Reflections of a Graduate Student – Year One.

imagesCA20KNSZWell the first year of graduate studies are completed. I have discovered quite a few things about graduate school. I will list my top ten as follows:

1. Having the department head as your Historiography professor the first semester is scary, especially when he looks at you during seminar with a look that says: “Why are you here?”

2. My office is in the basement and I see no sunlight for a good part of the day. I’m happy summer is here.

3. Students, whose papers you grade, feel like you are out to get them, when in fact, you are only trying to help, and they look at you with a look that says: “Why are you here?”

4. Grading 80 finals in two days is torture, especially when they are all essays and answer the same 5 questions. I applaud the professors who do this for 4 classes at the end of the semester.

5. Your “Statement of Purpose” really doesn’t have a purpose for getting you into the Masters’ programs. They don’t even look at that until you apply to Phd school.

6. You can change your thesis at least a hundred times before you get something cohesive.

7. I have lost weight hoofing from the commuter parking area at the very back of Clemson with my numerous bags of books. If you don’t phone the meter maid at the campus police that you’re dropping off books before you park your car in BFE, you will get a ticket if she sees you doing it, and will give you a look that says: “Why are you here?”

8.  There’s never enough research.

9. Russian literature is actually pretty fascinating.

10. Writing a 25-30 page research paper becomes second nature. I remember when I used to whine about 10 pages.

Any way, summer is here, so I’ll be posting a bit more. Lots of great things happening this year. Happy writing!

Searching for Primary Documents – The obsession with World War I

all-quiet-on-the-western-front-2As I begin the task of constructing my Master’s Thesis, I have found myself occupied with the search for World War I primary documents. I was happy to find a collection of 88 letters and assorted other materials from Ohio. Waiting to get them in the mail is hard: I’m impatient sometimes. Putting together the chapters and researching is going to be a great joy. This subject is near and dear to my heart.

Memory and commemoration of those who served and died in war, and the ways that people on the home front dealt with healing and piecing together their lives during this period is particularly interesting to me. The type of trauma associated with this war appears to be entirely different from any other war before it. This is what I’m discussing in my thesis. If anyone out there has a collection of letters from either the first or second war, and would be willing to let this graduate student have a moment with studying them, I would love to hear from you. I’m on a quest to discover something that’s never been discovered before. Guess that’s why I’m so obsessed with letters and memory.

The ending to the first semester of Graduate School.

WolfIf anyone told me twenty years ago that I would be attending graduate school in my late forties, and at Clemson University, I probably would have looked at them strange. Higher education is something you must be committed too, and ten or fifteen years ago, I didn’t understand that kind of commitment.

It’s taken me awhile to get here. Many ups and downs, lessons learned the hard way and so forth. The past five years, I’ve learned a lot about myself and about others. And now that I’ve finished up the first semester of grad school, I’ve learned some additional things about commitment. Graduate school isn’t easy. There’s a lot of reading, and your writing skills must be honed to perfection, especially when you need to crank out sever 25 page papers in a semester and the research that goes with it.

I also thought I had a clear picture of what I wanted to do for my thesis, but I found after writing a paper on World War I, that I’m changing from the era of the French Revolution to this time period. I watched a film called “My Boy Jack,” which was based off the story surrounding Jack Kipling, Rudyard Kipling’s son, and his death in World War I. (If you haven’t seen the movie, I suggest you do.) The emotion from the film stayed with me for several days. I couldn’t shake it. It was if a million voices of the lost generation called out to me, and I found myself committed to a topic that caught not only my imagination, but my emotions. I guess that’s what fuels commitment, deep and unfathomable emotion. It’s too bad we don’t incorporate that into everyday life. Perhaps the people who are most important to us would feel better appreciated, and understand our love.

The ending to this year is bringing some changes to me. I don’t know if anyone else sees them, but I know they are there. I sense these changes, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you have a wonderful 2014!

Heading to Grad School – What’s happening with you?

Don't think too much!Well it’s about that time – heading to Clemson for graduate school in August and I’m excited, yet a little apprehensive.  I remember when I took the GRE a year ago, and how I felt when my scores came in.  I didn’t know if they were good enough, and that made me a little fearful.  How do you know if going to Grad school is for you? That’s a question I asked myself over and over again, especially since I’m older than many of those who are going to be attending with me this fall.  I had a social networking friend contact me with this interactive website that answered some of the basic questions and helped me along the decision making process, and it was fun and made me laugh.  I thought I would share it with you guys who are thinking about taking that big step towards higher education.

