Germanic Studies Doctoral Student Karin Maxey
This spring, I mentored a bright young woman in the Plan II program who is interested in pursuing her broad interests in International Relations, European Studies, or some other related field. As a Germanic Studies graduate student who studies foreign language teaching, I was initially unsure of what I had to offer my mentee when she approached me about the internship. Our interests were so different - or so I thought.
The benefit I immediately noticed about this internship was being able to learn about someone else's field. My mentee and I were able to teach each other about the professional culture, research strategies, and specific areas of interest within our respective disciplines. Learning about what Annie studies and about the commonalities between our fields reminded me of the importance of interdisciplinarity in academia and that the boundaries between fields are often blurry. Most importantly, it reminded me that humanities departments have more in common than we sometimes assume. We all teach, we all look for the answers to broad questions, and through both of these, we all participate in the intellectual life of departments, institutions, and fields.
On a personal level, being a part of the IE program urged me to reflect more on why I chose to keep studying. While we worked on Annie's graduate school application materials, I encouraged her to think about what the "big question" that drove her to make some of her life decisions - where to go to school, what to study, what she wants to do next. In turn, this inspired me to think about the questions that inspire my own teaching and research. We even had a few questions in common, although they materialized into different paths for each of us.
Additionally, this semester has caused me to reflect on what I can offer undergraduates who might be interested in a career in academia, though I consider myself a permanent learner. However, I also realized that the few years I've spent at various institutions have given me many valuable experiences in learning about the nuts and bolts of a career in academia - what it means to apply and be accepted to graduate school, be involved in outreach events, be a part of an intellectual community. I've always believed the old adage that says you learn best when you have to teach something to someone else, and this internship has confirmed that for me. Not only do you learn what you're teaching - you start to believe that you know it.
It was satisfying to see Annie grow in her decisions about graduate school and her career, and I was fortunate and grateful to work with such a motivated, curious, enthusiastic young woman. I recommend this program to anyone who wants to see the importance of reaching out to undergraduates and helping them discover their own big questions.