Monday, January 13, 2014

Returning to Grad Student Days

My first year in grad school, I did not have an office.  I can't remember whether I eventually got a carrel in the Library or not, but even if I did I probably was only there when reading journal articles and in the first quarter, in particular, that happened mainly in the evening and then in the reserve room.  I was on campus pretty much all day.  When I was not in class or playing tennis I needed a place to hang out.  My two prime places were the cafeteria in the Norris Center and the Library lounge.  At breakfast time I'd be by myself.  Some of the rest of the day I'd be with classmates or other friends.

I was remarkably productive that first year.  I went from knowing very little about economics to be pretty much hooked on economic theory.  Some of this obviously was me.  Might my environs have mattered too?  I would do non-school reading most mornings, mainly the New York Times, which they sold  at the information desk in the Norris Center, also the Chicago Reader which was freely available.  There is something comforting about periodically glancing around the room, looking at the other people, then back to the sports section.  If I had a textbook out instead of the paper, I'd probably spend more time looking at the people.

Now, all these years later, I'm doing a repeat performance.  With the kitchen and family room at home being renovated, I spent this morning at the College of Business Instructional Facility.  The students aren't back on campus for another week, so its pretty quiet and the folks I saw were all in a relaxed mood.  I had one scheduled meeting at 10, but several other conversations with friends happened as well.

The big surprise between now (laptop, earbuds) and then (the intensity of the doctoral program at NU, backpack with notebook and textbooks) seems to me that the feeling is similar.  And, at least so far, I kind of like it.  Maybe that will change when the students return, as it will be harder to get a table and perhaps the wireless will congest.  But for now, it is welcoming.

Tomorrow I will try the Library as an alternative hangout space and do some work that requires more concentration on my part.  Is the solitude better for such work or not?  I also need to find a place where I have access to an electric outlet and that won't be too crowded when the students return.  In this way I can use the experience to do my own personal investigation on informal learning spaces.

Now off for a walk.  It's sunny and in the mid 40s here.  Let's hope it stays that way.

No comments: