Academia: not the only thing I can imagine doing

I’m pretty sure you’re all familiar with the well-worn advice “don’t go into academia unless it’s the only thing you can imagine doing”. I think I first read it from Dean Dad, back when I was a wee undergrad. I know Jon Jarrett has been a proponent of this advice, too. The logic goes something like this:

  • Academia is difficult to get into, difficult to stay in, and overworks you as long as you’re here
  • Also the postgrad scholarships are shitty and the job market is horrifying
  • Ergo, the poor sods going into the field had better be damn sure that there’s nothing else they’d rather do.
Now, I see the logic. I would strongly disadvise doing a postgrad research degree if there’s something else you’d rather do. Why aren’t you doing the thing you’d rather do? But the advice often comes in the form of “if there’s nothing else you could be happy doing” or “if there’s nothing else you can imagine doing”, or just if there’s nothing else you could do.

A vocation is a vocation and I’m the last person in the world to suggest it’s a smart idea not to pursue your vocation, if you’re lucky enough to have one. Nevertheless, it seems to me that this advice is a very poor example of career decision-making. Pursuing a career because it’s the only thing that makes you happy, or the only thing you think you’re capable of? Surely that’s a one-way ticket to a nervous breakdown. And what happens when, for all your smarts and all your ambition, there just isn’t a job out there for you?

That, ladies and internetfolk, is why I vastly prefer this modest proposal from Hook and Eye. And therefore I am going to quote it at you:
If you want to do a PhD, you should do one. But! Only under this condition: you treat it like the first job of your career. Think of the PhD like a 4-6 year chunk of time, a discrete part of your life, where you earn a salary, live a real life (of the mind, of course, but also without taking loans to pay for food), and enjoy the full range of adult experiences. Don’t put your life on hold for some future utopia: that ain’t how this works anymore. Treat your PhD like a job: maybe it’s a low paying job, but that’s okay, because you really enjoy it. If you’re not going to enjoy this time, if you’re not going to be satisfied with your life while you do it, then don’t do it holding your nose for the glorious reward of the coming professorship. Because that’s a recipe for misery, all round.

People change jobs a lot over their lifetimes. Consider the PhD as one more job: it’s a great job, so far as it goes, really. You get to follow your interests and your passions. You mostly set your own hours. Your colleagues are great fun, and really smart. You often get to travel. You’ll write a book-length study of your own devising. You’ll get opportunities to interact with the public through teaching. While in this job, you prepare for your next one, the next part of your career: sure, you’ll learn how to be a professor, but you should also hone your other professional skills, too, because you know the PhD doesn’t last forever.

I, of course, am the sod who elected to do two post-grad research degrees instead of just one. And that’s for many reasons, but at least partly because I actually want the skills training, not just the letters after my name.  Even if everything goes pear-shaped on me, which is possible, and I don’t manage to get into an overseas PhD program, there are a whole bunch of skills I’m picking up here. They don’t have a clear label on them telling me “apply for X kind of job”, aside from the teaching skills (and I’m still not attracted to the idea of teaching high school). But they exist, and I can even describe them to you!

I can write well. I could write well when I finished Honours: better (more clearly, more efficiently), apparently, than many employees in the workplace I went into. I can write better still now. That is unlikely to ever go astray. Thesis-writing draws on a whole set of skills which are described in the ‘real’ workforce as ‘project management‘. A project with one staffmember, sure, but a project nonetheless. I had some of those skills at the end of honours: I have more of them now, including the “oh fuck, this really isn’t working, let’s revise objectives/timeframe/something else” skill.

I’ve always been fairly confident at public speaking, but I’m a whole damn lot better at it now than I was at the end of honours. My speaking pace has almost halved, going by the evidence of wordcounts on papers I gave in 2008 versus 2011. Teaching has forced me to clarify my thoughts, and to learn the difference between imparting facts and teaching skills. I can revise documents and clarify other people’s writing (if anything was ever good editing training, marking is).

