Tag Archives: Practical Matters

Ways to Stay Sane (and Warm!) During Winter Quarter


Yes, this is a thing that happened on Lake Shore Drive in 2011. But, much to our amusement, this photo accompanies an article entitled “Abandoned on LSD.”

Alright, so you’ve heard us all griping about how difficult and harrowing Winter Quarter is. And as we’re sure you know, now that you’re in the midst of it, it sure is. But before you start to feel like this, we wanted to intervene to let you know that there are plenty of things to do to manage Winter Quarter stress. And some ways in which, maybe, you might even learn to enjoy the UChicago quarter that is almost mythically scary. 

1) Pace yourself. Plan ahead. Resign yourself to the fact that you won’t be able to read everything for every one of your classes. Prioritize your workload so that things feel manageable. Try to settle on final paper topics by Week 5 so that you are not struggling to pick up the pieces at the last minute. You will really thank yourself by the time the quarter is winding down. Try to find interesting ways to put your classes into conversation with one another (or with your thesis). It will make your work feel more meaningful, creative and comprehensive – and it also might help you narrow down your reading lists when it comes to approaching final papers and projects. Continue reading

Some Thoughts on Managing Your Stress at Quarter’s End (and in Coming Quarters, Such as the Winter Quarter, Which is a Particularly Onerous One if You Don’t Have Good Stress Management Techniques)

MAPH Central has banded together herein to offer you some of our favorite stress management techniques! Heed them well, for they are marked with the psychic scar tissue of those who have endured the Coming Winter.

Get Out of Hyde Park (and off of Facebook) by Chrissy “McKnuckles” McKeon

Chrissy’s Humpty Dumpty Thesis

I cannot stress enough how important this was to my sanity. I made a commitment to myself to venture out of this UChicago infused bubble at least once a week. And if I felt like I didn’t have enough time, I did it anyway. I packed up my school bag and toted my laptop and school books around Wicker Park and Logan Square, settled into coffee shops (and yes, sometimes bars) to do my work. I just found it easier to work in places that were decidedly lacking in the brand of stress that on-campus study spaces were always teeming with. I found that commuting somewhere to do schoolwork actually made me more productive. When I was so far away from home, I was less likely to call it quits before I had gotten something substantial done. See that picture of my thesis draft cut into teeny tiny pieces? Yea, I did that at a little coffee shop called The Wormhole. In public. People must have thought I was nuts. I know it seems strange to say that I destressed by doing work, but finding a way to do productive work – a way that worked for my particular learning style – ensured that I was able to find time to do other things besides schoolwork. Leaving Hyde Park also meant that I made friends outside of MAPH – A.K.A. people who weren’t always talking about class and work, even when we were at The Cove.

Speaking of people who are always talking about class and work, get off of Facebook, for the love of some-non-denominational-higher-being. As I have mentioned, this was important for me. Some people deal with stress by blabbing about it on the Internet, and for me, this was majorly anxiety-producing. My newsfeed became a constant source of stress, especially when people started posting about classes, papers and deadlines (or worse, bragging about the 20 pages of their thesis that they had written. On a Saturday night. Three months before our theses were due). So, I just deactivated my account for awhile. It was unbelievably liberating. You should try it sometime.

Do Something Crafty by Sarah “Ernesto” Smith

Near the end of the quarter when you are spending so much time in your head, you might consider doing something with your hands! I find knitting and crocheting to be especially soothing. The repetitive motion of the clicking needles helps clear my head when it gets too full of The Academy. You might also appreciate the physicalness of textile creation during a time when you are spending mammoth amounts of mental and emotional energy on a (at times terrifyingly insubstantial) electronic document. Creating something with your hands brings you closer to your labor – Marx approved – and also makes lovely, cheap holiday presents.

Read for Pleasure and Take a Walk by Bill “Bobaggins” Hutchison

You don’t have time to read for pleasure, right? Or to take a walk? But I promise that if you set aside some nominal amount of time every day – ten minutes, say – for pleasure reading, you will be so much better for it. There are some crucial rules, however. Don’t read something because it might also be useful for your class/thesis/school related thing. Don’t engage in self-deception by saying, “But reading Zizek is pleasure reading for me!” We’re all nerds, we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t love reading this stuff. But you and I both know what true pleasure reading is. It’s snuggle-up-with-a-good-book reading. You know exactly what I mean.

And for the love of all things, go outside and move your body a little! I often need a reminder that my body is more than a transport system for my brain. A walk outside when your brain is overfilled with names, dates, notions, theories, and competing philosophies will do you good. Look! A happy squirrel! And over there, a crow dropping stones on undergraduates! Yes, it’s cold. Yes, there will soon be snow. But as you see your breath puffing out before you and hear your feet crunch-crunch-crunch along the salted sidewalk, you will remember that you are a sensate, embodied being, and that sometimes that feels unbelievably good.

