One Does Not Simply…Write About Anthropology

My Time as a Graduate Student

Grad School Experiences with the Help from Calvin and Hobbes

on April 12, 2013

dbd1da10d20538b851ee7c7bd4a2196cI grew up reading Calvin and Hobbes comics. And like Disney movies, when you are a little kid you like it for the entertainment factor but you are unaware of the ‘adult’ side of it. Now that we are older we get it.

Lately I have been coming across Calvin and Hobbes and I have been relating much of what Calvin says to my experiences in academia. For a 6 year old, he is a really deep thinker and intellectual. Here are a few that I have came across that I think relate very well.(Along with my rants about grad school)

We all get that feeling when we are in school, that it is never going to end. For some of us it just might not until we are done with 6+ more years to achieve a PhD. While in grad school, the constant question that comes into light is “why the heck am I doing this?” Adding more debt that I collected as an undergrad, going through all the work, research, papers, and all that plus having to work a job to keep up with rent and bills monthly. Seems crazy?! Well it kinda is, but I believe it is worth it. I have some amazing professors who have pushed me and educated me to see the BIG picture in the end. Although we accumulate school loans and debt, it is worth it to learn from those who have been through the experience  understand when you have those crazy weeks of freaking out due to stress and hyped up on too much coffee. Many also have to realize that EVERYONE has some sort of school loans and debt, school isn’t cheap. But it is the experience and the education that is worth it. Worth it to have a better chance of a career and networking. I was fortunate as an undergrad to already build those connections with my undergrad professors, especially Dr. Margaret Huber who has been a great influence on my decision to go to grad school, helped me get in, help me achieve my first conference publication, listener to my grad school rants, and is now going to be on Thesis Committee. Even though grad school can be intimidating at first, you build friendships with those who understand completely what you are going through and you are not the only one.

1f1206336f9936929dfb1166f5e01317When going to grad school, be prepared to do the basics – read, write, coffee, repeat….

There is a lot of reading of boring articles that you will probably never again in your academic career and there are some that will haunt you to the end of your days. I don’t know how many times I have read Clifford Geertz’s Thick Description  or Bourdieu’s Outline of the Theory of Practice. Undergrad and grad, and possibly again when I go for a PhD.

Not only reading but also writing either a mini 2-4 page paper on the article or a paper on a theory that you were suppose to be thinking about the entire semester. calvin&hobbes1My point is, just be prepared to write. To be honest, I much rather write and express my thoughts about what I have done the semester than take a test.  I have not encountered too many tests in my grad classes, I think semester will be the first that I will have to take a final exam in Primatology. Honestly I measure intellect based upon what can be expressed through writing  it shows that one can think, plan, and organize thoughts. Test taking, I believe, shows that one can memorize facts that may or may not be retained. I didn’t take any written exams in my last years of undergrad, it was all papers. calvin-strip2And I learned a lot more writing and organizing within a paper than when I tried to cram for an exam. When I was working on the application process for grad school, one of the requirements was to take the GRE…the worst thing in the world and only proves if you can take a test and if you can do it well. I am a horrible test taking because I get testing anxiety really badly, it is probably because I do second guess myself and I start to panic about  what could happen if I failed.

3d111e36da2a5fdd5947a972d7da528bBut as far as the GRE, like I said it was a waste of time. The GRE has three components, much like the SAT, math, reading comprehension, and writing portion. I hadn’t taken math since my freshmen year of undergrad and there was a reason for that, I hated it and I was not good at it. My brother-in-law, Nic, had to reteach me basic algebra for this test. And guess what? I am not taking ANY math classes as a graduate, funny how that works. Again, I feel it just demonstrates whether or not you can memorize facts for a short period of time. But I may be wrong, that it just how I feel about test. Some are better at writing than others and some are good at taking tests. I am not one for tests.

As far as writing goes, I think I have improved upon my skills as a writer. 5ebd9565f489868b8e61bfb65148720fI will fully admit that my brain thinks faster than I can type, resulting in many grammar errors, which is evident when I get my written assignments back. But I have been better at going back and going through my work to correct it as I go then just sending it to Brian and asking him to edit it. Which is still what I often do.