And so on and so forth. Many of those are skills I already possessed at the end of honours, but I’m better at them now. I have no real plans for what I might do outside of academia, but the last couple of years has also been a good opportunity to figure out what I need in an occupation. It needs to be intellectually challenging, tick. But it also needs a lot of face-to-face human interaction. I knew I was in the wrong job in 2009 when  I found myself wishing I’d stuck to waitressing – but I still find myself thinking wistfully, especially over summer breaks, about retail and hospitality and admin jobs where I was interacting with people all the time. I like to have both fixed routines and a certain amount of discretion over my own work.

Academia, thus far, suits all of those needs pretty well. But I’m not foolish enough to think that it’s the only thing I could ever do. In fact, for me, knowing that I could do other things, if I preferred doing other things; knowing I have actual useful skills both in and outside of academia , is pretty important in terms of keeping me moving forward and preventing me from dissolving into a little ball of performance anxiety. It’s a job. It’s a job I want to do really well in, if I can. But if I can’t, or if it becomes unbearably stressful, there are other things out there; and years spent honing one’s research, writing, teaching skills are unlikely to be a waste, in the grand scheme of things.

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Academia and creativity

Thanks to everyone who left references re: eating disorders. My housemate and I got hold of “Holy Feast, Holy Fast” and “Holy Anorexia”, one each, but sadly we can only get them out of short loan for a week at a time. So my education on the subject of medieval eating disorders will have to be sporadic and tucked in around what I’m actually *supposed* to be doing.

Now here’s a question: does anyone else find that academic work chews up your capacity for other sorts of creative work?

Knowing people like Adrienne J. Odasso, who managed to combine work on an absolutely terrifying-sounding PHD and build up a career as a poet (while I’m spruiking AJO, you could do worse than to read her latest poem published online, Saints Lives at Divine Dirt Quarterly), or the Sydney-based semiotician Nick Riemer, who’s also a poet in his spare time, clearly it is and ought to be possible to be academically productive and creatively.

One of the few things that I regret about coming back to uni, though, is that for me, creative writing and academic work seem to be an either/or. I wrote a lot during high school and first year uni: prose fiction (of age-appropriate dubiousness) and then I hit my stride with poetry in the last year of school.

Thing is: I only seem to be able to write in one format at a time. Midway through second year, something clicked with my essay-writing. I think it was when I had my first senior-level essay (over 3000 words) due, the first paper which really required I think Original Thoughts and present them convincingly. Academic writing has always been a lot tougher than fiction or poetry, more likely to make me want to throw it all in and go off and become an undertaker. But then, I’m in academia for other reasons besides the fun of writing, and I can’t just leave it if it’s no fun, as I might with fiction or poetry. And when it works, there’s the same giddy feeling, the everything-in-the-right-place-and-i-am-just-AWESOME sensation.

But the more academic writing I do, the less likely I am to write anything else (except blogs. Maybe even blogs – observe how this blog died a terrible death in the tail end of honours). I accepted that years ago, traded in my probably-unrealistic and certainly poorly-paid ambition of becoming An Author in for the equally poorly-paid and difficult to achieve ambition of becoming A Medievalist. It feels like betraying my sixteen-year-old self, but them’s the breaks.

Last year, while I was off working for the public circus, two important things happened:

Firstly, I started writing again. Slowly, and very badly at first. Poetry doesn’t just tumble off the pen anymore, nor fiction; and at first I was faced with the dismal realisation that I was a better poet at sixteen than twenty-one. But four years of essay writing did me some good: my writing’s more controlled now, and I can turn a critical eye back on myself and know what I said and how I wanted to say it, which helps with the editing process. Slowly, with practice and time to read other poets, and with no essays or thesis demanding my brain time, I started writing things I’m quite proud of.

