Leah and I have a pattern. Beginning nearly six years ago, we happened to birth a baby at every new stage of my education. In each case, both kids were born just one week before classes started (who cares, you don’t need sleep in a Masters program!). For the nine months prior to our move to Edinburgh we were certain that Leah was going to get pregnant or just have a miracle baby a week or so before I matriculated.
Though we didn’t have an actual baby, something else was birthed in our lives…my dissertation (they call it a “thesis” in the UK). The UK PhD system is beautiful for those who are ready to move directly into the writing process and avoid two more years of classes. This seemed the better option for me considering I had to rectify my teenage screw-ups by taking years of community college courses. In any case, the average U.S. PhD in Religious Studies / Biblical Studies is completed within 6-7 years whereas in the UK the program is designed for completion within 3-4 years. The UK has a high expectation of readiness for language skills in the field of biblical studies—typically, incoming students are required to have strong proficiency in Greek and Hebrew, and a healthy level of scholarly German, French, and Latin (or another biblical language) along with strong writing skills. During the application process I had to present a dissertation proposal along with my plan to execute that project. In the U.S., this part of the project is done only after the second year of classes are completed. So, to say that I hit the ground running when we got here is an understatement.
The project has in many ways been like a baby, needing my full attention and nurturing as I bring her to maturation. She has changed, and has changed me, so much in the six short months that she has been alive; and she continues to grow stronger and healthier each day. She regularly causes me to lose sleep, consuming my mind and testing my patience. However, I wouldn’t change my situation for anything. Over the next month, I will be wrapping up my first completed chapter and preparing for my boards (May 31st), where I will stand before five notable scholars to explain and defend my thesis (sweating bullets I’m sure!). This process is not an intimidation tactic, but rather a way to assess the student’s progress and to make sure the school is providing them the best representation possible (or so they say). My project, for example, has shifted so much attention to Roman Studies (Classics) and Numismatics (study of coins) that I may need to double dip by getting a secondary supervisor in Classics as well as Biblical Studies. This will be brought up at my evaluation and the board will help decide the best course of action. Still, a PhD student can fail the process and be recommended to change or rewrite their thesis (worst case scenario). So, the heat is still on and it is important to perform well. Therefore, over the next few weeks I will continue to strengthen my arguments and tidy up my languages. Though this process has been quite difficult I am thankful for this opportunity and look forward to watching my new baby develop into something beautiful.
In the next blog, I will elaborate more on my project and discuss some exciting opportunities I have coming up this summer.