As a child I would always get depressed around the last week of July. That’s when the commercial breaks of all the cartoons I used to watch would become inundated with back to school spots. In late July, with five to six weeks of summer break still ahead, no ten-year-old needs to be reminded of the impending doom of the school year.
It was bad enough that the tyranny of the back to school reminders started in July, but the commercials they would force down our throats were usually only tangentially related to the business of learning. They were more about the pressure to buy new wardrobes or supplies featuring the latest pop culture phenomenon (in my case, this was SpongeBob – not exactly the highest scholastic achiever among marine-dwelling creatures).
And finally, school just wasn’t my thing. I was always a voracious reader, a kid who loved to experiment with things, and one who would observe nature keenly, and I didn’t want my own self-guided education hindered by that of the formal school experience (math class, above all else). I don’t think I even began to enjoy school until my junior year of high school, when I had more freedom to curate the courses I took.
But how things have changed. The summer holiday is winding down and I find myself eagerly awaiting my return to the Columbia College Chicago fold for my second year of grad school. I can’t wait to see my classmates who have left Chicago for the summer, and I am excited to begin sharing my work with them again.
Graduate school is rewarding, but it is grueling, and we all look forward to summer. In graduate school, the summer break is luxurious compared to the winter one, but not because of the warm weather and long hours of daylight. It’s luxurious because you have enough time to decompress from the semester before and actually grow anticipate the coming school year with excitement.
Two weeks ago, I received the reading list for my upcoming nonfiction workshop. It’s six books, two of which I’ve read before. As an aside, being assigned books you’ve read before doesn’t mean you have less work; you should read the text again for further insights and for how the contents of these books will be applied to your current class. I love getting reading lists from the professors because I know I will be introduced to authors I may not have heard of yet, or that I will learn new or deeper things about authors already in my reading sphere.
Receiving a reading list so far in advance allows me to plan ahead and to take additional time with a book. By August, I’ve generally finished everything I had wanted to read for pleasure or for my own scholarly interests and I am looking for new things. Finding the reading list in my email inbox is a pleasure and a not-so-guilty excuse to buy more books.
There will be a new cohort of students joining us. For those of us on the nonfiction path, the cohorts are generally cozy. This year, we will have four new students joining us. Fresh eyes and thoughts, working with (in some cases) professors none of us have had the pleasure to work with yet. How fun the end of summer can be when you realize you get to go to where you want to be rather than where you have to be!