I liked that. I’m aware that flinging myself back into academia will be a huge cramp on creative writing: I just don’t have the energy to work consistently on two kinds of writing at once. I can deal with it: being An Author or A Poet would make me happy, but not being an academic made me miserable. So there’s that decision made. But it’s a sad one, all the same.

The second thing was much happier. I participated in an LJ-based writing challenge called WriSoMiFu (write something, you miserable fuck), in which, rather than trying to meet the 50-000 word NaNoWriMo standard, you merely had to write for ten minutes a day, every day, on anything. In one check-in post, some person with motivational intent told us to think about the things you like to read; the things you read that make you excited; the things that make you want to talk about them, read more, and make you want to write.

Cleverclogs me had a lightbulb moment. Fiction is fun, sometimes, but I no longer devour it insatiably. I don’t see new fiction books and think WANT, NOW so often; I don’t pick up random novels for their humourous title or tangential relation to something else I read. On the other hand, I can’t open any academic journal without picking up something weird that I absolutely must read; I steal my housemates’ textbooks; I have a to-read pile on my bookshelf of academic articles on subjects ranging from Chretien de Troyes to the genetic basis of BMI, via same-sex domestic violence and fan studies. While I was in Canberra, I bought a fair bit of fiction, but far more non-fiction, both academic and otherwise.

If, as advised, I were to write the things I’d really want to read, those things would be lengthy and dense and have far too many footnotes. The audience for such things isn’t exactly huge, but I should certainly know by now that there are some academic books which are a delight to read. And some which, useful as they are, are really terrible on the reader. There’s skill and artistry in that, in making a critical book readable.

So that’s one of the challenges facing me: to try to keep up the “creative writing”, because I like it, and I use it to say very different things about myself. But at the same time, I have to remember that academic writing is creative, in its own way; and that the reason one often loses out to the other is that they’re far more closely related than I think.

And for the good of my sanity, I’m trying to find creative things to do which aren’t word-based. Things I’m actually not all that good at, and which no one will ever mark me on: baking (except my housemates continue to mark me on that, on a scale of delicious to disastrous), knitting, attempting to grow tomato plants.

The University of Cambridge are SRS BIZNIS

I have now been a graduate student for ONE WHOLE WEEK. It’s very exciting. So obviously now is the time to start planning my next degree. (There is method in my madness – if I plan to finish this one a bit *early* then I should be able to roll right into an overseas PHD program, on the arrogant assumption that I’m spiffy enough to get into such things.)

Having recently been through one round of applications, and having spent a couple of hours poking at the websites of various universities, I have some observations:

1. I thought the university of Sydney were crummy with their paperwork (don’t talk to me about paperwork. I somehow still don’t have a timetable!). But apparently Australian universities are models of efficiency! I applied in October and started in March. Investigation suggests that I will have to apply *this* October if I want to start *next* September/October overseas. Seriously, people, is your paperwork all done in stone tablets?

Note: this is no longer the logo of USyd.

The new one is “modern”. And ugly.

2. Does the University of Cambridge not WANT students? Their prospective grad students pages are the most depressing thing I’ve read for quite some time. Observe:

From “What we expect from you“:

The most important qualification for becoming a graduate student is a sense of vocation. Finishing a dissertation is hard work; it is also a test of determination. In deciding if graduate work is for you it is valuable to consider which elements in your undergraduate course you most enjoyed. It is not enough to have relished the excitement of reading new material each week and cleverly concealing what you did not know in your essays or coursework – although an enthusiasm for reading is one vital qualification for graduate work. If you felt frustrated about the limits of your knowledge when you were an undergraduate, and enjoyed the more extended forms of study which were required for a dissertation or extended essay, then it is likely that you will get satisfaction from graduate work.

From “What you cannot expect from us“:

Do not expect to be spoon-fed while you are here. You will spend long hours in the library working on a topic which on a black day might seem to be of interest to noone else in the world. You should bear in mind that you will probably be poor, and that you will almost certainly have to spend a great deal of time reading material which you find unappetising in order to master your chosen field.

