Today, Pursuing Academia Means…

… giving up Coachella to go to an academic conference. This weekend, while I was in Missoula for NCUR, several of my friends went to Indio, CA to see Jay-Z, Muse, Thom Yorke, and Gorillaz (among many many other amazing bands). Their pictures have been popping up all over my Facebook newsfeed for the last few days and I can’t help but be jealous. Clearly, their weekend was more epic than mine. (Although I did get to see a traditional Native American pow-wow and “meet” the Governor of Montana!)

More and more, I’m finding that pursuing academia means something different everyday. Tomorrow, it means giving up an A Fine Frenzy concert to oversee a Mark Twain Reading Marathon for Sigma Tau Delta. In August, it will mean moving away from the people I love to live on the other side of the country. For the next five years, it will mean earning one-fourth the starting salary of my engineering pals. In the future, it might mean putting off having children. It might mean never earning enough to buy my dream house. It might mean never having enough time for myself. Pursuing academia means missing out on a lot of fun. It means making sacrifices. Sometimes sacrifices so big you wonder if one day you’ll regret it.

Academia can be a cruel mistress. A professor of mine once told me that you should only pursue an academic career path if you honestly can’t imagine yourself doing anything else. You’re either in or you’re out. Go big or go home. There can be no wavering. You need to love your field that much, or else you won’t make it. Or else, you shouldn’t even bother. “Are you really willing to give up everything for some dead playwrights?” I can just hear my dad say. The years are long, the jobs are few, the pay is low, the work is hard. At the end of it all, you count up the sacrifices and wonder, “Is this all worth it?”

But pursuing academia also means many many beautiful, Coachella-level-amazing things too. And for now, those things are enough to make the sacrifices seem petty in comparison (after the occasional 10-min pityfest moment of weakness). Besides,¬†I’ve always been a stubborn child. When people tell me I can’t have it all, I sense a challenge, a demand to prove them wrong. Maybe there will be sacrifices along the way, but I won’t let myself miss out on the important things. I will have it all one day. Even if “all” doesn’t include camping out at fancy music festivals (Hey, this could still happen one day. ūüôā )

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Meet Me in Montana!

Guess where I am?

University of Montana

Missoula, Montana! I just finished the first day of this year’s National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) and am having a lovely time with my roomie (and bestie)… doing homework. Hey, we’re at a nerdfest research conference – what else would you expect?

As I was in the middle of reading Byron’s Don Juan, a list of goals began to creep into my head. A list of crazy ridiculous over-reaching things I want to accomplish before graduation. But I suppose this isn’t new news to people who know me. I like setting big hard-to-reach goals. I make secret lists on Microsoft Word. I write them on colored post-its and stick them on my walls and closet doors. I constantly remind myself of the things I want so that I’ll get to work and make things happen. Some of them work out (i.e. my GRE score goals). And some of them don’t (i.e. becoming a Rhodes Scholar – darn that athletic requirement!). But what I really relish is that rush of knowing that there is this amazing thing out there that could be yours if only you worked a little harder.

Lately, however, I’ve been floundering a little. It’s hard to motivate yourself when you’re technically “finished with everything.” Senioritis hits and you’re supposed to finally RELAX and enjoy your last quarter in college. But I am a sad workoholic, which I guess makes me a horrible “second semester senior.” I feel gross and lazy when I’m not doing anything. Which is why I’m so excited to finally be inspired again and have a new list of semi-realistic goals. In March, my dad told me not to let my last quarter go to waste and I’m going to make sure that it doesn’t. Watch out, UCLA! I’m going to go out with a bang (and not a whimper like T.S. Eliot suggests).

P.S. This post was a bit of a bait-and-switch because YOU thought it was going to be about the conference, but really it was about my love of ridiculous goal-setting. I’m so tricky. ūüôā

Office Hour Daydreams

A little more than a year ago, I was at office hours with my 10C (English lit, 1832 to present) professor. I had gone to look over my final exam and our conversation went something like this (the important part that I wish to highlight anyways):

Professor X: “So who was your TA?”

Me: “Oh, I had R—”

Professor X: “R—? That’s wonderful. R— is such a clever girl.

