working solo: tips for avoiding procrastination

June 13, 2009

"Students Studying"

Now that classes have come to an end, I spend most of my time alone reading and writing for my dissertation. In the UK, education is fairly hands-off, especially at the graduate level. Your supervisor will provide you with guidance, but for the most part, you are left to your own devices.

It is easy to get distracted or overwhelmed if you don’t have strategies for staying focused. I’ve come up with a list of things that have helped me stay on task. A lot of it is common sense, but I’d though I’d share it anyway.

  • Create a time line with your supervisor. Set deadlines for outlines, drafts, and meetings. This will make the 15,000 words seem less daunting and more manageable.
  • Use detailed labels for your articles, photos, documents, and folders. Your computer will search for files more efficiently if you use “_” instead of spaces (e.g. “Lury_Branding).
  • Continuously back up your files through an external hard drive or online. Also, save incrementally and under different names.
  • Maintain an up-to-date bibliography. The last thing you want is being unable to use a quote due to a missing source.
  • Establish a specific time and place for studying. I prefer working on the kitchen table in the afternoons, but many of my friends get too distracted at home, so they study in the library or their departmental computer lab in the mornings and afternoons.
  • Enjoy your evenings and weekends. As attempting as it is to just continue working through the night, give your mind a break — time to just relax, watch youtube videos, or hang out with friends. I like going to the gym or for a bike ride after a day of intense critical theory.
  • Reward yourself with a treat every time you finish a goal. My friends and I usually go for drinks at the pub after big submissions.

Photo by Flickr user Canadian Veggie

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women-only parking lots: safety and/or sexism?

June 3, 2009

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I was on the 143 bus in Seoul when I saw this women-only parking lot. I recently had read about women-only parking spaces in Iksan, a city in the southwestern part of South Korea, but didn’t know that they also existed in Seoul. According to Korea Beat:

The city of Iksan in Jeollabuk-do has created “pink line parking” for women drivers in public parking lots.

[…]

The “pink lines”, painted pink, are 2.5 meters wide rather than the standard 2.3, offering aid to women drivers unskilled at parking. The city will also install 34 street lights and 194 guard lamps in high-crime areas to create safer streets.”

I don’t know if the purpose of the parking lot I saw on the bus is to help unskilled female drivers or keep women safe, but it raises interesting questions about the perception of women drivers.

back in edinburgh

June 3, 2009

Sorry for the long absence, I got back from South Korea yesterday. I was hoping to blog while I was in Seoul, but just didn’t have the time.

My research went well, I was able to conduct in-depth fieldwork at my former English Academy. I will post a couple of detailed entries on my time in Seoul once I have more time to critically reflect on my experiences. I’d like to discuss the prevalence of picture taking and the coping mechanisms of the expat community in South Korea.

Just wanted to let you know I’m back in Scotland and will be here until the late summer. More entries to come.

blogging as research?: the politics of blogging

May 16, 2009

I will be heading to Seoul this Monday to conduct research on the branding of English in South Korea. I recently met with my dissertation supervisor and asked if it would be appropriate for me to share my fieldwork experiences on this blog if I kept my posts anonymous and more general. Due to the ethical implications, he dissuaded me from blogging.

Even if one anonymizes their research subjects, there are always clues that make it possible for people to trace the identities of your subjects. Furthermore, there is the chance that your research subjects or someone they know could read your blog and completely disagree with the way in which the information is presented and interpreted. While this is an issue with any form of research, the chances of offense and (mis)representation are often greater since blogging is usually employed as an instaneous form of communication. It generally is not used for long-term critical analysis.

This is not to say that blogging cannot take the form of ethical research. However, certain research topics lend themselves better to this medium. Just because we can blog at any moment in time and any place, doesn’t mean we should.

research tips: stalking theorists and mashing keywords

May 10, 2009

If you’re in need of more sources for your thesis or dissertation, check the university staff pages of the seminal theorists and thinkers in your field to see what journals they have published in.