Translation: We are CAMBRIDGE and we are HARDCORE. You must be HARDCORE to be at CAMBRIDGE. You’re SMART? Think again! ORDINARY SMARTS ARE NOT HARDCORE ENOUGH AT CAMBRIDGE. Students at Cambridge are so HARDCORE that they are MISERABLE ALL THE TIME! But that’s the way they LIKE IT because WE ARE CAMBRIDGE AND WE ARE HARDCORE! Come to Cambridge, earn a degree in MISERABLE, it’s HARDCORE.

Ok, Ok, I understand, they’re *Cambridge*, they don’t need to be nice to their students. But compare to the nice, businesslike pages for Medieval Studies at Toronto! Those pages tell us that the program is quite hard to get into, and Serious Business once you’re in, but for the rest of it, they don’t seem to feel the need to either scare people off or to target a select audience of intellectual masochists.

Is it just me, or is Cambridge’s pitch all wrong here? I can imagine receiving such advice in a friendly peer-to-peer orientation pack, perhaps, but for the university’s public face… surely there are ways to get say “you must be serious to come here” without talking down to your applicants or advertising the many miserable qualities of the degree in question.

Another “why this field” post

Something that’s been knocking around in my head since I decided to go back to uni is the question of why. Not why go back to uni (that’s easy enough: I’m Very Bored in my current job, and I miss learning and researching and being… creative, I guess. Yes, that thesis was creative). Not even why on earth do I want to be an academic, because that turns out to be quite obvious, after a year away (h/t to Dean Dad, who once posted suggesting that it would be a good idea for aspiring academics to try their hands at something else, in the interests of a more rounded skill-set and the definite knowledge that this is what one wants to do, rather than the only thing one thinks one can do).  The amount of time I spend lecturing long-suffering friends on such things as sexuality in medieval hagiography, or the life of Charlemagne, or dirty jokes in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, when I really should be taking a chill pill and enjoying Real Life has lead me to the conclusion that I’d enjoy teaching as much as research.

No. What I’m coming back to (again) is: why medieval studies? I mean, really. WHY?

Simple answer is because I happen to LIKE it. There’s also the fact that I can pick up and run with Old French, I could go back to Middle English or Old English, and I know the ins and outs of how to go about the research, and find the key texts and consult the primary sources and cross-reference to other things I’ve studied. But mostly, it’s that I like medieval studies. I like medieval texts and I like medieval social constructs. I like hanging out with the Gawain poet and Chrétien and Ælfric and knowing how they thought and wrote and dreamed. Also I like knowing obscure things like the length of a cubit for the purposes of Venetian ship-builders in the Crusade period (84cm, as it happens) and baffling poor innocent people who didn’t actually care in the first place.

But that only really answers why I want to research in this field (if it even answers that much. I could, theoretically, live a perfectly productive life doing whatever it is that productive people do, and read Chrétien for fun). It doesn’t answer such questions as “why invest a lot of government money in allowing me to do this” or “why subject undergrads to Obscure Things Highly Finds Interesting?” And it really doesn’t answer the question of “isn’t there something more relevant and useful a young female australian with a yen for literary theory could be doing with her time?” Australian lit is not very widely studied. Australian women’s lit, even less so. Early Australian women’s lit: very sparsely indeed. I happen to know of a woman who wrote – not brilliant, but interesting – social novels about late 19th/early 20th century Australian society.  She had some very interesting connections with Federation-era feminist circles and the movement for women’s tertiary education. As far as I know, she’s never been studied.

Am I suffering from a classic case of Cultural Cringe? Isn’t it a bit sad, if some (most?) of the smartest young humanities scholars in the country (not that I’m necessarily the smartest of young scholars. But I’m pretty smart, and very stubborn) are busy running off with their heads in the literature and history and social constructs of countries and time periods removed from our own by half a globe and at least half a millenium?

