“If not now then when, if not me then who?”
— Malcolm X
As I was walking back home after teaching a class, I stumbled upon IACER college in Baneshwor. Doing a Ph.D. was always on my mind. But due to some circumstances, aspiration had been on the back burner for some time. I longed to take steps toward my Ph.D. goal and with some hesitation, I stepped inside the college premises.
I inquired about the courses of Mphil at the front desk. Master of Philosophy (Mphil) is a post-graduate research one and half year-long program. In some countries, it is a prerequisite for P.h.D.
The courses were interesting and then the evening classes also worked for me as I taught in the mornings. The receptionist told me that the classes had already started but they were still admitting students. I had to give an exam and sit in for an interview for admissions.
I wasn’t quite sure until then if I could get admitted. My daughter was just six months old at that time. And being a student would mean preparing for classes, reading, taking classes, maintaining notes, doing assignments, presentations, research, sitting for the exam, and much more. I discussed this decision with my family and they were quite supportive. This gave me confidence and the next day I met the Principal of IACER, Mr. Krishna Niroula. He explained to me the program in detail and I was convinced to join Mphil in English.
I had to give a two-hour exam which was similar to GRE. I remember some questions relating to vocabulary and writing. Prof. Arun Gupta interviewed me and explained to me why an interdisciplinary course is beneficial for a researcher. He gave me an example of two researchers both researching a cup. One researcher is only looking at the cup, whereas the other researcher is looking at the cup as well as the table, and other things in the room. In this case, the second researcher will probably do a better job because he has a holistic view.
I come from a management background; I studied plus two management and then did my Bachelor of Business Administration from Ace Institute of Management. I completed my Master of Business Studies from Shanker Dev Campus. Even though I studied management, I was always interested in interdisciplinary courses and Mphil in English was just that.
For the first semester, I had to study:
- Sexuality Studies: Thinking Masculinity and Cultural Production
- Multiculturalism Then and Now
- Research Methodology and Academic Writing
- Nature and Spirituality
I enjoyed taking classes, presenting in the class, writing term papers, having a conversation with friends in the canteen, and reading the required texts. However, during the board exams, I suffered from dengue and had to drop one paper. Anyways, I can appear for this paper in March 2023.
I may not ace my papers but I have enjoyed the learning process. My worldview has broadened. I have understood masculinity from a different lens and I am more empathetic towards men as well as the LGBTQI+ community. I am no longer an unaware person who didn’t know what intersex was. I am grateful to Prof. Dr. Sangita Rayamajhi for her guidance and encouragement.
Prof. Dr. Susmita Talukdar taught us Multiculturalism Then and Now. In this course, we read texts like Bisheshwor Prasad Koirala’s Sumnima and contemporary writers like Jhumpa Lahiri. We discussed the issues of recognition, identity, globalization, and many more. One thing I liked about this class was that Prof. Talukdar always encouraged students to speak up in class. She would make those who rarely spoke in the class to present their ideas. This course has made me even more interested in reading fiction from writers such as Hamid and Lahiri. This also gave me a chance to reflect upon the books that I already had but didn’t give much time and attention to go through.
Research Methodology and Academic Writing came in very handy to me. I am teaching Composition to undergrad-level students and the things I learned in this class were quite helpful in my teaching. Also, Dr. Tara Prasad Adhikari made efficient use of google classroom to share resources with us. It was also convenient for us to post our assignments in google classroom. He presented his ideas and lead the discussions which were quite insightful. I particularly remember a class on the neo-liberal agenda in higher education which was quite interesting. All the groups presented their ideas on a theory they choose at the end of the class.
Lastly, Nature and Spirituality was a course that aimed to study the interconnectedness between environment and religion. Prof. Jawahar lectured us on world religions and have impact on the environment and vice versa. Exploring ecofeminism and the chipko movement in India as well as understanding how our traditions are linked to the environment was enlightening.
Overall, I would say the first semester exposed me to different ideas which I would not have pondered upon if I had not joined Mphil. The experience so far has been great and I hope to gain more in the upcoming semester. The only thing I felt could have been better this semester was time management. We had only about two months of classes which were not enough to cover the depths that these courses offered.
Lastly, I joined this course because I see myself working in academia. I enjoy teaching, writing, and researching. Therefore, doing Mphil provides me with the resources and skills to prepare for P.h.D and a career in academia.
- Abhilasha Rayamajhi