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The end of the first road... M.A Exams

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After two years of experiencing different topics, places, people, ideas and so on, I have gotten to the end of the first road. I said the first because this is just the end of my Master and the beginning of something else, possibly the PhD in Hispanic and Lusophone Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics. I'm writing this almost seven days before I take my oral exam. I don't have authority to talk about the oral yet but I'll about the written experience. This will help you (international student) to get through these particular days, since these days can be really stressful and your mind goes out of control, even if you try to be as calm as you can. I'll give you some personal advices.
Please, take the ones that fit your personality, we are all Grad Students, but we are not the same being:

1. Meet with your adviser regularly to create a list that will help you to start getting organized with the different topics related to your field.


2. Be practical about studying for your exams. You don't necessary have to start studying for your M.A. exams a year before, but keep in mind the more time you spend getting organize for them, the better your mind will feel weeks before you take them.


3. When you study for your exams, write topics, instead of a long dissertation of what you are going to argue about. I work better writing different topics related to the subject, then I write some examples and discuss about them. In terms of theory, I think it is important to have a clear idea of the ones you are going to use.


4. Create a work groups with the rest of the students that are taking the exam at the same time and discuss about the theories, the books that you have work on. This is really helpful. You ended up feeling that you should study more!


5. I think the steps 3 and 4 are the most important ones. Your mind will be also an important factor the days after your take your exams. Try to practice Yoga, or Pilates, go to a meditation center, or just go to the Gym. Try to be calm. That's the clue.

Good luck with your exams.

Post. This is also an interesting link for you to check http://dbrabham.wordpress.com/category/thoughts-on-academia/

Thesis, oh Thesis

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Hi everyone! I hope you are doing good in this semester! So some of you might be in the same position as me right now: finishing up their thesis/final project. It can be an exciting moment because you are almost done with school! But to get to that point you have to go through the arduous process of completing your thesis. For me, so far it has been smooth sailing, but a few days ago I've realized that I have LOTS of things to do. It's kinda scary.

So the point of this blog is to share my experience and the stuff I've been doing that might come in handy for you guys. Oh, please comment if you have other tips that can help ease your thesis writing process.

Probably the hardest part is to think of a thesis title. It can be extremely hard to get a fitting and original title, but don't worry, just as long as you know the concept of your thesis you can start with a preliminary title and develop the title along the way with you chair adviser.

Start researching as soon as possible. If you are like me whose thesis is more of a design thesis than a research thesis it helps a lot to start researching as soon as possible to allow yourself more time in the design phase, because designing takes a lot of time (especially if you are a perfectionist).

Creating your own timeline really helps with keeping your self on schedule. Put your timeline in front of your desk so it becomes an everyday reminder that you are not allowed to procrastinate! Hahahaha... Ask you department for a typical semester schedule for finishing your thesis (if they have one), which shows you when to preferably submit your draft, final draft, apply for a graduation package and so on.

Having scheduled meetings with your chair adviser is a must, but it doesn't hurt to meet with your other committee members as well. Try to set up a time somewhere in the middle of the semester for a mid-term review with all of your committee members present. This will help a lot in knowing what direction your thesis/final project is heading.

Peer reviews are also a good way to receive feedbacks. If you see your friends loafing around or not doing anything then don't hesitate to ask them for their opinions. Some of the good feedbacks might come from your friends and since they are at the same stage as you are, they might have awesome ideas that you can cultivate.

Finally, don't forget to reserve a room way ahead of time for your oral defense. Especially for me it is very difficult to reserve a room at the end of the semester since there will be lots of final reviews. Also when you reserve a room, reserve 30 minutes before your presentation so you would have that amount of time to prep the room and presentation.

So that's all I have for everyone else who is going to start their thesis or already have started it. Hopefully it can come to some kind of use to you all and happy thesis writing!

What Do We Do?

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Do you really know what people can do at the Department of Spanish and Portuguese http://spanport.umn.edu? An easy way to demonstrate how hard we work here is by showing you the different ideas that we have in this department; I will introduce you some students. Their ideas/researches are noteworthy and unusual. That's what they became attractive to me.

And they wrote:


Hi! I'm a grad student and Spanish Instructor at the Spanish and Portuguese Department. I'm in my second year of the M.A in Hispanic Cultures and Literatures. I have a personal interest in post dictatorship literature in Latin America, specifically the south cone. During dictatorships in the 70-80', many voices were silenced, rights were violated and all forms of cultural expressions were limited or even prohibited. Traditional patriarchal values were stressed and many men disappeared, leaving women with no other option than taking charge of their families. Fear and repression were the inspiration of new ideals that were externalized through literature. Literary works during and after dictatorships expressed a tone of protest, the fight for surviving, and most importantly, became an instance for women to encounter their identity as individuals. How did feminine literature benefit from dictatorship? When was feminine literature acknowledged as such? Did women use literature to fight against patriarchal principles and domination, or just against the authoritarian regime? This master program and its interdisciplinary approaches have been extremely helpful in providing me with superior knowledge to answer those and other questions in this field that I really enjoy working in!

