Archive for the ‘academia’ Category


Protected: 2/14/2012 – Link: “My Year with the Canon”

February 23, 2012

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Protected: 1/29/2012 – A GRE Gem

February 22, 2012

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Protected: 11/4/2011 – GRE Lit Studying

February 21, 2012

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Protected: 4/15/2011 TESOL Conference

April 18, 2011

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Oh, That’s Right…

August 18, 2010

…I’m joining the Peace Corps! Well, will you look at that?

Okay, it’s not that bad, I haven’t completely forgotten about the fact that I’ll be living in a new country in a month (oh my God, I really am leaving  in a month, aren’t I?), but it sure hasn’t been the first thing on my mind these past few weeks either. I’ve been so focused on finishing my MA thesis that I’ve completely pushed the Peace Corps out of my mind. Anytime something reminded me that I will soon be going to Ukraine, be it a fellow groupmate posting the countdown of days until we leave or an e-mail from the Ukraine Country Desk, I had to push it away because I feared my head would explode if I started to think about it. My brain was just too full of medieval French romance and cross-dressing women. So while I have been asked multiple time by various people if I’m excited/scared/whatever, I have just answered honestly: I haven’t been able to think about it. I do feel like a bit of a slacker because I was sent homework by the Country Desk weeks ago, but when I say I couldn’t think about the Peace Corps, I mean I Could Not Think About The Peace Corps. I guess my mind can only handle one life changing thing at a time.

But today, I submitted my MA thesis and I am officially done with my degree. I now have a Masters in Medieval Studies, and you may address me as Master Lampton. Friends and family may call me Master Michelle. 🙂 Since I’m done, I feel like I can finally turn my attention to all things Peace Corps and begin to prepare myself for this incredible adventure.

So today I finally turned my mind to that homework I was sent. It’s this little ‘Learn How to be a TEFL Teacher from the Comfort of Your Own Home’ type thing that’s due by August 31st. But since I’m going to be in Scotland all next week (I can’t wait, I’m really looking forward to spending the time with Super Dad), I figure I should probably get it done before I leave Leeds this weekend (the entry about my emotional turmoil due to leaving Leeds will be saved for another time). It’s an interesting packet, talking about what will be expected of us by our communities and different teaching methodologies. There’s also a fun section with grammar rules that we need to know. Most of it is incredibly basic, like what a noun is, but other parts go into detail most people haven’t seen since middle school, such as what reflexive and demonstrative pronouns are. I’m just thankful I’ve taken Latin for so many years: I had to learn English inside and out in order to learn another language so most of this I already know.

I guess I should also start learning Ukrainian. My wonderful friend Lina has agreed to help me learn it, but I don’t think we will have time to work on it together before I leave. I’ll start working my way through the language booklet and handy-dandy set of audio files they sent me next week while traveling. I have plenty of time! Worse come to worse, I’ll just show up in country, say ‘Howdy!’, and hope for the best. Seriously, though, I’m not too terribly concerned. Living in a country is the easiest and fastest way to learn a language – I’m sure I’ll pick up loads once I arrive. I would love to have a good foundation before then, but I’m not going to stress myself out about it.

Now that I can actually think about the Peace Corps, I’m starting to get really excited. I’m really looking forward to heading off to a new country, meeting new people, making new friends. I’m even looking forward to going back to teaching, especially because I know it’ll be different from what I’ve experienced before. There are still a lot of things I have planned before I leave for Ukraine, but I really am getting very excited about this new chapter in my life.


IMC 2010

July 22, 2010

Last week was the International Medieval Congress here in Leeds. It’s one of the largest gatherings of medievalists in the world, and is a nerdy medievalist’s heaven: four intense days of papers, lectures, discussions, workshops, and a dance. I went to so many sessions I felt like my brain was about to leak from my ears, but I truly enjoyed most of them. One of the sessions I went to was a round table discussion for a coming conference on gender, time, and memory (I keep finding myself being sucked into gender studies…). It was really interesting, and I was actually able to contribute to the discussion (a first!) and offer ideas for potential papers while advising others on their work. Afterwards, one of the speakers approached me and asked me if I would be submitting a paper to the conference because she really liked my ideas and wanted to hear more about them. I told her I couldn’t. She was persistent, asking me why. I explained to her that I would be in Ukraine next January, when the conference will be held, and there would be no way I could attend. She seemed disappointed (and surprised that I am only an MA student), telling me she hoped to see me soon at the very least.

I also presented my own paper at the IMC. It was on Icelandic literature and was an exploration of how Örvar-Odds saga is a critique of the fornaldarsögur (sounds impressive, huh?). It went incredibly well. I made people laugh (intentionally) and was told that my paper was very easy to follow and my argument was very clear. Afterwards, I was approached by multiple different people, PhD candidates, Professors, people who study Icelandic literature for a living, asking me if I would publish the paper, would I continue my study in Icelandic literature, and where I would be going for my PhD next year. I told all of them that, while I will try to publish my paper someday, I wasn’t going to be starting my PhD anytime soon. Each of them asked me why, and I found myself explaining over and over again that I was going into the Peace Corps and that I would be in Ukraine come this fall. It was intense.

