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Study in blue - shadows of echoes of memories of songs — LiveJournal
j4
j4
Study in blue
Seeing hoiho's enthusiasm for his PhD application, and reading marnameow's post about wanting to study again, is really bringing home to me how much I miss studying. I originally wanted to do postgrad work in English, but my tutors talked me out of it (on the grounds that people only stood a chance of getting funding if they got a First, and they didn't think I should count on getting one); so I left, and got a job, and now I'm still in that job, and I feel as though I've achieved precisely nothing in the 3+ years I've been doing it.

The problem is, I don't think I'd know how to study any more. And I certainly wouldn't know how to begin writing about my "current research interests" as I'd have to do if I wanted to apply to do postgrad study -- basically, looking at the application forms and requirements, I need to be doing research in order to start doing research. Which means I should be doing it in my spare time while I'm working ... and I simply don't have the energy. Which, of course, means I'm not capable of doing postgrad study anyway: if I can't make the time/energy to study now, there's no way I could do a postgraduate degree.

I have so many ideas for things I want to write about, but I no longer seem to be able to put them into words. And if I do try to put them into words, the ideas seem to shrink and shrink until they're the kind of ideas that 14-year-olds would scorn to bother with for GCSE coursework.

I wish I could just make myself accept the fact that I'm not an intellectual, and never will be. Yes, I was passable at my schoolwork; that doesn't mean I can compete with adults. ... I wish I could stop thinking altogether.
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(Deleted comment)
j4 From: j4 Date: December 17th, 2003 03:19 am (UTC) (Link)
You must be looking at different kind of forms from the ones I've got;

Hardly really surprising given that we do completely different subjects!

mine just wanted to know what degrees I done,

Hah. I don't have a list of previous degrees. I have one degree. Maybe that's why they need some other indication of what I've done with my time since leaving university (answer: nothing). The last form I looked at (for an MA in Linguistics at Cambridge) also needed two recent pieces of academic writing -- essays if I was still a student, publications if not.

as soon as they have ascertained that you have Clue.

I guess there's my problem, then.
(Deleted comment)
j4 From: j4 Date: December 17th, 2003 03:38 am (UTC) (Link)
As far as I can see, since you've been working for the short time since graduation, giving them your undergrad work would seem quite reasonable.

Although that basically says "I've done nothing since graduating".

If in doubt, the thing to do is to ask the department contact for the degree what you would need to provide, rather than second guessing what they really want.

Last time I did that, the person I spoke to said that they supposed if I really had nothing else, then essays from my degree would probably suffice, though my degree was a long time ago, and really they'd prefer something more recent, and couldn't I just write some more essays?

Is it an MA by research, or by teaching, or a combination?

Last one I looked at was a combination.
(Deleted comment)
j4 From: j4 Date: December 17th, 2003 03:59 am (UTC) (Link)
My degree was nearly 20 years ago

Yes, but a) you did more than just an undergraduate degree when you were still studying, you've already proved you can study at a postgrad level; and b) you've been working in your field for those 20 years. Even if you haven't been working in exactly the areas that you want to study in, you've been coding, designing code, etc.; you've kept pace with what's happening in the field. The closest I've come to Eng. Lang. & Lit., in the three years since I graduated, is shuffling bits of paper which happen to have poems on them.

Is that just Cambridge?

That was Cambridge; I don't know if it's just Cambridge.
j4 From: j4 Date: December 17th, 2003 03:22 am (UTC) (Link)
academic references

And that's a whole nother problem -- I talked to my tutor a couple of years ago about the possibility of going back to studying, and she really wasn't terribly encouraging. I doubt if she'd give me a good reference. And unlike you, I don't have tutors from my other degrees (and/or employers from 20 years of employment relevant to my field of study) to give me references instead.
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j4 From: j4 Date: December 17th, 2003 03:40 am (UTC) (Link)
I mean, given your degree, she can hardly say "this girls thick, and couldn't hack it" can she?

Well, she could say "This girl couldn't really stand up to the pressure of academic study, she had to redo a year of her degree; she was okay when people were telling her what to write but she's not capable of self-directed study, and she doesn't really have anything to offer in the way of original thought/research." You don't need to be original to get an u/grad degree.

