29 August 2009

Fall 2009 Ahead

Ah, the new semester starts in a few days. I can't believe that I have been here for four whole years now.

So, how was my summer? Summer is over in a few days, and the routine will set up again in no time. For this summer, I opted to stay here in Buffalo for the whole time instead of going for another adventure trip like I did last year and the year before that. Well, technically, it was a way of saving money as well, given the fact that my student visa expired last June. It meant that although I still have a legal alien status here in the USA (that is mandated by my still valid I-94 and I-20 documents), if I wanted to get out of the USA, I need a valid visa in order to re-enter. And flying all the way to Manila just to renew a visa, given the fact that I have no pressing obligations overseas so no need to get out anyway, is just a big expense that I decided to just stay inside for the time being.

Another big constraint is my dissertation. I have finished all my coursework as a PhD student. All that remains and separates me from my graduation is the dissertation. I have made quite some progress while I was working on it during the summer. I have moved from Draft 1 to Draft 3 within a couple of months. My dissertation is now physically a 56-page-long proposal, that has a big idea, and that has been connected to both the linguists and the psychologists (yes, I am writing an interdisciplinary dissertation). It is also written in a way that I can convince my hairdresser that it is an important topic to study (oops, I forgot, I shaved my head, and so I don't have a hairdresser anymore). Anyway, at this point, the comments that I have been getting from my adviser moved away from the you-gotta-fix-this-part type of comments to the this-is-the-next-thing-you-gotta-do type of comments. I suppose that's a good thing.

For the first time, I finally experienced a Buffalo summer. It was hot. It was humid. It was provoking me to get naked. Oops, I need to make my body more pleasing to the eye first if I really want to do that. Speaking of which, I already lost a few pounds, and I am still doing my exercise regimen.

I rewarded myself with a cheap vacation in the Pacific Northwest near the end of August. I basically psychologized myself into it, making it a reward for the hard work that I did all summer long. It did work. It acted as a brain spa, letting me not think about my dissertation and my other projects with other people while I was enjoying the weather, the beer, and the company in Seattle and Portland.

So this coming semester will be my 5th year, my 9th semester. I am only taking one class for one credit now. I won't be writing any papers for that class, and my grade for that one credit will only be based on in-class participation in this seminar. I am taking a class on Iroquoian languages. Now why am I taking a class on a topic that is totally not my area? I could care less about native American languages. However, for the past four years, I haven't taken a single class from the department chair (who is teaching this class), so I figured I might as well. Also, the class would work as a flush for my brain. If I would be thinking every day about my dissertation, a three-hour session on a topic that is totally unrelated to what I am working on would provide a refreshing break.

What else is in store for me? I am currently devising a new set of experiments with my co-author on experimental syntax. This is basically an extension of the current project that we have, which we are presenting for the first time in Barcelona next week. Another publication is in my CV then, yay! For those in the know, you can check my professional website and find the relevant document for more information.

Aside from that, I am also finalizing last-minute legal permissions to run another set of experiments that I am collaborating with yet another person in the department. This is a project on sentence processing, and hopefully, we get results early enough in the semester so we can have an abstract ready by the first week of December. That is when the abstract submissions are due for the CUNY Conference on Sentence Processing, which is said to be held in the New York City area for 2010, but the official word is not out yet.

The weather has started becoming cooler now. Funny, just being absent in Buffalo from a week has brought this change. Tomorrow, my friend and I are planning on hiking the Niagara Gorge. The weather is cool enough to explore the outdoors, and humidity isn't an enemy anymore.

My couscous paella was a success in the department potluck. That's why I am replicating it for my own consumption this weekend. Speaking of the new department potluck, there were quite a lot of new people in the department. There are 19 new students all in all, 13 of them are PhD students. Wow. When I came in back in 2005, there were only 10 of us, and only 3 are PhD students. Of that 3, I am still here working on the dissertation, another has already defended her proposal and is also working on her dissertation, while the third one has dropped out last year. There is a very weirdly skewed distribution of students in the department nowadays.

Anyway, come Monday, the routine will begin again. I have a psycholinguistics lab meeting at 9:00 AM, first thing in the morning. This is a scheduling meeting: we need to schedule who will be working in the lab at what times. This semester is going to be fun. I only have one class, so virtually everything that I will be doing is in relation to furthering my career advancement and research. Sweet!

Oh, this entry is also the last of my DC Memorials Series. The next series will still feature scenes from Washington DC, but it is a geeky series. You have been warned.

(Remembering Vietnam, from my DC Memorials Series)


  1. It's a fantastic idea to take a course from Michelson - she is an amazing instructor!

  2. Oh nice on nice. You talked about everything under the sun in this post, including being naked... hehehe. :)

  3. Matan,

    Yes! I haven't taken a class from Karin yet, so I think I am in for a treat.


    Ha! I knew you'd notice that and say something about it. But hey, it was a summer wrap-up post, so what can I do?

  4. You must really know the university well now! All the tricks, how it works etc. I envy you.

    I finally managed to be accepted into a program but I have to start a Bachelor again (equivalence problems with France). It sucks but I already have about 50% of the credits.

    Yet, I don't really understand how universities here work. It's all very confusing and a lot of things don't make sense to me. I was particularly unlucky with the admission process (it took 4 months in total!) and I don't seem to fit anywhere because of my French degrees.

    The more stupid part: I'm studying in English in the French as a second language program, because I can't prove to the university I speak French (despite being French!!!).

  5. Zhu,

    Now that sucks, if you have to do things all over again. I hope that the fact that you have more than 50% of your credits in is a good thing.

    And isn't there a French language proficiency exam that Canada offers? Like some TOEFL equivalent? I mean, really, you're born and raised in France, that should count for something.

  6. There is such an exam but the university doesn't accept it. I will have to take the university exam, which is like a credit but doesn't count as a credit towards my degree (basically, I have to pay $700 and take the exam). I find it stupid since I'm French... but I don't really have the choice.

    It sucks to start a Bac again but I'm glad I got 50% of the credit - this is the max. I could get, since to get a degree from that university, half of the credits must be done there.

  7. Zhu,

    That sucks. Well I hope that you don't have to stay as long as other people, since 50% is already taken of.