Everything You Need To Know About Choosing an Advisor: Fall Quarter Edition

This is how I felt at University of Chicago for most of MAPH.

This is the point in the quarter when I was confused and a little cranky during my MAPH year. I felt like I was being told to think about my thesis idea and maybe start talking to possible advisors, but not to talk to any of those people about being my advisor.

While this seemed paradoxical at the time, I now recognize the wisdom of that advice. I wasn’t ready to talk about my thesis idea yet, but horrifyingly, I didn’t know that I wasn’t ready.

Take it from someone who only learns things the hard way: don’t learn this one the hard way.

So if you’re supposed to go talk to professors without talking about your thesis, what are you supposed to talk to them about?

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Thoughts on Your First Week –or– Read this if you are feeling concerns of any kind because it is really going to be okay.

It was a big moment, that first week of classes at University of Chicago. I’d made my way through the first baby deer-like steps of Colloquium, and was now ready to romp through the fields of academe unaided and unattended, happy as the springtime. I hope you’re gleefully romping, too, though some Bambi-stumbles are still par for the course and nothing to worry about. In order to maintain your inner springtime in the face of a Chicago autumn, please find herein some thoughts on navigating Week One of Quarter One of Year One of the Rest of Your Life. Continue reading

FAQ: Several things that I wish someone had told me (or that I had listened to when they did) before I started MAPH.

Halloo, MAPH!

MAPH Central has been abuzz with new students, and it has been heartwarming to see the bonds of friendship being forged.

We have entertained and overheard a number of questions from you, and herein we will endeavor to answer those questions, as well as several questions we will save you the difficulty of having to ask. Let us begin! (Don’t forget the official FAQ, too!)

• I’d like to email/talk to Professor So-and-So. How should I go about that?

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Identify yourself (or just get your university ID)


You can now get your university ID card! It’s easy, safe, and fun!

If you have spent any time wandering around campus, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the imposing bulk of the Regenstein Library (often referred to in the Uof C vernacular as “The Reg”).  You know, the enormous blocks of stacked concrete beside the much better looking glass spheroid building on 57th.  Appearances notwithstanding, the Regenstein Library is a wonderful place, and it is where you go to obtain your university ID card.

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MAPH is coming! MAPH is coming!

We know you’re out there. You’re the ones checking the blog and waiting for the Colloquium syllabus. The ones who have already decamped to Hyde Park. The ones who hear the carillon bells and quaver with anticipation. MAPH Central herein offers various and sundry tips for your pre-MAPH run-up.

The Listserv. Any email you send to maph-etc@lists.uchicago.edu goes to everyone in MAPH. Feel free to use the MAPH listserv for meet-ups, get-downs, furniture swaps, or whatever else you need everyone in MAPH to see.

Thing Theory. UChicago has its own mini-Craigslist of sorts: Marketplace. Find apartments, sell cars, buy…fondue pots? Sure.

Cheap(er) Books. You either are or will soon be wondering if it’s worth it to get a membership at the Seminary Co-op Bookstore. Yes, it is. A membership costs $30, gives you a 10% discount (you will be buying many books very soon), and you can cash out after six months. And don’t forget about the Newberry Book Fair!

Grounds of Being. The coffee shop in the basement of the Divinity School (Swift Hall) is the cheapest place on campus for coffee. It’s student-run, accepts only cash, and proudly bears the motto, “Where God Drinks Coffee.” MAPH Central will give you directions to one of UChicago’s best open secrets. [Note: MAPH Central always has free coffee and tea, though we do not recall seeing God ever drinking our coffee. —Eds.]

Shots. You’ll need to provide records of various immunizations as part of enrolling at UChicago. It’s best to have that box ticked off before you arrive. It’s a pain to scramble around begging someone to stick you in the arm with dead microbes while you are rapidly revving up for Mr. MAPH’s Wild Ride.

Food Trucks. Right around lunch time, a flock of food trucks land on campus. I’m particularly fond of Bridgeport Pasty‘s veggie pasty and the steamed buns from Wow Bao. For a relatively thorough run-down of the food trucks and where they are on any given day, check out the uchiNOMgo Twitter feed.

Seymour. I’m embarrassed to tell you how long it took me to figure out what everyone was talking about. cMore is your student info portal. Check it out. Sign up for alerts, make sure your info is up to date, be aware of its ongoing existence.

Squirrels. They are everywhere. They are my favorite.

UChicago Memes.

We eagerly await your collective arrival, MAPH-zukunft!