You are often told since high school, don’t leave assignments and projects to the last minute. We all know we do and it is inevitable. We stay up late to the wee hours of the morning working on a project, sleep for 2 hours and then have to be up to turn it in. I was told by a professor that you are not a true scholar or academic if you don’t leave things at the last minute. I have left many things at the last minute, depending on the assignment and class. Last minute meaning, the night before. There are many who do assignments the day of or 2 hours before it is due. Again, it depends upon the individual. I try to get a majority of what is due for the week done at the beginning. Readings I usually do the night before so it fresh in my mind and I take extensive notes.CalvinAndHobbes This semester I have only had a couple of weeks where I haven’t really read the material and it showed on a couple of reading quizzes. But everyone has  those weeks.  Despite that, writing assignments however, I do start working on those little at a time and then tweak it as time gets closer to turning it in. 07bec445f126c7cfc7be05c55cff3568I will admit there have been a few times where I just write to turn something in, again that also depends on the work load of that week and what I already was working on. Some times it is my best work, others it is not. But everyone is different, some people can  and work better at the last minute panic. I, however, am not that type of individual. I would get too stressed. It is better to get into a habit of organizing yourself for grad school because there is a lot of work and you are expected to accomplish it and produce good, quality work from it. The thing is, like I stated earlier, many professors understand that you may have a couple off weeks and life gets in the way that may hinder you for that time period. And it isn’t like undergrad where many of the students are still fresh out of high school, first time away from home and parents, don’t have jobs, or many obligations. Graduate students are older, with jobs, may or may not have families of their own, and have ‘adult’ responsibilities and problems. (not saying all but many) I was the undergraduate that worked 40 hours to pay for the 21 credits I was taking each semester. Even 106679084893308864_Bp3bRQZK_cthough I do not fit in the norm, many do. Again, you must able to organize your life in order to incorporate school and life during the same time.

As I stated before in earlier posts, I have to juggle being here  in Florida and trying to help with my father who has cancer who is in Virginia, over 700 miles. And on top of that, my fiance who is stationed in another state. All of these factors have affected me many times during my studies, where I get a phone call from my mother to tell me the latest news from the doctors, my father calling me to tell me that he is scared and needs reassurance, and my fiance who I have leaned on during the hard times, I am only able to call. I see everyone that I am friends with here being able to live with the ones they love. I never thought that I would be in this position where I am doing what my father wants me to do most at the expense of being over 700 miles away. I do not regret this decision, just wish I had this experience at a better and happier time. Thus is life, it never is fair when you want it to go your way. Again, it could always be worse.

On a happier note, my experience as a grad student has been a rewarding one. As an undergrad I was exposed to mostly cultural anthropology and theory with some archaeology in the Historic Preservation department. Here I was able to get some experience and knowledge about biological anthropology as well d83a3e69350617edccb1e8c28fea8e04as applied anthropology. Although I like my cultural anthropology and my theory, I am thankful to be exposed to other subfields to have a more rounded knowledge of anthropology. It has also been an experience with being in classes with undergraduates and listening to the conversations and class discussions with them. It makes me very relieved to go to my graduate classes. It is interesting to hear when people get exposed to the first time to anthropological theory, but it is also interesting to note WHAT they are getting hung up on. For example in Primatology, when we reach the part in the lecture about a primate species’ mating, it is the sexual part that we have the most discussion about. Why? Maybe because sex is an interesting subject or the fact they don’t know anything about it. Who knows, but to me primates have sex because it is a part of life, whether it is for fun or for reproduction. THE END. But no, it doesn’t stop there. That is just one example, there are many. Regardless, it is entertaining to listen to and interesting to see what happens next. Again, usually after those classes I am glad to be in my graduate classes.

d94759b13a7571497ed7bb7475cdeac8Alright, well I think I have made this post long enough, but I want to share some experiences of grad school with you. I actually had a request to make a post about my experience by someone who commented on one of my posts. This is only my second semester here, I will have a few more plus the summer. So there will be more experiences to share as well as some updates of thesis research and other project I will be working on.

Hopefully, you also enjoyed the Calvin and Hobbes comics that I included. Many of them to relate to academic experiences and some I thought related very well to anthropology topics (like gender and identity).  And this last one to my thesis topic. d6cdadd0441e6ecb53ed37a9fad75463

 

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