I just checked out communications scholar Theo Van Leeuwen’s staff page at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. Having published in close to 30 different journals, Van Leeuwen’s list of publications is quite helpful and very impressive!

Also, when you’re searching for articles, be creative with keywords.

Think of all the different ways your research topic could be categorized. For example, for my research on the branding of English in South Korea, I have used a wide range of search words, including: commodification, Korean, brand, multimodality, communication, education, and globalization.

Be imaginative and resourceful, and most importantly, have fun!

links of the week: financial aid, twitter tools, and ludicrous ideas

May 7, 2009

Listen to the Idealist.org podcast on financial aid myths and how to score cash for grad school!

Share your notes with other students. [via Mashable]

Use Twitter to conduct research and do your homework.

Search for value in ludicrous ideas. [via Tomorrow Museum]

music in edinburgh: yann tiersen at queen’s hall

May 5, 2009

457787464_9b4fed96f7If you’re in Edinburgh this Friday, be sure to check out Yann Tiersen, the composer responsible for the Amelie and Goodbye Lenin! sound tracks — two of my favorite movies. Here are the details:

Date and Time: Friday, May 8th — Doors at 7pm

Venue: The Queen’s Hall 85-89 Clerk St, Edinburgh, EH8 9JG.

Tickets: £15 + £1.50 booking fee + 50p card charge. You can purchase tickets here.

Photo by Flickr user dezeta

interview with a gurkhas grad student

May 1, 2009

One of the great things about being at the University of Edinburgh  is having the opportunity to interact with so many interesting minds. Chandra Sing Gurung is one of those students. A Nepalese with three degrees and two more pending, Chandra has the kind of life story that would be featured on This American Life. It’s epic, moving, and cliché  — but in the best possible way.

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Born in a small rural village in Western Nepal, Chandra had always wanted to excel in academics. However, due to poverty and the death of his mother when he was seven years old, he was only able to finish primary school. It was not until he was sixteen-and-a-half years old that he had the opportunity to leave his village and pursue education. Undergoing one of the most difficult and competitive selection processes in the world, Chandra was chosen out of hundreds of thousands of hopeful youth to join the legendary Nepalese Gurkhas soldiers. Joining Gurkhas makes you a hero in the villages,” says Chandra, “From the UK or American perspective, it’s like getting a place for postgraduate studies at Oxford or Harvard. That’s how tough it is to be a Gurkhas.” Chandra was selected for Singapore Gurkhas.

While stationed in Singapore, he took night classes in Business Information Technology at an off-shore campus of the University of Central England in Birmingham in Singapore. Entirely self-funded and self-driven, Chandra was the first Gurkhas in the history of Singapore to receive a bachelor’s degree. “I am a military man,” explains Chandra, ”while you’re with the Gurkhas, education is totally distant from what you do.” Despite the lack of formal encouragement, Chandra continued on with his education. In 2007, he received a Master of Arts in International Relations from Flinders University of South Australia in Singapore. In 2008, he received a Master of Science in Strategic Studies from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. In the Gurkhas, he rose to the rank of Commission Officer (Inspector), the Gurkhas equivalent of an army second lieutenant, “which is given to the ‘best of the best’ among the Gurkhas.” Chandra recently decided to pursue a doctorate in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh. He is now pursuing a Master of Science in Social Anthropology as a part of his PhD and will be a PhD candidate from September 2009. His research interest is the Gurkhas diaspora, with a focus on the Gurkhas in the United Kingdom.

Chandra was kind enough to let me interview him, so over fanta, green tea, and cookies, we talked about his experiences in Nepal, Singapore, and Edinburgh.

How was the transition from Singapore to Edinburgh?

My transition from Singapore to Edinburgh was fairly smooth. I was in Edinburgh before, so I knew what to expect. However, there were things that surprised me. Coming from Asia, I thought that Westerners were not very serious about their education, so when I came here and went to the library, I saw all my classmates reading and studying all day, I was very surprised. The students at the University of Edinburgh are very hardworking and bright, perhaps the best minds in their field of studies.

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What has been your greatest challenge in Edinburgh?

