Writtens in a Word Cloud

This past week I took my comprehensive exams at Florida International University.  I basically spent five straight days answering questions that my dissertation committee prepared for me.  I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions.  I was excited to show all I have learned and enjoyed the challenging open-ended questions. At the same time it was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do.  Any ecologist would agree, sitting inside for five straight days is depressing especially when you live in Florida and every day is perfect.  Staying motivated was nearly impossible. I started out strong but by the last day it took every ounce of self control to stay at my computer and finish my last exam.  I knew I was close to the end but the exams wear you down and push you past the edge of your knowledge.

I spent six weeks studying for my exams. I started without much strategy, frantically reading every paper that related to my committee's topics.  I felt overwhelmed and knew it wasn't working for me. I needed to organize my thoughts about each paper in order to retain the information I had read and understand its importance.  I switched to a more structured study strategy after about a week and a half.  I would read and take notes on one day and synthesize my thoughts the next.  This worked really well for me.  I was able to focus on one thing at a time.  Spending a whole day processing the previous days work allowed me to make connections between papers and comprehend the current state of research in my field.  I also found alternating to help with the natural boredom that arises from days of reading.

During my exams I would take breaks and walk a quick lap around the building.  I made sure to have all my food prepared and brain snacks quickly accessible. I respond to stress and anxiety by getting antsy and need to move around.  After my first exam I ran over nine miles just to calm myself down. I highly recommend setting aside time during your exam week for physical activity.  I would have gone insane sitting at a desk for 8 hours every day if I didn't go for a run to stretch my legs and help quiet my mind.  I chose not to study the week I was taking my exams.  I think some people do but for me I didn't want force myself to read, at that point I figured I either know this stuff or I don't.

I made a word cloud from all the text I wrote on my exam.  Over forty hours of typing and this is what I have to show for it.  This is what I do. This is what I know.  My favorite part about this word cloud is the largest word is microbial. FCE and LTER make an appearance too.

The next step is the oral exam; I have two weeks until then. Wish me luck!



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