Next Steps

Well. I guess I owe my readers a post by now. And I have news anyway, so this is rather overdue.

I applied to grad school after all. Just one – Western Michigan University. It’s still in this general area of Michigan, which I like, and it’s got one of the top Medieval studies programs in the country, so everyone wins. I decided to apply during the last few days of Finals Week last semester, leaving myself scarcely three weeks to get my application compiled and submitted by the due date. Not the best timing I’ve ever had. I ended up spending my entire Christmas break fighting between the longing to simply rest and be with my family for my last-ever undergraduate Christmas Break Experience, and the need to get my act together and write a personal statement, finish my writing sample, and complete the rest of the application in three weeks’ time.

But I did it, barely, and submitted my application at 6:00pm the day it was due. Last-minute seems to be something I’m good at.

I received a phone call from Dr. Jana Schulman, the head of the Medieval Institute at WMU, this past week on Thursday. I didn’t answer it – I was at lunch and didn’t know my phone had rung. Becca got a message on her phone earlier that morning while in class, and listened to it during lunch. I knew as soon as her face lit up who it was from – she’d been accepted into the Medieval Institute! We all jumped up and down and made inarticulate noises of great excitement. I realized then that the message on my phone must also be from the Institute, and immediately decided that I wasn’t emotionally prepared enough to hear it. I wasn’t sure what answer I wanted to hear.

I finally did listen to it, though, and got the news that I, too, had been accepted. after calling the Institute back and getting the scoop on funding and stipends and things, I can announce that I will be going to Kalamazoo in the fall of this year, to start my two-year Masters program in Medieval Studies.

Never fear – I am still planning on a kitten. I’ll be living with Becca the first year, but the second year will have a place of my own. So a kitten-friendbeast is necessary.

I’m excited–really really very excited. I’m sad to leave Holland, but I’m planning to come back after I finish at the Institute. I’m ready for some roots, and Holland is a very lovely, welcoming place to be. Plus my church is amazing beyond anything I have ever experienced, and there are tulips, and the summer is longer and warmer than those at home in Vermont (though the winters are much windier and maybe a little snowier, though not colder. The early springs makes up for it).

I’m also really excited because my amazing mother knit me a sweater with our own yarn, bearing the five-strand cable braid of our family and a fabulous red stripe. And it’s my new favorite thing.


10 Comments Add yours

  1. mariertps says:

    That’s so intense. I’m happy for you (-: It must be kinda hard, knowing you are going right back into school after graduation.


    1. AnnaEstelle says:

      Well, yes and no. Yes, because I *am* ready to start a more normal, settled life, with a job and no homework. Like, thinking about finishing work at the end of the day and actually being DONE, with no papers to write or things to read or questions to answer that are due for a grade the next day is amazing. I can hardly fathom it. But also, I’m really excited for two more years, because it’s two years of stuff I love. It’s two years of taking classes like the Old Norse and Old/Middle English Lit classes I’ve had – good hard work, but something I care about (even if the main reason I care about it is for the way it relates to Tolkien’s work). So, it’s hard knowing I have to wait two more years before I can really start settling in somewhere and putting down roots. But it’s made easier by the fact that I’ll be doing awesome things and studying awesome things. And I like being a student. I’m glad I don’t have to entirely quit having Student as a profession quite yet. =) Plus, as a student, I get a great discount at the local bookstore…


      1. mariertps says:

        So it all comes down to the bookstore. Jk, I feel you. I would probably really enjoy college if I didn’t have to take so many classes that aren’t enjoyable for me and feel like a waste of time. It seems like you are pretty comfortable with where you are going, so that’s great.


        1. AnnaEstelle says:

          Once you’re past some of the gen eds, it’ll get better, I promise. =)


  2. grannyandpoppy says:

    Anna, We are so happy for you! But we knew you could do it! Wow– so interesting for us  to see what the next part of your life will bring. Lots of exciting studies and new people to know.I’m looking forward to all that comes. Love Granny


  3. I’m kind of almost where you are. . . (By the way, you probably have no idea who in the world I am, but I think I found your blog from Sarah of Light and Shadows, and anyone who likes cats and Tolkien and medieval lit. and lang. is going to be someone I return to.) I’m graduating, Deo volente, with a B. A. in Creative Writing this December, and after that grad school looms on the horizon. Or at least the possibility thereof. . . (it’s so terrifyingly grown-up).

    One of my professors recommended Western Michigan University’s medieval studies program just the other day, so I thought I’d ask, if you don’t mind telling me, how is it? What’s it like, and the people, and how hard is it to get in? Would you recommend it?

