The End of Year One

Long time, no see friends!

I have successfully completed my first year of graduate school and I must say, it feels good. If you read my blog post on last semester, I figured I'd do a similar post this time around. This semester, I read a total of 91 (yes ninety-one) books and articles, wrote 4 small papers, 14 mini reflections, and 2 gargantuan final research papers.

My two final papers were absolutely delightful to write because I loved the research. One was on an influential twentieth century historian. I chose Natalie Zemon Davis (I adore her). She's a social and cultural historian of early modern France, who focuses on marginalized groups (peasants, women, slaves, etc). One of my favorite quotes from her is, "I was never the historian for kings and's the others who need me." My other paper was a historiography on French urban centers, national identity, and regionalism. I analyzed scholarship on provincial cities in contrast to scholarship that is more centralized and Parisian to find the ways in which provincial cities can both problematize and work in tandem with national history. Both papers were a joy to write, although the latter was the hardest. My biggest struggle at Loyola has been understanding what a "historiography" is. I think that UCA prepared me very well for archival, primary source research. But I had difficulty analyzing secondary sources. Most of my work was too "book review-ish" instead of a scholarly analysis. When I look back on it now, I realize it was because I just did not understand what historic writing and historiography meant. That struggle haunted me over this year. My first draft of my French urban identity paper was almost disastrous. I had to completely re-work the argument. Nevertheless, after weeks of re-vamping, long nights, early mornings, lots of coffee, and sleepy time tea (for those restless nights when I dreamt in French), my professor wrote, and I quote, "This is an excellent paper. In the future, use this format for your historiographies, as you've finally figured out the genre." I could have literally shouted for joy, right there, in the middle of campus. It was a glorious moment. I feel very relieved.

Now that Year One is over, I realize I have learned a lot. The first, and perhaps most important academically, is that the grade is not the most important. Rather than chasing an A (a mistake I often did in my early years of undergrad), graduate school is about the training. You can get a "B" and still not understand what "historiography" actually is. Instead, I want my "A" to reflect that I've finally grasped the concept fully. That attitude is different from the one I've had in the past. And it is enlightening and in some ways freeing. When I get my "A" now, it reflects that I've been trained well and that I can succeed in this field. That is incredibly rewarding.

The next best thing is that I completed my Fellowship (hoo-ray!)! The four senior students that I mentored for my fellowship program are graduating today. They come from all different backgrounds: minority, first generation, low income, etc. They come from marginalized groups that are not expected to succeed. They are all getting their degrees and also they are all going on to graduate programs. I could not be more proud and honored to be a part of their lives and share in their success.

With this year having been so awesome, I'm wondering how next year can be better, you know? Lol! Nah, it's gonna be great! Already, for the summer I'll be presenting at a conference, taking a language course, and possibly working with a French historian on some research (fingers crossed!). Next year, I already have a couple of organizational appointments lined up, like serving as Vice President for our History Graduate Student Association. For now, I can kick back, go to a bunch of movies, enjoy the Windy City, and hang out with my hubby and puppy love. I know God has amazing things for us yet to come!


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