This may seem like a very silly mundane conversation to remember and recount, but I think about this short exchange every so often because it is something that I want a professor of mine to say about me one day. A clever girl is smart and witty and dedicated and full of potential. A clever girl is going to go places. A clever girl is going to be amazing  and wow people everywhere she goes.

Some day, when my name comes up in conversation, I want a professor to say, “If anyone can make it, it’s Sophia.” Some day, I want to be a clever girl too.

Some Snow Would Be Nice

I’ve known for about a month now, but this week I finally made a commitment and accepted a fellowship offer from the University of Virginia! This means that I will be moving across the country to Charlottesville, VA in the fall (East Coast, here I come!) and embarking on an excitingly exhausting English nerdfest.¬†In the spirit of things, I’d like to present my list of:

TEN THINGS I LIKE ABOUT U(VA)

1. The official incorporated name for UVA is “The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia.” What a mouthful! (But also kind of awesome.)

2. This year, Forbes named UVA as one of the¬†World’s Most Beautiful College Campuses. The town of Charlottesville has also been consistently ranked as one of the best places to live in the US.

3. Started by Thomas Jefferson (the only US President to found an institution of higher learning), UVA stands on land purchased by James Monroe. James Madison was also a Rector of the University. The three presidents’ homes are all located near the University. Definitely on my list of places to go see! I hear July 4th at Monticello is amazing.

4. Tina Fey (’92) and Katie Couric (’79)¬†graduated from UVA! Georgia O’Keeffe and Edgar Allan Poe also attended UVA (although Poe had to drop out after his first year because he lost his tuition money to gambling). UVA was also home to William Faulkner who donated a huge portion of his writing/collection to the Alderman library upon his death.

5. Every year in March, Charlottesville hosts the Virginia Festival of the Book.

6. UVA is the only university to be designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (together with Monticello).

7. Just as UVA likes to call itself the University, it also uses the definite article for various campus locations: the Grounds, the Lawn, the Rotunda, and the Range, in addition to the Corner on University Avenue.

8. The University is home to a number of secret societies, who leave signs of their existence around campus.

9. UVA has an Honor System where students “make a commitment not to lie, cheat, or steal.” ¬†Established with the purpose of creating a community of trust, the honor code allows faculty to give timed take-home exams and students to purchase books on campus by giving his or her word to pay. Very cool.

10. Charlottesville gets an average of 24 inches of snow each year! And 44 inches of rainfall! *super excited* I love it when things fall from the sky. :]

Of course it doesn’t hurt that UVA has a top-ranked English PhD program. ¬†I can’t wait to become a Cavalier!

I am uber uber excited about going to grad school at UVA and hope that you will continue to follow Sophialiteraria as I embark on this next chapter of my life. Thanks for all your support throughout this process, guys!

(All facts without linked citations come from the Wikipedia page.)

Book Stacks

One of the benefits of being a student researcher (surprisingly) is that you gain a lot of upper body strength from lugging armfuls of books to and from campus on a weekly basis. I officially started my senior thesis project last March, but have also had other concurrent research since January 2009. This translated into a lot of trips to Young Library and a lot of gasping and wheezing as I carried books back up the Hill where I lived. Over the past year, I’ve accrued almost an entire shelf’s worth of research material (apologies to anyone trying to check out a book on “Queen Elizabeth I,” “Henry VIII,” or “The Revenger’s Tragedy”¬†among other related topics – I’m pretty sure I kidnapped that entire section). And this is true of most of the other Departmental Scholars that I’ve spoken to. If we put all of our texts together, we could probably build a mighty fortress of nerdiness awesomeness.

Unfortunately, however,¬†now that I’ve finally finished and turned in my thesis, it’s time to bid those books (and my dreams of building a book fort) farewell.

Thesis research with bookcase for comparison (roughly a dozen are missing because I've already started returning them).

And since I’m already doing a post on my propensity for hoarding books…

Texts from research on collaboration (picture taken last March).

I wish I could say that I’ll miss the giant stacks of books surrounding my desk, but I’m pretty excited for a non-research-intensive Spring quarter. (Although I did ask my American Fiction professor last week if I could do a research paper instead of a regular essay… O.o)