Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I Can See the Finish Line!!

Today is the last day of classes here at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. I am soo glad to bid adieu to this semester! This has been one of the most intense semesters I have had in my college career because of Sociology and Spanish. I had a choice to take another Sociology class from the same prof next semester and I chose not to take the class. I can't take wide-open in-your-face for two semesters in a row, especially when next semester will be my last.

Yesterday morning, I had a Geology final and the Listening Comprehension portion of my Spanish final. I think (hope) I did well on both. I am not shooting for the Dean's List or for a perfect 4.0 semester this time around. This has been one of those, "I just wanna survive this semester!!" semesters. I think everyone has one of those now and again.

What have I learned from this semester? Let me go class by class:
1. Geology - I loved this class! As always, take good notes, pay attention and when a classmate needs notes, don't be afraid to volunteer yours. The favor will be returned when you most need it.
2. History - Read, read, read. And don't be afraid to interject a little humor.
3. Sociology - Have grace with your fellow group members. Always point out the good things they are doing. Get to know the prof. And don't be afraid to interject a little humor.
4. Spanish - (groan) Vocabulary, vocabulary, vocabulary. Study the vocabulary until your eyes cross. Have a "can do" attitude and don't be afraid to interject a little humor.

Also, don't be afraid to participate in class - answer questions, make comments, etc. The profs like warm, LIVE bodies, not just a bunch of sticks in the mud. If the prof is passionate enough about his/her subject to get up in front of a classroom full of blank faces and teach for 6-10 hours a week, the students should at least pay attention and participate.

I am off to do some Christmas shopping on Saturday with a close friend - major downtime! I am looking forward to it. Hope your semester ends well and you finish strong! Stay tuned . . .

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Are We There Yet?

That's the question I used to hear on long car trips with my children. That's the question I am asking as this semester draws to a close. This semester has been especially intense for me because of my Spanish class and my Sociology class. I can't wait for this semester to end - just five more days!! And then I will be on the final leg of my "tour" - the last semester of my undergrad. What am I going to do when I no longer live at UT? It has been my home away from home for the last four, and especially the last two, years.

I wish I had some sage words of wisdom as I come to this point in my education, but all I can say is, "Please, let it end!" I love being a student, but not this semester. Besides school, I have had volleyball tournaments all over Georgia for the first two months of the school year, issues with ex-husband and an emergency surgery. What??!! But, I'm still standing. Whew!

So, as I bask in the glow of having completed a History research paper, knowing I am on the homestretch of my Sociology project (we present on Tuesday), and realizing this, too, shall pass in five days, I have a few hastily prepared words of wisdom for those who, like me, have had a rough semester and just want to be able to sit down with a cup of hot tea and relax!

1. Take a deep cleansing breath - in through your nose, out through your mouth. Close your eyes as you do this and do it slowly. Repeat as often as necessary to get yourself centered.
2. Take stock of where you've been and what lessons you can learn from that. I got my first F this semester. I have not gotten an F in years. It's rather humbling.
3. Declare the holidays a school-free time. Don't do anything schoolish until the end of the first week of January. Take this time to relax and refuel.
4. Look ahead a little bit at a time. I tend to get totally overwhelmed if I look too far ahead and then I get crazy. Take the future, as with everything else, in bite-sized pieces.
5. Be thankful for the here and now, for the who and how. Every day is a blessing, everyone in your life is a blessing. Focus on what matters.

I will be headed to Florida in a couple hours to spend Thanksgiving with my sister and her family. My children and I need some time away. It will be good to refuel our spirits and spend time with those we love. Hopefully, I will not hear, "Are we there yet?" on this trip. Stay tuned . . .

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My College Visit

I visited Appalachian State University yesterday to talk to them about grad school. First observation: App State is hard to get to. I guess the only way to get to someplace in the mountains is to go through the mountains - duh. Second observation: The campus looks like a combination of Asheville, NC and Northern Arizona University.

I did not get to meet the professor I want to study under as he was out with a family situation. However, I did meet two public history professors - Dr. Watkins and Dr. Burns. Dr. Watkins was intrigued with my interest in environmental history and public history. He said there are several science museums in the Washington, DC area that would be interested in someone with my background and interests. Hmm. The conversation was along the lines of, "You could make your own master's program here." Both Dr. Watkins and Dr. Halliday, the grad school director, seemed excited that I am taking the senior research seminar next semester. Dr. Watkins said that is where I would be able to "test theories". Hmm.

I stayed for the student public history internship presentations. The presentation that grabbed my attention the most was by a young man who was involved with the Ashe County Museum in Jefferson, NC. He was involved with the setup and opening of the museum, which means he was involved in assessing, labeling, interpretation, etc. - all the nitty-gritty, hands on part of museum work. I was jealous. I was ready to roll my sleeves up and go to work where he left off! I still love museums!

So, where do I go from here? Kick some serious you-know-what in HIST 499. Continue to dialog with App State. Continue to dialog with my history profs here at UT. And realize that sometimes getting good things takes lots of hard work (like actually getting to App State!). Stay tuned . . .

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Knowin' When to Fold 'Em

I spoke to the head of the History department Monday, Dr. Burman. He denied my petition for HIST 407 to count for HIST 499. He explained why and I understood his reasoning and I am in total agreement. He also said not to knock myself out over a minor. Dr. Burman said that he sat on a grad school application committee for ten years. In all that time he and his colleagues never once questioned an applicant's minor. However, they did question the relevancy of classes taken by an applicant toward that applicant's degree aspirations.

I left Dr. Burman's office feeling liberated, but disappointed. I would not graduate with a bona fide minor, but I was not going to knock myself out taking 15 hours next semester. He said the HIST 499 senior research seminar would be of much greater benefit to me (learning to research, write and produce a grad-school worthy research paper) than having a minor. I had to ask myself what was more important - being Superwoman at 48 or getting into grad school at 48? I am opting for getting into grad school. I already know I am a super woman. :)

As I left the history building, I felt a bit deflated. I had just folded what I thought was a great hand. But was it worth continuing to bet, especially when I have only one semester left? Sometimes we have to reassess our expectations of ourselves. If we fall within the expectations of our peers (in this case, what UT said I needed to graduate), why do we continue to set unrealistic expectations for ourselves? Like Kenny Rogers sang; "You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk to away and know when to run." I had some help in knowing when to fold 'em. However, ain't no runnin' here! I will walk across that stage in May with my head held high - and my Bachelor's degree in History! Stay tuned . . .

(A BIG ORANGE shout out to the STARS at PSCC - Blount County!! Hey, Guys!!! Hope all is well and your semester is going well!! Kudos!!)