As Celine said it’s “an interactive and light-hearted adventure book that helps students decide if they should pursue grad school.” Here is the web address.

I emailed her back and told her that I choose ‘Unicorns and Rainbows.’  And if you’re wondering what the heck that means, you need to go there and find out! 🙂

The End! Or is it?

100_2480Well this last semester of undergraduate work is winding down.  I have less than two weeks of student teaching left and I find that I have to admit – I am going to miss the kids.  I’ve enjoyed being with these ninth graders from Union County High School, and they’ve taught me a great deal of what it means to teach.

But now it’s time for graduation and the end of undergraduate work.  Yet, it’s not going to be the end of my learning experience.  I’ve been accepted to Clemson’s graduate program.  I also found out today that I was awarded a Fellowship.  I was proud and excited to be one of the ten students chosen nationally for this Fellowship.  I’m also excited because it means that the beginning to a new chapter is opening in my life.   I’m looking forward to summer because now I can concentrate on finishing Book Two of Legends of Green Isle, “The Mirror Sliver.”  Even though I am not very far away from 50, I have this feeling that my life is just beginning.

Are You Committed?

The past couple of days I’ve really been thinking a great deal about this word, commitment.  This semester is the last semester I have of classes before I do my student teaching and I’ve started to prepare my applications for graduate school.  I’ve sent the manuscripts of Book One “The Forgotten Spell” and half of Book Two “The Mirror Sliver” off to Laura Blum Guest of Mariposa Press in France, as she has taken the series under her wing, and agreed to represent Legends of Green Isle as an agent.  Things seems to be going pretty good, right.  Yet, there are always some kind of bumps in the highway of life.  Nothing is ever easy; I learned that a long time ago.  My bumps seem to becoming more frequent in that road.  Because of my school, I haven’t been able to work a normal 9 to 5 job.  I work little part-time gigs when I can fit them in.  Recently I spent a day in the hospital where I had to have numerous tests and so forth.  I don’t have great insurance, so I cringe every time I open the mailbox.  We haven’t been able to make our bills every month without robbing Peter to pay Paul, so the medical bills are going to throw another kink in the works.  I wonder how it’s going to be next semester when I won’t have my history intern job or my tutoring job at the school.  These thoughts bring me always back to that word commitment.

Are you committed Connie Wallace to see this to the end?  And how far does that commitment go?

Yes, that was me talking to myself as I stare at my notebook with my story outlines in them, waiting for me to write.  I heave a heavy sigh because right now I’m committed to graduating.  It would be easy to allow these bumps to get the better of me and just give up.  But I think of my boyfriend who gets up at 4:30 am every morning and drives two hours to work down in Atlanta and then drives the same distance home every night.  He is always committed.  I need to be the same way.

So, even though money, gas, food may be tight, I need to remind myself that I’m to be committed to finishing. I’m not a quitter. My commitment runs deep.  I set goals for myself a long time ago, that I wouldn’t leave this world until I managed to make some kind of mark in it.  Whether it be a small one or big one.   Let’s hope that the mark stays…as a testimony to my commitment.


The Adventures of taking the GRE

Well end of the semester came and went.  Managed to eek out good grades again. But now I am on to my final year of undergraduate work and Friday I must take the dreaded GRE.  I took a practice test the other day and in most of the verbal sections I did not get ONE question right.  I got more Math right than Verbal.  Hey, aren’t I supposed to be a history major??

Going to graduate school means you must know big words that many people have never even heard of.  For example:  Loquacious, which means “talkative” or mendacity which means “untruthfulness.”  Can’t say I’ve ever used either one of these in normal conversation, but I guess if I was at some big important get-together with professors, I could wow them with my knowledge of those words by injecting a sentence or two into polite conversation.  “Man, she sure was loquacious last night during the movies.”  Or perhaps “His mendacity is going to make me very angry!”  Now if any normal average American looked at these sentences, they would probably think many other things than the definitions I just gave you.

While studying my book I got on mastering the GRE: A Strategic Approach, I was able to finally get some verbal questions right.  I also did run through the math section and became familiar with all the formulas I once knew about 30 years ago, but have forgotten, because everyone knows most people do need algebra skills once they leave high school.  Anyone here remember the FOIL rule for algebra equations?  Well it is going to be an adventure on Friday.  I did give myself a small consolation that if I do badly I can retake it again in about 60 days, but I will have to study all summer.  Man, wouldn’t that be a bummer.

Recommendation for GRE help: “New GRE Premium Edition: A Strategic Approach” by Doug Tarnopol