Friday, October 06, 2006

Academic Update

I officially started my PhD programme today. We had our first methodology seminar, and I was surprised to see that there are about 20 people doing the history PhD (I was expecting much less). I absolutely love the professor who is conducting the seminar - he is everything a research student could ever ask for in a professor: academically fantastic, friendly, open, funny, easy-going, unbelievably caring, and very approachable. Between him and my research supervisor, I count myself as incredibly lucky as far as my committee goes (we still have to choose number 3). Yes, I am very excited about this year. Tomorrow I sink back into the archives at the British Library. Aahhh, heaven.

I will also be starting French classes next week at the Institut Fran├žais in South Kensington. I haven't taken French in nearly 15 years. As an undergrad I studied Italian for two years and for a while there I was practically fluent in it - and it thoroughly wiped out my French. But after I moved back to Kuwait I barely had a chance to practice my Italian at all, and in time I began to lose it. Five years on, I decided to take advantage of my time in London to work on a language again - and the choices I gave myself were to either re-do Italian since I'm more advanced in it, or start over with French. I chose French. If I do Italian, the same thing will happen all over again - once I move back to Kuwait I'll have no one to practice with (other than our friend G, but we always seem to speak in English when we're with the rest of the group!), and so I'll end up losing it again. On the other hand, I'll be able to speak French daily and so have a much better chance of becoming relatively fluent in it, on a permanent basis. Plus, I come across French more in my research than I do Italian (of course there is scholarly work written in both languages in my field, but unlike Italian there are also some French primary sources I could look into). Anyway, back to my point. So I had originally planned on starting from the very beginning with French, but the institute advised me to first take a placement test (yesterday). I ended up in Level 2, which I was quite pleased about considering how long it's been! I did much better than I expected on the written test. As for the oral interview, I started off fine with the first question. But when she started asking much more open-ended questions, I started to feel blocked because every time I'd open my mouth to speak my instinct would go straight to Italian and I'd freeze. I still managed to get a bit out in French, but I explained my dilemma to her and we laughed it off. She said not to worry, that it was normal for someone who has studied more than one Romance language, and she was still going to put me in Level 2 because with a bit of practice my instincts will change again. I'm taking the fast-paced course, so hopefully I'll be able to get through several levels before I move back to Kuwait.

So that's the latest on the academic front. It's all happening...

P.S. Spent some time in Paperchase this morning getting my new set of notebooks (of course, a supply for the next three years, to ensure continuity). Got different sizes from the same series for different purposes (seminar notes, reading notes, supervisor meeting notes, archive notes, French notes, etc.). My sisters will understand and appreciate this side of me! I also got a new Filofax (a brand I haven't used in years) - they have some cool new styles and the one you see in this picture just jumped off the shelf into my arms.


  • It must be a good feeling starting your PhD program organized and ready for a challenge. Congratulations on the completion of your Masters program. I just started mine this fall, and I was a bit overwhelmed with the workload until finally I got the gist of it. I'm actually enjoying it very much.
    It's great knowing that there is someone caring for q8's history. We need people like you :)

    I also took Italian in my undergrad thinking that I will master it, I had a really hard time with the grammar but I got out of the class with basic communication phrases. It's such a great language I would love to learn it all over again :)

    Gluck with your PhD program and French classes :)

    By Anonymous NTT, at 10/06/2006 9:46 am  

  • Yay! I hope everything goes smoothly for ya Kleio :))

    I like French because it's so French *raises an eyebrow and holds pinky in the air* Hehehe :P

    Thing is though, for me, I would rather learn Spanish. It's easier and isn't it the second or third spoken language in the world?

    I hope it's not getting too cold there :/ I need a few rays here and there...

    By Blogger Erzulie, at 10/06/2006 9:50 am  

  • oooh history Phd, that must be quite interesting. i've said this many times, and alot of people have disagreed with me, but history really is the most important subject one can take at school.

    i can pretty much say that out of all the subjects i've studied, my history lessons are the only thing that i've gone back to thinking about, both at work and while observing the world at large.

    i mean compare it to any other lesson,...when was the last time you disected a frog, did complex algebra, or calculated a body's momentum in the middle of a conversation down the pub? :P

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/06/2006 10:46 am  

  • How cool is that! It all sounds perfect! I'm especially jealous about the French. I wish we had an equivalent in Kuwait. I'm not sure Voltaire would be the same, though it might be worth checking out. I LOVE your filofax! And what is that bag underneath? I think you should post more pictures of your school supplies! YUMMY!!!