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Meghann Peace
Ph.D. Candidate
Hispanic Linguistics

As a student of Hispanic linguistics, I have been able to study nearly all aspects of the Spanish language- morphosyntax, phonology, prosody and pragmatics, native and non-native speech, and the methods and techniques used in teaching Spanish to students of different native languages. My main interests, however, focus on two areas in particular - Spanish in the United States and second language acquisition. My work on Spanish in the United States has examined whether Spanish syntax has been affected by its extended contact with English. Do native speakers of Spanish who live in the United States change their way of speaking after years of being bilingual? Within the field of second language acquisition, I have conducted various studies examining how non-native speakers of Spanish acquire the appropriate intonation, syntax, and morphology as used by native speakers. I am currently researching how learners of Spanish acquire and use referential communication in appropriate manners. Namely, do they use grammatical structures that are situationally appropriate and effective in communication?
How is their speech influenced by their desire to be understood? What are their assumptions of their listeners, and how do these assumptions guide the sort of speech that is produced? This particular project examines non-native Spanish from beginning to near-native levels, in order to see if there is an order in which acquisition occurs and which factors influence said order. Given this, there may be implications for improvements in language teaching, to better help students understand and produce native-like Spanish.


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Hey Everyone! My name is Amy Hill and I'm a second-year masters student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies at the University of Minnesota. My research focuses on the themes of human rights and censorship in Argentine and Mexican literature and popular culture. In particular, I am interested in investigating the sociopolitical influence of entertainment mass media, including films and telenovelas. So, yes, I do get to perform research by watching countless hours of Mexican soap operas, and yes, I do believe there is meaning behind seemingly outrageous melodramatic slaps.
Also here is a link to one of the telenovelas that I am currently analyzing. An excellent Mexican remake called Teresa. http://televisa.esmas.com/entretenimiento/telenovelas/teresa/


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I'll tell you about me next time. One tip: I love Caribbean studies. One of my favorite authors is Junot Diaz. You can find interesting links of Junot on this website: https://www.rebelmouse.com/AngelaCastro/


Enjoy y hasta la próxima!!!

My Q&A About Applying UMN

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Hey Everyone, this time I am going to write some words about the tips and important information about applying University of Minnesota Twincities for future graduate students.
Ok~ Here we go!

1.What is the APPLICATION DEADLINE ?
The graduate school highly recommend that students submit the application at least two weeks before the deadline, most of the programs will end application on December 15, and some programs will end a little earlier or later around December. Check each programs' own websites to get correct deadlines and those are the most reliable resources.
The link: Choosing Program Website

The picture below shows the webpage of choosing different program's own site to get information of the deadline and application instruction.
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### If some urgent issue happen and you miss the deadline by lately submitting some materials, you could contact the specific department office by phone or email to ask if you could still hand in your application. The Officers will be very friendly to answer you. ###

2. What should you prepare for application?
Usually,your application should include your GRE score, your resume, your unofficial transcript (electric version needed), your official transcript (closure in an envelope), recommendation letters ( at least 2-3, depends on different programs), your personal statement, your research or work experience report, some programs need extra writing sample or other credentials. Also you need your Credit card (Visa, Discover, American Express and MasterCar) ready to pay the application fee.(International student:$95.00)
The detailed instruction link: Application Instructions

3. How to apply?
Our school use the online application system which is very easy to use. You need to create an account, then login the system to begin your application!
The link is below: Online Application!
The picture of the login webpage is below :
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After login, just follow the instruction to continue your application process.You will fill in your information in Personal Information, Application Information,Educational Background,Test Information-Self Reported,Languages,Awards and Activities, Employment / Residence Information,Financial Support,Legal agent/privacy statement, Applicant Statements, Program Supplementary Information.
For the recommendation letter, you could download the form on the website and ask provider to complete it or to give the providers' email address to let them finish and hand in online which is much efficiency.

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4. After applying
After finishing the applying process you should be very patient of waiting the decision made by the school. Actually, I really suggest you that the good applying work is to contact a specific professor whom you would like to work with and the dean of the department to know you are going to apply if you want them to pay more attention to you.
If you are eager for the decision news, you could search and check in the grade cafe forum to know if the decision has worked out!
The link : Grad Cafe Forum

Good Luck everyone!! I hope you all will get good news from UMN, we really welcome you!

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Need a Place to Study outside Home?

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Hello every one! How's your semester going? Isn't this semester went by soooooo quick? It is midterm time already. I cannot believe it!!! All papers deadlines and midterm exams are approaching. Are you ready yet? Do you need to find a place to study?

