Living on the Semester Schedule

It was a quiet week on the blog last week and I must apologize.  Amazingly, it was probably my busiest week of the year so far, though this week and the next also look quite daunting.  It is that time of year, as the semester winds down and summer begins.  Yes, I know I am not a student but I still am heavily influenced by the semester schedule and I must admit, I rather like it.

For those of you who don’t know, my wife is currently a PhD student at Cornell University, so our daily life is heavily influenced by her school schedule.  Add to that my involvement as an instructor at Cornell Outdoor Education, and the fact that we live in Ithaca, a city with two colleges and a huge number of college students and I really do live on a semester schedule despite not being a student.

There are many advantages of the semester schedule that I really miss.  First off, I miss the fact that at the beginning of every semester you get to start from scratch with new classes, new professors, and new things to learn.  Whatever happened last semester doesn’t matter now.  You get a clean slate.  It gives you a chance to try different things and if the don’t work, it isn’t all that costly.  It sort of is like having a chance to make New Year’s Resolutions twice each year.  It’s pretty great.

However, the one thing that I have embraced now that I am not completely tied to that schedule is the ability to work on long-term projects.  With semesters, since everything has to start and finish during that 4 or 5 months, research projects tend to be short and it’s hard to get really in depth, particularly if fieldwork is involved.  I feel like nearly every lab I ever did in science classes were precursory looks at field techniques, a small sampling of what is possible, and could be much more interesting only if we had more time.

Now that I am out of school, I am able to embrace long projects.  I’ve been working on Canopy in the Clouds for nearly three years now.  I keep returning to the Everglades (a project that started on the semester schedule).  I spent a year in Australia.  I have several major projects in mind for the near and not so near future that all are more than a few weeks or months.  Once you get out of that semester schedule and “into the real world,” as we said as college students, opportunities open to create major and lasting projects, not just a sampling of technique.

In reality, I live in the best of both worlds.  On the one hand, I get to experience the renewal of a fresh start each semester.  I still think of the year divided into three periods, the fall semester (September through December), the spring semester (January through May), and summer (June through August).  These periods can help me to get short-term projects started and finished; yet I am also not completely tethered to these periods so that I can embrace long-term projects when opportunities arise.

It is a wonderful lifestyle, except that it means that the last few weeks of each semester become hectic and crazy and the blog falls silent for a week.  I’m back this week and look forward to sharing some of the things I’ve been doing.

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