Thursday, 24 July 2014

So I Submitted My Thesis For Defense Today...

Well, I sent in the thesis copy to the grad school office and my committee members will get their copies tomorrow.

...and now I feel both really tired and a tiny bit like reminiscing.  Just a very tiny bit while I'm not nervous about the defense (that can wait another month to kick in).

In any case, the PhD was quite a journey and I learned so very much from my instructors, peers, students and all the wonderful people I met in Kingston.

Some lessons I learned.

1) It's worth it to take the time to get to know the people & the place.  This isn't just a quick stop, it's going to be home for a while. 

At first, Kingston was a small town far away from the family and friends I knew and loved best and I realllly did not like it.  

Now, I will forever miss my spot - yes, my spot - at the Grad Club, my favourite barista's latte art, June from my favourite sushi place, Walter who sold me great books, and popping in to see Jackie's newest creations.

Kingston grew on me.


I dare you to not want that sunset.
Surrounding area was good too.
More coffee has been consumed from this mug made by Jackie than probably all other mugs in my house combined

It wasn't all awesome all the time though.  Kingston can be very cold and snowy and seriously lacks snowplows to clear sidewalks.  I have actually seen students snowshoe and cross country ski to class.

Brrrrrrr....
Throughout all this, I was busy thinking.  And reading.  And thinking some more.  I even had to buy more bookshelves.

2) Loving what you do really helps.

A PhD is a lot of really hard work. 

Somewhere along the line I had to learn how to read things that looked like this:

Yes, I now have stronger eyeglasses prescriptions.

I stopped being disturbed by words like...fistulae and phrases like rectal prolapse.  At some point I became known as the person who told gruesome stories about medical treatments gone awry (or as intended, in some cases) and even convinced some that studying the early modern period did not mean I was "like...an archeologist."

3) Organize, plan, plot.  Learn how to file.

I didn't for a long time and it was bad.

Papers in a box.
This is much better.

Papers in file folders with labels and everything!
4) Talking about your work is good.

Go to conferences, have coffee with your peers, and talk it through.  It's amazing how much you have yet to learn.  It's also amazing how interesting your work is to others.

By sharing your work, you can clarify your ideas and learn how to tell the story better the next time.  Here, the Museum of Health Care was kind enough to even let me play with their artefacts while I shared the Pepys lithotomy story.

This is me talking. 
5) That if you're going to teach, you should PLEASE invest the effort to do it well or do not do it at all.

Teaching is important.  I want my students to leave the classroom excited about the past, engaged with the material, thinking critically, and having learned new skills.  Teaching well requires a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of thinking.  It requires patience, dedication, tact, creativity, and perhaps above all, sheer determination.


If someone told me 5 years ago that I'd be a good teacher, I probably would have laughed.  But that moment when a struggling student gets it, when you see marked improvement over the course of the semester, when a student asks thoughtful question, or when you get an excited email from a former student accepted to Oxbridge or law school or who got a great job...That moment is pretty awesome.

6a) I am not perfect and my work isn't perfect.  This is not an excuse to shirk the duty to do my best.

Graduate students take themselves and their work very seriously.  Learn humility.  Learn how to let go of that draft.  Learn how to take constructive criticism.

This is really, really hard.

The thesis may take up A LOT of my life, but graduate school/academia/awesome books are only one facet of what makes me a person.

Sure you identify as a scholar, but what else are you?  What makes you happy?  What brings balance to your life?  Some colleagues do yoga, run, read fiction, and play video games.

Turns out, I really like to grow things, feed people, and keep them warm.



And also play board games on things I've crocheted
6b) Life goes on.

Over the course of the PhD thus far, I've made some awesome friends, got adopted by a cat, got married, and moved cities twice.

Companionship helps.


 Just in case I haven't mentioned it already, my cat is the best.

7) Enjoying the process is key.  Attitude is important - even the tediousness of paperwork can be amusing in hindsight. 

Research trips are also the best.  For one, you get to feel like a real scholar, do real history, meet new people, and even touch primary documents without gloves.  Second, you also get to visit places.  They may be places you've been to before, but take the time to explore and enjoy.

My favourite part of The National Archives, Kew
Splurge once in a while.  Asceticism and moderation can be downright boring.

Yes.  That is, in fact, way too many euros worth of dessert for two people.  Luckily for us, it was lunch.





8) A PhD teaches you a lot about yourself and what you value.

Take a moment out of your busy schedule and meditate (either literally or figuratively) about it.

Have some jumbled thoughts.  I'm a, sleepy, @medhistorian.

G'night.

9 comments:

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