A New Year – A New Editor

The new editor somewhere beautiful in Mexico (and definitely working!)

The new editor somewhere beautiful in Mexico (and definitely working!)

While the new year 2019 promises to be an eventful ride – academically, politically, and socially – it is also the begin of my tenure as the new editor of [Re]collection. I am equally humbled and excited to start working on our great blog and online presence, giving you all the amazing content you are used to from my predecessors. Before I introduce myself further, however, I would like to take this moment to thank Dave Papendorf, Jen Vannette, and Chiara Ziletti for their help and guidance, since their respective tenures as editors have put the bar very high for me. I promise to give my best not to disappoint them.

Before landing this job, I was (and still am) a PhD candidate and teaching assistant in the History Department for the better part of the last four years, culminating in a great last semester (at least for myself, the evaluations aren’t in yet, of course) in which I taught my own course on modern American history. My teaching interests have taken me back and forth between Michigan, Indigenous, and US history, while my research focuses on Global Indigenous and African History – with a special emphasis on the colonial experience. All of these fields have instilled in me a keen interest in the political and social development of America and Africa. I think that future blog entries by yours truly will reflect that emphasis. This semester in particular, I am looking forward to several trips to the colonial and state archives in Germany and Great Britain. Watch this space for updates on how to navigate foreign archives, find material in languages I don’t even speak, and manage to book the cheapest (and worst) hostels in Europe.

The Anna Amalia Library in Weimar - Too pretty to be real (I wish the actual German archives would all look like this one…)

The Anna Amalia Library in Weimar - Too pretty to be real (I wish the actual German archives would all look like this one…)

Beyond the archive and classroom, I am a traditional geek (before it all became chic, I’m afraid), and I might delve into some game-based learning ideas and experiences later in this semester. Especially Reacting to the Past has developed into a staple of teaching in our department, and provides us with a fascinating window into teaching and learning methods, student-led classroom interactions and historical imagination. Besides historical role-playing games I also love movies and TV shows, especially those that have influenced how people think about the world. Who didn’t get their ideas of politics from West Wing and House of Cards, their imagination of the Wild West from John Wayne classics such as The Searchers and Stagecoach, and their perception of the Mafia in America from Goodfellas and The Godfather? Consequently, we will have some experts talk about exactly these influences on popular culture and historical thinking.

Of course, I am more than happy to review and publish any and all relevant contributions by our readers, a.k.a. you! Be it your experiences as students, teachers, parents, or avid consumers of knowledge, don’t hesitate to write a piece and send it to our email address (cmichhistoryblog@gmail.com). Serious pieces on work in the archive, fluff pieces on academic holidays (yes, they do exist!), as well as reflections on your research interests are welcome.

In addition to the blog, I am also excited to bring you all the usual department-related news and updates via some of your favorite social media platforms: Gesichtsbuch (https://www.facebook.com/CmichHistory/) and Zwitscherer (https://twitter.com/cmuhistory)! After all, what is the use of a German editor if he can’t have some fun with ridiculous English company names.

I am looking forward to a surely great semester in the world of academia and university education. Together, I am certain that we will keep this blog amazing!

Movies in the classroom -- teaching tool or lazy way out?


By Sean Scally

As students and teachers, we have all been there before. A short preamble, the classroom lights are dimmed, and the movie begins. Ten minutes pass. One by one, smartphone screens slowly begin to glow; tweets are tweeted, candies crushed. The movie is supposed to be related to a topic we have been discussing for some weeks now; occasionally it is. As every semester draws to a close a period of fatigue can set in, and 50 minutes of Daniel Day Lewis in full Lincoln gear may offer respite to teachers and students alike. However, as someone who meets both of these criteria, I sometimes question the usefulness of this approach; does film offer us a useful way to discuss important historical questions, or is it simply a desperate refuge for an overworked teaching assistant? 

I was an unexceptional history student in high school. For this I partially blame myself, though it must be said that a few of my teachers left much to be desired. In particular, there was an overreliance on a certain VHS cassette. As a respectful and diligent – though, to reiterate, unexceptional – student, it was my duty to go to the storage cupboard to collect and carefully wheel-in to the classroom the TV and VHS equipment. Thereafter, on many occasions, we would sit together as a class and endure the 5-time (Five!) Oscar winning Mel Gibson picture, Braveheart. As an enthusiastic Scot, my teacher loved Braveheart; even then, I was not a fan. While the sight of an incoherent and bloodied man screaming at people in a field does resonate to some degree with my experience as a Scottish person, in hindsight I struggle to see the benefit of this as a pedagogical tool. Aside from the numerous (too many) historical inaccuracies, the film manages to both condescend and pander to its audience. From a historian’s point of view, it should do neither of these things. 

There are certainly benefits to screening a movie at the end of the semester. To be sure, we can all use a bit of a break. Moreover, certain movies can also help students to form a clearer picture of historical settings and events; the aforementioned portrayal of President Lincoln, for example, reflects (in my opinion) a realistic portrayal of the style, language, and character of Civil War era American politics. Similarly, in spite of its obvious lack of historical verisimilitude, Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds offers a believable portrayal of Nazi oppression. In his portrayal as an SS investigator, Christoph Waltz accurately conveys the quietly menacing nature of Nazi interrogation, without resorting to cartoonish tropes. Both of these examples can arguably offer students another way to think about ideas and themes discussed during lectures in a way that is both engaging and informative. Further, movies can allow us as TAs to connect with students on a level that the normal teacher-student relationship sometimes does not allow. One of the better historical movies released this year – Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman– was effective in its portrayal of a remarkably true story, and Lee also used this story to offer commentary on current issues in American life. As a former TA for an African American history class, this struck me as a prescient way in which to use historical narratives in a discussion of important current events; the historical material in the movie can fill students in on some of the background information, and the message of the film itself can facilitate conversation between teacher and class.

I suppose then that films can be a useful pedagogical tool when properly implemented. If the movie itself is properly researched and informative to its audience, we shouldn’t feel too bad about letting Spielberg take the reins for a few hours of the semester. However, there is often a fine line between relevant material and historical flights of fantasy. Perhaps the point is that credible historical movies make for credible historical discussion.

What is in a Syllabus?


by Julie Haefner

As someone who has been a Teaching Assistant for a while, and a student for even longer, syllabi are nothing new to me. Almost every semester I would look forward to getting the syllabi in the first week of class (and color-code everything – much to the ridicule of some of my fellow students who attributed this to my German organization). To my delight, this past semester I took a graduate course called teaching practicum in which one of our final assignments was to design a syllabus for a class that we would hopefully teach one day. I choose to write a syllabus for the 1865 to modern day U.S. history survey course offered here at Central Michigan University. Throughout this assignment I learned a great deal about how to put together a syllabus – a challenge that was much more difficult than anticipated. 

The first task in the process was to come up with learning objectives. What was the purpose of this class? What did I want my students to learn? What kind of skills would they acquire? One of my learning objectives, for example, was for students to develop public speaking and presentation skills. I still had to learn how to present effectively myself (something that I still sometimes struggle with), and it is my belief that universities need to do more in this regard to prepare students. Presenting is a skill, just like writing. With this in mind, one of the assignments that I come up for my students was to in groups prepare presentations on the changing landscape of New York City in the early 20th century. 

Aside from the topics covered in the class, any good syllabus also must include thoughtful course policies. Some of my polices are pretty standard and required by the university. Others I could customize: the use of electronics (absolutely not), the policy for late assignments (loss of 1/3 of a letter grade for each day late), or proper e-mail proceedures. What helped me most in coming up with course policies was my extensive experience as a teaching assistant. Over the years I have seen a variety of course policies, and I selected my favorite policies from all the professors with whom I have worked.

In addition, I had to come up with means to evaluate students; I chose a variety of different means to accommodate different student learners: participation, written papers, journaling, and class presentations. In doing so I had to ask myself questions like: Does this assignment make sense for my learning objectives and the content of the course? Does the assignment work? (something that most likely I will figure out once, and when, I teach this particular class) Am I including a diversity of methods to accommodate different learning types? 

Teaching survey courses is by no means an easy endeavor. Depending on the scope of the course, the professor must cover a wide range of topics.  This is especially true for world history courses, for example, since they cover a large geographical area and time span. Thankfully the post-1865 U.S. history survey course “only” needs to cover about 126 years. It was, however, not easy for me to pack everything into around 15 weeks of actual class time. Modern United States history has, after all, seen quite a bit of turmoil: from Reconstruction to two world wars, isolationism in the 1920s and 1930s, the New Deal, the Cold War, and the Civil Rights Movements. My own research interests lie in diplomatic history, and in particular the Gerald Ford Presidency. In a perfect world I would have told my students everything about my dissertation. But when teaching a survey course that is simply not possible. While obviously students should know about Gerald Ford (he was a Michigander after all), the main reason for taking this survey course is not to learn everything about my particular research topic. Balancing my own interests and passions while keeping in mind what students needed from that particular course was sometimes challenging.  I was able to use some diplomatic history in designing their final paper though – the so-called cable assignment. 

Overall designing a syllabus has been interesting and worthwhile. There is much more that goes into it than students usually think: What kind of material do I as a teacher want to cover? What should my students learn? What kind of previous knowledge can I assume they have? And finally the most important question (at least in my opinion): What kind of teacher do I want to be? Hopefully one day I get to teach the course that I designed, and maybe I can even inspire my students to color-code their syllabus. 

