I plan to enter graduate school (MA+PhD) in September 2018, which means I have something of a ‘gap year’ ahead of me. I want to use this unstructured time, this opportunity to develop and prepare on my own terms, the best way I can.
If you were in my position, how would you spend these spare 12 months before grad school officially begins? How would you prepare for what’s ahead, what would you focus on?
It goes without saying that I have already given these questions a lot of careful consideration, but I’m very curious to learn how others would approach this topic; especially, current PhD candidates, postdocs, and lecturers/professors. Knowing what you now know, if you could go back, how would you spend a spare year like that?
- My field is social/cultural anthropology.
- My ultimate goal (grad school and beyond) is to prepare a CV and a research portfolio, which will aid me in launching an academic career in Europe.
- I have a BA in anthropology and an unrelated MA,
- I currently freelance (unrelated field); I have plenty of spare time, and can arrange my schedule in whatever way I see fit.
- I live in a mid-size European city (not a capital); can’t move anywhere this year, but can likely do some limited traveling.
- There’s a small anthropology department here, but I’m not affiliated with it, and never was. My degree is from the US.
- I can speak the local language fairly well.
- The grad school (next year) will be in a different county, and learning the new language will be one of my objectives this year. The language of instruction will be English, however.
Note: Not sure if I made this clear, but I’m not looking for answers such as “travel for fun,” or “get a new hobby.” All of these are fine, but I want to use these 12 months to prepare for the demands of grad school and the grueling academic job hunt ahead.
I'm not in your field, so it 's hard to say. there are skills specific to each field, some you can brush up on at home ( ie stats or qualitative methodologies), some you need a lab and /or supervisor... so for that reason its hard to say exactly what you should be doing.
developing writing skills and improving your writing style are germane to everyone writing a thesis. writing regularly and reading other good writers are the best ways of improving in this area. As others have said, read some foundational literature and be very familiar with your area, theories and methodologies.
I would definitely do above, but i would if I were in your position.I would go travelling somewhere nice and relaxing for at least 2 months before you start. I know you said you didn't want to hear this. but as someone in their final year, I can't tell you how tired I feel at times, and how completely sick of my field and area I feel at times.
Start refreshed... 4/5 years is a long stretch and it will can be hard to maintain enthusiasm at times.
Another thing , if you have the means, would be be save some money, as funding is only barely enough, you will appreciate being able to treat your self to nice weekend away or a facial or whatever. I know it would probably be hard to take to take 2 months off and also save, but if you could, that's what I would do. maybe go stay with friends and family and do it cheaply or something.
I think a year is enough time to do all of the above.
Another thing I would do, if I could back in time, is simple things ... like having a good sleep routine and good exercise routine established..... little things like sleep/ being used to being in a routine/ not being too broke/ having a writing routine/ having exercise routine......these little things make doing a PhD so much easier or harder
I would apply for funding (or a program or whatever it is called in your neck of the woods), and then once secured I would chill. I think that would be the more productive thing you could do - as it would be great preparation for the grueling 3 years ahead.
I'd work and save money, read widely in my field (as once on the PhD your reading becomes highly selective and for some time it narrows to fit your specific topic), and enjoy weekends or down time while you can. Not that you can't enjoy some time away from your thesis when in the thick of it-you can-but it is always present in your mind once you've started.
Some terrific ideas from other posters on this thread as well, best wishes.
12 months is quite long. For me I would probably relax for the first few weeks. Have fun and have vacation. And then I will find a job or a program that would probably help you on the field you are interested in. Do some research or do volunteering work. I think it will help to prep you up. There are a lot of websites to prep you up (eg: www.gradaustralia.com.au), give you advices and find you a graduate job you might be interested in.
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