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Advice for Classics grad students!


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Not sure if anyone's seen the recent Eidolon article on advice for Classics grad students, but I figured this would be a good place to post it for those of us currently in/soon to be in grad school:


What do you guys think of the advice? Any tips of your own to add?

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I hadn't seen that. Thanks for sharing it! 

I am new enough in my program that I think it would be presumptuous for me to offer much advice. One of the professors here did however give us all some advice on getting the most out of seminars. The most interesting portion of her talk (and the one that I struggle most to apply) is that while we are certainly expected to engage with the work at a high level, the expectation is not that you come into class with every bit of the reading mastered. If you don't understand something, figure out why not and raise the issue in class. That is far more productive (to you and probably to everyone else) than if you stayed silent out of embarrassment. 

The professor teaching Greek Survey (which I am not presently in, but the advice remains applicable) distinguishes between levels of reading a a Latin or Greek text. It is essentially the same distinction we make when deciding whether to study an article in-depth or skim it, but, since my ancient languages are not good enough to fly through a text as I might an English one I am skimming, I had never tried the approach there. Sometimes however it is more important to get the general gist and the way that the author writes than it is to parse every troublesome syntactical issue. That is another change I am trying to make in my habits: until this year I read every Latin text twice and made flashcards. One week in our survey course, however, we had 2,500 lines assigned (a play of Plautus and one of Terence). I got through all the material but only barely, and I certainly did not have time to do the whole thing again and make a mountain of flashcards besides. It was something of a pleasant surprise when I realized that I still had gotten quite a bit out of the texts despite approaching them in a far less methodical manner. (This isn't to say, of course, that the methodical method is not needed at other times.)

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  • 1 year later...

Even though this is an old post, I feel like resurrecting it would be good because this is some good advice. Anyone else have any advice for current/about to attend Classics grads? This information has helped me immensely, even though there isn't much on it yet. But I would be the flashcard-making individual as well, so knowing how to approach it differently does help a lot.

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Some of this is building off the Eidolon piece/what has already been said, but here are some tidbits of advice that come to mind:

1) Try to go to as many lectures as you can, both those hosted by your department and especially those in adjacent programs/fields (or random ones that you're interested in!). As a philologist, going to ancient history/art history/archaeology/philosophy/early modern lectures has contributed substantially to enriching my own work, kept me up with larger trends in the discipline, but most importantly, has given me the opportunity to meet and develop good relationships with students and faculty outside of my program (whom I would never normally have gotten to know). Plus, free food!

2) If you can at some point in your PhD, do some departmental service (e.g. serve as graduate representative to the dept., coordinate your dept. lecture series, organize a pedagogy/diversity workshop, etc.) or get involved with a university-wide initiative (e.g. grad student union or student government, etc.). I've found it extremely helpful to get some administrative experience (which anyone with a faculty job will get to look forward to...), but it's also a great opportunity to create some lasting change within your department/university. Fair warning - this can often be a HUGE time commitment; do not overload yourself!

3) Going off of that, it is okay to say no to things! Even when an opportunity sounds amazing, if it is going to stress you out with the million other things you have to do + teaching + studying, it's okay to take a step back and focus on what you need to get done.

4) Save all of your notes (whether vocabulary notes for texts, lecture notes, etc.)!!! I am a bit of a pack rat and have saved everything since undergrad, and I only realized how recently how valuable this has been. When reviewing for my language exams or coming back to a Greek/Latin text, I've been able to pull out an old notebook and work with that instead of having to lug out the ol' dictionary (which has also been a huge timesaver). Likewise, I've found it invaluable for teaching prep (both for languages/lit classes and for civ/culture classes).

5) One of the best things I've found about graduate school has been the community at my university/in my department. Take the time to reach out to your cohort-mates/fellow grad students and get to know them outside of work/school. Form a reading group and share your work with one another, giving constructive and critical (but not hurtful) feedback. Don't be competitive with your peers - instead, try to support one another as much as possible (graduate school is hard and in addition to academic pressures, many of us face difficulties in other areas of our lives).

6) If you don't already, start using a citation management software (like Zotero) for everything you read! Even if it doesn't seem worthwhile at the moment, it will save your life at some point in the future.

7) Get to know and be kind to any administrative/support staff - they are the hidden gems/gatekeepers of any department! 

I'm sure I'll have some more thoughts, but I hope this is helpful in some way!

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