Wrapping it up with Thomas Aquinas


As the semester and year come to a close sadly so does my time as the editor of [Re]collection.  Though there are still a few weeks before the end of the year, this is the last time that I will write a personal post on this blog.  Therefore thought I ought to give a few words of salutations before passing the torch to the more-than-capable Marcel Haas.  I have learned a lot in my six months as editor and have greatly appreciated all of the authors and readers that make this blog a point of interest. I could spend the rest of this post describing the mechanics that go into editing and managing a blog:  copy editing, working with peers and senior colleagues, managing deadlines, keeping an eye out for tone of writing, scrambling to get the final touches on a post, and much more.  But I am sure that many of you are familiar with this process already; in fact, I can imagine a great deal of our readers are academics themselves and are therefore all too familiar with these processes (and more).  So rather than spend any more time on these matters, I have decided I am going to share a parting story from my own research and teaching interests.  My hope is that this story will be interesting and serve properly as parting words for my time as editor.

In May of 1244, Thomas Aquinas decided to leave his cushy life assured of future ecclesiastical appointments and to join the Dominican order.  Perhaps this change of heart is all too close to some of our own lives – leaving a life of potential financial and professional success for headier pursuits (i.e. signing up to spend half a decade of your life getting a PhD).  As he left, Thomas utterly stunned his family who worked so hard to set him off on the right track.  Regardless, Thomas followed his calling and trudged on.  In fact, he did not trudge at all – he became one of the most prolific writers in medieval European history.  Historians estimate that, during his prime, he was producing two to three novel-length volumes per month.  Most readers will likely recognize Thomas’s name from his life’s work, Summa theologiae– a tome that addresses over 4,500 theological questions and was meant to replace the outdated Sentencesof Peter Lombard. Curiously, though, Thomas never finished his magnum opus.  This fact is curious because Thomas simply decided to stop writing seemingly out of the blue.

On December 6, 1273 (not that long from today’s date, albeit 745 years later), Aquinas is reported to have said, “After what I have seen today, I can write no more, for all that I have written is straw”. Historians are not sure exactly what it was that Thomas saw and why exactly he had such a dramatic change in perspective.  Dying three short months later in March 1274, some speculate whether it was some sort of medical diagnosis.  Nevertheless, Thomas stepped away from his enormously productive career at the height of his powers.  More critically though, he did not finish what seemed to be his life’s work. Thomas’s halt in writing has fascinated historians and theologians for years, and it remains puzzling to this day.


I share this story not to draw any parallels between the theological giant Thomas Aquinas and my own time at [Re]collection. Nor do I plan to offer any new answers as to Thomas’s sudden stoppage of writing.  What I find most fascinating about this whole story is how Thomas continually displays what he thinks is a realistic perspective on his own legacy.  He is reflective and even self-deprecating as he halts his projects to engage in more contemplative pursuits.  This is especially true if he did not know that he would soon pass away just a few months after ceasing writing.  A general point of application that I draw from this story, and, by extension, offer to you as readers is to have the proper perspective as you reach the end of the year.  Whether it is with professional goals, writing projects, grading, or end-of-year holiday hustle, be sure to not overestimate how critical every detail is. Remember that you will always experience a mix of failure and success – perfectly embodied, I believe, in my time here as the editor.  If even Thomas Aquinas gives himself a thoughtful critique and reflection, so can you too.  So, as I wrap things up in the next few weeks, I hope that the posts over the past few months have been a little more than “straw”.  At the same time, I know that it has been a productive season.  Thank you all for all of your support – especially former editor Chiara Ziletti and everyone in the History Department at Central Michigan University.  Finally, I wish my colleague and future editor Marcel Haas all the best in the coming year – viel Glück mein Freund!

Teaching in Bochum, Germany

By Dr. Carrie Euler

On June 2, 2018, I kissed my husband and two children (ages 9 and 13) goodbye in Lansing and flew to Germany for a month to teach a seminar at Ruhr University Bochum in northwest Germany.  I was excited for the adventure, but I was also nervous.  Though I have traveled in Europe extensively, and I can even speak some German, I had never taught a course at a university outside of the U.S. before.  Even though I was going to be teaching in English, I was nervous about being a guest in a department (would I have access to a copy machine?), the students (would they find my teaching methods unusual or have trouble understanding me?), and generally about being an American in Europe at this time of political upheaval and tension (would I get non-stop questions about Donald Trump?).  

Why was I headed to Ruhr University Bochum?  The short answer is that the history departments at RUB (the abbreviation for the university) and CMU had been awarded an Erasmus Grant for an exchange of faculty and graduate students over a two-year period.  Erasmus grants are funded by the European Commission in order to support student and faculty exchanges across countries.  Until recently, these grants were only for exchanges within Europe, but a few years ago, the Commission started offering a few grants between Europe and non-European countries like the U.S.  I was the first faculty member to take part officially in our exchange.  When I arrived, three M.A. students from our department were already in Bochum and had been there since February.  

Apartment Building.jpg

Bochum is in the Ruhr river valley.  It is one of a cluster of medium-to-large cities in that valley that make up a large metropolitan area; among the others are Essen, Dortmund, and Duisburg.  It is an area of Germany that was very industrial in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; consequently, it was bombed very heavily during World War II, and it has a reputation for being, well, heavily industrial.  The reality is, however, that the cities are quite cosmopolitan—with lots of amazing cultural opportunities like museums and concerts and great food—and the countryside around the cities and alongside the river itself is beautiful.  The university campus itself is not beautiful, at least not in a traditional American college campus way.  As you can see in the first photo, which features the building in which the history department is located, it boasts a lot of concrete and a definite 1960s look (the university was indeed founded in the 1960s).  The second photo, however, is taken from the same spot, just after making a slight turn to look out over the river valley and a lovely little town dating from the Middle Ages called Stiepel. 

River Valley.jpg

In the end, my experience at Bochum was very positive. None of the things I had been nervous about ahead of my departure came to fruition.  Happily, no one I met was particularly interested in discussing President Trump.  I was given a lovely, newly-renovated apartment with a view of the university and the river valley; it was within walking distance to the university, shops, restaurants, and the commuter train into the center of Bochum (the university campus is located just outside of the main city).  I was granted office space and a graduate assistant to do copying for me. I did not have a printer, however, so I was happy that I had loaded up my suitcase with paper copies of the various readings I wanted to assign my students. 

The course I was teaching was a graduate-level seminar. Bochum’s spring semester runs from April to July, so compressing the course into four weeks in June was not easy, and I only ended up with five students.  It was a nice group, however; they seemed very interested in what I had to teach and gave very well-prepared presentations.  My topic was “Printing and Print Culture in Early Modern England,” which I had just taught as a seminar in the spring semester 2018 at CMU. The history department at RUB was happy to have an English history topic, because they do not have anyone who teaches British history.  I would say that the biggest difference between our system and that at RUB was that, in the end, only one student registered to take the course for full credit, meaning she had to write a long research paper.  The others took it for half credit, where all they had to do was a presentation in class.  This is something that is not an option for students at CMU, and it took some getting used to.

Nevertheless, I was happy to be a guinea pig and get this exchange going, and I believe the three MA students who went to Bochum on behalf of CMU felt the same.  In addition to the teaching experience, I had a lot of time to work on my own research and writing—I even took a quick trip to England to do some archival research on my latest project.  Furthermore, the exchange is thriving—this fall CMU has hosted Dr. Andrzej Michalczyk from RUB, and next fall Dr. Budrass will be visiting.  Hopefully another CMU professor will go in the summer of 2019 or 2020.  I will certainly recommend the experience, and I even hope to go back one day myself. These types of exchanges are vital for our graduate program and they certainly benefit both students and faculty enormously.

Alexis de Tocquville’s “Two Weeks in the Wilderness” and the Clarke Historical Library’s Fall Exhibit 2018


By Gillian Macdonald

As a PhD student in the history department you expect to be a teaching assistant for much of your time in the program.  Recently, however, the History Department at Central Michigan University has partnered with the Clarke Historical Library and the Michigan Historical Review to open up new opportunities for PhD students to embrace possible alternative careers to being a tenured professor. As the job market remains ever so thin, this opportunity is particularly helpful in offering training for careers outside of traditional tenure-track positions. 


As one of the first PhD students to be granted this opportunity, let me take some time to describe my responsibilities at the Clarke Historical Library…my new home away from home as Frank Boles has so wonderfully called it. Simply put, arranging and creating exhibits is hard, detailed work. Anyone that thinks it is anything less than stressful (but enjoyable) up until the last minute is likely still enjoying the euphoria of finishing a project to give an accurate assessment. While exhibit curators and designers are fun people to work with, there is a lot of negotiation throughout the process. As historians we hope to see all elements of our research make it into an exhibit, but it is simply not possible to do so. That leads me to the Clarke’s Fall 2018 exhibit:  Tocqueville’s Two Weeks in the Wilderness. The idea for the exhibit itself began with United States District Court Judge Avern Cohen.


Alexis de Tocqueville visited Michigan in the 1830s.  “Two Weeks in the Wilderness” or “Quinze jours dans le désert,” describes the journey he and Gustave de Beaumont took along the Saginaw Trail in 1831.  “We are going with the intention of examining in detail and as scientifically as possible the entire scope of that vast American society which everybody talks about and nobody knows.” Enamored with the vast forest and wilderness of Michigan, he described the interior of Michigan with great admiration: “While exploring this flourishing wilderness...you feel only quiet admiration, a gentle, melancholy emotion, and a vague disgust with civilized life. With a sort of savage instinct, it pains you to think that soon this delightful solitude will have been utterly transformed.” Tocqueville’s travels in Michigan were part of a commissioned trip to the United States to examine the prison system.  However, his true aim was to explore the untapped outer limits of civilization was only made clear upon his arrival. 