People seldom give poor references unless they are really well deserved.

I suspect I'd have got short shrift if I'd told you that when you were worrying about references.
(Deleted comment)
j4 From: j4 Date: December 17th, 2003 04:04 am (UTC) (Link)
You do need to be good to get a first.

But good at what? You need to be good at writing essays which somebody has basically handed to you on a plate. In fact, you can get away with being only reasonably good at that, and then being lucky in the exam with what questions are offered. You don't necessarily have to be any good at the things which make a good researcher.
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From: vyvyan Date: December 17th, 2003 10:13 am (UTC) (Link)
The criteria for awarding Firsts for exam essays at Cambridge that I've seen (in ASNaC and Linguistics) do emphasize originality. I remember when I was co-marking essays with another linguistics chap a few years ago, we often agonised over whether we could reasonably give a borderline First to an essay which was thoroughly competent, accurate, well-illustrated, well-organised, copious and highly relevant to the question, but which didn't show any evidence of original thought! We usually ended up giving them very high 2.1s instead, unless the question was particularly difficult.
So unless English at Oxford is utterly different, I'd have expected your First indicated that you demonstrated originality in your exams.
From: bibliogirl Date: December 17th, 2003 03:56 am (UTC) (Link)
If it's of any consolation at all, there was a moment when my subject group had been invited round to dinner sometime early in my final year, by one of our tutors (though as it happened I was not being taught anything by him that year).

The conversation turned to our plans for what we wanted to do next, and I mentioned that I was thinking of applying to do a PhD.

He laughed, and said something unpleasant. I cannot remember, at this distance, exactly what. (This was the same chap who said to my then-tutorial partner and I, sometime in our first year, "Well, we didn't expect either of you to be high-flyers, but neither did we expect you to be so perilously close to the ground as you are at the moment.") Fucker.

I was so very, very tempted to send him a copy of the degree certificate when I was awarded it.

Ahem. Anyway....

keirf From: keirf Date: December 17th, 2003 05:59 am (UTC) (Link)
My 6th form maths teacher wrote on my final report "... has no flair for mathematics and should seriously consider pursuing some other subject."

I went on to get a B.A. and a Ph.D. in mathematics. When I revisited my old school years later I reminded him of his comment, and told him how I'd done academically. He asked me, "and what are you doing now?"
   "Working in computers," I answered.
   "I'm glad to see you finally took my advice," was his response.
From: bibliogirl Date: December 17th, 2003 06:10 am (UTC) (Link)
Thankfully my school maths teachers were a lot more encouraging ;)
karen2205 From: karen2205 Date: December 17th, 2003 04:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, I was passable at my schoolwork; that doesn't mean I can compete with adults. ...

And who was telling me that I'm not stupid.....?:-)

Neither are you. You are perfectly well suited to going back to study if that's what you want to do. And like it or not, you *are* an adult - that's how the rest of the world sees you.

I think the important thing to work out is not whether you *can* do it, but *why* you want to do it - what do you see as the best outcome? Have a think around the subject areas you'd like to research - most MAs/MPhils require/allow a dissertation, so writing an essay on the edges of a topic you'd like to use for your dissertation would probably be a good way to remind yourself that you can study and that you really enjoy the material you'd be looking at. Use this together with some undergrad essays as the written work you submit - that way you only have to write one essay, now.

I know what you mean about not having much energy - I reckon it's 'cos it's so close to Christmas and we're all dying for that break to recharge spent batteries and stuff. See if inspiration strikes over the holiday - the libraries won't be open, but I'm sure there's plenty of stuff to be found online.

See if you can talk to a tutor in your subject area - I'm sure there are plenty of tutors who would *love* to have you as their student.

Having spent some time working won't be a bad thing - it shows that unlike many students who progress straight from undergrad to postgrad you know about time management (eg. getting up, going to work, etc).

And see when the closing dates are - someone who is thinking of post grad study in Oxford was shocked to realise the closing date is 15th January.
j4 From: j4 Date: December 17th, 2003 05:17 am (UTC) (Link)
like it or not, you *are* an adult - that's how the rest of the world sees you.

