On/Off Topic

Published January 12, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

Since the year of daily posts ended, my blog’s “topic” has become largely Greek mythology, with some history thrown in.  (And some random nonsense on Mondays…)  From that point of view, this post will be “off topic.”  But in the sense of the whole “grad student” aspect of the blog’s title, this is “on topic.”

Lately, I’ve been worried about the coming semester.  Not crazy worried — and in some ways not as worried as I am about the doll I partially ruined the other day *sob* — but still worried.  Or maybe “concerned” would be the right word.

Classes start on the 20th.  (Well, my classes start on the 20th.  Technically the semester starts on the 19th.)  So I have a very short window to get this sorted.

Because, you see, I’m wondering if I should drop one of my classes.  I know, it seems crazy to drop a class before it’s even started, right?  But the thing is that I haven’t paid my tuition yet; if I drop the class before it starts, then I don’t have to pay the tuition for that class, just for the one I am taking.  If I let the semester start, then I have to pay the full amount, and they’ll refund part (or maybe all) of the tuition for the class I drop.  But since I’m not the one actually paying the tuition (ugh, how embarrassing to have to admit that!), they’d be refunding the money to the wrong person (me), instead of to the person who actually paid it in the first place (my father).  So I’d rather avoid the refund situation if at all possible.

I’m signed up for two courses, one on Intellectual History, and one that’s more about the ties between history, artifacts and museums.  Technically, the latter isn’t even part of the History MA program, but the Museum Studies program that’s also in the History Department.  The former is going to be hellish in terms of reading (I’ve had this professor before, and he usually has us read a book a week, and write a reaction paper to it in the same week) because it’s more or less the history of philosophy, and my few interactions with philosophy texts in the past have not been fun.  The latter has only two books listed with the school bookstore, and I have no idea what the workload will be like, since the syllabus hasn’t been posted yet.  The former is something I feel I truly need for my thesis (though little of the material is likely to tie in directly), and the latter is something I feel might be useful for the job I’m hoping to get at the museum where I’ve been volunteering for about four or five years now.

Two classes should be a small workload for a graduate student, you may be thinking.  And at most schools, you’d be right.  But everyone’s confirmed that the workload in this history program is excessive — considerably higher than at other universities.  And the courses are all designed with the expectation that you’d only be taking one course at a time.  Because a lot of the students in the program are getting their MA while working full-time, often teaching at the high school level or lower, which is also why most of the classes are at night.

But that’s the History MA program.  The Museum Studies program is structured, and expects its students to be taking a number of courses every semester (I’ve seen the outline of the program, and while I don’t recall the specifics, I think it was around three or four courses a semester; you know, the normal level).  Therefore, each class in the Museum Studies program probably has a lower workload.  So maybe I could handle taking both classes.  And yet I think I’ll have trouble getting through some of the less pleasant authors (say Aristotle and Freud) or the longer works (say Plato’s Republic) in a week even without an additional class to worry about.

What bugs me here is that I’m going to have to make my decision without all the facts.  Unless I can see the syllabus before I decide, I can’t know what the workload is.  I can’t know if I’d be able to handle it.  (Though I can’t truly know that until I try it, even if I do see the syllabus.)

Ultimately, I’m torn.  I don’t want to have to do my whole MA one class at a time.  That’ll take forever.  On the other hand, I don’t want to take a course if I can’t give it my all; if I can’t do it right, I’d rather not do it at all.  (Ironically, that’s rarely my attitude outside of my academic endeavors.)

Dropping the philosophy Intellectual History course isn’t an option, because intellectual trends over the past 3000 years are extremely important to my thesis.  But the museum course could help me get a job at the museum…or maybe not.  I mean, I doubt they’ll be covering what I’m doing at the museum.  (I’m already considered the place’s expert at the software in which the collection is cataloged.)  And it probably doesn’t really deal with our kind of museum much.  (I think one of the textbooks is about religious artifacts in museum collections.  That’s not the kind of museum I’ve been volunteering at.)  And yet…it’d look good to the board if I was taking museum-related courses, surely.  (Though I have no idea if the board would really be involved in the hiring process.  I don’t know how that works.)

So…yeah.  Torn.  Should I drop it, should I not drop it?  I don’t know.

It’s more than likely that this museum course will be taught again and again…but it sounds like it was a computer error that let me sign up for it without getting authorization first, and that error might not come again.  (Then again, maybe that error was caused because I was in the Museum Studies program’s files, having previously applied to the program.  All I know is that another student in the History MA program tried to sign up for the course and was told she’d need permission from the instructor, but I was able to sign up for it like any other course.)

I keep hoping the syllabus will be posted before I have to make up my mind.  But I figure I absolutely must decide by Sunday at the latest, and preferably well before that.  And yes, I have been thinking about this all break, even before I found out just how hellish the reading list for the Intellectual History course is.  I just haven’t been able to come to any decisions yet.

Sorry.  I’m sure this is very boring to read.  I just…sometimes I think better when I’m typing than any other way, and I hoped that if I poured my dilemma out like this, some great solution would come to me as I was going.  Doesn’t seem to have worked, though.

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