Despite only being part of about half of the process for this exhibit, it is challenging nonetheless. The excruciating detail and time-consuming activities make a time crunch almost inevitable. Nonetheless, I had so much fun. Hands-on work and practical applications of history and the training that we get in the history department are put to the test not to mention an ability to create statistics about Michigan in the 1830s from scratch. This particular exhibit is marvelous (and I don’t just say that because I helped). It is the result of hard labor and a lot of fun exploring stacks and running back and forth from the printer doing last-minute labeling. Another fun perk is that the Clarke’s very own Bryan Whitledge is now on a first name basis with the Countess Stephanie de Tocqueville, so that’s pretty cool too. 


In summary, the Clarke has one of the nicest housing spaces for exhibits that I have seen in any university library (in my limited experience). With this, they have a unique ability to showcase collections and exhibits, work with departments, be an archival library, and house a journal. You should check it out!

Adventures and Conferences


By Marcel Haas

If you ever wondered whether immersing yourself fully into academia is a good idea, this week’s post has some ideas that might convince you to do so. Let me begin by saying that I truly enjoy going to conferences. Think about the fact that the university allows you to go on a short holiday where you meet some interesting people, make great new friends (who can also be quite influential and helpful), and all you have to do is give a short presentation and listen to why people think that you should use different sources. Conferences become even more enticing when they are held in a different country than the one in which you are currently working. In my case, that foreign country was Mexico, and that conference the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Ethnohistory (of which I am a shiny new member). 

Right away, I felt the rush of oncoming adventure when my plane touched down on the runway of Oaxaca’s Xococotn Airport and I emerged into October’s tropical heat. The conference took place in a comfortable hotel a little outside the city center, which commanded a magnificent view of the valley. Oaxaca is an incredibly beautiful place that boasts architecture from the Spanish colonial era as well as modern art, markets, and restaurants that overlook the tremendous sight of ancient Monte Alban. The latter truly feels like the city of the gods it was meant to resemble. Built entirely upon the peak of the central mountain of the valley (which had been razed to create a massive plateau), it surely takes its place besides Mexico’s other archaeological highlights such as Teotihuacan and Palenque.

As a center of art, culture, and history, Oaxaca was the ideal place for a very special conference. The Society for Ethnohistory is generally focused on examining the history of Indigenous peoples of the Americas, but more specifically highlights the agency and achievements of Indigenous people in interaction with the colonizing Europeans (the latter part is mostly due to the source availability of course). In South Mexico, this focus allowed conference attendees to experience the region’s history while presenting their new research on exactly that. Coupled with the brilliant organization by the colleagues of UNAM and Oaxaca, the proximity to world-renowned archaeological sites (apart from Monte Alban, also the fascinating former Zapotec city Mitla is only a short cab ride away) made the conference week very special.

Besides its historic relevance and culinary excellence, it seemed to me that Oaxaca (and Mexico specifically) had also been chosen as a political statement in the face of increasing xenophobia in the United States. The choice reaffirmed the close connection of the Society with Mexico (especially considering that the “American” in its title does not simply refer to the US!), and the importance of Mesoamerica for the study of Indigenous peoples and the history of the continent. Importantly, a fiery speech by the outgoing president of the Society, Matthew Restall, emphasized the need for empathy for the suffering of other people, especially Indigenous women who have been the target of violence for centuries. 

After five days of talks, presentations, round tables, receptions, and late-night chats, the conference came to an end. Exhausted, amazed, laden with ideas and photographs, I finally made my way back to Michigan. The week in Oaxaca had been special, but also a perfect example of the experience we as graduate students, early career researchers, and even established scholars can have at one of the many conferences throughout the academic year. Alright, why aren’t you applying yet?

 Oaxaca, 2018

Obama Center, African-American golf, and Chicago

Original members of the Chicago Women’s Golf Club, courtesy of Chicago Tonight

Original members of the Chicago Women’s Golf Club, courtesy of Chicago Tonight

By Dave Papendorf

Through the great work of CMU’s own Dr. Lane Demas a recent item of news has come to the forefront — and one of historical note concerning former president Barack Obama’s proposed Obama Presidential Center on the south side of Chicago. Refurbishing bits of Jackson Park along Lake Michigan, the project, headed by the Obama Foundation, plans to provide a “refurbished” public space that connects the park to the lakefront. The park will also include a museum tower that tells the history of the Obamas’ story in the United States and prominently features exhibits on the history of civil rights, African Americans, and Chicago generally. Complete with Obama’s presidential library, a conference center, and a large athletic center, this project will celebrate the Obama family and provide a new public space for south-side residents. The city of Chicago has been largely enthusiastic towards the project, giving the Obama Foundation a sweet deal on the property — a $10 (!), 99-year lease to rent and use the land. Despite a dendrological lawsuit and real estate critiques, the project continues forward.

One larger and more historical concern with the project, however, is closely related to Dr. Demas’ book, Game of Privilege: An African American History of Golf. Jackson Park is the site of the Jackson Park Golf Course, an important historical site for African American golf in the city of Chicago. This course is the primary course of use of the Chicago Women’s Golf Club — established in 1937 and featured prominently in Dr. Demas’ book. Golfers and historians were initially concerned that the Obama Center might close the course in favor of improvements, but this concern seems to have been tempered for now. Currently, the Obama Foundation’s plan is to redevelop some of the property into a six-hole “short course”, and they have enlisted the help of Tiger Woods for design and input. Whether the course will still be accessible to South-Side residence is still debated, but the history of this course is indispensable in telling the history of African Americans in Chicago. Included below is a recent presentation at the CWGC’s clubhouse concerning Nettie George Speedy — the first female African American golfer in Chicago and a founding member of the CWGC. One of Speedy’s descendants offers insight into the history of the organization and its importance. Moreover, the archives preserved at the clubhouse of the CWGC have proven to be a historical resource for retelling this important story:


As previously mentioned, Dr. Demas’ book is award winning in many capacities. He was the 2017 USGA Herbert Warren Wind Award Winner as well as the recipient of the North American Sports Society for Sport History’s book award. Be sure to read more about the history of golf in Chicago in his monograph and keep an eye on the news concerning the course in Jackson Park.

Spooked by Comps?

By Chiara Ziletti

Boo! Is this a ghost? Nah…it is just a past editor paying a quick visit! Did I scare you? Halloween is around the corner, but one of the things that probably scares graduate students the most are their comprehensive examinations. And indeed, it is quite understandable: lists of books that seem never-ending for each minor/major fields, hours and hours of reading and studying, written and/or oral components to pass… probably even the most confident of us would have at least one or two moments of insecurity, hesitation, anxiety, or even just frustration. I know it is a truism, but if you get in a graduate program, it is because you really like what you study, and that is why you are so scared of failing. There is a huge emotional investment lying behind comps, and as a consequence, sometimes it is hard to think rationally and objectively about the whole picture.

I passed my comprehensive examinations last summer. I am really glad I did it, not just because it was an important milestone for my academic career, but also because it was a significant experience from which I learned a lot as a person. And now that I see some of my colleagues getting closer to the date of their exam, I would like to share a couple of thoughts and suggestions to encourage them:

1.    Do your best; in this way will have no regrets and you will feel less anxious. Your best changes from day to day. One day you will feel at 120%, the other you might be tired and maybe sick. I had a moment when I was preparing for my exam in which I was not feeling well at all, and this really concerned me at first: how am I supposed to pass the exam if I feel so sick that I have almost zero energy and can barely study? What I decided to do at that moment was to simply approach one day at a time, doing the best I could with the little energy I had. Would that be sufficient to pass the exam? I could not be 100% sure, but in this way, I was sure that I would not have any regrets. Every day I put forward my honest work.  This might have not been much sometimes, but it was reassuring, and it really helped me to have a calmer and more objective mindset when the day of the exam approached. In fact, I was able to think that no matter the situation, I had always been working hard. This really reduced my levels of anxiety. Since I am sure you are already doing your best, you just need to realize this and see it in a more objective light.

2.    You know more than what you think. One of the most common feelings right before taking an exam, written or oral, is that you do not remember anything. I know this feeling very well, but after taking so many exams, I learned that it is just an apparent sensation. Your knowledge is all there with you, lurking in a corner of your brain just waiting for you to summon it. As soon as you will hear or read a question, everything will come back to you and you will just need to organize it to give your best answer. 

3.    Experiment and find your own method to prepare for the exam. When I started preparing, I spoke with other graduate students that had already passed it to hear how they managed their long lists of books. It was interesting to learn how they did it, and I experimented for a while until I found the best way for me. All this involved a lot of compromising, which was a huge learning lesson for me, since I tend to be too much of a perfectionist. After trying to take notes on the computer, making notecards, getting stuck reading books for too long, and so on, I saw that the best thing for me was to take hand notes for each book. This forced me to summarize, and in general I remember better the things that I write by hand. Additionally, once the date of the exam drew closer, I did mind maps for each major topic I focused on. This truly helped me to further summarize and visualize what I absolutely needed to remember. We are all different, so keep trying until you find the best method for you.

Chiara Ziletti - Image blog post comps.jpg

4.    Let’s be objective: your professors will not let you take the exam unless they think you are ready. Trust them; they might be intimidating sometimes, but they are not sadistic individuals throwing you into a kamikaze mission while secretly hoping that you will blow up. They care about you and have a lot of experience. This will help you reduce your anxiety and stress when thinking about the exam. In addition to this, each professor will privilege certain aspects over others; talk with them and see what they want you to focus on the most when preparing for your exam: this will significantly help you when going through your huge lists of books. 

