One Month From Now…

In exactly one month, it’ll be March 11th. It will be a special day.

Let me run you through the next month. Tomorrow, it’s Monday. Which means, back to work. It’s been really tough, I’m in the last year of my PhD and I’m SO done with it! Turns out the PhD really wasn’t for me, and I’m really getting more annoyed with it by the day. I just really hope I can finish this thing sooner rather than later and move on to something new and exciting. And also, I really really hope that I won’t regret having spent four years of my life on this. I hate getting stuck in “what if”s, so when it comes to decision times I always try to think: “What will I regret the most?” Like when I was thinking of going to Australia for a year. “What will I regret the most? If I go to the other side of the globe and maybe something happens to my grandparents and I won’t be around? Or if I don’t go?” I figured I’d forever wonder “what if” if I wouldn’t have gone, so I did it. And thank goodness I did, because not only did I have a spectacular year, I also met the love of my life there.

So tomorrow, back to work. I made myself a deadline for the end of the month to have a first full draft of the dissertation. That is so not going to happen, but I’ll now try to have a first draft of the first part (out of three). The second part is roughly finished, and the third part still needs a lot of work. And then there’s the intro, conclusion, methodology, appendices, bibliography, etc. Worries for later I guess. Ugh.

The day after tomorrow, my students are coming round to look at their exams. January was exam period, and now that the students have gotten their results I’m getting emails left right and centre for them to come look at their exams. Now this year, my students were quite different from the last few years. They have this weird sense of “that’s not fair”. Maybe it’s to do with this whole millenial business, you know, the fact that millenials feel entitled and stuff (watch this super interesting video by Simon Sinek if you don’t know what I’m on about). Maybe that stuff has finally reached Belgium. I think technically, I’m a millenial too, but I’m not half as bad as my students this year! The course I teach is a tiny tiny course in the first year. Just some terminology of (Dutch) linguistics that’ll serve as a base for the next few years of theory. Really, it’s just getting a hang of the linguistic vocabulary. This is a pronoun. This is an adverb. This is a pronominal adverb (which is only called like that because linguists can’t make up their minds on whether they are adverbs or pronouns, I guess). Now, the grading for the course is a bit peculiar. During the semester, the students have to make tests online (with all their materials available to them), multiple choice. At the end of the semester, there’s also an exam, again multiple choice but this time without their course books and stuff. On a multiple choice test with 4 answer options, you have one chance in 4 that you’ll pass by guessing. So to control for that, students have to get 80% of the questions right to pass the course. Considering that it is such a basic course, I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Also, they only have 7 classes and the course book consists of not even 30 pages. But yet, every class we spent about 15 minutes discussing the grading system. And they’re only first year students! I feel like one of the things you learn at school, is that in some cases, you just smile and nod! You need to learn to pick you battles, right? And battling with me over some silly tests about absolutely basic knowledge for your academic career, that’s just such a waste of time for all of us. So Tuesday, when the students come by, I’m not quite sure yet how to play it. Either I listen to their “concerns” and try to justify the grading system, or I calmly tell them to deal with it. I hope I won’t lose my cool!

Wednesday, I go to the gym and try again for the stupid dissertation. Thursday, same story. Friday,… You know what, I’ll just skip ahead. Friday the 2nd of March is my last day of work before three weeks of holiday. That’s why I wanted to get that first full draft done, that way I could just relax and wait for the reviews to come in with absolutely no worries because there’d be absolutely nothing that would need to get done. I’m annoyed it won’t happen, because it is my own fault. I can be so damn lazy and I stopped enjoying the PhD a while ago, so it’s really hard to motivate myself to do anything. And then I slack. And then nothing happens. And then I don’t make my deadlines. Ugh.

But back to the fun stuff. The 11th of March in particular. Because, the 11th of March will be the first day in my life being married to my soulmate! I’m so excited to start calling him My Husband, put that ring on his finger and show the world that what we have is truly something unique.

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Bolzano Day 2: My First Bolzano Hike, sort of

So yesterday was fun. I did do a fair bit of studying and I think I have a good idea of what’s going on in class, and for today’s class I didn’t really have much work because it’s a lot less relevant to what I’m doing, so no need to go the extra mile. I even managed to do some other work, well done me! That’s work sorted, yay.

I also went for a long walk with my roommate yesterday, just along the river. Turns out the river splits at some point. So when we crossed the river to walk back on the other side, this  appeared to be less ideal than anticipated. Not the nicest walk, but at least I got those legs moving. You see, I’ve been working super hard at the gym and gave myself this self-imposed challenge: when the boyfriend and I go hiking in the mountains (which will be in less than two weeks now, can’t wait!), I will be the first one at the top. But now the cheeky bastard has really upped his game at the gym as well so I totally have to step it up. Which I really did today. I stepped up, up the hill, and it was gorgeous.

I didn’t have too much time because I was going for this hike between classes, so I told myself: one hour in and then you have to turn back. I decided to tackle the Oswaldpromenade. (Some statistics for you: I walked 1h20, covered 5,9kms with a height difference of 150m.) It’s a lovely little path at the side of the centre going up one of the hills between all the vineyards. There were amazing views of the town centre and the mountains on the other side, and the level of the walk was the perfect little challenge for an in-between-important-stuff hike.

