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Spring break – Now what?

By Amy Nielsen

It’s spring break week. Who knew that Master’s programs got spring break too? I mean, I guess I figured they did, but never really thought about it. Do doctorate students get spring break? I suppose the question should be do we take spring break or just keep plowing along?

In my case, I am taking a break. Not only was last term a dozy in materials and projects, but it was super stressful in my personal life too. I got really sick over the winter with no time to deal with it. So now, with this beautiful two weeks of no classes, I am taking the time to slow down and rest. I know next term will be as full as this last and I need to be healthy and in the right frame of mind for it.

We get two weeks off between spring term and summer term. Last week I spent catching up with my personal life, getting into missed medical appointments, and generally reconnecting with everything and everyone not related to school. I even read a novel and baked cookies.

This week, I need to make sure to not rev up too early for classes next week. I am planning something fun and not remotely education related each day. I will check in with my classrooms as they are open online already. I’ll print out the syllabi and the first weeks’ worth of assignments and set up my files. My books are mostly here and ready to go already. I still have to order the online toolkit we need for one class.

This past term was full of fascinating topics I really wanted to get deeper with but in the interest of time and keeping up with the lectures, I never went down those rabbit holes. Now I get to spend hours reading related yet tangential papers and surfing through professional pages searching for more tidbits to add to my project. Some people read romance, I read peer reviewed papers.

Eventually I will have to write a 50-page thesis to end out program. While I have a topic in mind, it is deep and expansive and could encompass a wide swathe of material. Now that I know a bit more about how the body works from my daily classwork, I can start to develop the outline for what I want to write about. This first pass at bullet points during one of two such spring breaks I will get in my Master’s career is proving to be not only fun, but re-invigorating to my research. I suspect I will spend next year’s spring break madly editing the thesis.

I really want to spend this week diving down those rabbit holes and working on tangential topics, and bullet points. Because I started this program with a solid, yet self-taught background, I am quickly learning where the tractor trailer sized holes in my knowledge base are. I am hoping to remedy some of those missing pieces this week as well. So I am starting with the basics and going up from there.

This serves two purposes. It fills out the beginning of the thesis, the part where one tells about the pathology of this condition, differences in presentation, the signs and symptoms, and traditional treatment courses. It also makes sure that I know that those gaps are cleared up in my own knowledge base. As the condition I am researching is one I live with, this is making for some very interesting discussions with my medical professionals.

While in class session, I don’t have time to breathe let alone research topics to my current line. I am too busy doing the class work to play. I am working hard to make sure every assignment I do follows my thesis project topic in order to not waste the research time. But, that leaves me precious little time for side trips.

I am a nut. I love to research. I love to learn new things. I love to find out that an assumption on my part is wrong and more importantly what the right information is. I like to problem solve. When I was told no such protocol existed for my condition, I decided it was my job to create one. So now I am learning everything I can about this topic, soup to nuts. It became the topic for my thesis and eventually my practice.

They, the grand They, say that if you do what you love you will never work a day in your life. I think I am learning this spring break that I love what I do. I love what I am learning. I can’t help but read about it when I could be reading about faeries or romance. I want to meet interesting people in my field to discuss theories of etiology and pathology. The snow has finally stopped falling here in upstate New York and I should be running for the hills to hike, but I’d rather run to the library and check out a fact in Grey’s Anatomy.

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