One semester down, one (and a thesis) to go
Until I get my master’s, that is.
Seeing as I’ve been away from blogging for the past few weeks (thanks to end-of-semester craziness) and seeing as this is the time of year to write lengthy notes on yourself (thanks to Christmas cards), I figure now is a good time to post a general recap of my semester and update on my life.
My classes are all finished, as of last Thursday, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I came back from a week-long Thanksgiving break with a 20-page literature review, 15-page group research paper, 30-page magazine research paper and final exam to do in the span of two weeks. A ‘the end is near’ mindset motivated me to work non-stop for a two weeks until it was all finished and I could finally relax. My classes this semester were very research and theory-oriented, so as much as I learned from and enjoyed them, I’m ready for something new. I had mass media seminar, which focused on common theories in mass communication; quantitative research methods, which discussed methods s and statistical techniques used in media research; and the magazine, then and now, which is a misnamed class (there was no “now”) on the magazine industry and magazine research. All these classes involved a great deal of reading, writing, discussion and critical thinking. As much as I enjoyed the topics and was pushed to think of things in new and different ways, I am tired of reading research articles. I miss journalism.
Still, grad school has treated me well. It’s opened my eyes to a completely different way of thinking about journalism — in terms of media research and audience understanding, rather than practice and production — but I am grateful for that. I don’t want to be a researcher, but I’m glad to have that understanding and that bigger picture awareness. Plus, grad school has brought a nice change of pace. My days and evenings are full of class, work, research, reading and writing, but often I get to do these things on my own schedule, in my own home. Being home for the night by 5 or 6 p.m., without meetings or on-campus commitments to worry about, has done wonders for my sanity and sense of calm this semester.
The alumni magazine, my semester-long project, finally wrapped up with final edits last week. I burned a CD with department folders filled with features, graphics, photos, smaller print items and more and could not have been more ecstatic to turn it in. It was a long process that began with brainstorming story ideas and drawing up Web layouts, then working through multiple drafts and edits with writers, and finally finished with final edits, graphic designs and photo slideshows. The online magazine will be designed and finished over break, so I’ll be seeing sample URLs as we go, but for the most part I am finished. The site should officially launch just after the first of the year, so please keep an eye out and check it out.
I still teach at the rec, and I continue to relish getting paid to work out. I also am inclined to say that I am in better shape than ever, thanks to my new practice of biking around campus and the addition of weekly yoga to my routine. I also have come to love running this semester, thanks to the trail just up the street from my neighborhood. My morning runs became my daily quiet time, a bit of zen in the morning to clear my head, in addition to a chance to enjoy the outdoors before a day in class and at work. Unfortunately, the past few weeks I’ve struggled with ankle and knee problems, and now it’s too cold for me to breathe outside, but until then running became much more than just a workout. I came to realize that days I skipped a run left me feeling much more scatterbrained and much less prepared for the day, so come spring, I’ll be very excited to hit the trail once again. I also ran my first 5K and 10K this semester, so I’ll be keeping my eye out for more races with which to further motivate myself.
I am also still completely in love with my living situation. Having a cozy place to come home to; being able to have people over; living in a neighborhood with families, old couples and other college kids; having a yard and a porch and a swingset down the street. Not to mention the three wonderful people who share my house. I continue to relish living with some of my best friends and seeing them almost every day. We have pretty different living, cleaning, eating, sleeping and working habits and schedules, but things all work out because, at the end of the day, we love one another’s company, and that’s what really matters. All semester, we’ve had family dinners every Sunday evening, and those have been a great way to guarantee that all of us get together at least once a week. Plus, it gives us something to look forward to as a break during a day of studying and homework and before another week begins.
In a similar vein, my obsession with cooking continues to grow. I was looking forward to having a kitchen and making my own food going into this semester, but I had no idea how enthralled with it I would become. For one, it’s just fun. I love making favorite family recipes, trying new things from magazines and just making stuff up. For two, a nurturing side of me emerged that I did not know existed. I love knowing that I can provide for myself and others, and it just feels so good when people like what you make. For three, I love being in control of what I eat. In addition to getting to put only healthy, natural things in my food and guaranteeing that my foods only include ingredients that I like, I have developed an obsession with knowing exactly what is in my meals. That sense of confidence in and control over what is fueling my body actually deters me from wanting to go out when I can cook something on my own that will definitely be healthy and probably be just as good. That said, I also love baking, and have done quite a bit of that — caramel corn for movie nights, muffins for breakfast, cakes for friends’ birthdays, Christmas cookies as a celebration of the end of my semester. In fact, our house is never short on sugar, and it is amazing how short a lifespan sweets under our roof tend to have.
Next semester will be my last one on this campus taking classes. I’m taking a magazine publishing class, narrative and identity sociology class, and general semantics in journalism class. I’m pretty excited for all three. They should be interesting and should relate pretty closely to my thesis, which I will begin after the semester ends in May. At this point, I’ve decided to do a content analysis of the framing of motherhood in different types of magazines. Discussions in my magazine research class on gender roles opened my eyes to their influence in our media culture, plus it is a topic relevant to my life and (hopefully) my future, so I find it personally captivating. I’m in the process of putting together my committee of faculty advisers, and I will begin the pre-thesis steps next semester. Then I’ll spend my summer in Columbia working on this project as I hunt for jobs.
Before this time next year, I hope, I should have a finished thesis, a master’s degree and a job in a new city. Although exciting, that’s a terrifying thought. It’s hard to believe that — after three and a half years coming to know and love this place and these people — I will leave Columbia, probably for good, in the next eight months. I am getting closer and closer to being ready for college to be over, as I’ve definitely outgrown some things, such as crazy parties and drunken football games (but then again they were also never my scene) but new things are always a bit frightening, and it’s hard to imagine not seeing my best friends here on an almost daily basis. This is made more difficult given that we all came from different hometowns and are heading to different cities, so we’ll no longer have a common ground. But, as I tell myself, everything works out and truly good friends will keep in touch. Plus, it means I will probably not pay for a hotel room on any vacation for several years after college — I’ll have too many exciting places and friends to visit.