Weeks 3 & 4 in review

Summer Research Weeks 3 & 4

Week 3: July 19th-25th

Week 4: July 26th-August 1st

Week three of my summer research was also the last week of my internship at the Smithsonian. In the office on Monday and Tuesday I took some time and began formulating questions I had about ethnomusicology and linguistics that I wanted to answer out in Oklahoma.

Here are some examples of sample questions:

-What kinds of music exist and are performed/sung by the community?

-How is music learned? Is it taught? Passed down within families from generation to generation?

-What role do hymns and music play within the community? Are they sung only in church? At festivals? At funerals? In the home?

-How would you describe the language found in the hymns/music?

As I read articles, books, and blogs I came up with an even longer list of questions. And then the list got longer. And longer. And longer. It turns out I had more to learn and ask than I thought! This would later become a bit of a problem when I got to Oklahoma, but by now I’ve figured it out.  I’ve since learned that it is crucial to have a specific research question when going into the field, or else you can feel a bit lost. But I’ll talk more about that later.

On Wednesday of that week I had a conversation with Mary Linn, my supervisor at the Smithsonian. A big factor in my deciding to do my undergraduate research in linguistics was the assumption that I would later go onto graduate school in linguistics and do more work in the field. I had been feeling a little lost/panicked about my upcoming senior year and what I would be doing after it, so Mary and I sat down to talk about my options. She brought up graduate schools, talked about the possibility of seeking to get hired by a community to work on temporary projects, and also discussed the options of the Peace Corps and getting a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate. She spoke about the path she took to get to where she is now, and I realized that no two paths are the same. Mine will be unique and different, and what is most important is to follow my passion, to keep doing what feels right and feels good. There are many ways to do what you love, you just have to seek your own path.

I met up with Mary again on Thursday, this time to have a more informal lunch. We chatted about our families and about our shared love of music (we both play the cello), among other things. One of the things I will value most about my internship at the Smithsonian is that I was able to meet and get to know inspiring people like Mary. I hope that we will be able to stay in contact for many years to come- and who knows, maybe one day we’ll be colleagues in the field!

I also spent a significant amount of time on Thursday re-formatting the work I had done on the Creek hymnal project. A lot of time and effort goes into the tiny details- which fonts, programs, formats, layouts, etc., to use. It’s time consuming, but having a final product that looks neat and uniform is worth it.

Friday was my last day and it was difficult to say goodbye to all of my friends and mentors. This internship was about much more than just linguistics and anthropology- it was about living in a new city, adapting to new people and a new environment, living in an apartment on my own for the first time, figuring out how to navigate city streets, reconnecting with old friends, networking and making connections at the office, learning more about myself, and both gaining more confidence but always staying humble and admitting that you have so much yet to learn. I feel now that I am more driven to pursue this kind of work and that I am more confident in my ability to adapt to new situation. I have a feeling this will be very relevant to my work in Oklahoma.


I actually got pretty sick once I got home from D.C., so I spent a few days of week four recovering and getting healthy again. I also spent some more time finalizing my system for the hymn notation, drafting lists of interview questions I would like to ask community members, and reading up on the history and the language of the people that I would be working with. By the time I got healthy again it was time to fly out to Oklahoma and begin the next chapter of the summer research adventure!