Midterms, already?

My industrious classmates

That’s right, folks. Our four-hour long mid-term exam is this Friday, and after that, we will have finished exactly half of our six-week program at the Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies. Crazy, isn’t it? Fortunately, when you spend every day in class or studying from morning to night, a midterm exam can’t really add that much to your stress load. The photo above depicts a scene that you see pretty much every weekday–my classmates hard at work cramming various bits of Japanese into their minds.

Besides the language-related aspects of the program, there are two fairly mundane things that I’ve really been enjoying: 1) the ability to focus on one task for an extended period of time and 2) the return to a profoundly regular schedule.

The first point really just illustrates how much I typically have on my plate. As a graduate student, I’m constantly juggling a million different responsibilities. I take classes, manage the daily operations of a research center, try to make progress on my dissertation, attend and plan conferences, work with undergraduate students, serve as a research assistant for two other professors (in addition to my work at the research center previously mentioned), and sometimes do policy work, among a host of other things. Oh, and I maintain semi-normal human relationships, try to exercise, and have a variety of semi-neglected hobbies. But yeah, it’s a lot! At any given time, I am working on a number of huge projects, in addition to the small things necessary to make it through a typical day.

The second point is related to the first. Given the diversity (and number) of the tasks, I typically enjoy (and take full advantage of) the flexibility inherent in a graduate student’s schedule. Typically, you don’t have to be in an office from 8 am to 5 pm, so most people work when they like, sleep when they like, get up when they like… but in reality, for busy people, this sometimes means that we’re just working all of the time and that our schedules can be a maze of irregular but constant activity. In sharp contrast, the past three weeks has been like a return to high school. I have pretty much the same schedule every weekday:

7:00 am: Wake up
8:00 am: Breakfast with my host mother
8:35 am: Walk to Doshisha University
9:00 am: Class begins
12:00 pm: Lunch break
1:00 pm: Class begins again
2:00 pm: Class ends
3:00 pm: Kanji quiz
3:01 pm: Homework time
7:00 pm: Dinner with host mother and father
8:00 pm: Homework time
12:00 pm: Sleep
7:00 am: Repeat from the top

It’s a simple life. And I would doubtlessly get bored of it if I had to do it for too long. But for now, it’s a welcome respite from the chaos that permeates my typical existence.

But, ahem, I’ve been deviating from the above in taking the time to write this post, so I’d better get back to it. More posts from the front lines of second language acquisition to come…