To answer that question: studying for my comprehensive exams, going to Rhetoric Society of America conference in Minneapolis, taking my comprehensive exams, traveling to Iowa for my friend Rachel’s wedding, and preparing to teach English 15 during second summer session (which started Wednesday). I entered my “study for comps” mode in December/January, intending to write a blog post for each book and article I read, a repository of my notes. But then, while I was reading a lot, I wasn’t keeping up on my notes like intended, and when I’d work on them, it came in bursts, and I thought it silly to post many many blog posts all on the same day that were going to be mostly summaries and reviews of what I read. But most of my notes (not all) are available on my Goodreads account.
Everyone I talked to (in academia) said reading for comps was their favorite experience of graduate school — you never again get all that time to just read and become more knowledgeable about the field. I really enjoyed reading that much. It was great to be able to read all that, synthesize it, think about my dissertation I’ll be writing next, and occasionally talking to people about what I was reading. Frankly, I wish the “occasional” was more like “frequently,” and I found the process fairly isolating at times, but overall, it was good. Even if stressful. While studying, I’d go through these ups and downs (“I get this stuff, I’m confident!” one day, and “OMG, I’ve never felt so inadequate” the next) — a rollercoaster of confidence I haven’t felt to that degree since working on my master’s thesis.
My committee met this week about my comps, and I passed (with much praise), and I’ve started teaching rhetoric and composition for incoming first-year students, and it’s been a fun three days so far. My students so far are engaged, lively, fun, and funny. I’m looking forward to the next six weeks with them. I’m also looking forward to working on my proposal and revising a few pieces from the last two years. I need to get on that, but right now, teaching (and the warm sun and my apartment complex’s pool) have been a bit distracting.
And sometime in this whole process over the last two years, State College has become home. I rant about this town quite a bit (it’s a bit too small sometimes, I’d like more variety in people, cultures and businesses, I’d like to live somewhere where the type of drunken bar culture here isn’t the ubiquitous norm), but I’ve also grown to like it here. While in Iowa (the wedding was wonderful, so good to see old friends), I also realized that I wanted to be back here. It was wonderful to visit Ames, but I also realized that Ames isn’t what I remember it being; nostalgia had clouded my view, and I realized I now feel at home in State College. I’ll be ready and happy to move when I do, but I’m going to work on enjoying and valuing what is here: a wonderful intellectual community, some great people I adore and probably more I’ll meet, and many opportunities for rich experiences. It’s not Portland, Austin, or Chicago (or various other elsewheres), but it’s here. 🙂
So I guess I’ve passed a milestone (at times I viewed comps as a hurdle, a hoop to jump through, but I think it’s far more valuable than that), marking halfway through my PhD program. And I’ve got a lot to look forward to: teaching this summer, proposal and dissertation, teaching technical writing with the iPad in the fall, hopefully visiting my friend Luke in the Dominican Republic over winter break, and more.