    Sorry if this comes at a bad time and you don’t have the leisure to answer all those questions :p.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. AnnaEstelle says:

      (Okay, first, wait, hold on, you do SCA? This is supremely interesting to me and we should be friends.)

      Mutual blog-friends are a lovely way to find cool people. =) And I am quite completely happy to answer whatever questions you may have, to the best of my ability!

      WMU’s Medieval Institute is very well-known, and is a very, very good program. I don’t really know how difficult it is to get in – there were seven of us in my cohort, but I’m not sure how many applicants they got. It’s a small program, but I can’t tell you anything specific in terms of what percentage of applicants are accepted. For some reason I have the number 50 in my head – 50 applicants, 7 of which were accepted – but I honestly have no idea where that number came from so it may not be accurate. #maddeninglylessthanunhelpful. =P I think the thing that made my application stand out was likely my writing sample, since my CV and other qualifications were pretty much the same/not quite as good as those of my college roommate, who also applied and was accepted to the Institute at the same time. Soooo…I guess my advice there is have a good writing sample. I used a portion of my giant senior thesis from undergrad, which was research I’d been working on for two and a half-ish years, so it was fairly well written and researched by that point.

      I also honestly can’t really tell you a lot about what the program is like, unfortunately. If you’ve looked at some of the other stuff on my blog, you’ll know that I only stayed in the program for one semester. I was very unhappy there – but not necessarily because of the program itself. My reasons for leaving were pretty specific, and may not be things that someone else would have a problem with. I really liked all my professors – they were wonderful teachers, and several of them were delightful people to just spend time with. And incredibly intelligent, like my IQ went up fifty points just by walking into the room with one of them. I got to do some awesome research on topics I am super passionate about, and they were quite supportive. My fellow students were very welcoming, too – there were a few weird politic-y type differences between some students of different years, but then, what college doesn’t have a little of that? By and large, the other students were very kind to me, and I enjoyed their company and getting to learn and work with them. I didn’t have a whole lot in common with any of them, but most of them were quite nice and didn’t let that stop them from trying to make me feel welcome. With such a small program that is only two years long, though, your experience, in that sense, could be pretty different than mine, just because students come and go so fast.

      The classes I took were excellent. I learned a lot about the Middle Ages, and I learned a lot about myself and how I learn and how I teach, too. You’ve got to be able to do a lot of work in a very small amount of time – but it’s certainly possible, and it’s pretty fulfilling, if you can create a rhythm out of it. I certainly recommend the program, if you are interested in an interdisciplinary study of the Medieval period.

      I wasn’t looking for that, which is part of the reason I left. I was interested in Germanic philology and literature, and since the program is interdisciplinary and only four semesters, I was only going to be able to take two language classes (one of which had to be Latin – so, really, only one language class of my choosing) in order to also fit in classes in politics, economics, religion, history, research methods, pedagogy, etc. If you are interested in The Middle Ages As A Whole – then I would certainly recommend the Institute highly. Or if you are pursuing an MA in order to further your career (say, in teaching). In those cases, the Medieval Institute will serve you well.

      (I mentioned teaching – if you are pursuing an MA because you want it to further a teaching career, that’s awesome. If you are like me, however, and the idea of teaching scares the pants off of you, that’s okay too. You don’t actually have to teach. I mean, you have to do a little bit, as a TA, under the Real Professors – but you can request to work in the Institute office, rather than teaching classes all by your onesie, if that is more up your alley. I didn’t realize this when I applied – I thought all grad students always had to teach in order to earn their assistantship, but that’s not true. Which was really great news for this introvert, let me tell you.)

      As I said, though, I didn’t complete the program. There were several reasons for that, boiling most prominently down to, one, the lack of a Christian perspective and community (I came from a small Christian liberal-arts undergrad college, and WMU is…not that, lol), and two, the lack of space for artistic expression. I’m both a writer and a dancer (my undergrad degrees were in those things), and I couldn’t make it work, not having access to dance or time to write. But that is another very long story – there’s a few posts here about that, and if you want to know more about why I chose to leave the Medieval Institute, check out these two posts:

      But also don’t let my unhappiness in the program dissuade you from applying. It’s really, really, really hard work, there. You’ve got to want it bad, to be happy doing the work it takes. But it’s also a really good place to be, and the professors are well-meaning and incredibly amazing at what they do, and though WMU as a whole is ginormous, the Medieval Institute is small, and feels rather like a family. The Medieval Congress (excuse me. *cough* The International Congress On Medieval Studies) that WMU/The Institute hosts every spring is THE BEST THING IN THE HISTORY OF THINGS. Like dude, I got to shake hands with Verlyn Flieger, the Varda of Tolkien scholars. How cool is that?