Ph.D. Application Advice Panel: What To Take Away

Thanks to all who joined us last week for the Ph.D. Application Advice Panel. I hope you found the information useful as you all mull over potential future endeavors. For those of you who missed the panel (or for those who were there but far too burned out to retain anything), I thought I’d do a blog re-cap of the major advice points from the faculty that participated.

Before getting into the actual advice, though, one thing that all of the participating faculty agreed on is that you should get a lot of advice at every stage of your application process. So, the information from the panel is by no means an exhaustive list of things to consider or a fixed doctrine of must-do tasks. Think of this, rather, as a starting pool of advice from various disciplines that will help you begin the process on the right foot.

(Lots of advice…after the jump)

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Welcome Prospective Students! (CURRENT STUDENTS, CONTINUE WRITING)

Welcome to our newly admitted future-MAPHers! This is our informal current student blog (current students are currently finishing up the tenth and final week of Winter Quarter. They’re just about 2/3 of the way done with their degree, and almost 80% done with Winter). It’s a stressful time of the year, but a week during which we’re all suddenly able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

First of all, congratulations. We hope that we’ll see you April 15-16 for “Campus Days,” which a great opportunity to preview the University and meet faculty, MAPH staff, and most importantly each other. You’ll get a brief glimpse of the diversity, energy, and rigor of our program–and with any luck, campus will already be in its warm, welcoming spring colors.

I’m MAPH’s Outreach Coordinator. I graduated the program in 2010, having spent two years in Washington, DC as an advertising sales representative (which means, essentially, that I went home and screamed as loud as I could every night for 690 consecutive nights). I applied to PhD programs as a kind of escape from the horrors of the “real world,” hoping to spend some years reading books in the safety of the academy. I wrote a personal statement about politics and modern literature, a writing sample about 9/11, and mailed off what I thought were 10 very strong applications.

And I got nine rejection letters over the course of three weeks between February and March.

But I also got an unexpected letter from the University of Chicago. I knew nothing about MAPH three years ago, and I almost immediately wrote off the possibility of coming to UChicago. Looking back, three years later, I can’t really recall the specific reasons that I changed my mind. But I’m glad that I did.

Many of you applied directly to the Program, so you already know a lot about our community, our interdisciplinary approach to humanistic inquiry, and the degree to which our students improve their writing and thinking over the course of nine incredibly short months. At the University of Chicago, you (no bull) will have the most intense academic experience in your careers as students. But equally importantly, you’ll have the opportunity to find out what your chosen discipline–English, philosophy, art history, linguistics, anthropology, and whatever else–means to you. You’ll not only develop critical skills. You’ll also think hard about what the next step will be.

For many of our students, it’s a PhD at a top institution. Friends of mine from the past two years of MAPH have recently been admitted to programs at places like Duke, Wisconsin, Indiana, UCLA, UChicago, Johns Hopkins, and NYU (in English); UPenn (anthropology); Northwestern (philosophy); Cornell and UChicago (Linguistics and Southeast Asian Studies), and the list goes on.

For others, MAPH is an opportunity to decide how to pursue life of the mind in any number of career tracks. Every single one of our students is a committed life-long intellectual. But probably only about a quarter decide that they truly want to get a PhD after doing a year of graduate work. A huge part of my job is to connect current students with alumni and career resources. We have extensive professional advising opportunities, and a new syllabus of curated career events (called Career Core) to help students find work that they can be passionate about after graduation.

We have over 1600 alumni, and each year our vibrant and international base of support grows. We hope that it excites you to be part of a growing community of artists, writers, scholars, ad executives, program managers, political activists, consultants, musicians, acrobats, screenwriters, photographers, and whatever else. (STILL no astronauts–so if any of you have aspirations in the area of space flight, it might be better to attend that Physics Program instead…). But for everyone else, we hope that you’ll accept our invitation!

Finally, please consider looking into these various resources that might give you a better idea about our community. And email us! I’m at ajaronstein@uchicago.edu and you can also email ma-humanities@uchicago.edu. We’re happy to answer any questions that you might have about the program, about UChicago, or about our home in Second City.

Congratulations again, and we hope to see and hear from you soon,

A-J Aronstein (MAPH 2010)

Please also explore our website, where you’ll find a lot of information about the curriculum, our program options, and about the experience.

Making the Most of GradUCon

You know what to do, MAPH

I’ve been hounding you all about this for two months. Friday is Game Day (and by Game Day I mean, obviously, and yes kind of lamely, GradUCon). One hundred of you (roughly) have signed up to attend the full day of professional development events, panel discussions, networking conversations, and free food eating sessions.

Now what? (What, after the jump)… Continue reading