Is it? Most of the rest of the world seems to see me as at best endearingly gauche, and at worst painfully immature. I don't feel like an adult, I don't/can't do most of the things that adults do.

what do you see as the best outcome?

Spending another year, two years, three years studying. That's the best outcome. What happens after that is something I can decide after that, or decide as I go along. I don't see it as a means to a particular end. It's just something I want to do.

Of course, this is where everybody says "If you want to do it, then do it". I'm sick of being told that by people who don't appear to have ever found anything in their lives difficult.

I know what you mean about not having much energy - I reckon it's 'cos it's so close to Christmas and we're all dying for that break to recharge spent batteries and stuff.

If it was only the last couple of months that I'd had no energy, then maybe that would be it; but it's more like the last couple of years. It's certainly not a seasonal thing (although I think the dark and the cold weather generally make me feel worse).

To be honest, I don't remember what Not Being Tired feels like. :-(

[...] time management

That's a good point. I suppose there are things from work that I could make sound useful. I guess it's just that I know how soul-destroyingly pointless the job really is, so it's hard to make it sound useful...

And see when the closing dates are

Oh, there's no way I could do anything this year. No money, and no time. It'd take me months to put the application together (it takes me days/weeks just to do a job application!) & the closing-dates are generally in Jan/Feb.

Also, no idea where I'm going to be living in two months' time, so no real desire to commit to n years in one place right now. (If hoiho gets his PhD place I'm going to be moving to Edinburgh or somewhere nearby...)
(Deleted comment)
j4 From: j4 Date: December 17th, 2003 05:56 am (UTC) (Link)
"Most".

(I'm flattered if you think otherwise, but I feel you're in a minority.)
rysmiel From: rysmiel Date: December 17th, 2003 07:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Yopu might want to add one more name to the list of that minority.
j4 From: j4 Date: December 17th, 2003 07:19 am (UTC) (Link)
While it's nice that you and hoiho think differently, it doesn't really change the general feeling. The way I feel hopelessly inadequate at work, and in normal adult social interactions; the way I feel like I just don't know how to live as an adult. It's different with friends; they understand, or at least are sympathetic; I can tell friends things like "I still get lost in Cambridge after 3 years", and "I don't understand pensions/mortgages/shares/etc.", and "I completely go to pieces in interviews because I have such trouble remembering what part I'm supposed to be playing and what's okay to say and what I'm supposed to lie about", and "I feel physically sick when I have to fill in official forms, because I don't understand them and I never know what the right answer is". My friends don't usually look at me like I'm a freak when I say stuff like that. I can only assume that they see something likeable in me despite the fact that I'm incompetent and immature. :-/
From: angua Date: December 17th, 2003 08:12 am (UTC) (Link)
All the things you just listed as things you can tell your friends are things that happen to me/I do as well...

I don't think they make either of us less grown up. I have a sneaky suspicion that people who claim to be competent in all things are the ones who are generally fucking it up big style.
taimatsu From: taimatsu Date: December 17th, 2003 11:27 am (UTC) (Link)
I get lost everywhere I've lived; in Wimbledon, in Oxford, in Reading. I carried a map constantly when I lived in Oxford, and used it, too.

When it comes to your mental list of 'things adults do' I think most people have some problems with some things on the list. Some people just hide it better. Sure, there are people who manage wonderfully and act totally grown-up all the time. They're, IME, usually a good 20 years older than you are, and have natural talents for things like organisation and self-presentation. People nearer our age are, I think, highly likely to feel like you do.

I want to say that you don't have to be an adult, you just have to be you, but I know that's not helpful because the problem is partly with your perception of yourself and your capabilities, and partly with other people's expectations which you feel you can't meet.

I'm struggling with this myself at the moment. I just had my probation review at work, and they are extending the probationary period to 6 months instead of 3, because my timekeeping and aspects of my organisational skills aren't satisfactory. I felt like shit this afternoon about this, but my managers were pleasant and helpful about it and I am feeling a bit better now. But it does make me feel a bit like a failed adult. Like, people keep telling me I'm over-qualified for what I'm doing, and I can't even get *this* right. I'll be fine, I have till May to sort it, and then I either get the fantastic birthday present of a confirmed job, or the, er, other thing.

