Greetings from the twilight zone, otherwise known as the Honours year. When you think of postgraduate students, Masters and PhD students are probably top of mind – after all, that's what a postgrad is, right? Well, not quite. As one of the PGSA exec found out earlier this year, there is no official definition of a postgraduate student here at UC. Having spent two part-time years doing Honours, I can say that occupying this strange middle ground has been interesting.
We're that other, almost invisible, kind of postgrad. We've gone past the bulk barn lectures and end-of-year exams that typify undergrad life, but have not yet embarked on the grand projects that consume Masters & PhD students. It's a bit like being at intermediate school – stuck in limbo until you get to join the big kids at high school.
I've learnt many things over the last couple of years, including the fact that planning is essential, but so too is adaptability. We've all had to adapt over the last year, to all kinds of situations and in different ways than many of us ever anticipated. The September 2010 earthquake not only made my house uninhabitable, it also scrambled my brain, making concentrating on data crunching and essay writing almost impossible. Somehow I made it through (thanks to understanding lecturers and blessed deadline extensions), and came back for my final two Honours papers this year.
2011 hasn't exactly been easy either – we can probably all agree on that. The February earthquake caused many disruptions, not only to the University and to our city, but to the study plans of many of us. For me, Honours part two has been a disrupted journey. I was at uni for the initial meet and greet gathering on Friday, February 18th, and was supposed to attend my first lecture on Wednesday 23rd. As we all know, on Tuesday 22nd, the earth shook violently and our world changed yet again.
If not for the February earthquake, I'd be finished Honours by now, as my original plan was to take two first semester papers and then work for the second half of the year. For various reasons, including changed work commitments, I ended up taking two second semester papers instead. Although it wasn't without its own dramas, it has proved to be beneficial in the long run, and has led to interesting research opportunities.
My research interests have changed a little since I started this process. Last year I was researching student perceptions of offensive language on television and radio for my COMS401 project, and analysing the pop music played at sporting events for a Sociology paper. If the September earthquake hadn't happened, I would probably have been planning further research in this area. I could think of worse ways to spend a year or two – watching sports matches & listening to music did seem quite an enjoyable prospect.
Instead I find myself pursuing earthquake-related topics, as I now have a strong fascination with the many different aspects of our changing social and physical landscape. As part of my independent media course (COMS 407), I made a radio documentary about local life and entertainment that aired on National Radio on September 4th, the anniversary of that first quake. It's called Entertaining Shakeytown and features music from The Harbour Union album as well as interviews with local characters and entertainers. You can listen to it online via the Spectrum programme page on the Radio NZ website (www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/spectrum).
My other Honours paper this year is CULT 401, which looks at culture, globalization, and new technologies. Discussions with a visiting Erskine professor about actor network theory and post-disaster use of media and communication methods has led to me conducting another survey. If you have a little time to spare (hey – you're still reading, so I have to try!), please check out this survey on media use and communication here in Canterbury over the last year. If you only arrived in the city this year, your opinion and experiences are still valuable for the project, as most questions relate to the events from February onwards. The survey is open until Sunday October 2nd, so please share the link among friends, family, workmates, and flatmates – the more the merrier! http://canterbury.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_0N8koLaQgyEFjeY
As someone who has never been inclined towards anything even remotely mathematical, I'm not entirely sure why I keep inflicting statistical analysis on myself. But when you want to know what people think, you have to get out there and ask questions which leads to unavoidable data crunching ( and the resulting headaches!). I must say though, I'm glad I don't have to physically conduct all these surveys. I've even – shock horror – enjoyed using the Qualtrics survey software that UC has signed up for, as it makes online survey creation and management quite simple. Which is a good thing, because regular, everyday life is complicated enough round here these days.