The second week of my comp mode is coming to an end. This was a week of intensive writing and tearful good-byes. Two fellow students from my cohort (who advanced to candidacy) left Vancouver, reminding me that academic and campus life is unstable and in constant state of flux. It is also coincidentally what my first comp paper is about.
- Wake up and have coffee.
- Switch to tea throughout the day to cut caffeine but continue to stay focused.
- Read and write.
My outcome of this week: 3500 words, creeping self doubt and lots of “wait, didn’t I just read this somewhere?” moments. Writing a theoretical comprehensive exam paper is hard. You are pulling grand theories together, simultaneously trying to add to the conversation. It is a repetitive, circular process of trying to see how same theory was or could be applied to different fields, your field, your dissertation.
My first struggle is structure. Prior to starting my first comp I planned it in all possible modes: I made a mind map, I took small index cards and laid my paper out, I drew a visual on a white board, I created a word doc with headings and subheadings. It all fell appart the minute I started writing.
When I sat down to write, my thoughs scattered. Quotations that I wasn’t planning for started jumping at me, new names and books demanded to be referenced. Maybe in a way this week was an exercise in self control and focus, but maybe on the other hand it was a lesson that no matter how well you think you are prepared you can’t be ready for everything.
No matter how much you read about the country you are immigrating to, you can’t predict all questions that am immigration officer will ask you. No matter how on task you are with your dissertation, you can’t foresee where your research will take you. No matter how much you know about ethics of working on sensitive topics, nothing can prepare you for sudden emotional challenges you will face along the way. And you can tell you all you want that academia is all about instability, but when your friends leave, you still hurt and cry and nothing helps.
In my paper I am writing about immigrants who are “regrounding” in a new place and about the unpredictability of the outcome. This week was chaotic and in a way didn’t result in what I planned for, but maybe it is a result in itself.