For many of us exams are a memory, poised between the apex of one year’s effort and the advent of a new one. Whether you have completed a credential, are moving on to the next phase required to earn one, or thinking of joining our program, you might be keenly feeling this is a time of transition too. This is always an interesting time of year to me, with its enormous anticlimax after the intensity of exams and the anticipation of the new term, or new challenges. This year I am more aware of this particular theme than I can remember ever being before. Transition has been an important topic in both my academic and professional life; it also seems magnified by all of the opportunities for transition that fill the media and news reports this week too.
If you ‘Google’ transition you will find hundreds of millions of search returns; a lot of people must be interested in it too. Being an English major, I was fascinated by the 167,000,000 results for ‘transition words’ alone. What does transition really mean? Is it just another way of saying change? It does seem to hold change at its heart. A lot of emotion surrounds change; a few weeks ago I read a white paper that discussed how to remove emotion from change in the workplace. I wonder if that is really possible, or desirable. For me, the ‘people’ or human aspects of change and transition are even more important than the process components. Anybody who has tried to sell, lead, and manage the gains of change in the work place might also have something to add about the impact of change on the people who are affected by it.
We are all affected by change, whether we initiate it or have it thrust upon us. For example, an intern who worked for me this year just graduated university and began working in her first professional position – that is a very big change. I am transitioning to a new professional position; it is my ‘dream job’ but I know it will stretch my skills and judgment. My assistant, with only one year experience in our field, will now have to manage a very new set of responsibilities until a new director arrives at the organization I am leaving. We all bring a case of butterflies to the task, and we all have different resources for managing the process as well as how it affects us personally.
This year I have taken to heart that how we manage the way things affect people is very important; it is also a powerful opportunity. For me, transition is a kind of alchemy – who will I be after embracing new opportunities, and the successes and failures that change is sure to bring? Maybe that is the metaphor Ovid was expressing in ‘Metamorphoses’ – how people are changed by their experiences, how we allow our experiences to affect us, and what kind of change we want to embrace.
Why am I waffling on about change and transition? This year the University of London International Programme is making some changes in the English Department. A lot of students like me will have to decide if we transition to the ‘new’ course model or remain on the ‘old’ one. The changes to the course structure are well thought out; I recognize many changes as requests students made over the time I have been studying. Should I proceed along a comfortable path with materials and a study method I have confidence in and good results from, at a time when I need to accomplish four units while undertaking a new position? Or should I embrace the ‘new’ model, with the very tempting coaching and study resources but a redesigned syllabus? That is the question I have to settle.
We all have similar questions to settle about taking up degree level study and how it will affect us. If transition holds change at its heart then it holds possibilities in the palm of its hand. Thanks to my experience so far in the English and Comparative Literature department, I have earned an academic credential and my dream job. Embracing a new year full of transition is feels very, very good and right. Happy Studies!