I know it is not easy, but the more you try to think objectively about the exam, your knowledge, and the work you put forward to it, the less anxious you will be. This was a lifesaver for me. Probably the day of the exam you will still be a little bit scared, but do not let the anxiety freeze you. Take that jump, and as soon as you land, you will realize how dangerous it was to stay still.

How to fuel your PhD

By Dave Papendorf

Any PhD student knows that any writing session is only as good as the drink that nourishes the author throughout the process. But which drink to choose?  What is the best get-you-through-this-chapter/paper elixir?  Which drink will give you the right balance of taste, performance, and greatness?  As someone who has experimented with all the beverages listed below, I’ll give my thoughts.  Be sure to respond back with your thoughts, arguments, suggestions, and concoctions!  And just one caveat:  we are, of course, excluding any…um…“adult” beverages.  Though you may feel like reaching for one from time to time as a PhD student, save it for when you are away from your keyboard.  Okay, here we go:

Photo courtesy of coffeebean.com

Photo courtesy of coffeebean.com

1.    Tea – Tea is wonderful.  It comes in so many varieties, warms the soul, and can even transport you to another part of the world with its aromatic curls steam.  Tea contains just the right amount of caffeine to give you a boost, but also comforts you when you’re feeling not so great concerning your work.  Moreover, it is a cultural experience that pairs well with cookies, biscuits, or whatever it is that you’d like to call them.  Moreover, tea is a little softer on the pearly whites than other drinks, and you can drink tea all day without getting caffeine overload (and those stinking caffeine withdrawal headaches).


2.    Coffee – Ah, black ambrosia!  Coffee is the classic go-to drink for pretty much everyone. It packs a caffeine punch, is available in both gourmet and chewy mud variety on every university campus, and it is truly the fuel that makes the world go ‘round.  Who hasn’t wasted way too much of their money at Starbucks already? This one is a no brainer, and it is likely the most drank drink (does that make sense?) of the bunch – even if it is not confessed to be the favorite.  Try to imagine a pot of coffee being brewed and not get in the mood to roll up your sleeves and get to work.


3.    Pop – CMU is in the Midwest after all, and here we drink “pop”.  With a low crackling fizz that energizes the taste buds and tingles the nose, pop provides the right kind of boost when writing.  It keeps you buzzing as you hear it beside your computer, and it comes in so many varieties!  Who cares about concerning levels of acid and corn syrup – this stuff just tastes great. Just try to pour a can of pop over ice and resist.  Moreover, pop is a cold alternative that helps you beat the heat when you’re in front of a warm screen during the summer months.  Can coffee or tea top that?

photo courtesy of skynews.com

photo courtesy of skynews.com

4.    Energy drinks – This is the no-nonsense answer. Energy drinks deliver what they promise: an alert, awake, and sometimes-twitchy author.  If the purpose is to fuel your writing, this is the most direct way to get there.  Why ring the doorbell when you can drive through the gate with a tank, right?  Energy drinks also come in a variety of forms, including variations of all of the above-listed drinks.  With those options, where could you go wrong?


5.    Water – The healthy option.  Not to make you feel bad, but you’re probably not drinking enough water as it is already.  Water is not just good for brain function and energy levels, but it is good for all major organ systems, keeps your skin clear, and aids in digestion.  Water is also free, which is a major plus.  They say that you ought to divide your weight in half, and drink that many ounces of water a day…are you there yet?  Not to be indelicate, but lots of water also helps you keep moving back and forth from your desk.  This can afford you the proper short-term break(s) you need before sitting back down to the keys.

So, what do we think?  Do we have a consensus?  Have a left any key player out?

Civil War and American Indian Research: Getting out of the “Archives”

By Dr. Michelle Cassidy, Central Michigan University

I’m trained as an archival historian. I depend on the scraps of information that I find in archives, libraries, and government offices, as well as recorded oral histories, to support my arguments related to the past. Yet, as I work on articles and a book proposal related to my dissertation research, it strikes me how many “ah ha” moments happened outside of the archives, either in conversations or while visiting the places that are central to my historical narrative. My current project focuses on Company K of the First Michigan Sharpshooters—an almost completely Anishinaabe (Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi) Union company. I explore how service in the Civil War provided some Ojibwe and Odawa men with multiple strategies to acquire or sustain leadership positions, maintain autonomy, and remain in their homelands.  They claimed the rights and responsibilities of male citizenship – voting, owning land, and serving in the army – while also actively preserving their status as Indians. My work is in dialogue with both American Indian and Civil War historiographies. In both fields, it’s important to step out of “the archives,” talk to people, and, when possible, explore the places related to your research. Of course, all historians know that the archive is bigger than what you find inside institutional walls. 

Injured soldiers at a hospital near Fredericksburg, VA. The man standing on the far right may be Thomas Kechittigo from Saganing, who was wounded in his left arm from a shell fragment at Spotsylvania on May 12, 1864. Source: LC-DIG-cwpb-01550, Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

Injured soldiers at a hospital near Fredericksburg, VA. The man standing on the far right may be Thomas Kechittigo from Saganing, who was wounded in his left arm from a shell fragment at Spotsylvania on May 12, 1864. Source: LC-DIG-cwpb-01550, Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

During the early stages of my research on Anishinaabe soldiers, I met with Company K historian Chris Czopek. In May 2010, he accompanied the Ogitchedaw Veterans and Warriors Society, as well as descendants of Company K, to Andersonville, Georgia to honor the seven Company K soldiers who died at the Confederate prison. Czopek has recorded many of the final resting places of Company K soldiers.[i]Listening to his advice, I went to cemeteries while conducting research, often taking wrong turns, ending up driving on one-lane paths, or unexpectedly and belatedly realizing graves were on private property (the results of settler colonialism). 

Looking for a soldier’s grave in Leelanau County. Photo by author.

Looking for a soldier’s grave in Leelanau County. Photo by author.

Seeing someone’s final resting place reveals much about their life, and, at times, the lives of their descendants. Visiting soldiers’ graves soon became part of my research routine. First, a moment of silence to acknowledge an individual’s life, then a look around with the eyes of a historian to observe the landscape, which includes hints of what nineteenth-century visitors might have seen from the same spot: the gentle hills of the Leelanau Peninsula; the view of Omena Bay from the site of Private Thomas Miller’s grave; and glimpses of the same bay from another hillside where a gray-spotted white marker reads: “Aaron Sargonquatto: Co. K 1 Mich. Sharp Shooters: Known as Aaron Pequongay, 1837-1916.” In the Omena cemetery, where Sargonquatto was buried, there are many other familiar names—descendants of Company K men—with several gravestones indicating twentieth-century military service. Anishinaabe cemeteries in Michigan attest to American Indians’ high rate of military service. 

The graves of three Company K soldiers are located in Arlington National Cemetery. Private David George (enlisted at Isabella, May 18, 1863) shares his final resting place in the Lower Cemetery, section twenty-seven with the earliest interments near Robert E. Lee’s occupied plantation. George died May 12, 1864 and may have been buried before the land officially became Arlington National Cemetery on June 15. James Park, a former slave of General Lee who remained at Lee’s plantation, dug many of the early graves and may have dug this Anishinaabe man’s grave. Former slaves and African American troops occupy much of section twenty-seven, but, unlike George, they were segregated from the other burials. George was buried next to white soldiers, as were Sergeant Peter Burns and Private Oliver Aptargeshick. In contrast, African American troops and free black civilians were not, at least in section twenty-seven; a reminder that while the “Indian Company” was frequently racialized and viewed as something unique, it was not placed in the same category as “Colored Regiments.”[ii]

Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with another Company K researcher, and we visited the Riverside Cemetery in Mt. Pleasant. I learned how to make a tobacco offering during our visit to the gravesite of Thomas Wabano (Waubauno)—an Ojibwe soldier who enlisted in Isabella on May 18, 1863 with around 19 other Ojibwe men. Wabano’s Company Muster Role notes: “Went home on sick furlough and died at Isabella, Mich., Jany 7th, 1864.” His grave is located behind the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) memorial. The Mt. Pleasant G.A.R. Post was organized in 1884 and named the Wa-bu-no Post. Researchers interested in Company K note that this is the only G.A.R. post, to their knowledge, that is named after an indigenous individual. Visiting Wabano’s grave was a reminder of a research avenue I haven’t yet pursued. Why was this post named after this particular Anishinaabe soldier? 

Grand Army of the Republic Memorial, Riverside Cemetery, Mt. Pleasant. Photo by author.

Grand Army of the Republic Memorial, Riverside Cemetery, Mt. Pleasant. Photo by author.

Stepping out of the archives has been important to my research process, especially given there are many silences in the traditional archives related to race, class, and gender. The information learned visiting final resting places or traversing the modern contours of a historical landscape doesn’t always make it into your central argument. Yet, these visits often illuminate connections between the past and present—a task that seems critical when writing history related to both the American Civil War and indigenous peoples. 

[i]Chris Czopek, Who was Who in Company K(Lansing: Chris Czopek, 2010).

[ii]Robert M. Poole, On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery (New York: Walker & Company, 2009), 58-61. Arlington National Cemetery, http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Map/ANCExplorer.aspx, accessed May 9, 2014. Burns and Aptargeshick are both buried in Section 13. I haven’t had the opportunity to visit Company K soldiers’ graves in Arlington; instead, this information is from a virtual visit via Arlington’s website. 

