Generalities

Sorry for the long absence.  As previously noted, I passed my qualifying exams, thereby moving past the stage of general knowledge and into the rarified air of shit-nobody-but-me-cares-about.  More in a future post about my dissertation topic (I’m taking ideas…), but for now, quick reflections on the qualifying exam process:

  • Though I pumped out 10 pages in a mock exam, I was only able to generate 5 pages for the real deal.  I still don’t know why, exactly.  It wasn’t the questions–they were pretty much what I expected.  Nerves, maybe?  The flourescent lights in the exam room?  Whatever it was, I just about threw my computer across the room when I got done.
  • Yes, I got to use my own computer.  What the hell is that about?  Shouldn’t they have given me a sterilized, non-networked, WordPerfect 5.1-only computer to do this thing on?  Instead, I had access to all of my notes plus the Internet.  What a tease.  Naturally, I was scared to death to use those resources (cheating on qualifying exams goes under the “really bad idea” category).  But seriously, what torture.
  • The oral component was kind of fun.  I say “kind-of” because there’s still the pressure of having to perform for a highly educated audience, including my adviser and his colleagues, so I was trying to both impress my adviser and not embarrass him in front of the rest of the committee.   And I muffed that pretty good: apparently I made a ridiculous error regarding the Navigation Acts of 1651.  But I still don’t know what that mistake was.  Nor, if I may be so bold to say, do I give a rat’s fart.
  • Final word on qualifying exams: All you have to do is pass.  In fact, that’s as much as you can do–nobody really impresses their exam committee.  Because, hey, these people have been doing this for years.  They know this stuff backwards and forwards in a way that a grad student just can’t at this early stage in her career.  So sit back and try not to fuck it up too bad.
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