I am a first-year Master’s student in linguistics. I see many people over the course of the week, from professors to Ph.D. students to undergraduates. I may also have a dentist appointment to squeeze into my day or a hockey game to watch in the evening. And, of course, I know that if we were not living through a global pandemic, I would be factoring in the commute to campus, not to mention finding a space to work and to host my own office hours. But this is how it’s going for now.
Today, I don’t have class. Hooray! In the Linguistics department, they schedule our classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays so that we can use the other days for teaching appointments, meetings, research, and homework. I also use this day off from class to meditate, practice yoga, and plan ahead for anything else I need to take care of this week.
I was lucky enough to get a TA job this spring in the Psychology department. I minored in psychology as an undergraduate and that proved to be invaluable to me now that they paid for my tuition and healthcare this semester, not to mention the actual fun I am having in the role. The class is a hybrid online course where we have work to do on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but we only meet synchronously on Zoom on Wednesdays. On Mondays, I have a meeting with the professor to touch base about the homework that I need to finish grading and what’s coming up this week. It’s great to check in with her and a good start to the week.
I wake up and stumble into the kitchen to get my kettle turned on and ready. Depending on how early before my Semantics and Pragmatics class I get up, I have a variable amount of time to get myself presentable for it. Today, my professor brought in one of my other professors to do a guest lecture. It’s really engaging and I can tell I’m not the only one who thinks so, because my classmates and I are rapidly sending off messages in the chat. Most of us have our cameras on, but if I haven’t figured out my hair situation, I might still have it off. I also need to drink a lot of tea before my brain is ready for complex thinking.
Now I have a short break over lunch to open my emails and maybe look at social media while I make food. I have two classes back to back coming up so I know I need to eat enough beforehand. The first class I have, called Talk At Work, is actually a combined graduate and undergraduate course, and our professor has the best energy and jokes. There are probably eight of us with our cameras on out of 30, but we manage to have fun anyway. I get 20 minutes to myself in between classes and, no lie, I usually lie down and close my eyes to give them a break. Last class of the day, Phonology, is a challenge mentally and physically, but our professor is just phenomenal and she always makes time for us. By that I mean me coming into her office hours once again confused about everything.
This semester on Tuesdays, I’ve been part of a group that organized a talk series by people who graduated with degrees in linguistics who are working outside of academia. I also have a regularly scheduled FaceTime call with my mom and my sister across our three time zones and it feels so good to talk with them. Last but not least, in the evening, I have a weekly chapter meeting with Her Campus, where we bond over the stress of midterms, pitch article ideas, take Buzzfeed quizzes, and get excited thinking about being together again on campus in the fall, hopefully!
The class that I TA for doesn’t meet until the afternoon, so in my free time in the morning, I could take a shower, do chores, and get caught up on material for the class. We have a video lecture from the professor as well as pages to read from the digital textbook. I usually do these on Mondays, but if I had another meeting, I could do it today instead. I log in to the Zoom class a few minutes early, as the co-host, and I make sure to rename myself with “TA” so the students can find me easily if they need to. There are 115 students enrolled and we have over 90 students in class every week. If they have to miss for any reason, they can watch the video of the class later when it’s uploaded to Canvas. Some days, I get emails about attendance before class starts, so I always make sure to double-check. When the professor arrives, we greet each other and the students and see if anyone has questions about last week’s or this week’s homework or other classwork. In a couple of weeks, we will tell them about the review session I am hosting prior to their final exam. For now, we are discussing extraversion and what is defined as “humor.”
After class, we stay online for a few minutes to see if anyone has questions. I pay close attention to the chat during the lecture to make sure we don’t miss any questions, and I usually get one or two about the iClicker Reef questions we do in class. Then we say our goodbyes, and I head into another Zoom meeting. It’s our Graduate Student Workshop series (GRoW) where we have covered topics all year like mentorship, writing a CV, and, most recently, we have been listening to the Ph.D. students describe their work so far in research and writing. It’s been a really rewarding experience to hear from them while I think about what my next steps are at CU.
Another early morning start for me! In my first class, our professor reminds us to start thinking about our final projects and I feel both excitement and dread. I know the data that I want to use because I have been working on it for another class as well, but I don’t feel confident about how to make a connection to Semantics. I make a note that I need to come to her office hours and share a little about my interests and get some help on the project.
However, I need to go to a different professor’s office hours today so we can talk about my course registration for next semester. We have a nice PDF to follow which highlights our program requirements and we fill it out every semester with the new courses I am taking. I only have one more required one and then two elective spaces. We decide that Linguistic Anthropology is going to be a top choice for me in terms of the subject matter being close to my research interests, but we aren’t sure if there’s another elective that is “just right.” We also need to discuss whether I am interested in writing a thesis, which would be due next spring in order for me to graduate. Since this is something that I want to do, in addition to the comprehensive exams I will need to pass, my professor suggests that for my third course in the fall, I should begin setting aside time each week to conduct my research and start writing the paper. Since he is also the person I will ask to be my thesis advisor, we agree that this would be a great way to budget my time next semester by only taking two courses. I hope that I will be able to secure another TA position, but that is an unknown right now. I leave the meeting feeling encouraged and supported in my plans for next year.
Another round of back-to-back courses before I can relax for the evening. This week, I am choosing to rest and to wait on my homework for later. Instead, I spend some time making dinner and participating in a round of virtual trivia with my family. It was really fun, as usual, but I told them that with things heating up in our last full month of classes, I will likely have to miss a few rounds in order to dedicate more time to work on my final projects.
We made it to the end of the week! Just like on Monday, I am responsible for budgeting my time with regard to appointments, meetings, meals, and research. But today is also the day that I host office hours on Zoom. It’s been very successful so far and I know my supervising professor and I have shared about how much we like the system of making ourselves available to connect, while also being able to get our own work done. So while I am in my Zoom room, I am also grading my students’ work that is due this weekend in lieu of us having a synchronous class. I also make sure to look at my emails just in case anyone has last-minute questions before the deadline. I will also listen to music and work on articles for Her Campus, and daydream about how after we get more vaccines in the state, I can start meeting friends for happy hour again. I am most looking forward to being on campus at CU and seeing people gather together for coffee, sports, and camaraderie.
The average week of a Grad Buff is different for many students, but we share the beauty of our state and the support of the university in our research and efforts to change the world for the better.