If, like me, you are a student in the Humanities, you will more than likely have been told at several points to date that you should be focusing on extra-curricular activities alongside your studies. This is easier said than done, and for my undergraduate degree, my focus was entirely upon essays and revision.
Things shifted a lot for me during my Master’s, however, as I was already running a book blog which posts daily (through the magic of scheduling, of course!), and uploading as often as I could to my BookTube channel. I enjoyed both of these pursuits, and alongside such activities as visiting my boyfriend, seeing friends, and travelling, I was unwilling to let them slide.
Of course, I wouldn’t have undertaken the continuation of either if they meant that I would have less time to devote to my studies, but both provided constructive downtime. Such things are also great to be able to include on your CV, or applications to other institutions for further study. I’m certain that the many, many hours of work which I have put into both my blog and my channel had a positive influence upon my PhD application; I was showing how passionate and dedicated I was about literature through something which I very much enjoyed creating, but was under no obligation to.
At PhD level, it is no longer acceptable to merely shut oneself away for several years and emerge with a thesis. Now, one needs several extra-curricular activities under one’s belt. I felt that the easiest way for me to demonstrate my interest in my subject in a ‘look at me, I’m doing things other than reading books about French feminist theory whilst still a student’ kinda way was to create a book group.
I ran a very successful book group on Goodreads several years ago, which got to the pinnacle of over 10,000 members. Whilst said group was shut down by myself after I became aware that it was impossible to respond to everyone – there were simply not enough hours in the day to respond to comments! – and there was nobody willing to take responsibility for the whole, I felt that it gave me a good grounding for running my own book club.
I endeavoured to set up a physical group through my University, where we could meet once a month on campus and discuss whichever book we had picked at length, but found that my emails to the person who sets up and overlooks such things were not being answered. I held out hope that said human would get back to me for a couple of months, but in the end, decided to take matters into my own hands. I again turned to Goodreads, and set up the Mad Woman’s Book Club with one of my friends from my MA course.
So far, so good. It is a relatively small group at present, but a great big handful of the one hundred plus members we have post regularly, and are so enthusiastic about the texts which we have chosen. Setting up a book group online takes any possible stresses away; obviously it takes a little while to set up the reading list, come up with a name, and finalise a structure, whilst still relating it in an abstract way to your studies, but after this has been done, you can reply to comments at your leisure. You don’t have to traipse out of your accommodation into the dark and the rain after an already busy day, when you feel far too sleepy to socialise. You can appoint other moderators if things ever get a little on top of you; you can essentially step back and take the reins again whenever suits. You get the best of both worlds, really.
To all of those who have been urged to take up academic-related hobbies, I would recommend this as one of the best steps forward. It’s an enjoyable and less-pressured pursuit, which is as enjoyable as a hobby you have taken up under your own steam. It affords rest and relaxation to you, whilst still allowing intellectual stimulation.