching possible future careers both in and outside of academia, and what it will take to achieve those goals. When it comes to academia, the main path forward would be a PhD program. I will need to determine which program fits both my interests and needs, while also determining what is the most feasible for myself. In terms of non-academic possibilities, they are a little more open, with job opportunities available in both public institutions, such as the government or museums, or in private institutions. A mix between these two would be to also explore opportunities for graduate fellowships that would allow me to gain more education or experience towards a career. An important part of working towards these goals is researching what opportunities are available. Another major aspect is using the connections I have made both academically and professionally. Through graduate school and interning at a museum, I have been fortunate to meet many people involved in practicing professional history. These connections are invaluable resources and will help provide me with information and opportunities going forward, which is something I can’t pass up. Ideas and information are important, but so are the people you meet along the way.
The current pandemic has ruined many graduate students’ research and internship opportunities for this summer. I intended to join a nautical archaeology project in Sicily this summer which was cancelled. This research trip would have provided me with crucial information for my dissertation and much needed archeological experience. However, the summer is not completely lost to the pandemic. I reached out to my colleagues and professors to see if they needed any help with projects or wanted to work on papers together. I had an overly positive response whereas now I am working on multiple articles and have a paid internship. Doing an internship may not be the first choice of how many of us wanted to spend our summer, but it is a great scholarly experience if you can land one in your field of study. If you have not already applied for an internship, I suggest that you email professors and other researchers who may need some help since their summer projects were likely canceled as well. No matter what field you are in within the humanities, an internship may provide you with much needed structure, experience, financial support, and of course, some knowledge! So, try your best to get an internship in your field or closely related field and even if that does not pan out my colleagues have other suggestions for how to spend your summer.
This summer I am taking three classes in order to obtain funding from my department, and I am discovering that there are hard limits to how much stress I can take. With all the chaos and confusion going on in the world at large, I mostly find myself very tired and very stressed, and due to this I am not handling mundane issues as well as I normally feel I am able to. The best thing I have found that has helped to keep me on track for my assignments is to hold myself accountable through third-parties. For instance, I opted to take one of my directed readings with a classmate of mine. Although there are some variations in what we are reading, having that second person there, and scheduling weekly meetings with her to discuss the readings, has helped me to at least stay on top of my readings for that class. I’ve learned that one of the easiest ways to reduce stress is to set hard deadlines for myself, and tell as many people as possible what those deadlines are. That way I am more motivated to finish on time and I’m not shoving everything to the side. It is also a relief to feel as though something has been accomplished. When looking at something with a more ambiguous timeline, like “I want to read these books by summer’s end,” it felt like I always constantly had too much to do. Breaking everything down in an easy to digest schedule helped to alleviate a lot of anxiety that centered around workloads, and helped to give me something tangible I can point to and say “This is what I’ve already done for the week. Well done, Me” instead of looking toward the mountain of other things I need to do.