    By Anonymous red, at 10/06/2006 12:48 pm  

  • ntt: Congrats on starting your MA. What field are you doing it in, if you don't mind my asking? And where? It is a bit overwhelming at first, especially if you'd been out of university for a few years like I had been. But you fall right back into it really quickly. The reading load is immense but if you enjoy your field then it's fun! Good luck to you too.

    Italian is a fun language to learn and speak. I actually find it much easier than French, so I'm not really worried about losing it if I learn French. You should keep it up!

    Erzulie: "I like French because it's so French" - love that line! You and your pinky. :)

    A close friend of mine from Kuwait is in London for a few months right now and he's studying Spanish. He's quite advanced, and he loves it. It's within the top 3 languages spoken in the world - different organisations count differently (FYI: alternating top three are Chinese, Spanish, and English. Arabic always falls at around number 6, whereas French is never before 10!). You should learn it. For some reason I'm under the impression that you already speak French. No? I'm not sure where I got that from.

    You hope it's not getting too cold where? Here in London? It is getting quite cold actually...it's raining non-stop. Ugh.

    Skunk: You are absolutely right that it is the most important subject you can take in school (please excuse my blatant bias). Especially in a region like the Middle East. Your average Arab person knows shockingly little about our history (other than the key dates/events/figures). If only people learned more about our past in a more in-depth and analytical manner, they'd have a better idea of exactly why we are where we are today (without always taking the easy way out by throwing blame elsewhere). Anyway, I aim to help change all that! :)

    Loved the last paragraph of your comment...so true!

    Red: It's all really exciting. You of all people know exactly what this is like! As for Voltaire, it might be good, but isn't your French too advanced for regular classes? Maybe you should try to find a personal tutor.

    About my school supplies - I could post more pictures but only you and Raine would really get it! :) The bag underneath is my Freitag - I sent you pics of it when I first got it last year, didn't I? It's the best thing to carry on a daily basis because it's big, comfortable, and waterproof - so in the rain my stuff stays protected. And it's damn funky, too! :)

    By Blogger Kleio, at 10/06/2006 4:43 pm  

  • Oh. My. God.
    The stationery. I adore Paperchase! Do they have a new line of tin lunchboxes this year? They did last year. Your fil-o-fax is amazing!!! I am jealous. I bought one this summer, too. But it is not working. It is too small, and we are just not getting along at all. I want yours. It is amazing. I think I have an unhealthy obsession with stationery. Anyway... remember my birthday is coming up when you are in Paperchase or buying funky bags (my other obsession)!

    Now for the more important part - I am so excited for you regarding your PhD. It is so great you like your committee so far. When I was doing my MS I did not feel at all supported or encouraged by my advisors. It was typical of my school, where the professors were very into their own work and had little time for us grad students. It really put a damper on things. Especially since I was already disillusioned with linguistics at that point. But when I did my MEd, you remember how much I loved that. The professors were so amazing and so supportive and accessible... It made things that much more enjoyable and gratifying.

    Enjoy the archives and the whole experience! I can't believe my litttle sister is doing her PhD before me! Aaaaaaaaargh! :) I am so kidding - I am so proud of you :)

    By Blogger Raine, at 10/06/2006 6:58 pm  

  • Raine: I have inherited your stationery illness, but to a much lesser degree! But when you're in Paperchase - time just stops. I always go for classic/vintage look when it comes to my school supplies. But it's fun to throw in a curve ball, like the filofax! I didn't like any of their other designs this year at all. But then I saw this one and thought - wow, they made like 15 crappy ones, and one fantastic one!

    As for the Phd, you're so right. Having a supportive committee can make all the difference. I know many people who either didn't get along with their MA advisors, or who just didn't get any support from them. I know I've been lucky though. I remember what you went through with your two degrees. I've never seen a human begin work that hard in my life! But yeah, you were sooooo much happier with the MEd. Man, that 6am breakfast we had at Dean & Deluca that gray and rainy morning truly changed your life, didn't it? :)

    By Blogger Kleio, at 10/06/2006 7:17 pm  

  • Oh, and one more thing. COME DO YOUR PHD AT THE INSTITUTE OF EDUCATION!! :)

    By Blogger Kleio, at 10/06/2006 7:18 pm  

  • Come stai Kleio? bene, molto bene?

    excuse my italian reminisce...