François Lambert and career mediocrity

By Dave Papendorf

Sometimes, as a PhD student, you feel like you will never measure up to your peers.  Okay maybe all the time.  But, as a strange sort of encouragement to me, one of the key subjects for my dissertation research had just such an experience.  François Lambert (1486/7-1531) had a career that was full of opportunity, promise, and intersected with some of the most influential people in 16th-century Europe.  However, Lambert’s efforts to carve out a place in key Reformation cities, his proposals toward church reform, and his career in the newly-forming evangelical academy fell short of the lofty heights of most of his colleagues. Perhaps Lambert’s shortcomings should not be so comforting to me, but his story is one that is not only intriguing for Reformation historians like myself, but also for struggling early-career scholars looking to establish themselves in the big bad world of academia.

At age 15, Lambert entered the Franciscan monastery in his hometown of Avignon, France.  Though this move demonstrates his precociousness as a teen, it was outside of the monastery where he shined the most; namely, Lambert was an active preacher throughout the south and east of France for around 10 years.  He even achieved the highly-honored title of predictor apostolicussometime in his 30s.  It is likely that in his preaching perambulations that Lambert first came into contact with the early evangelical works of Martin Luther.  By 1522, at age 35, Lambert had had enough of his Franciscan home.  He was sent by the order to deliver correspondence to leader Pierre de Milan in Eisenach, jumped ship, and eventually made his way to Wittenberg with the initial support of Martin Luther in 1523.

The Gospel of John from the Luther Bible in Wittenberg, Germany, photo by Dave Papendorf

The Gospel of John from the Luther Bible in Wittenberg, Germany, photo by Dave Papendorf

At this point, Lambert’s career was looking up. He had just been welcomed into the epicenter of the Reformation and had a chance to minister together with Luther. Remember, he was no rambunctious youngster – he was a seasoned preacher who was well into his career as a theologian. Despite all that he had going for him, Lambert struggled.  He did not speak German, and he possessed an intensity that rubbed people the wrong way. In fact, it rubbed so many people the wrong way that he left Wittenberg just a year later without recommendations from the city’s key leaders.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, photo by Dave Papendorf

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, photo by Dave Papendorf

Next, preaching along the way as was his custom, Lambert made his way to Strasbourg – another important Reformation city in the 1520s.  Though his stay lasted 6 months longer, and he published most of his theological works from this location, he still struggled to make friends and find a place as a voice for the Reformation.  In fact, his colleagues Wolfgang Capito and Martin Bucer had less than flattering things to say about Lambert during his time in Strasbourg.  As it turns out, Lambert was a bit of a controversialist as well, and so he struggled to embrace reform with the sort of moderation and temperance the aforementioned theologians suggested.  In short, though passionate, capable, and theologically astute, Lambert was unable to make his opportunities work for him professionally.

In 1526, Philip of Hesse offered Lambert a final chance; specifically, Lambert was invited to move to Marburg in order to direct the reform of church practice and theology in the state of Hesse. Furthermore, he was given a post as a professor of theology at the newly-minted University of Marburg that was founded the following year in 1527.  In preparation for synod discussing reform, Lambert authored an impressive (and overwhelmingly-wordy) 128 propositions for debate and from which the church was meant to be reshaped.  Dismissed by Luther as an “inscrutable heap” of words, this work was trashed by contemporaries; particularly, it was dismissed by the monastic Nicholas Herborn as impetuous, irreverent, and not fitting as the basis for reform.  Attacked on all sides, Lambert, of course, responded to Herborn in a scathing letter and send copies of his 128-proposition work to his old haunts.  

In the end, the state of Hesse was reformed based on different grounds, and Lambert died just 4 years later in 1531.  From a place of such promise, Lambert achieved only a small measure of professional success. Yes, his commentaries were reproduced throughout the 16thcentury (especially those on Luke and Revelation), but his fervent and prickly voice was drowned out by other figures. Though he had a larger than life personality, Lambert was an overlooked proponent of the Reformation in both France and Germany.

Why recount the story of François Lambert? Well, in a way, it is a weird sort of comfort; particularly, Lambert reminds me that even those that are given the greatest opportunity do not always end up being remembered.  Of course, as a historian, I ought to be concerned with retelling Lambert’s life as an example of the theological journey of early sixteenth-century theologians.  And I am.  On the other hand, though, his story is worth telling here because of its personal benefit. Not all of our work will go on to be read and cherished – Lambert is a great example of this.  Beyond that, we will probably not be recognized in our time or beyond.  But that does not make our work any less significant.  As historians reexamine the nature of the French Reformation outside of the inescapable vortex of John Calvin, they are looking for individuals like François Lambert to fill out the nature of early-Reform France.  Though my work is not likely to make a monumental impact on scholarship, it functions as Lambert does to a certain degree.  Who knows, maybe scholars will be studying my mediocre academic career 500 years from now!

Language Learning for Academics Part. 2 : Structuring your Learning


By Emily Sieg and Willi Barthold

In the last post, we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of taking a course with native and non-native speakers of the target language. In this post, we’d like to discuss what strategies you can employ once you’ve entered the classroom or perhaps already have some semesters behind you. Coming from a systemic functional linguistics (SFL) approach to language learning, we embrace the notion that language is at heart about making choices rather than rote memory of abstract grammar rules. Perhaps that sounds at odds with our last post, which touted the grammatical self-awareness of the non-native speaker, but give us a moment to explain.

Rather than viewing grammar as the ragged cliff that you must summit before “mastering” a language, considerate it more like the “guidelines” that can lead to appropriate or conventional language choices that can optimize your meaning making potential. If we think back to the native and non-native speakers, the native speaker was socialized into the language and thus inherently knows when language choices are appropriate within a given social context and when they sound like “mistakes”. The non-native speaker, on the other hand, must internalize these conventions in order to maximize the likelihood that someone else will understand what they mean to say (or almost as importantly, do not mean to say). By thinking about language in this way, its fundamentally social basis comes into focus: if we need grammar, then it is only because grammar contains the generically approved formulations that make us mutually intelligible. Taken a step further, it goes a long way when learning a language to reorient yourself away from the right/wrong paradigm towards the appropriate/inappropriate paradigm of language usage, because language is intrinsically grounded in culturally specific communicative contexts.

Since the authors are both German speakers, we’d like to take a few examples from German to illustrate the point. As does not need to be explained to professional historians, “Germany” historically speaking was not a unified political, economic or even linguistic unit. Regionalism has and continues to play a major role in Germany and especially in consideration to German-speakers within not only the Federal Republic of Germany, but also Switzerland, Austria and other enclaves around the world from Brazil to the Caucasus. What sounds “right” to one of these groups may sound “wrong” to another or even go against the grain of codified grammar rules. For example, while Germans and especially Berliner like to substitute in the dative case wherever possible, a Swiss national might emphasize the grammatically accurate genitive: not wegen demWetter, but wegendesWetters. Of course, the Berliner might not have even understood the correction because Swiss speakers have at times an incomprehensible accent to the North German ear. But consider then if an overly confident American language learner points out the genitive to the Berliner, the American will not be credited with having rectified a “mistake” but for clinging to outdated grammar rules that no longer reflect the living language. (Coda: you’ll ultimately want language input from as many diverse sources as possible, because only then will you understand the nuance of “appropriateness”.)

Appropriateness in turn is all about context. What is appropriate in one context will not be appropriate in another. Therefore, in addition to recommending that you take a step away from the grammar tables and right/wrong paradigm, we encourage you to think more systematically about context and genre. Are you the American telling off a Berlin graduate student? If yes, then hopefully you’ve assumed that your native speaker language partner has equal or better linguistic awareness than yourself, but you chose to point out the genitive in the context of a collegial jest and not a fit of being a know-it-all. In the former case, you may have made a friend, in the latter, you may have just lost one. 

In the context of archival research, the same rules of appropriateness apply. When reading 300-year-old poetry, the word order rules and spelling conventions that you’ve agonized over for hours could get thrown out the window, but being able to recognize the difference between genitive and dative might be the key to decoding it all. If you’re looking at diplomatic correspondence from the 18thcentury, forms of address and the hierarchical differences between du, Sie, Ihr, Er and Euer Liebden will of no doubt be of importance even though no textbook addresses all of these forms. Thus when dealing with historical texts, your ability to understand these sources will come down to how well you can acclimate yourself to the conventions of the genre you are reading. 

Consequently, try to think systematically about what you need language for and attempt to identify as soon as possible what aspects of language will be most meaningful to you – not everyone needs to know five+ degrees of respectful address, but maybe you do. If you are just starting a language, grappling with even the most basic of such language conventions is undoubtedly difficult, but this is where it would be useful to have an instructor to ask. Personally, when our students come to use with specific learning goals, we almost always have tips or advice that could be useful to that student. Even though the average curriculum is catered to suit the needs of a generic student, an instructor’s input during office hours can be very enlightening when determining where to invest your time and resources. 

In the absence of an instructor, there are other methods for teaching yourself what you need to know. Take for example the tedious task of writing a grant application. Whether in your native tongue or a foreign one, this exercise is rarely a joy for anyone. Fortunately, online guides exist in all languages for application letters of all kinds. Taking an extra hour to look at other examples of the genre will always be worth the time and effort. When reading samples of the genre you want to emulate, take note of certain phrases that are recurring and make sure to use them yourself. Maybe it hurts your independent streak or feels like plagiarism to copy phrasing, but every serious German selection committee will have more respect for the clichéd “Für weitere Frage stehe ich Ihnen gerne zur Verfügung” than the “Bitte fragen Sie mich, wenn Sie was wissen wollen” that you were able to come up with on your own. It’s all about appropriateness for the context: there are just conventionalized ways that a selection committee expects to be addressed and it would behoove you to learn what those conventions are. If something in an example foreign language grant application looks “off” to you, see if it is a recurring feature, not a bug. That might tell you that you’re the one who will look “off” if you fail to include it, even though you never once considered writing something similar in English.

