… continually facing a problem which is very familiar to anthropologists: how to express a different system with a vocabulary which is inevitably moulded to the institutions of the society in which it is normally used. (Bloch, 1983: 34)

Posted in Academia

Seasonal Change

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Blogger Nadya Karimasari needs some tips to enjoy the breezy autumn.

Summer is officially over. For someone from the tropics like myself, to let go of the glorious summer days is easier said than done. The night comes sooner and the morning is terribly dark. I have to bring a flashlight to the bus stop, otherwise the bus driver can’t see me. This is my first lesson on how to survive autumn in Wageningen.

For most of Wageningen people, nothing is more normal than seasonal change. But as a person from a different part of the world, I can’t help thinking, why can’t the sun just rise and set at the same time throughout the year? It is hard to deny the gloomy feeling that comes with not seeing the sun as much as I used to. I tried several things like using brighter lamps and eating warm noodles, but these things don’t help that much.

I tried several things like using brighter lamps and eating warm noodles, but these things don’t help that much.

Instead of telling myself, ‘just get over it and get over it quickly’, I would like to embrace this gloomy feeling for a while, because it signifies where I am coming from and the distance that I have to go through. It brings me to a small realization on how we tend to forget how far we’ve come because we only see how far we still have to go.

As students, we are coming from different places and background, not only in spatial terms. Most of the time, the school only sees students from our ‘output’. There is a general ‘finish line’ and a universal standard that all students are expected to achieve.

But sometimes the school doesn’t see how each student goes through different distances to get to that line. For some students, reaching the line is a no-brainer because of their default proximity to it. Other students, who are coming from a very different starting point, feel every little step is a milestone.

We shouldn’t limit ourselves to view only how far the line is. We should also take some time to look back and look into ourselves, and appreciate all the process that made us this far.

Posted in Academia

Organizing PhD Research

While attending summer school at Zurich University, Switzerland, blogger Nadya Karimasari got some inspiration on how to organise her PhD research.

Zurich gives me the impression of being very organised, orderly, and extremely detailed. It aims for the greatest accuracy of predictability. It tries to anticipate and minimise any possibilities of things going wrong. Hence, people’s daily life can run as smoothly as possible.

Public transport
This high degree of order and organisation manifests at its best in how the public transport works. The trams buses, and trains are absolutely on time. They also have a monitor inside the vehicle that shows how many minutes away you are from your connecting trams or trains. So, you could predict and anticipate how fast you should run to your next tram, or whether or not you have enough time to grab some coffee and a croissant before continuing your journey.

I wish I could be more like Zurich in terms of organising my PhD research.

I wish I could be more like Zurich in terms of organising my PhD research. Perhaps it is good to have a set of predictable working routines. It is also significant to allocate some time to relax, otherwise PhD candidates could burn out, feeling stuck, having difficulties in finding inspiration, and need longer time to recover before getting back to the groove and having those juicy flows (or hops) of thoughts again.

Small goals
Another thing that helps is to set small goals that build up to bigger goals. These can be monthly, weekly, or daily goals, depending on how detailed you want to be. By setting smaller goals, PhD candidates could lay out what tasks actually need to be done in order to create the final “product” of a good research. By making the small tasks visible, it becomes more manageable.

At the end of the day, every person has their own style that fits and works best for them. The point of making a better organisation of our research is to help us maintain our sanity while doing intense research, and avoid getting entangled in a disarray of having to do too much while having too little time. Hopefully through a better tasks organisation, we could avoid unnecessary stress and enjoy our research process – and life in general – a bit more.

featured photo: timshel

Posted in Academia, life, Nomad Family, Personal

Summer Break

What’s the thing about summer break? Blogger Nadya writes her observation.

“How was your holiday?” That’s the opening line coming from most of my colleagues these days. The new academic year is around the corner. My next holiday season will be around Christmas and New Year. No wonder people are taking long breaks before summer is over, before being caught up in the demanding, hectic rhythm of academic life.

Dutch people are notorious for being the example of good work-life balance. I don’t know if it’s true or if it is just another stereotype. Dutch people are also known for not having as much stress from work as compared to people from other countries in the world. According to recent estimates, Dutch people in average work 29 hours a week, get around 8.2 hours of sleep every night, and guaranteed a paid vacation.

Holidays are something to be proud of.

Based on my limited observation, for Dutch people, holidays are something to be proud of. Because I am used to how Dutch people perceive summer breaks, I felt surprised when I noticed my office mates from other countries tried to avoid sharing their summer vacation stories. When one of my professors asked about our holidays, the room was suddenly quiet. Everyone started looking at their shoes. I was wondering why. If they were Dutch, they would’ve showed off their amazing holidays right away. They went to Basel, Munich, England, Czech Republic, and Croatia to name a few. Their holiday were really quite something, but instead of being proud, they felt guilty.

When one of my professors asked about our holidays, the room was suddenly quiet.

“I haven’t been working on my research proposal for a long time, that’s why I feel guilty about my holiday,” one of my colleague confessed. “I really don’t get what’s all the fuss about summer break. Apparently, here, summer is such a thing. My friend who went on vacation to the beach abroad was being laughed off by his friends because he didn’t come back with a tan,” added another. “In my country, people just went to see their family and help with errands during holidays, so it’s not a big deal like it is here,” one of them concluded.

I believe such guilt is unnecessary. There’s nothing wrong about enjoying holidays. We should feel normal about enjoying our precious summer breaks. I just wish the vacation continued a little longer.

PS: Summer break for us:

Food glorious food at Ben White’s summer home:

 

Cherry picking:

 

 

Posted in Student Lifehacks

3 lessons for PhD candidates

Her 1.5 year old toddler taught blogger Nadya Karimasari how to do a PhD properly.

Trust me when I say my PhD process is not going as well as expected.
To my surprise, my 1.5 year old son really helps to understand how I should do a PhD. Most of the time, I feel like things just fall into place. Thanks to my son, who gives a day-to-day example of the best attitude on learning and from whom I try to learn.

He has no fear of failure. He never thinks he’s silly, ridiculous or not making any sense. He has a steadfast trust in himself.

First, he’s never afraid to make mistakes. He has no fear of failure. He never thinks he’s silly, ridiculous or not making any sense. He has a steadfast trust in himself. It’s okay not to know things, that’s why he is here to learn. Never mind what other people might think, he simply enjoys learning new things. No matter the result, for him the joy of the learning process in itself is enough of a reward.

Second, repetition is fun. Every little thing is exciting for him. He likes to do things again and again until he’s good at it, and better. And, always with a big smile on his face. I must admit that I might not be the most efficient PhD candidate because I often have to go back to a document many times over. But I always think about my son who never gets bored doing peek-a-boo game for the umpteenth time.

A lot of PhDs read academic paper not only to understand what is written, but to imitate the method

Third, he’s a very active observer, and he imitates even before understanding the meaning of what he’s imitating. Not long after, he gets the context and see the pattern, thus he can do it at the right moment. He starts to understand the meaning of what he’s doing. He’s learning very quickly by imitation. Similarly, a lot of PhDs read academic paper not only to understand what is written, but to imitate the method of how the author builds up an argument and brings evidence to come to a conclusion.

So, next time you don’t understand an academic paper, try to imitate it and you will get it eventually. Don’t forget to have fun repeting things and never be afraid to make mistakes.