    I'm doing my Masters in Education. I think I'm falling right back into it all right. I'm enjoying my program very much but I just can't wait to be out there to student teach and have more experience in this field. I don't get to do that until next semester. Being in the classroom with children and doing practical work is what I enjoy the most :)

    I guess it's already evening in London, buonanotte :)

    By Anonymous ntt, at 10/06/2006 8:29 pm  

  • Ciao ntt! Sono bene, grazie - e Lei? :)

    If you're doing your degree in education, you should talk to my sister Raine (see above). She did her MEd in the States and is now a first grade teacher. She's a brilliant teacher - and I'm not just saying that because she's my sis!!

    Good luck. We need more good teachers back in Kuwait.

    By Blogger Kleio, at 10/07/2006 2:40 am  

  • sono molto bene :) thanks for the italian practice :)

    I have read some of Raine's school posts they're great. Maybe when I'm back in q8 during x-mas I'll pay her classroom a visit if she doesn't mind. I would love to see her classroom and talk to her.

    Grazie mille :)

    By Anonymous ntt, at 10/07/2006 7:30 am  

  • One point you forgot to mention, your only a stones throw away from paris. I studied french for 15 years since i was 8. I dont practice much here in kuwait but it comes back so quick when i go to france in the summer. The key is to practice to keep it fresh in your head but you really dont lose it, you lapse and then you quickly get on the bandwagon :) Glad to hear you liking the Phd programme. All the best :)

    By Blogger Spicy Pepper, at 10/07/2006 10:06 pm  

  • ntt: I'm sure she wouldn't mind!

    SP: You're right - whenever I go back to Italy, within 24 hours I feel confident and nearly fluent again. Italian more than any other language is really hard to forget or lose once you've been quasi-fluent in it. That's why I chose to do French now - I'm not worried it'll wipe out my Italian, and at the same time I have people to practice with on a daily basis in Kuwait. Native French speakers, as well as my sisters who are both nearly fluent. Also, like you say, I'm so close to Paris. What I'm thinking is that next summer, after I finish the first full year of my PhD programme here and I'm ready to go off to do my field research, I'll go to Paris for a month to study intensive French. Paris is one of my favourite cities in the world. When I'm there for long periods my French is good enough to get by on a daily basis, so studying there for a month after doing the fast-paced course here should do me a world of good. Yay I'm excited!! :)

    By Blogger Kleio, at 10/07/2006 11:39 pm  

  • Kleio: Good luck. it is always fun to psych yourself into starting school by going on a spree. your stuff looks amazing.

    red: i have recently started taking german classes at berlitz...VERY effective method of teaching and the timings for classes are perfect. you should look into it if you want to study french.

    Raine: when is your birthday? not in ramadan, i hope. miss you.

    By Anonymous edo rex, at 10/08/2006 1:31 am  

  • I wouldn't quite call it a spree, but it sure was fun! :)

    Raine's b-day is at the end of October, but Red's is in a couple of days! Dad's was yesterday. :) October is a busy month in our family.

    By Blogger Kleio, at 10/08/2006 2:59 pm  

  • I miss Paperchase!!!
    Your supplies are awesome! This time when I was interviewing for my Phd I stopped by Paperchase right after the interview and bought a stock of notebooks - as you said, just in case they go out of stock! All this and I haven't even been accepted yet! Well, you can never have too many school supplies!

    I agree with red - why don't you post more pictures of your school supplies? :)

    Looks like things are really coming together!! Congrats :)

    By Blogger PlumPetals, at 10/09/2006 12:42 am  

  • PlumPetals: Hey, I didn't know you were applying for your PhD? Where?!

    Paperchase has certain items that they always carry - like the brown paper series near the entrance at the big Tottenham Court Road store. But I used those last year and want to separate my MA from PhD years (can you say "geek"?). So anyway, I got the black-cover series you see in the pic. I only got two large sized ones for my methodology seminar (which is only this year). For my other ones I bought the smaller size (not pictued) - more convenient and easily transportable when I go to different lectures and libraries and all. Got 6 of those. Then the other black one you see in the picture with the elastic band is the one I got for French. Got 6 of those too.

    That was to satiate you, Raine, and Red's interest in my school supplies! :)

    By Blogger Kleio, at 10/09/2006 2:34 pm  

  • I've been working with a professor from Canterbury Christ Church University ... I went there this past summer to present at a conference and they asked me to apply for my PhD ... so I'm just about done with my research proposal. I'm mainly choosing this university coz' they'll let me do all my research from Kuwait and it doesn't require any course work. That's exactly what I'm looking for right now.

    Thanks for the update on Paperchase notebooks - will definitely have to stop in the next time I'm in London.