Over the course of these two posts we hope we have been able to provide some practical advice for language learning. Whether it be choosing a native or non-native language instructor or determining how to prioritize your studies, we encourage you to consider the context in which you are learning and the context in which you hope to apply your language skills. All language learner needs are individual, but the basis of language learning is premised in identifying and contextualizing social conventions. Wherever you are with whatever resources you have, keeping this principle in mind can help you make the most of your current language capabilities as well as steer you in the direction that is most appropriate for your own needs.

Language Learning for Academics Part. 1 : Choosing your Teacher


By Emily Sieg and Willi Barthold            

Learning a foreign language while pursuing a Master’s or PhD can be a difficult challenge. The amount of work and commitment it takes to truly master even just the basics of a foreign tongue seems especially overwhelming when you are busy with coursework, comps, teaching, or research. However, language learning can be of great benefit beyond just fulfilling your program’s requirements, since it not only offers the opportunity to immerse yourself into a different culture and become more aware of the meaning making capacities of language but might also help you to receive research fellowships abroad and enhance your research abilities. This two-part post will thus try to offer some assistance for academics that seek to learn a foreign language, may it be for the purpose of research or simply to broaden your personal and professional horizon as a scholar.

As graduate students enrolled in a German PhD program, we – the authors of this post – not only have a good grasp of typical graduate students needs and interests when it comes to language learning, we also would like to share with you our experience as instructors of German who often have PhD and Master’s students in their classes. Since one of us is a native speaker of German and the other a native speaker of English, in this part we would like to discuss the differences between taking a course with a native or non-native speaker of the target language and the pros and cons of each, in order for you to be able to assess what you want or expect out of a language course and help you choose the right one. 

If you are in the luxurious situation to be able to choose between a native and non-native speaker as your teacher when you pick a language class, your first intuition might tell you to go with the native speaker. Who would know a language better than someone who grew up speaking it every day in the country in which it is actually used? Knowing teaching practices and styles of native and non-native speakers, however, makes this choice a less obvious one. In fact, native and non-native teachers bring in very different perspectives and qualification when it comes to teaching and these differences can become both advantages and disadvantages for your language learning experience, depending on your individual needs and preferences.

Let’s start with the native speaker as usually most people’s first choice. The advantages are quite obvious, as the native-speaker usually not only has a good command of the language in all its varieties, but, as a member of the foreign discourse community, will also be able to shed light on the various cultural contexts in which the language is used in specific ways. The native speaker will teach you colloquialisms that the textbook does not know, enrich your learning experience with real-life anecdotes that demonstrate the use of language in context, and provide you with a sheer endless vocabulary knowledge that allows you to gain an understanding of not only one but multiple ways to achieve communicative purposes in the target language. This high degree of linguistic flexibility comes with a high degree of accuracy regarding assessment and error correction. The native speaker sees and hears every mistake. It is an old saying that one learns by making mistakes, so this accuracy will raise your awareness of areas in which you still need to improve and thus will have a positive effect on your language acquisition process. 

The high attentiveness to mistakes, however, might also very quickly turn into nitpicking, which brings us to some of the disadvantages of the native speaker and areas in which the non-native speaker can shine. While the latter might be lacking some of the abilities that we have just outlined as features that distinguish the native speaker, the non-native speaker in contrast will be better able to give you feedback on your performance in the foreign language that prioritizes aspects that are most essential for meaning making. In other words, this means that while the native speaker might see more mistakes and easily gets hung up on them, the non-native speaker knows which mistakes need to be pointed out at that particular moment in your learning process and which will stop occurring by themselves once you master the most essential literacy skills. Not limited to instances like this, it is precisely the personal experience as a learnerof the foreign language that the non-native speaker is able to draw on in order to scaffold your language acquisition productively. Native speakers often lack essential theoretical knowledge about the grammar of their own mother tongue, simply because they never had to study it consciously. The non-native speaker, on the other hand, went through the same learning process as his students at one point in his life and should thus have a comprehensive command not only of grammar rules but also of how to convey and instruct them most effectively. 

When just starting a language, it thus may be to your advantage to take a course with a non-native speaker. While the complex language used by the native speaker can be a great source of inspiration, some students might prefer the non-native speaker’s pragmatic language use that allows him to single out the most essential words and phrases without overwhelming students with an unmanageable sea of choices. Furthermore, what the non-native speaker might lack in comparison to the native speaker’s comprehensive knowledge of the language is often impressively compensated by their precise knowledge of grammar choices. Yes – your non-native speaker might make mistakes that the native speaker would not, but if you want to know how to avoid mistakes, the non-native speaker will more likely be able to advise, whereas the native speaker will say “no, we just don’t do that.”

We hope that this post has given you a new perspective on the advantages and disadvantages of both native and non-native language instructors. In the next post, we’ll discuss some strategies for language learning to help you once you’re already in the classroom.

Archival Distractions

By Kaete O'Connell

Planning a research trip can be tedious and frustrating. You never know quite how long it will take to read through all the material you wish to see, and for grad students time and money are often in short supply. Even with amazing finding aids and helpful archivists, there are always archival surprises as well as unwelcomed distractions. Surprises are great! Like when an archivist pulls out an unprocessed collection and grants you a sneak peek. Or when you stumble upon that perfect document chock full of useful source material. 

Distractions are a different story. I’ll be flipping through a file and suddenly realize an hour of precious time was lost reading barely legible onion skins – none of which is significant! I used to beat myself up over distractions. I’ve read months of beautifully written correspondence between GIs and their loved ones, letters that were so endearing I couldn’t tear myself away. Some have made me smile, others have made me blush, and once I was so misty eyed I walked out of the reading room. Few, if any, of these distractions will make their way into my project, but they do humanize it.

Some of the best archival distractions are the blackholes that lead you to something entirely new and exciting, something worth investigating a little further. My favorite occurred on an afternoon at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. I was leafing through papers that belonged to an intelligence officer stationed in Berlin after World War II. Specifically, I was looking for commentary on the food situation and Black Market, which I did find. But I also stumbled upon a bizarre story about Fiorello La Guardia’s sister. At the time, La Guardia was best known as the New York City mayor, but he would soon take over as director of UNRRA, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. The intelligence officer’s unpublished typescript recollected an investigation into the appearance of $20 bills (USD) in the British Sector of Berlin. American currency was forbidden in occupied Germany. Oddly enough these bills were not discovered on the Black Market, but in a recently reopened bank where they were exchanged for the local currency (Reichsmarks). The culprit was a 70-year-old widow, Gemma La Guardia Gluck. Gemma explained to the authorities that she received the bills from her brother, the Mayor of New York via correspondence delivered by the American Red Cross. Occupation officials were stunned when American Red Cross representatives confirmed the story.


I was equally surprised and launched a Google search into Gemma La Guardia Gluck. How did the daughter of Italian immigrants, sister to the Mayor of New York City, end up living in postwar Berlin? That’s when I learned she married a man of Hungarian Jewish descent and was living in Budapest when it was taken by the Nazis. She was deported to Mauthausen as a political prisoner (her relationship to La Guardia was publicized) and then imprisoned in the Ravensbrück women’s camp. She survived the war and arrived in Berlin as a Displaced Person. I was left with many questions, mostly informed by my knowledge of La Guardia’s role in UNRRA. I immediately purchased Gemma’s memoir and added it to the rapidly growing “read for fun” pile in my bedroom. I’m a long way away from any future projects, but if permitted a daydream or two, I’d love to revisit Gemma’s story in the future. Hers was one of those perfect distractions that reminded me why I fell in love with research: the burning questions, the thrill of the search, and the satisfaction when one’s mind is sufficiently blown by new information. I may have lost a few hours of productivity in the archive, but it was worth every second.

Kaete O'Connell is a PhD student at Temple University in Philadelphia.  Her dissertation explores food relief in Germany after WW2.

Beyond Memorializing: Teaching 9/11

World Trade Center Memorial, photo from Jennifer Vannette

World Trade Center Memorial, photo from Jennifer Vannette

By Jenniffer Vannette

When I was in high school, the usual oral history assignment was to ask your grandparents about their experiences in the Great Depression. Yes, I just aged myself. What I discovered at the time was that my grandparents were quite young and so it was harder to compare what they remembered to broader historical patterns. My high school history teacher acknowledged that it was likely the last year of the project, but he never did say what another project might be. Being a typical high schooler, I passed the class, moved on, and didn’t really think about whether the oral history project continued with another event or if it just faded away.

But it came to mind again as I read a U.S. News & World Reportarticle on teaching 9/11. It occurred to me that we are at a point where it would be a useful exercise to have students interview their parents (or other adults) about the tragic events that unfolded seventeen years ago. We are now at a point where students, including college students, will have no memory of the event. Sari Rosenberg, a high school teacher in Manhattan, has her students conduct interviews with an adult of their choosing about their memories of 9/11. After the students share their work, Rosenberg then gives them a lesson about the events, putting it all into context. She says this helps her students learn how to think like a historian. 