A friend and mentor justified, in her Aus. govt. research funding application, her intention to study medieval marriage, as being relevant to Australia’s scholarly interests because this country has inherited the institutions and cultural understandings of British society, and therefore her research into the politics of marriage in her particular medieval period would or could contribute to the contemporary debate about the institution of marriage and its place in Australian society. As it happens, I buy this argument (if I had a dollar for every time I’ve brought up the twelfth-century origins of the sacrament of marriage in a debate about the Sanctity of Marriage, I’d be making a substantial contribution to the marriage equality campaign, in the name of good history). But where does “understanding shared cultural constructs” cross over into Culture Cringe?  Can I justify the study of female friendship in the works of Chrétien de Troyes in terms of potential insights into my own culture and context, and should I? How do you reconcile the need to bypass the cultural privilege given to European history with the principle of “knowledge for knowledge’s sake”?

I was tidying up my RSS feed today – removing blogs I never read anymore, and adding, as it happens, some Australian feminist bloggers. And I came across this post at Modern Medieval, in which Matthew Gabrielle quotes an email from a former student of his, on how the study of history changed the way that said student understands his own context.

I was led to these necessary conclusions. If I could, at the same time, be critical of and appreciate St. Francis of Assisi, why couldn’t I also question while appreciating the Founding Fathers or Abraham Lincoln? If describing the Crusades as a struggle between the evil Christian invaders and the Muslims was an over-generalization, why must I accept the generalizations we make about terrorism, politicians, or religious leaders? People are people. Mass movements are mass movements. Heroes and great nations make mistakes and bad guys and rogue nations aren’t often as evil as we’d like them to be. To be sure, I studied the Middle Ages at a time when I was already questioning many of my assumptions and, already, becoming the black sheep of my family, but the study of history, and specifically of this period, further freed my thoughts to allow for complexity so that I can disagree with Bush without thinking him ill-intentioned. So that I could condemn terrorists without condemning fundamental Islam. For me, the Middle Ages weren’t as important for how they still affect the present as they were for how they allowed me to examine the present for what it truly is—a world as complex as the Middle Ages.

Medieval Studies taught me that gender is a social construct. I’ve still never read a word of Judith Butler; I’m only just now reading Ann Summer’s Damned Whores and God’s Police, which goes through, in great detail, the history of women’s gendered experience in Australia. I ran a mile from feminist theory, in my early undergrad years. But I kept coming back to studying women, because women and women’s place in society and how people think about women and women’s place in society interests me. Ælfric, bless his cotton socks, and the scholars who work on him, taught me about signifiers of gender, and passive/active dichotomies. It wasn’t until I won a prize from the Society for Medieval Feminist Studies for what I thought was an eminently sensible essay about grammar and narrative structure in Ælfric’s Judith, which just so happened to be looking at gender, that I realised I’d accidentally become a feminist scholar. It took another… six months, at least, before I cottoned on that I’d also accidentally become a feminist, after swearing myself blue in the face for years that I was and would always remain an egalitarian, and wasn’t having a bar of that crazy feminism business.

University taught me to think critically about things I’d always taken for granted. Medieval Studies taught me first to think critically about things far enough removed from my own context that I couldn’t take them for granted. And then, as Matthew’s former student says, it’s a lot easier to turn those same critical lenses on the context I live in now.

I’m still not sure that I’m not suffering from Culture Cringe. But I can say that it’s worth Australian time and money researching the distant past (the distant European past. The distant Asian past. The distant American past and Indian past and South American past and African past, and absolutely the distant Indigenous past), even in the absence of any immediate and clear connection to any present political or cultural debate. And it is always worth Australian time and money teaching people to think about the distant past: because it’s FUN. And because once you start thinking, it becomes very hard to stop.

