“Chekhov was a doctor and Monet was a lawyer. What are you doing with your free time?”
Pittsburgh Filmmakers sent me a brochure announcing seminars and exhibits, posing this great question. I joined them several years ago to fill some free time. My projects led me to the University of London External Program. As we wait for grades I have another bit of free time. This particular free time is a kind of limbo. For me, it’s wisest to wait for exam results before refining my study process.
You might have guessed that I am process oriented. I have a way that I study, ensuring that time for study is incorporated into my daily routine. I enjoy this kind of study. I want to maintain the discipline, rhythm and skills that are hard-won. How to manage the windfall of free time and keep the mind sharp brings up the question of what this sort of study actually involves. And, with a few months of free time, a process oriented person like me will create structure as a reflex action.
Developing a personal study structure is a unique aspect of the External Program. This program has given me academic success and great enjoyment because of this process. I enjoy studying English in this way because it integrates easily with my other interests and experiences. Academic work and other interests are seamless because I study with this program instead of in a more traditional environment. How I learn in the External program and what I have learned through English studies enhances my other interests and vice versa. A book called ‘Linked!’ analyses the most successful strategies, processes and achievers; the more interdisciplinary ‘nodes’ or connections one has the more success one can expect. The study structure I create includes a wide variety of contacts, interests and resources.
Cross referencing interests and study is fun and helpful. The interdisciplinary aspect of English studies means my academic process is always linked to broader interests. For example, the Blue Grass Festival this weekend will have fantastic Appalachian story telling in the song lyrics. Curators at several museums I enjoy visiting helped with research projects for Explorations 1 and 2. The August Wilson Center for Performing Arts is nearby. It represents both local culture and work in the Modern syllabus. Pittsburgh Filmmakers engages with discourse and technology in very informative ways. My free time and other interests is part of my study process and structure.
Structure and process is usually the first thing new colleagues ask about; how do I handle so much material, what does a good essay include, what texts should I read and how much secondary reading should I do? Asking and answering these questions is an ongoing process. It includes interests that fill my free time and is one of the things I enjoy most about this program. Whether you are beginning studies or continuing them I hope that your free time will develop very special meaning this term.