Last year when I wrote for [Re]collectionabout this topic, I discussed how 9/11 teaching can suffer both from a lack of desire on the part of instructors to relive the experience through teaching and from the tendency to get mired in commemorative aspects. Thankfully, many nonprofits including museums and other trusted education and media sources are working to craft resources to aid teaching – especially in K-12 schools. Many of these resources can be adapted to the college level.  

No matter the grade an instructor teaches, but especially in college, we need to be careful to not just examine the specific events of one day, but teach the context. Like any other historical event we need to make sure to integrate the event into broader historical understanding: what policies and/or actions led to the attacks? What were the reactions, not just personal and military, but in policy and law? How did the event shape and continue to shape our domestic polices and social reactions? What were the dynamic changes on the world stage, and what effects are still evident? We need to address the hard topics such as the rise of radicalization of Islam, with an understanding that, despite sensationalism, it’s an outlier.  Furthremore, we ought to study the U.S.’s general willingness to overlook freedom of religion when it comes to Muslims. We need to address civil liberties along with the interesting growth of the Tea Party’s individual-freedom rhetoric that virtually ignored the erosion of civil liberties in the Patriot Act. Finally, we need to encourage to students to examine how these elements fit or are different from other traumatic events in U.S. History, and even how we have historically approached memory and memorialization, which would tie nicely with an oral history project. 

Terrorism and its ugly aftermath, the ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and the outgrowth of ISIL, radicalization and Islamophobia, use of torture and the closure/non-closure of Guantanamo Bay, civil liberties and the questions of legal rights for terror suspects under the Constitution are just a few of the issues still floating out there in our everyday parlance. Issues that are devoid of context unless we make it a point to teach 9/11 in a comprehensive way.              

When things are diss-couraging: Fighting through the difficulties of writing a dissertation

Dissertation image.jpg

By Dave Papendorf

Though at first glance the scope of this post may seem limited to those writing PhD dissertations, I don’t think that sentiment is true at all; in fact, most of us in higher ed. or with family members in higher ed. can and should resonate with some elements in this post.  In short, the difficulties of dissertation writing are not just difficulties of PhD students – they affect academic departments, dissertation supervisors, colleagues, friends, and, most importantly, families and partners.  What follows, though, should be taken with a grain of salt.  While I am speaking from experience, my experience is not universal. Moreover, I intend this post to at least start conversations that reflect upon the dissertation stage in order to open up more dialogue and (hopefully) help students through a grueling point in their academic careers.  My story is as follows:

I am writing my dissertation now, and I am discouraged on a weekly basis.  Even though I’m making both personal and professional progress, I sometimes feel like I’m riding the wave rather than driving the truck – if you’ll indulge my mixed metaphors.  After the normal pattern of coursework, comps, teaching a solo course, and (thankfully) a research fellowship, I feel as if I am only just beginning the dissertation process.  And I’m starting my fifth year to boot!  Based on the graphic above, I suppose you could place me smack dab in the middle with my friend on that boat.

Initially, my ABD (all but dissertation) phase started with relief and excitement; the coursework is done, and the comps are over. Hallelujah!  Now I can do what I was born to do – research the early Reformation in France…okay well maybe not, but at least I’m closer to the finish line. But then, after about two weeks of flying high, the dread set in:  what do I do now?  Luckily, academia has a fix for that – teach your own course!  Whew.  Never mind that cloud over my head, I can do something that is professionally productive and write later, right?  Well, sort of.  Heading to my fellowship at the Leibniz-Institut für Europäische Geschichte(which you can read about here), I knew I had some time to sort things out. But even my time there was more organizing and less actual writing.  In short, the cloud still looms.  On the other end of this, I’m still trying to plug along and make progress each day, but it is difficult.  In fact, it is really difficult.

So, what’s next?  What ought people in my position do?  I shared my story above because I suspect it is both familiar to and typical of most PhD students; namely, the dissertation phase is not as liberating as it seems but is full of significant challenges.  Outside of the self-evident things such as the difficulty of researching, synthesizing information, and writing it all up, I mean to point to the oft-isolating and discouraging elements of the dissertation:  being overwhelmed, worrying about the relevance or overall purpose for all of your work, having only a few friends who can empathize and sympathize with struggles (or sometimes none at all), questions about the job market, and the ever-present feeling of impostor syndrome.  The worst part is that the academic landscape is so competitive and performance-driven that PhD students (let alone professors) often feel reluctant to share these sentiments with colleagues.  And even when we do, we do in either a calculated or self-deprecating manner to cushion the reality of our struggles. 

Funny, but a secretly a cry for help?

Funny, but a secretly a cry for help?

I said this was to get us talking, right?  I’ll end with a few scattered thoughts that have helped me, some suggestions for the future, and some talking points that are hopefully helpful to readers. 

(1) First, progress is progress.  You’ll probably never be as productive as you hope – so live with it.  That doesn’t mean don’t make plan or strive for personal betterment.  It just means that, when making plans, expect bumps and try to not let them affect you.  (2) Second, read a book!  If things are tough, take one day to read a book relevant to your field.  Read the whole thing, not just a “grad-school read”. It can work as a reset.  (3) Third, take a siesta day.  Even though you’re crunched for time, you’re probably not so crunched that you can’t take 8 planned hours off.  Plan ahead, so that your off time doesn’t get sucked up by Facebook (who are we kidding?  Does anyone still use Facebook?), Twitter (now we’re talking!) and emails.  And on that note, (4) fourth, check emails twice a day. This can be scary and liberating. The reality is that nothing that you are emailed is so relevant that it cannot be addressed with this strategy. (5) Fifth, use “do not disturb” on your phone.  And put it away while you work.  


(6) Sixth, commiserating and complaining is not the same as encouraging.  Grad students are great at complaining together, and it almost seems like this alleviates discouragement.  Newsflash: it doesn’t!  Find a confidant and ask them for encouragement. Vulnerability is okay, and it’ll help you along the way.  Sometimes getting this from an academic can be the most encouraging thing.

(7) Seventh, and most importantly, let’s do better as a field with addressing mental health.  Read here,here, and here.  Enough research is out there that demonstrates that PhD students, and academics in general, routinely face mental health crises.  Maybe some old-school types out there might call for you to “suck it up”, but that’s simply naïve.  As administrators, departments, and students, let’s work together to put helps and procedures in place for students.  More importantly, let’s build a culture that supports positive mental health.  The easiest thing in the world to do is spend $2,000 on a mental health seminar once a year.  The hardest thing is to build a culture.  But the latter is obviously better overall, so let’s figure that out.

The First Year

Image courtesy of Getty Images

Image courtesy of Getty Images

By Dr. Timothy Orr

Hey all, it is an honor to be a guest contributor to [Re]collection! My special thanks to David for this opportunity. 

My name is Timothy Orr, and I am an Assistant Professor of History at Simpson University in Redding, California (Redding has been in the news recently as the location of the very devastating Carr Fire, but thankfully my family, home, and university are all safe). In May I completed my first full year of employment as an Assistant Professor, and it is this period I want to reflect upon in this entry.  As an overarching disclaimer, I feel so incredibly fortunate to have full-time employment in my field, and I am aware of the privilege and rarity of my situation. My below thoughts speak only to my situation and are not meant to imply a universal understanding of each individual’s graduate and professional experiences. 

Before discussing my first year of full-time work, I want to say a very quick word about the job hunt. The job market is the worst.  If you are an academic, then you are very familiar with this fact. There is so much literature on the realities of the job market that I do not feel I can add much to that discussion, but I wanted to mention it because it has continued to affect me as I move into my career, as I will discuss below. 

My first year of teaching has been a strange combination of fulfilled dreams and continued challenges. Every professor I spoke to told me that finishing a dissertation, even while maintaining a steady teaching load, is still significantly less work than the first several years of a full-time position. They were, unsurprisingly, correct. Writing lectures preps, continuing to work on research projects, and beginning to turn my dissertation into a book manuscript competed with meetings, committee work, and extra-curricular activities with students (not to mention suddenly living an area with beautiful mountains and a wife who wants to explore a new one every day she can). It has absolutely been the most work I have ever done in my life and I have loved almost every minute of it. I can remember the first time I walked into a classroom to teach as the sole instructor for that period. I was already well into graduate school and two thoughts plagued me as I did: 1. What if I am no good at this? 2. What if I hate teaching? At the least, I definitely do not hate what I do, and the opportunity to engage students every day in the classroom continues to shape me as a professor. I love teaching, and while there is less time to devote to research, I have discovered the context of being fully immersed in the life of a university provides a framework that helps me better orient why research is such a significant part of our field. Even committee work, which is undoubtedly the least glamorous part of our profession (aside, perhaps, from administrative paperwork), has helped me better understand the functioning of the university and the diverse backgrounds from which my colleagues have arrived at academia. 

There are also new challenges I have faced during my first year of full-time work. I Skyped with a friend who had also just completed her first year as a full-time professor, and we shared very similar experiences—even though she is at a large state university and I am at very small liberal arts university. We have both struggled to find a sense of community like what we enjoyed during our doctoral programs. During my Ph.D. program, I spent five years delving deeply into a subject that I love and, while doing this, I was surrounded by people who love what I love. It is an incredibly rare thing and it created friendships I will enjoy the rest of my life. But full-time work is more isolating. You inevitably spend more time with students than with peers, and colleagues, for a variety of reasons, are less engaged with your work. My friend and I also both experienced periods of existential doubt regarding the humanities and higher education during our first year as full-time faculty. These doubts certainly are not new, but they took new shape as we wrestled with these questions not just in our lives but in the lives of our students. How are we preparing and shaping them and what support, financial and otherwise, will be available to them as they continue on their journeys? 