      I’ll stop now, because this is an obscenely long comment. But if you have other questions, don’t hesitate to ask! I’d love to hear more from you (both because I am happy to offer helpful information to people in general, and because I stalked your blog in return and you are a cool human). =)

      …geez I hope I didn’t scare you away with this tome. =P


      1. Yes! Northshielder here. . . as you probably already know if you stalked my blog. I approve this motion.

        Thank you for all the detail. I’ll keep thinking. A B. A. in writing is all very well, but if I’m going to write historical fiction it helps to know some history, and how to do good research, too — that was my reasoning for switching my focus between the bachelor’s and master’s. But I do want to be able to keep up with creative things while studying. I am not primarily an academic, at least not yet, as much as I enjoy researching dry and boring things.

        I’m not sure what I think of it being secular. I mean, I do go to a secular university, I know how to work with it, I’ve survived, I’ve made enemies. . . I can live with it, but do I specially want to more than I have to?

        The International Congress is one of the things that got me interested — it sounds like so much fun!

        Thank you for all of this!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. AnnaEstelle says:

          I have been quietly desirous of Finding Out More About SCA And Other Such Things for many years now, because it sounds like the absolutely most awesome thing, but I’m too much of a financially-challenged introvert at the moment…;) One of these days…

          If you’re a historical fiction author looking for a deeper education in the history about which you write, and a deeper knowledge of how to do good, accurate research in that history, the Medieval Institute may very well be a great fit for you. The interdisciplinary nature of the program would be really nice, in your case, if you’re looking to learn about the time and culture as a whole rather than just one aspect/discipline of it. That’s really cool. =)

          The finding-space-for-creativity bit is certainly a big challenge, at the Institute. I managed to take a short dance class once a week while there, mainly because I signed up for it and didn’t tell anyone, and then had the prior-commitment excuse to use when the Director scheduled meetings and things that overlapped with it. ;) It’s possible to find ways to keep things like that in your life while there – it’s just very hard, and you’ve got to force that time into existence, sometimes. But it can happen. If you are a very creative person, or a person very fueled by creativity, it won’t be enough. But it will be some, and that counts for something. I suspect that just about any graduate program would be like this, though. Because Grad School and Free Time To Do Stuff seem to be usually mutually exclusive. ;)

          As for the secular nature of the program: currently, there is a nice, small Christian community thriving among the students at the Institute – my college roommate, who came to the Medieval Institute with me and is still there (finishing up her last semester), has been very intentional about making space for the Christians among the students to gather and be in fellowship together, which is amazing. It is hard to study Medievalism in depth without running into catholicism and christianity, to some degree, among your fellow scholars. The hard thing for me, though, was coming from a Christian college, where every single class I took was taught with respect for the Christian worldview. Professors at WMU don’t always have that respect. Every class I took in undergrad approached learning from a place of deep reverence, because all of my professors were some degree of Christian and taught from a Christian perspective – and taught not just the subject itself, but taught us how to have joy in the learning of it (even things like math and geology, that are not really…my thing *cough*). That’s what I found to be missing, at WMU, and I talk about that in the post The Very Stones that I linked above. If you are already coming from a secular college, the difference may not be so noticeable or difficult for you.

          And dude yes the Congress is magic and awesome and if you ever go to it let me know because we should hang out. Assuming I am there too. Which I may not be this year but next year for sure because it’s awesome and I miss it.


          1. One thing we say about the SCA is that it’s a lot of introverts getting together and making a lot of noise :). It is awesome. Totally secular, but the virtues of honour, courtesy, and chivalry are highly prized all the same, and they focus on making things family-friendly. I’ve met people in it whom I’d be wary of if I met them on the street, but who will make an effort to watch their language around me, or make way when I’m trying to go through a crowd, because of that difference. So it’s not perfect, but it’s good. I understand the money thing, though. A lot of things can be done inexpensively, like buying sheets for fabric, but there’s still transportation and the cost of admission at events. I can’t go to nearly as many as I’d like.

            You give me lots of food for thought :).

            I can’t possibly go to the Congress this year, but maybe next year, when I’m out of school, I will have money for it. Because yes, it does sound awesome.

            Liked by 1 person


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