Friday, 10 December 2010

Qualifying Exam

I passed my qualifying exam!!!! I think it went really well (all things considered) and spent the first half of yesterday being inordinately pleased with myself. It has been weighing on my mind for almost a year now - it is a long process, with two written and one oral component (plus supposed to be two meetings, but I only got one). I finished the initial written bit by mid-summer, but they couldn't schedule the meeting until September. Spent this semester stressing about the long written bit but got through it with the help of our postdoc, Alex. Then finally yesterday they got around to doing the oral exam. My labmate got pages of feedback to her written component (11 pages!), which the oral exam was based on, so that was what I was expecting. What did I get? Two sentences of feedback. So I was quite worried because I therefore had no forewarning of what to expect from the final. (I complained about the lack of feedback to the Chair, but he slapped me down with, "I can't believe you're complaining about NOT ENOUGH negative feedback!" He may have a point).

I felt like the meeting went really well. I DO know my stuff (thank you very much), and although I've never been a grade-grubber, I really like research and am therefore reasonably good at it. And luckily, that's what this exam was designed to measure. I definitely got more feedback from the meeting, some of it quite positive. There was one horrible moment when my supervisor asked me a question I had no idea how to answer, and there was a.... long.... uncomfortable...... pause......... while everyone stared at me. But then I just told him I don't know, said there didn't seem to be much in the literature on that point, and everyone moved on. At any rate, they only deliberated for a few minutes about whether to pass me (they send you out of the room! uncomfortable) so I guess that's good.

I'm proud of myself for how I am handling the pressure at the moment, too. Because I didn't know how to prepare for this exam, I was pretty stressed about it, and it comes during a week where I have to finish up all my work projects, mark 200 papers, and pack up and put my entire life into storage. But I've been trying hard to use exercise to manage the stress, and yesterday when I was nervous about the meeting I used my yoga breathing - sounds corny but works great! So I was able to walk in there feeling confident and somewhat relaxed, and paradoxically I think that always makes people go easier on you since you already seem capable.

Unfortunately yesterday didn't end as well as it started. I have a ton of papers to mark, and they're due in Monday (eek!), but I would have like to go out quickly to celebrate. My housemate was going out and said he'd text me when he got there. Needless to say... not a word (although I did get an apology text this morning). Guelph is reminding me more and more of how I felt in London.... NOT, I should note, a good thing. It's weird how some places you live work out right away, and some are just never going to be happy places. Generally speaking it comes down to the people. Fingers crossed Yale will be a good one (at least I already have one friend there!) and I can wrap up Guelph quickly. Getting past this exam is a huge step in that direction, for sure.

So on to the marking, the experiment-making, the paper-writing (we hope to have one ready to submit before I go!), the fMRI analysis, the packing, the moving and the leaving do. This is all going to be totally worth it when I get to spend an entire month with all my favorite people! (So screw you, Guelph.)