November and My Second Wind

This month I participated in the French department’s first annual Fete de la Recherche, a series of presentations given by students currently doing research in the French department here. Every student taking French was required to attend and most of the professors in the department were present as well. My research so far has been a fairly cloistered experience. My friends writing theses in other departments long ago passed the point where they no longer wanted to talk about “how it was going,” and sometimes it gets hard to remind myself that I am doing something that interests people other than me (or even that I am doing something that interests me).

That’s why I was really pleased to have this opportunity to present my thesis (in an abbreviated form, obviously) to a group of other students and even to professors. The feedback from my peers was very positive and some people seemed genuinely interested in what I was describing, which is doubly remarkable considering that the presentation was in French. I had the impression that these students, most of whom I hadn’t met before, would even read my thesis when it was done.

And afterwards, when professors were asking me questions about my work — not to test me, but simply because they were interested and curious — I suddenly felt much more mature and grown-up as a student. I realized that all of the time I’ve dedicated to these questions and all of the struggle that’s gone into this has already given me some benefit even before I write the paper. I have carved out, as small as it is, a tiny field of expertise. I have knowledge that not everyone has. I’ve gone off the syllabus, so to speak, and found something out on my own. That is a tremendously satisfying feeling and it is one that revitalizes me now as I set out to start writing a draft and as I submit my applications to continue my research at graduate school.