I always distress about not being able to blog consistently. Over the last few months this has been especially true. As 3rd year PhD students, we are required to both teach and study for our preliminary exams (some schools refer to them as qualifying exams). I have been studying for mine since last May, so for about a year now. It’s a two part exam, written and oral. For me, the oral is most important and most stressful. My written exam was on Friday and today were my orals. As students studying history, we are required to specialize in three fields so as to not be “provincial” and have academic range. My first field and probably most relevant to this blog’s viewers is the Modern Middle East; the second is “US in the World” and the third is “Social and Political History of Collective Action.” We prepare for each field by creating a list of the dominant and most important books in the field, working with a professor who is authoritative in that field, and reading the books and knowing their main arguments. Keep in mind that each list can have anywhere between 70-100 books and there are three lists.
I have taken the LSATs and the GRES and have completed 6 years of graduate study ranging from twenty-page papers to a masters thesis to law school finals and nothing has come remotely close to the challenge of these preliminary exams.
It’s been a long and enriching struggle and I feel like I have grown tremendously throughout the process. At the end of every year of graduate study I look back and evaluate my own progress and never have I felt more indebted to the academy than I do after this year.
I am sharing this with you so as to explain the lack of activity on the blog and to obtain some closure; finishing the exams were a little anti-climactic.
Though I have passed my exams and have reached candidacy today, I know that the pursuit of knowledge is a lifelong endeavor (how’s that for a cliche?). After all, a wise man long ago told me not to make my mind about anything until I was at least 35 🙂
Thank you for your support and patience and for journeying with me. I hope I can share more with you more consistently now that this milestone has been met.