    Speaking of London - why don't you meet D in London since you guys won't be in Kuwait at the same time?! It's an idea, if you've got time :)

    By the way, referring to your birthday list - mine is 2 days after red's :p


    By Blogger PlumPetals, at 10/09/2006 11:24 pm  

  • Plumpetals: The programme sounds great...Congrats!

    Get my number here from Raine and give it to D. It would be great to meet him here since we never seem to be in Kuwait at the same time. :)

    And about your birthday - that's right ...we have lots of Libras in our midst!!

    By Blogger Kleio, at 10/10/2006 6:17 pm  

  • So you're a History major?! hmmm....No wonder you post long posts on your blog:)

    I've always been a fan of History....To understand the present and specualte the future one needs to plunge into the depth of history...I recall back in college all of my history profesors were a bit eccentric but in a good kind of way...I hope you wont become one though !

    no pun intended lol

    By Blogger jashanmal, at 10/11/2006 9:22 am  

  • edo - I am October 27th... Right at the end of Eid break. Should I have a bash? You are the only one who can convince me to! I was thinking after Eid is over... We must chat!!! Miss you too!

    ntt - Please do visit! I always love to chat about education... And I can show off my kids and my classroom :)

    By Blogger Raine, at 10/15/2006 5:19 pm  

  • kleio - I hope you or red are getting me that filofax I e-mailed you about ;)

    By Blogger Raine, at 10/15/2006 5:20 pm  

  • Jashanmal: Yes, I do write long posts, don't I? It's part of being a writer, I guess! As for historians being a bit eccentric, yes we all are. You'd have to be to want to spend half your life deep in the archives, all alone, just you and your sources. As an academic discipline, being a historian can be quite lonely. You have your colleagues and peers, sure, but when it comes to doing your own research, it's really just you. Your best friends become your sources, the people you are reading and writing about - most of whom have been dead for ages. So yeah, most historians turn out a bit odd, but in an extremely lovable, creative, and endearing kind of way! I most probably will turn out that way too.

    Raine: If you're gonna wait till after Eid is over, may as well wait a couple more days till I get there! Edo is busy planning all of our excursions for my visit. Although Mitla3 is out because our desert guide is here in London! :( Anyone else know their way around the ridge in the dark?

    As for the filofax, none of your business!! :)

    By Blogger Kleio, at 10/15/2006 6:55 pm  

  • New post please :) Miss you!

    By Blogger Raine, at 10/15/2006 10:34 pm  

  • Enzain mind I ask you what is the best history book you ever read?!

    For history books pertaining american history my favorite is A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present...if you didnt read I sincerely think YOU SHOULD!

    Although I wasnt a history major I often spend hours at the history section of our college library and find great deal of interest in History books..

    I just finished reading a great book, on the history of American Imperialism by Chalmers Johnson called The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic its one fine book and easy to read this is what we book warms call a page turner!

    oo salamtech

    By Blogger jashanmal, at 10/16/2006 1:21 am  

  • Raine: So impatient!!

    Jashanmal: I have heard of the Chalmers Johnson book you mention but haven't read it. Will check it out.

    It's hard to say what the best history book I've ever read is. But since my field is Middle East history, I'll give you a couple of my favourites. James Gelvin's "The Modern Middle East" is a great book. It's well-written, easy to read, and covers most of the major themes of the modern ME. Plus he's funny - in a geeky kind of way - which some of us enjoy! Then there's the three-volume "The Venture of Islam" by Marshall Hodgson. That is a must-have for anyone interested in the history of the region. His writing is much more complex and dense, but his work is just so comprehensive and thorough. I'd say if you want a quick read, page-turner type, go for the Gelvin. If you want a more in-depth must-have-for-your-shelves, go for the Hodgson.

    By Blogger Kleio, at 10/16/2006 1:43 am  

  • wow, I can't believe Gelvin is this famous. I'm currently taking his class and he is a geeky, sarcastic S.O.B.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/27/2006 8:18 am  

  • Anonymous: I've never met him personally so I can't comment on what he's actually like. But it's hard to deny the fact that he is a very important historian on the modern ME. He has broken new ground on the writing of Arab nationalism, through his analysis of popular nationalist movements, and his work serves as a point of departure for many historians writing non-elite ME history. Any grad student studying the ME will appreciate his work, even if you don't necessarily like it or find it useful. Undergrads might not get it.

    By Blogger Kleio, at 11/27/2006 3:30 pm  

  • Thanks for clearing it up. *raises hand* yes, I'm that clueless undergraduate. The course I'm taking right now is an intro to the history of the region so I have no other exposure to ME history. If you'd like, I could send you audio of a lecture.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/30/2006 9:28 am  

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