Lessons learnt in Reality

I keep meaning to post things (really, I have posts all lined up in my head!). But the Real World is unexpectedly more time-consuming, or possibly more energy-consuming, than you’d think.

Here, though, are some useful things I’m learning, courtesy of the Real World, which I don’t think I’d have learnt so swiftly if I’d not taken time out:

* Moving does not have to be a major stressor for me. Now, I always knew that, but my last major move in life, moving to uni, was extremely stressful. Moving cities has been great: I love Canberra, I love living in a real flat. I miss my friends but I’m not homesick. I’ve discovered that I’m a whole lot more confident than I was in first year, that I can make friends easily, and also elect not to make friends with people if we don’t connect easily. This really isn’t a surprising life development, but it’s nice to know that before I try uprooting myself and trotting off to the other side of the globe.

* Set work hours! My god, they’re fascinating. I’d never realised how long nine hours was – nine hours on your feet waitressing is long, but you don’t finish a shift with tangible progress to pick up the next day. You can get an awful lot of stuff done between the hours of 8.30 and 5.30 every day. You can also waste an awful lot of time, if you’re so inclined.

I suspect I spent most of my degree wasting an awful lot of time. I did quite a bit of work, too, but I had this awful ‘just start work and keep going until bedtime’ mentality. I’d be blogging, surfing, emailing, and who knows what else at the same time, all day, every day. Now, I’m finding that once I get home from work I don’t have time to keep up with the internet, which is a sure sign that I had over-committed myself online…

Do we think that if I spend two years working in the Real World, I might get into the habit of working by day and blogging by night?

* Stress happens in the Real World, too. But it’s not the end of the world. Right now, for example, my team is completely crunched: major project, already extended deadlines by about a month, and there is absolutely no way the final product is going to be as shiny and professional as we would like it.

We deal. In this case, it means getting the parts which draw the most public attention as shiny as possible, and as much of the rest of it functional if possible. I have my own little sandbox, which I thought would take me a week and has taken me nearly a month already. I’m going to try to have it finished in the next two working days. I might even put in some hours over the long weekend. But if I don’t get it done… the world does not end.

Stress is happening. I want to go into Deadline Mode (stopping only sleep, eating while working, and compulsively checking Livejournal every five minutes).  But even if I did, this is a teamwork project, and I’m the tiniest cog in the team machine. I’ve worked in teams before and I’ve worked on projects with deadlines before, but I’ve never done both at once. It’s at once incredibly frustrating and incredibly comforting. This thing lives or dies on a communal effort, and its success or failure doesn’t change my net worth as a human being, or my standing in the workplace.

Academia is a bit (a lot) more personal than that, but I shall endeavour to learn perspective.

* I went to a project management workshop the other day: a whole bunch of stuff about defining objectives, scope, processes, what have you. Dry as toast but very useful. It hit me, while we were working through this pre-designed Project Management Scheme, that this was what I’d struggled and fumbled about with at the beginning of last year: the fact that I couldn’t just pick up a book, open a document and start Thesising. I had to figure out some idea of what I wanted, where I was going, and how to get there, and I didn’t have a set framework for doing that. Now, the Enormous Project I’m involved in at the moment goes to show that no matter how carefully you Manage, it will still come down to a frantic scramble at the end. However, I can see how careful management, a clear idea of the objectives, scope, and resources, and knowing what gives and what doesn’t, is what’s keeping it all from flying to pieces before my bossess’ eyes.

Academic work projects. Rather more time consuming, ego-crushing, absorb-your-whole-life than most workplace projects, but still projects. Here’s hoping a few years in the workforce teaches me a bit about project management.

That was rather a lot of blather. Congratulations if you got to the end of it 🙂

The Naked Philologist Considers Other Careers

I know, terrible prospect, that. But the fact is, I am at present more or less unemployable in the Real World, while at the same time there’s a couple of degrees between me and even the chance of an academic job. Overseas degrees. Expensive overseas degrees. And one has to *live* as well as study.