Sorry, didn't mean to get gloomy at you. Don't think I've said much useful either. But I'm in that there minority too, you know.
marnameow From: marnameow Date: December 17th, 2003 05:01 am (UTC) (Link)
One of the reasons that I'd like to start with something *small* is to get me back into the habit of studying. Starting a PhD from a few years of *no* studying would be very daunting.

You might be better off applying to somewhere like Birkbeck? Most of their courses have been designed for part-time study, and they're a lot less likely to reject you on the basis of not having studied for a bit.
j4 From: j4 Date: December 17th, 2003 05:20 am (UTC) (Link)
One of the reasons that I'd like to start with something *small*

Okay, I'm confused now. Your post seemed to say that you couldn't find anything difficult enough, that you were so far ahead of most of the courses you'd seen that you'd be bored in seconds. I would have thought a PhD or at least a Masters would be exactly what you needed!

Will ask sion_a about Birkbeck, he's studied there. Thank you for the recommendation.
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 17th, 2003 05:38 am (UTC) (Link)
I read it as saying that all the one-term courses at local colleges are aimed at city and guilds or GCSE sort of level study, and that that's why they didn't look very challenging. It's hard to find even undergrad degree level stuff that isn't a whole degree, and I can see why you might want to do something smaller as a warmup before deciding if you're up to the task. Though I think you can do individual open university modules on their own Marna, if you can see any you like the look of.

I've deferred again on my MSc and put off trying to write a dissertation until next September, having been entirely lacking in arse and motivation to do it this year. I need to do it at some point though.

(lnr@work)
j4 From: j4 Date: December 17th, 2003 06:01 am (UTC) (Link)
It's hard to find even undergrad degree level stuff that isn't a whole degree

My mum's doing a course in Archaeology which if I remember rightly is the first year of a degree spread over 2 years. That's at Nottingham, which is supposedly very good for part-time and distance-learning and "continuing education".

I think in general if you're looking for degree-level courses you're better looking in places that offer full degrees, i.e. universities rather than community colleges / 6th-form colleges etc.

I've deferred again on my MSc and put off trying to write a dissertation until next September, having been entirely lacking in arse and motivation to do it this year.

*hugs*
jiggery_pokery From: jiggery_pokery Date: December 17th, 2003 07:55 am (UTC) (Link)
I think in general if you're looking for degree-level courses you're better looking in places that offer full degrees, i.e. universities rather than community colleges / 6th-form colleges etc.

That's definitely the case in Middlesbrough.

That's at Nottingham, which is supposedly very good for part-time and distance-learning and "continuing education".

Without contradicting you, I suspect that the former polytechnics may additionally be particularly good in this regard.

This term I have been studying at the University of Teesside, a former poly, on the first half of a UCPD course which translates to one-fifteenth of an undergraduate degree. (One module = 12 credits; 24 credits = UCPD, 60 credits = UCAPD, 120 credits = one year of an undergraduate degree.) I've been studying Database Analysis and it hasn't been as interesting as I had hoped, but the teacher is pleasant, helpful, dedicated and personable. The level is first-year undergraduate; not very difficult, but some points in it are challenging.

It wasn't cheap, but it's not super-expensive - £75 for a half-year course, one three-hour session per week. (Normally £150, but first 24 credits half price.) If I had been willing to study the material off-campus without tuition, I could have done it for £0, too. This gives me membership of the University of Teesside, access to the computing facilities, library, career services, support services, skills sessions, clubs and societies and so on and so on, so I can basically do all the student things I should've done first time round but didn't at the time. Not a bad deal at all.

I too am struggling with concepts like responsibility and commitment and working out what I ought to be doing (both in the long term and in the short term). Not quite the same thing as you, from what you're saying, but at least similar. Unfortunately I have no answers.
marnameow From: marnameow Date: December 17th, 2003 08:50 am (UTC) (Link)
That's what I meant, yes. Undergrad level in *not* literature would be fine, as would postgrad lit stuff. Just something *new*, really, and with new enough ideas to get my brain stretching. I don't want to do the first year of a degree course, because it's mostly learning *how* to think about things, and I've done that already.

You *can* do OU bits separately, and they would be *perfect* for me, except that there's nought there I'm interested enough it that I don't already know.
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