The path was perfectly accessible, not too steep, and relatively easy to navigate. At the end of the path (or maybe it wasn’t the end, but it was as far as time allowed me to go), there was a massive super fancy hotel, the Eberle Hotel, with an amazing view of the city and I bet it would be the ideal place for an evening cocktail (but my glass of wine in town this evening suited me just fine). The map told me the way back would just be road, but really it was quite fun! The road was super narrow, therefore, very cute. And insanely steep! It took me almost an hour to reach the top on the way in, and only 5 minutes to go down because it was simply so steep you just had to run down to make it easier on the knees. That was fun 🙂 The last part of the walk I went straight through the bustling town centre, shops and Italians eating ice cream everywhere. Back nicely in time for a shower and back to the lectures I went.

So far, this combo of work and holiday is going quite well. Bring on tomorrow!

Bolzano, Italy: Arrival

I am back on the road! Well, not really, I just went abroad for work, but I’ll take it 🙂 I’m currently at a summerschool in Bolzano, Italy. I’m taking one class this week and two next week, and of course I do have to do a lot of reading and studying after class but I’ll also have a fair amount of free time to just enjoy experiencing new things again. And then in two weeks time, the boyfriend is coming to meet me for one week of holiday 😀

Yesterday was a travel day, and a lot of people always say travel days are wasted days, but this one really wasn’t. I flew from Brussels to Munich (with Lufthansa, complete and utter luxury after only flying Ryanair for the last two years) and there I had to take a few trains to be on my way to Bolzano. Bolzano is located in the north-east of Italy, in South Tirol. I’ve been to Tirol before, and also to other parts of Italy, but this is something else. The final train ride went from Munich East to Bolzano, through Austria. That means: through the mountains! What a view, my oh my, I absolutely love the mountains and it has been way too long since we last saw each other. The whole four hours on the train, I just sat and enjoyed the view.

Right before Bolzano, there were a few longer tunnels and every time we came out one, I was scared the mountains were gonna be gone. You see, I didn’t really google anything about Bolzano so I had no idea what to expect. But when we finally arrived, I was pleasantly surprised. Indeed, the landscape did change, but definitely not for the worse.

There are hills and little mountains on all sides, covered in vineyards. The architecture is more Italian than Tiroler, which I really didn’t expect. And the vibe is too. My hotel is right in the centre, and as I went for a stroll to find a bite to eat before I going to bed last night, I found all these adorable streets with restaurants around every corner and a constant smell of truffle and garlic. Just the thought of it now when writing this is making me so hungry!

This morning, I went for an early run. Early as in a bit after 7, just about early enough for the sun to still be behind the mountains. I loved it. Seriously, I’m already in love with this town. It has charm. And mountains. And wine and food. What more do you want?

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I just finished my first class and it was super confusing so I should really get to work now, I might try to find a nice coffee bar where I will blend in with the furniture for the rest of the day. Until it goes a bit cooler. Then I  might go off exploring, me thinks!

Lost: Motivation… Last Seen: 6 Months Ago

Once again I am struggling at work. I tried to keep these sad depressing posts of my blog, but since I’m trying everything not to work, I guess this one slipped through the nets of happy thoughts.

I was browsing through WordPress, hear what other PhD students have to say and complain about. How they handle with the lack of motivation. I assumed that after a few minutes of browsing, I would have some tips and tricks and be comforted by the fact that I am not alone. Instead, I am more than worried now.

There are posts about unruly library behaviour – I haven’t been in the library forever. There are posts about running out of reading material – I haven’t read anything in forever since I simply don’t feel like it. There are posts about the many travels and conferences – I haven’t been anywhere since my first trip, since my research hasn’t progressed in so long that I simply do not want to go give the same talk again. There are posts about working weekends as if it’s normal – I have and never will work during the weekend, because I do everything I can to get away from my research. There are posts about occasionally going into university but mostly working from home, libraries, cafes – I go into uni almost every day because I simply cannot get myself to work if my boss isn’t staring at me (which he is now, but since he sits opposite of me he can’t see my screen, so I’m hoping he thinks I’m writing some interesting stuff down).

If you are a PhD student yourself, you probably think I’m having the end of 3rd year blues. Nope. I’m still in my first year. Ow shit. It’s not that I don’t like my field. I’m a linguist and I’m still happy to be one. Languages have always fascinated me, especially how they are really not that different and how there may just be some universal patterns that can explain how languages do differ. My research just doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Yeah I know, there’s only one person that can change that. But I’ve felt stuck like this for over 6 months now. Which means, my PhD went well for only the first few months of the 4-year project. I tried to subtly mention this to some of the colleagues, all of them way further in their careers than I am. (It doesn’t help that I am the only PhD student in the team and feel so inexperienced because I never know what they are talking about.) They suggested I just go back to reading. Leave the data aside, just read read read. But I like the data. Hands-on approach. Or at least I did like it, last time I was actually putting my hands on it. And reading takes me for-ev-er. It takes me weeks to finish a paper to then not know what it is about. Another thing that doesn’t seem to trouble any of the blogging PhDers I found.

I don’t know how to get out of this hole. This is supposed to be the opportunity of a life time, the dream job, a passion rather than work. Then why the hell have I been doing everything I can for the last 6 months to not work?

Is this the wrong job for me? Or are there ways to get me back on track? Where did my motivation go! Has anyone seen it? Maybe I should go check in the lost and found at uni.