I’m telling myself that I need a secondary career- maybe even a separate qualification- so that I can hope to earn some kind of money between degrees. So that I have something to fall back on when there are simply no academic jobs going. That sort of thing.

When I mention this plan to Wise Academics, they look at me with solemn eyes and say to me ‘once you’re in the real world, it’s hard to leave’. They remind me that once one is earning money, it’s very hard to throw that in for another three to five years of study. They absolutely balk at the idea that I might take *another* degree in order to gain employment, the purpose of which is supposedly to earn me money to take further degrees in Medieval Studies…

I was thinking of TESL. Teaching training, I figure, can hardly go astray for a prospective academic. Language teaching training doubly so, for a prospective Anglo-Saxonist. And I’m told by people who work in the TESL industry that it’s primarily part time, and no one can stand to do it for a permanent career. So it sounds like a nice, transportable secondary career that probably won’t suck me into it completely.

Recently, though, I’ve wound up as the student supervisor of the College library. And I’m reminded of one of the rough plans I had when I came to USyd in the first place: a Bachelor of Arts followed by a Dip Lib.

literature,ravenclaw,books,nerd,wicked_visionsI like libraries. I like books. I like books covered and catalogued and put in order. As a child, I not only covered and alphabetised the contents of my bookshelf, I stuck little white stickers with handmade ‘F- MON’ style library tags on all of them. A book is not truly a book until it is catalogued and shelved. I really do like the Dewey Decimal system. I thought I just appreciated its usefulness, until, in the course of correcting cataloguing errors, I discovered that the other student librarians, who have all been at uni for years, have failed to internalise the broad Dewey categories. To me, it is not merely a nuisance to find a work of literature mis-catalogued in the 500s, but a Gross Disturbance In The Order Of Things. I have had to conclude that I am abnormally emotionally attached to the Dewey Decimal System.1

Accordingly, I am thinking that I would enjoy training and working as a Librarian. I know I would. But is librarian-ing a useful skill for a medievalist? Would PHD scholarship people look at an application and thing ‘sweet, a librarian, we need more of those in medieval studies’? Would an employer look at a job application and think ‘neat! An academic with information management skills’?

Whaddya reckon, internets?

~

1. And I have library-fu. I can tell the difference between 829.91 and 829.9 1, and between S829 91 and 829.9 S1. (Apparently this is so difficult that the Library has had to make a computer game to teach people. Me, I just hung out up there for far too long. Eventually, after swearing a lot and walking in circles a lot, I got the idea. It seems not everyone does.) The other day, I unearthed a book which was catalogued simply as 942. Have you any idea how many 942s there are on the ninth floor of Fisher? Everything from 942 ABC to 942 ZYX, and hiding somewhere in there, one 942-nothing. Which turned out to be under the initial of the dedicatee, not the author. Fortunately, I was possessed by Library!Ninja-power that day…

Suggestions, anyone?

At college formal dinner tonight, I discovered that one of my new postgrad friends has recently been awarded the Queensland Fulbright Scholarship to study in the States next semester. She suggested that, in my process of Applying-For-Everything-Under-The-Sun over the next nine months or so, I ought to have a stab at a Fulbright, and a) offered to help me with applications and b) told me that the College’s Honorary Librarian, whom I conveniently know through working for the college library, is on NSW Fulbright committee or panel or whoever they are.

Since I do honestly intend to apply for everything under the sun, and I hadn’t thought about US study before, I’m asking for suggestions. If I wanted to do a one-year Masters program in either Anglo-Saxon studies or interdisciplinary Medieval Studies, where should I apply?
Furthermore- are international students able to take student loans in the States? (Obviously I’d try to secure further funding to cover fees, but it’s worth finding these things out…)

And does anyone know of a way to sell Medieval Studies as relevant and useful and liable to enrich relations between the US and Australia?