Sritama Chatterjee is a second year PhD student at the Department of English, University of Pittsburgh. You can find her on Twitter @SritamaBarna
Image of books that I am planning to read during the Break
It’s that time of the semester. There’s tons of grading left, writing for assignments are due, you’re working on a syllabus for next semester, and you are sending out yet another grant application so that you have some money for summer research – the to-do list keeps increasing every day. But here’s the good news: Thanksgiving break is almost here and you can’t wait for it. At this point in the semester, when one part of my brain has zoned out and there is another part of my brain which is bravely trying to work through each aspect of my to-do list, I am eagerly looking forward to the Thanksgiving break to recharge myself. Since I am an international student, I don’t get to visit my family during this time. It is not feasible to go back to India, as the Thanksgiving break is too short and international travel is expensive. However, not only international students but also many domestic grad students don’t leave town during the Thanksgiving break. So then, if you are not leaving town to visit family and friends, how do you spend the Thanksgiving break?
Reflect: If you had not much time during the semester sitting back and reflecting on how you have been doing things, either in terms of reading, writing, teaching or research, this is a good time to take out that notebook of yours and write down your reflections. Personally, I find this moment of pausing and reflecting very generative because it reminds me of who I am as a scholar, as a pedagogue, and as a scholar-activist. This is essential to keep me afloat in difficult times, reminding me why I do things in a certain way, what has worked and what could have been done more effectively. This reflection time also gives me opportunity to chart out a future course of action, however tentative.
Read: Thanksgiving break is a perfect time to bring out that book of yours that you always wanted to read, but did not have the time for because of the semester grind. Last year, I promised myself that I would use the Thanksgiving break to read a book or two, especially fiction and poetry that aren’t related to my area of research and/or aren’t part of the syllabus. I find immense joy in sitting with a book, lingering on a word, a sentence that is beautiful and touching.
Explore: Let’s face it. No matter how eager and willing we are to explore the city that we live in, our grad life often makes it difficult to live up to this aspiration. Thanksgiving break can provide the space to finally visit that museum, art-exhibition, bookstore, or coffee shop that you have always wanted to go to. Pittsburgh’s winters are chilling and I have zero cold tolerance. So while I cannot explore the city on foot and discover more murals, I am going to use this break to visit a few museums in my city.
Reconnect: Even if you can’t visit them, it is a good idea to call up a friend, or that family member with whom you have a lot of catching up to do about life, love, and grad school. This is an essential part of my self-care because while I might not be able to maintain contact with them on a daily basis, Thanksgiving break provides me the opportunity to have the long and deep conversations with them that are integral to maintaining friendships that have sustained me all these years.
Throw a Friendsgiving Party: Chances are that some of your friends and family will stay in town or will be out only for a short period of time. How about throwing a potluck party? This does require some advance planning and the need to figure out what time and day works; deciding on a menu, doing grocery shopping for the party on a low budget and cooking. But it is completely doable.
Binge-watch: If you have been delaying watching a series on Amazon Prime on Netflix, because you know that if you start watching something, you won’t stop until you have watched it entirely, then Thanksgiving break is a perfect time to indulge in that binge-watching.
Attend Grads-giving Parties at your school: Many professional and graduate student governments at universities organize a party or feast for grads who stay in the city. Find out if something like this is being organized at your school. Besides food, this is a good chance to socialize and get to know folks from other departments.
Get a head-start on your final projects: While taking a break is perfectly acceptable, some of you might want to use this break to catch up on your writing for final projects. The goal, however should be to keep something manageable and achievable, so we don’t end up guilting ourselves later for not accomplishing what we had set out to do (True Story!). My writing goal for this break includes writing 150 words each day for the two papers that I am working on. So that’s 300 words, a day! You may also consider signing up for an academic writing month challenge to keep yourself accountable to a community of scholars on Twitter.
Finally, you might consider doing nothing, except for curling up on your bed with blankets sleeping or simply staring at the sky or enjoying the snow fall with a cup of coffee.
What are some of the ways in which you are planning to spend your Thanksgiving Break? We would like to hear about it. Tell us in the comments below!
(Image Courtesy: Sritama Chatterjee)