My major challenge was in the first semester. Because my first two masters were in totally different fields, Strategic Studies and International Relations, I lost in terms of disciplinary language when I was attending seminars in Social Anthropology the first semester.

The next challenge was, I wanted to get distinction in my master’s modules, but when I received my first semester’s results, I got distinction in none of the modules – that was a real challenge. In the second semester, I got the rhythm, I am much better now, but my challenge of getting distinction is still going on.

What advice would you give to international students?

When international students leave their own country and they are in UK, I suggest they learn the culture and language of the host country. At the same time, exchange the culture and language of their own with host country as well as with other international students. Take the best thing to their home countries. It doesn’t mean they have to do everything; they can filter the best things and take them to their own countries.

I encourage international student to be more active, rather than passive, so that they will make more friends and student life will be more fun. Participate in as much activities as possible within the University and beyond. For example, I had never done yoga in Asia, although I could have done, but I started doing it here. Currently, I am learning capoeira (Brazilian martial art cum dance) and Scottish Ceilidh is something I love doing now.

The idea here is, participating in activities broadens your stay mentally and physically. With these activities, you will make your life a lot more interesting as a student and at the same time, you learn a lot more. With so much goes on at University of Edinburgh and so many events that take place in Edinburgh, I reckon it is a great opportunity be here in Scotland.

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What do you hope to do in the future?

My immediate aim is to complete a PhD and then gain some research experience in the Western world. Thereafter, I would like to return to Nepal where there is a huge brain drain. Most of the intellectuals in Nepal are leaving for greener pasture, probably due to ongoing political conflict. I, however, believe, as the citizen of Nepal, I should return to Nepal and impart the knowledge and skills that I have gained so far, I believe in contributing whatever way I am able to help Nepal. I believe the notion the good use of knowledge is an honour, and sharing is caring. There are many people to whom I can be a great help especially in my motherland.

My strategy is to teach at University in Nepal, and I would also like build a big public library at the heart of Kathmandu. There are university libraries, but, sadly, there is no public library in Nepal even at the beginning of the new millennium. To achieve my goal, if there is an absolute need, I will even go into politics, but that would be my last priority.

Situation changes, so does the strategy, hence, I wouldn’t exactly be able to tell you what I will be doing to fulfill my life long goal of helping people.

What do you think it will be like going back?

Although I lived in Singapore for a long time and am now in Edinburgh, I still have my own relationship with Nepal. There will be challenges since I have been away from Nepal for a long time. However, it’s possible to overcome these challenges. Being in the Gurkhas has made it easier for me to assimilate and adjust to new environments.

People in Nepal may have a different perception of scholars educated in the Western World, but I will see what strategy fits better. I am an optimist, “nothing is impossible, it is only impossible until one finds a solution to make it possible.”

sound + university

April 28, 2009

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Upon the recommendation of Andrew, I purchased a Zoom H2, a wonderful recorder for novices who are interested in recording high-quality sound. It is light, easy-to-use and fairly intuitive. Plus, it comes with all kinds of accessories including a stand, 1GB SD card, AC adapter, USB cable, mic clip adapter, ear buds, wind screen, and cable. I purchased mine from House of Gizmo at Amazon for £149.99 and it arrived two days after I ordered it. I was really impressed by their fast delivery!

I will use my Zoom H2 to record interviews and sounds for my dissertation and podcasts. This week I’ll be interviewing Stefan Ecks, my former anthropology professor and Director of the Anthropology of Health and Illness MSc. Programme at the University of Edinburgh. Dr. Ecks will share insider tips on admissions, research opportunities, and much more, so watch out for my next podcast!

Lastly, I leave you with a sound of my gym locker I recorded. Enjoy!

snapshots of edinburgh: route 75

April 26, 2009

Andrew and I just went for a phenomenal bike ride around New Haven and Leith. This was our first time cycling together in Edinburgh and we had a blast exploring the city by bike. The trails by the harbours are especially scenic.

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Hurray for cycling!

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Western Harbour

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Western Harbour