A Self-Assessment at Twenty Two Weeks

[Week 22] As I can't show you a photo of my work (what work?), here's the Italian version of an iced coffee instead.
[Week 22] As I can’t show you a photo of my work (what work?), here’s the Italian version of an iced coffee instead.

At eleven inches (the length of a spaghetti squash) and almost 1 pound, your baby is starting to look like a miniature newborn.

Unfortunately this is a dissertation, not a baby, and it sure as hell isn’t coming along as well.

There are a number of reasons for this, the primary one being the sheer amount of paperwork, leg work, and try-not-to-kill-the-person-behind-the-desk work I’ve had to do here in Italy. I have a GANTT chart for my research (which is mostly empty)  and a separate GANTT chart cataloguing everything else that needs to get done— the permesso di soggiorno, tessera sanitaria, INPS, ASL, esenzioni ticket, and renewal schedules for everything. This second chart dwarfs my first by so many kilobytes that it isn’t even funny. I have spent more hours in government offices or battling ATAC trying to get to said government offices than I have doing actual research and there are graphs to prove it. I look forward to displaying said graphs during my first doctoral seminar.

Speaking of, it is quite difficult to do doctoral research without an office. Perhaps this is the Italian style or a simple lack of space, but it seems doctoral researchers here have the same benefits as undergrads minus printing privileges. If I want to print something, I battle it out with all the other doctoral students, assistant teachers, and staff for one of eight computers on the 5th floor of Viale Romania. There are two printers. Needless to say, more often than not I end up giving up and heading to a printing place to shell out even more money on things that I have come to expect as, if not a right, at least a justified privilege in any well-funded university. I would not expect the same from my alma mater, the University of the Philippines, simply because there we could barely afford to keep blackboard chalk in stock and it was a bring-your-own-whiteboard-marker kind of life. Undeniably brilliant professors and students mind you, but we were as poor as it got. That said, if the tuition fees for UP were the same as for LUISS I would be up in arms about having to fill my pockets with chalk before heading to each class!

Here at LUISS we, the political science people, are a little bit spoilt compared to other doctoral candidates as we do have a little place of our own to write in, freshly stocked with a handful of new computers, which is a blessing. Unfortunately it’s in Viale Pola, a campus further away and for which the university has recently stopped the shuttle service. Additionally unfortunate is that also it’s the location of the public toilet, so random men often walk in and out of our area blasting cold winter air as they go and making it impossible for us to store our things without fear of them being stolen. Last but not least, there are no printers there either. I would be the last person to advocate unnecessary printing— this dissertation was very nearly one on climate change and coral reef damage— but when doing doctoral research I cannot stress enough how a certain amount of printing is necessary if not essential.

Adding to my frustration is that the university library is extremely unfriendly to researchers— you need to book you books in advance, and you wait for a librarian to physically bring them to you. If it so happens that the book title was deceptive and in truth has nothing to do with what it seemed, well, sorry, hand it back and do the whole process all over again. A lot of apologizing to the librarians is involved every time.

The Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma, while beautiful, is similarly inconvenient as you not only have to deposit your stuff at the entrance (causing one extremely long queue) but you can’t even bring in water. Or other books. Or bags, literally, in any form. This causes an interesting scene upon entering where you see people departing the bag-drop area balancing laptops with precariously placed chargers, notebooks, phones, pens, and assorted student paraphernalia plus their winter coats.

Last but not least, perhaps the biggest reason there is so little progress on my research is the sheer amount of coursework we have to go through this first year. So far most of our classes have been completely unrelated to my final research, which is why I find myself here now, twenty two weeks into this dissertation, working on completely extraneous final papers that will be written well but will never be seen again.

So, my little gestating baby thesis, I’m so sorry but I think you’ll be awhile in there!

Workity workity.

The National Library.


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