These new struggles and doubts have been a critical part of this first year. However, I anticipated new problems as I moved into full-time work and their emergence has not surprised me. Rather, it is has been the continuation of old doubts and fears that have affected me most during this past year. The Ph.D. behind my name and the Assistant Professor tag underneath it on badges at conferences has done little to assuage the sense of self-doubt I still experience encountering senior colleagues, or even just colleagues, at conferences. Every line I write and every article I submit still seems woefully inadequate and my imposter syndrome is apparently not impressed with the degrees hanging in my office. But even this is, in some ways, unexpected. The absolute greatest fear in my professional life was, is, and will remain the job market. 

I thought that when I landed a full-time position my constant fear (terror, really) of the job market would be gone, but the terrible reality of it continues to hang over me. With so many academic institutions in very difficult financial straits, new positions are nowhere near as secure as they need to be—and even whole universities are threatened. The tenure deadline also looms ahead and I spend just as much time worrying that I will have to go back on the job market as I did worrying about landing a job when I was on it. Again, I recognize that this unfair as I am incredibly lucky to have a position when so many do not. But it would have been helpful to hear more about the ways things do not change as you transition from graduate school into the academy. It gets harder in all the ways that I expected, but it does not get easier in any of the ways that I hoped. 

However, it does seem to say something that my greatest dissatisfaction with my profession is the threat that I might not get to do it. There are a lot of layers to my fear of being forced back onto the job market. I have concerns about finances, failure, and relocating, but the primary fear is that I will not be able to continue to do the work that I love—and I think that is a rare and fortunate thing.

A summer of transitions

By Dr. Jonathan Truitt

Summer is a busy time for faculty. Expectations from ourselves and colleagues are that we will get loads of research done. Our families (ourselves included once again) request increased quality time as well. In a state where winter is half the calendar year, it is hard to object to this appeal. Finally, there are unexpected opportunities that we want to seize as well. 

This summer has been no different. For me, it has been one of transitions. I finished my book Sustaining the Divine in Mexico Tenochtitlanending a ten-year project (due out in August, buy them as stocking stuffer’s for your friends and enemies!).  Additionally, my co-authors and I are near the end of our nine-year Mexico in Revolution, 1912-1920Reacting to the Pastpedagogical game (revisions are due the end of August). As these projects have wound down, others are spinning up. My new, more traditional archival project examines games as a cultural bridge during Mexico’s colonial period. Two other new projects, one four years in the making and another nine months in progress, are where I want to stop and really focus.

Both of the projects are aimed at teaching through research. The first is “Rebel’s Guide to History” which entails a series of interconnected analog (paper-based) games designed to teach World History from the dawn of humanity to 1500 (a topic tiny in scope when compared to the history of the galaxy). The second, entitled Mexica Decision Points, is a video game that we are developing for mass consumption as a counter-weight to the continually-misconstrued idea that a handful of Europeans could simply wipe out a militaristic empire with very little effort.

A still image from Mexica Decision points

A still image from Mexica Decision points

Both projects are team-based with at least four core writer/developers and an amazing crew of short-term supporters. Aside from the transition of projects, starting these projects with teams has been a significant shift as well. Many, dare I say most, projects in the field of history are the project of an individual or a series of individuals pulled together for an edited volume. There are exceptions, but I am beginning to believe that there should be more. The collaborations across unexpected fields (in these instances much of my collaboration has been with computer science, literature, education, and game design – and possibly more disciplines that I am forgetting) have been illuminating – all of us involved on these teams have learned a ton from each other. Our interactions and conversations have not only influenced the project we are working on together, but also our research and teaching in other unexpected ways. In fact, these conversations are what kicked off my new project on colonial Mexico. 

These projects have, in ways, been paralleled with work at CMU. The past number of years I was fortunate to be the chair of the Institute for Simulations and Games– where I got to work with some of the best colleagues I could ask for at CMU. We are now transitioning into a fully-fledged Center. This shift is pulling me further from the classroom space that I enjoy, but it also provides the opportunity to support my colleagues’ pedagogy and continue to engage across disciplines. Transitions can be a challenge, but they are not always bad.

5 Tips for every PhD student's Partner

By Sara Papendorf

Many of the posts on this blog come from the point of view of those in the academic world. I thought it might be interesting (and helpful) for some readers to describe several experiences of a PhD student from a completely different point of view – the view of a partner. My name is Sara Papendorf, and I am the partner of Dave Papendorf, your favorite blog editor.  I am not an academic, but I’ve lived through the process and, therefore, have some tips to share.

To provide some context, my life as the partner of a PhD student started back in 2014. After much discussion about our future, Dave and I decided that he should pursue a PhD in history. Thus began the long hours of filling out applications. Dave applied to a number of different programs in the Midwest. I still remember how exciting it was getting letters in the mail from the different universities he applied to – honestly, I think I was more excited than Dave was! I have always been the mail checker in the family, so Dave had to kindly ask me to not open any letters without him. I obliged his request......well......basically. There were several times when I held a letter up to the light to try and see what it said. In fact, this was how we discovered that Dave was accepted into the program at CMU. It was a very exciting time for us!


Fast forward four years later to July 2018, and Dave is currently in the writing stage of the program. As for me, over these past four years, I would say that I have learned much about being the partner of a PhD student.  If I were to provide you with any advice, here are some tips that I have found helpful: 

Tip 1: Expect challenges

Anyone who is currently working on or has completed a PhD program knows that the life of a PhD student is not for the faint-hearted. There are huge milestones in any program – being accepted, passing comps, completing one’s dissertation, defending one’s dissertation, and securing a job – not to mention that each milestone is filled with its own set of tasks to complete.  It has been important for Dave and me to recognize that this stage in our life is not permanent, just temporary and to expect that there will be difficult times throughout each major milestone.  Keeping this outlook has allowed us to pace ourselves, take one day at a time, and enjoy ourselves along the way.  

Tip 2: Show interest in your partner’s work

Frankly, I never had much interest in history during my academic years.  I much more enjoyed math and English.  It’s quite comical that my partner has such a great interest in history.  Even though I am not a huge history fan and it takes some focus to learn about history, I have discovered over the past several years that Dave appreciates when I take an interest in what he is working on.  My interest in his work doesn’t have to be a big ordeal; questions as simple as, “What are you reading about now?” or “What did you discuss in your colloquium today?” can go a long way.  I actually find great joy in hearing Dave describe what he is learning because I can tell that he truly enjoys doing what he does.  Last year, Dave taught his first course, which was medieval history.  At the beginning of the semester he asked me if I was going to attend any of his lectures. Looking back, I think he was half joking and half serious.  However, I was able to attend two lectures, and I know taking the time to attend really meant a lot to Dave.    

Tip 3: Be spontaneous. 

There are times when your partner will need to do something to take their mind off of the grind academia - studying for comps, reading primary sources in sixteenth century Latin (I might be speaking from personal experience here ;-)), or editing the same chapter of their dissertation for the fifty-second time.  From January to June of this year, Dave and I lived at the Leibniz Institute of European History (IEG) located in Mainz, Germany.  The IEG has dormitory-like living – single rooms equipped with a sink, shared kitchen space, and shared bathrooms. Over the six-month span, Dave and I both worked in our room every day.  I am sure you can imagine how easy it would be to go stir crazy working in a small space. To help keep us sane, we often took spontaneous walks along the Rhine River.  There were a handful of Saturdays where Dave and I intended to tackle several items on our checklist; however, instead of working, we decided it would be better for our quality of life to set aside our mile-long to-do-lists and spend some time enjoying each other’s company and enjoying our German surroundings. Sometimes an unplanned trip to get gelato or to the market was just what we needed.  And you don’t have to live in Germany to follow this tip – find some spontaneous fun that works in your locale!

Tip 4: Be supportive

Throughout the past four years, consciously attempting to be a supportive partner has been an important component of my role as Dave’s partner.  Supporting Dave has taken on many forms, and I have learned that sometimes being supportive is more about listening to Dave describe his concerns and struggles rather than offering my best solution to a difficult problem.  Honestly, this is one thing that has been the most difficult for me to do but has meant the most to Dave.  Lending a listening ear has often provided Dave with the support he needs to keep plugging along.  

Tip 5: If you get to travel, take advantage!

During the second year of Dave’s program, we spent the academic year living in Newcastle, England.  Knowing we would be in the UK for quite some time, we decided to book several trips to various locations across Europe – Belfast, Rome, Geneva, Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona, and Edinburgh.  While these trips could get prices, I would say that our experiences (seeing the spectacular views of Giant’s Causeway, walking the streets of ancient Rome, taking a ferry ride down the Amsterdam canals, and touring the catacombs in Paris……just to mention a few) were worth every penny.  I can honestly say that we made the most of our time in the UK and have no regrets.  Throughout all of our travels, we have discovered some simple ways to save money:  choosing to stay in an AirBnb rather than a hotel, packing a lunch (and dinner…and breakfast), and searching for deals on cheap European airlines (EasyJet and RyanAir). Traveling with Dave has been such a great privilege as he is often able to explain some of the history behind many of the things we have been able to see when traveling abroad.  As someone who was born and raised in the Midwest, I would say it’s often easy to get wrapped up in visiting places in the US. Don’t get me wrong, the US has much to offer, but the world is quite a big place.        

These tips are by no means scientifically proven. They are just the things that have worked for me and Dave over the past 4 years. I expect (and hope) that some, if not all, might be encouraging to you as well!