Saturday, 1 March 2014

Day 51: Magic Gardens and Casting Call

What went well? 

  1. Magic Gardens Trip!!! Bottom line: If you're in Philly, you should go. Seriously. I loved this place. It was super colourful and creative and expressive...look! Also, the whole trip (transport, entry, food) was covered by Stouffer. Thanks again, Stouffer!

  2. Auditioned for Opera Scenes. Sang Ach ich fühl's from Die Zauberflöte. It went really well, and the organisers gave me some really encouraging and positive feedback. Mindfulness definitely helps my singing, in terms of staying completely focused, in character, and putting the intention and deliberateness behind every phrase and word. It was this intensity that they commented on. Really looking forward to finding out what scenes they choose, and what I'll be singing!
  3. Still got a lot of work done. Prepared most of my flashcards for my intro Buddhism mid-term on Wednesday. Just need to finish doing that, then plan my practice essays, and then memorise the key ideas (and page numbers for citations, yeah I know, what??).

What did I learn?
  • I really enjoyed meeting new people on the trip today. Had some nice conversations, discovering commonalities. That's kinda the thing with just being willing to sign up for activities and opportunities by yourself - it just makes you more open to starting conversations with more people, thereby creating more opportunities for meeting awesome new people!

Miscellaneous thoughts 

This actually belongs more in yesterday's post, but it's something I've noticed in general at Penn. People here are frazzled. That's the word I would use. I walked into my lab meeting yesterday, and man, everyone was frazzled about everything they had to get done and all the pressures on them. And it's not just the students, as we were discussing in our lab meeting - this culture of frazzledness is pervasive, including faculty and researchers alike. I wondered if it was just a feature of academic careers per se, assuming that they're all high-pressure jobs where you fight to prove your worth for tenure, publish or perish etc., but apparently it is not the case. Rather, it really depends on the prestige and culture of each institution. Hence, it is something I will really have to take into consideration in future when thinking about graduate schools, post-doc positions and eventually where I would like to end up working. I don't know if I'd be willing to completely sacrifice work-life balance/stay long-term in an atmosphere described by a fellow peer as a "dark cloud" (I haven't really felt it, being just a temporary outsider, but have noticed the effects on others' morale and wellbeing) for the (numerous, actually) advantages of a top institution, but maybe it's something worth doing for a few years if it's an important career move. On the other hand, perhaps I would thrive in such conditions! Some do (or seem to, anyway). Stress per se isn't bad - it's our beliefs about stress, and our resources (especially social and psychological) that ultimately determine how we fare. I seem to be thriving here, but again, I have chosen a relatively light courseload and am under a lot less pressure in terms of grades. So I'll try and talk to some more faculty & graduate students and see what their impressions are.

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