It just really put my decision to join the Peace Corps instead of getting my PhD right away into perspective. I have been encouraged by a couple of my professors to get my PhD, but the response I received during the IMC was overwhelming. It just made me wonder, made me think about this choice I’m making and how…sad I am about how my formal study in medieval literature is coming to an end, even if it turns out to be temporary. There’s nothing wrong with taking a couple of years off between my MA and my PhD, in fact it’s something I would encourage since I am so thankful I took a year off between my BA and my MA, but it still made me think about my future and how sad I am leaving academia behind. I know I’m not ready to settle down to work on a PhD for 4-6 years just yet, I know I wouldn’t be happy doing that right now, I have too much of the wanderlust, too many things I want to do and see, but what about after the Peace Corps? Will I be ready then? Or will I never be able to completely settle down in the way needed to work in academia? Will I ever be able to return for my PhD, ever return to the field that I love so passionately but which still doesn’t completely satisfy me?

I think that’s ultimately the problem. I just don’t know what I want to do after the Peace Corps. I know, I know, I haven’t even left yet, I have plenty of time to figure it out, over 27 months in fact. But there are so many things I want in life, so many things I want to do, and I’m just not sure which path I should choose, if any of them would actually completely satisfy me. It saddens and, yes, frightens me to know that I may ultimately not continue in academia, may not get my PhD when it’s something I want so badly. To know that this might really be the end of my studies. The IMC really put that all into perspective, made me realise what exactly I’m giving up, what exactly I’m leaving behind as I prepare to leave for the Peace Corps. It’s going to be worth it, I know. The Peace Corps is going to be amazing, it’s going to be such an experience. But still…

No matter what ultimately happens, though, I plan on trying to get a couple of things published over the next few years while in Ukraine. I’m pretty sure I could get two or three articles out of my MA thesis plus that Icelandic paper, and if I could get something published, it would look really good on my resume if I do continue in academia and apply to get my PhD (which would offset my awful GRE Subject Test score…boo to the GRE Subject Test…). Maybe I won’t continue in academia, maybe this really is the end, but I’m not willing to shut that door just yet. I’m going to keep my options open, and maybe, hopefully, the next few years in the Peace Corps will help me decide what my next step will be.

And besides, even if I don’t end up in academia, it’s not like I can’t study medieval literature on my own. I love what I do, I love it so freaking much, and that will never go away, no matter what. What can I say, I’m a nerdy medievalist at heart.


Balancing Act

June 30, 2010

It’s been a fun week! Lots of stuff due very quickly all at the same time. I’m juggling all the Peace Corps stuff with my academic things, and I have to be careful to strike a delicate balance so I can get everything done without stressing myself out (seriously, it’s summer, the first summer I haven’t worked since I was 16 – I’m taking it pretty easy right now despite all the things I need to do).

My to do list:

  • Peace Corps: Aspiration Statement (finish by Friday)
  • Peace Corps: Update my resume (finish by Friday)
  • Peace Corps: Apply for passport and visa (as soon as possible)
  • Academic: Thesis rough draft – 1,000-2,000 words (finish by Sunday)
  • Academic: Conference paper – 20 minute paper (finish by next week)

Peace Corps wise, the statement and resume are almost done. I’m irritated I don’t have my teacher training information here with me to put on my resume, but all that stuff is in storage back home so I’m just going to have to let it go. And the statement! The questions are so vague I don’t even know where to begin. I spent all day yesterday poking at it and, well, I’m not too terribly impressed with what I’ve written. I’ll look over it again a few more times before I send it out in a couple of days. I have an appointment next week to hopefully get the passport and visa stuff taken care of, and I’ll tell y’all all about the fun adventure that’s sure to turn into (ROAD TRIP!).

In between all this Peace Corps stuff I’ve continued working on my thesis. My supervisor wants me to send her a good chunk of the middle because we’ve been having trouble structuring my paper and she wants me to see if what we came up with is going to work. I’ve been finishing up my research and will hopefully start writing tomorrow, which will give me a couple of days to bang it out. Since I pretty much know what I want to write in my head, it should be really easy after I finish the last of my reading.

Now, that conference paper…that’s going to be interesting. I was asked very last minute to present a paper at this huge conference here in Leeds by a friend because someone dropped out. This conference is one of the largest Medievalist conferences in the world (right up there with Kalamazoo) and, well, depending on the day I go from being pretty calm to freaking out. I’ve never presented a paper before and don’t know how comfortable I feel (as a Masters student) presenting my ideas to people who’ve been doing this for years, especially over a topic I have only studied for a semester. Argh. I wrote the paper last term but haven’t touched it to make it presentation worthy yet. I’ll have a week to work on it after all these other deadlines are met, which will be plenty of time (I hope). Because, hey, at least I have a paper. Some people who are also presenting papers don’t even have outlines for their papers yet. It’ll be a good experience at the very least and will look great on my resume if I continue in academia after the Peace Corps.

It’s all about balance, making sure I get everything done in time. I enjoy these kinds of balancing acts, though. Keeps life interesting. And after the conference, it’s going to be smooth sailing until I’m back home.