Wednesday, 8 June 2011


The first major milestone of the PhD process is coming up very soon: the transfer from provisional PhD student to actual PhD candidate. You have to complete the transfer by the end of the first year, and we've been told to get the process rolling by month 9 or 10. I'd really wanted to finish my upgrade document before my trip to the States last month, but it just didn't happen. I struggled with writer's block and wasn't sure how to make sense of the past 9 months of reading and writing that was swimming around in my head. The three week trip to D.C. to help out with my new little nephew was a great change of pace, but when I got back to the office, I realised I hadn't accomplished anything in those three weeks. Yikes. My welcome back meeting with my supervisor went well, though, and I was pretty confident about getting the upgrade written in one week.

But it was a week of exam invigilation. I was up & reporting for duty every day at 8 am, and just felt too exhausted to write anything useful. I think I did about 5,000 words that week (about half of which were good). As May Bank (Memorial Day) weekend approached, I was sure I'd be able to finish it by Friday. When Friday slipped by, I sent an e-mail to my supervisor saying I'd get it to him later in the next week. And then on Monday my personal life got in the way of all academic progress...

For our 2nd anniversary, my boyfriend and I went to Kent so I could see where he grew up. After a lovely day of walking around town, meeting one of his old friends for a pint, and having an amazing Italian dinner, we went for a walk along the harbour wall. I should've guessed something was up, because he was really eager to continue our walk despite the fact that it was cold, dark and starting to rain. He was put off by a group of people fishing off the harbour wall, so we went up to the clifftop where we found a Victorian bandstand, perfect for getting shelter from the rain. Now I really should've known something was going on, but I fought back any suspicions because I thought there was no way he'd be doing this now...And then he did. Like the true gentleman he is, he pulled out a little box, got down on one knee, and asked me to marry him. I said yes and we went out for a celebratory pint :)
The next few days were spent telling family and friends and making provisional wedding plans. I thought about the upgrade occasionally, but progress was slow. Finally, after working on it all this week, I've actually finished writing it and submitted it to my supervisor.

I'm happy with it, too. It's an amazing accomplishment when I'm actually happy about something I've written. Due to word count limitations, the introduction is terribly brief (but I don't really mind that--I prefer to just get to the point). The main body of the piece is about the history of the Fulbright Program, followed by a sort of summary of the main debates in the literature. I chose three, for the sake of flow (and out of habit--we were always taught to write three body paragraphs)--the relationship between educational exchange and propaganda, the challenge of measuring effectiveness, and the issue of relevancy. Last night before submitting it, I printed it out to edit with my ruthless red pen, and I realised just how happy I am with it. All I can do now is hope that the members of my upgrade panel are as into it as I am...

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