So we can choose our own assignment titles. This sounds good but in reality it is quite difficult. For my first assignment I literally just picked a suggestion in my course book on the outbreak of WW1. I did enjoy writing it, but it was harder than I thought. The word length is 4,000 - it's easy to knock out 4,000 words, but after cutting and trimming and organising - it's hard to know if I've picked the right 4,000. I think my essay was OK. It's not going to set the world alight but it was OK for a start. I just want some feedback so I can improve. I just want a pass, essentially!
I have now picked my second assignment, something I am much more comfortable with - resistance to Fascism; women, small pockets of people who resisted the Nazi regime. I've been reading around it already - it is due in middle of January so I have plenty of time, but I want to get a head start. I am happy with my question, I just need to get cracking with my research.
Since doing this course, I have realised that I can hold an academic conversation with other like-minded people! This is important. I can be giddy and a bit silly at times (in case you didn't guess.) But I am very serious about what I want to do, I love being a student and I do love locking myself away for hours and writing - I want to one day make a valuable contribution to research. Having spoken to a couple of lecturers now I realise that my interests lie in social history. I like the stories of people, and I would love to really tap into this kind of history. It was also suggested that maybe I should have taken the Cultural History MA - I don't know whether I would have got on better with that - but in any case, I do love the MA I am doing and so I am happy with my path. However, if I was strongly urged to change then I would if it was possible. But for now, I'm going to "find" the bits of social history within this MA.
I actually now have to start thinking about this. Although I am part time, so I graduate in two years - I still have to think about funding and possible projects. I love German history, always have, and I always thought I would do something about women in the resistance or something along those lines. However, one of my lecturers was totally honest with me and explained that if I couldn't speak fluent German in two years then I would have no chance. Now I hate being told that I can't do something (I was picking German back up and was considering an A-Level.) However, I think in this case, he has given me good advice and I need to "know my limits" (!) So I need to stick to British history. And you know what, even more, I need to keep it local. I have three children; they don't hold me back but I need to make a PhD work for me and around our lives too.
So I thought I would have to go back to the drawing board and get thinking about what I wanted to do. However, last year I wrote a PhD proposal about the diversity of experience in Liverpool during the Blitz. I was unsuccessful in my application; I didn't get the funding. However, I did have the support of a lecturer who advised me. For some reason (probably because I didn't get the funding) I assumed that the proposal was rubbish and forgot about it. However, I dug it out of my computer files and had a good read, and do you know what? It's bloody good. And not just that - it excites me - I know that this is something I could really get into. I have been thinking about altering it slightly - I work in Drug Safety at the University - my office is in the old hospital - history is all around me, and so I started thinking about the lives of nurses, doctors during the Blitz. What was it like for them and how did their role impact on the city, on morale on this "Blitz spirit"? Studies mainly focus on London in the Blitz - what about Liverpool? And maybe Manchester - maybe I could broaden the study that way.
So - next steps - try and get funding. There is a competition every year to get funded. To be honest, if they waived the fees I'd be over the moon, self funding is hard. I plan on speaking to come lecturers about this soon. As long as I had their backing that my project is worth pursuing then I will do it. I think! It's hard speaking about something you want to do in two years time! Part time is good - but the decision-making process is harder I think!
So for now I need to concentrate on my assignments. Improving my research skills and my writing, developing my academic voice, I suppose. I'm waiting anxiously on my first assignment result. I just want to know that I am doing OK and have something to build on. I'm still learning and I think I always will be.