Hmmm....regarding to the pie chart I posted above, I have to admit that my routine of working from home would look not that much different. After thousands attempts, I finally gave up studying at home and started to seek study spaces on campus. Here is what I have came up with!

+++++they are all great on campus locations, which mean, free wireless internet, easy access to computer labs and printers, friendly staff members on site who might be able to give you a hand any time during your stay, and etc+++++

1.Deep quiet study areas in Wilson Library: they are my all time favorites!!!
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2.Coffee shops in Walter Library (basement) and Wilson Library (basement): Sadly they do not open on weekends but it would be great choice for those who need food and beverage refreshment close by on weekdays.

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3.Group study rooms with whiteboards in Walter, Wilson, Bio-Med, etc: great place for study groups and team projects!!!
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4. TechStop in 90 Blegan Hall on westbank: super close to Blegan connivence store and lunch place.
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5. Small breakout room in Jones Hall: you will need to check out keys from CLA language Center in the same building. Here is the small room calendar
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Happy Midterms & Studying everyone!!!

Howdy loyal blog readers! As most of you might know, I am a grad student ambassador majoring in Architecture. Although I am passionate about architecture, I also have tons of interest in product design and especially toys! Personally I am a huge fan of high-end action figures (most toy enthusiasts will know what that means lol!) and have a large collection of toys at home, ranging from fixed pose action figures to plastic model kits. Ooops, sorry I got carried away... I like to blabber on and on when it comes to toys :)

So back to the main point. Knowing that I had a huge interest in toys, I was deeply intrigued by this product design class offered in Spring 2012. It was the Toy Product Design class offered by the College of Design under PDES 3711/5711. So without hesitation I registered for that class and boy I did not regret it.

If you are in the College of Design or College of Science and Engineering and you are interested in hands on experience with real clients and prototyping then I would definitely recommend this course. But wait! Other students from different majors can join as well, just as long as you can show your interest in this class to the instructor.

In this class you will be working in teams to create an innovative toy that you will present in the end of the semester not only in front of your clients, but also to kids and families who are the prospective buyers. We call this final presentation as Playsentations because this type of presentation incorporates play and fun! Click here to see videos of this years Playsentations.


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Through this class I managed to learn a LOT of things. Not only were the lectures fun and informative, but during lab hours you will have the chance to use all of the cool machines at the W.L. Hall Workshop and DigiFab Lab. So if you're that type of person that would like to have a dynamic and interesting class different from your everyday boring lectures, then you might find enjoying this class as much as I do! Oh and if you do decide to register for this class next Spring then it is likely that I will see you at class because I am going to be one of the lab instructors! Hopefully I will see you there!

Managing stress and what does that have to do with your roommates

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Have you ever had a feeling like you can't keep up with your crazy life anymore, as if somebody stole every happy thought from your brain and there are almost nothing (even babies and poppies) that can make you smile again. Perhaps you don't even want to walk outside you room... or bed. You feel so overwhelmed, responsible, stressed, and mad for the whole world's problems laying on your shoulders (really, there are just the midterms, papers, and job you are juggling with but it feels like there is the whole world involved in making your life miserable). And your social life... just sucks! Oh wait. It doesn't suck, because... you just don't have a social life at all. So imagine you are sitting in your room all by yourself and not even trying to keep track of the Sneakers bars you ate while embracing your misery, when the magic super hero in the image of your roommate appears at your door to rescue you from the mythical Dragon Life you created. Sounds familiar? Well, may be not so much of the dragons and the super heroes part :) But, seriously, how often we all get so much caught up by our everyday business with all of the activities and responsibilities that eventually leads us to an awful stress and even depression. Student life might be difficult and stressful. Think of your ways or tools to manage stress? How do you handle difficulties?

I found for myself the best way to reconcile with my crazy life is to have happy roommates around. Seriously, I love my roommates. And I don't know what exactly keeps them happy: the Ukrainian food that I cook from time to time, or the fact that we live in a beautiful house right by the lake, or a desire to support and accept each other as we are and create a little "family" away from the family? Anyway, on that "rainy" day of mine, my roommate Bitsy yelled me from the kitchen to "get on the couch right now!" to see some uTube video. What happen next... 15 minutes of a crazy laughter and 15 more of a discussion about how some people can produce joy and pure happiness within themselves and how we sometimes forget that we can really notice simple things and the joy they can bring: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQSNhk5ICTI
My Dragon Life flew away scared and embarrassed and I felt how my cheerfulness comes back to me. After all, this is my choice to be happy or not. I choose to smile or not. I decide to keep myself above the stress and self pity. I love my roommates for reminding me about simple things that bring you joy and for encouraging me to bring joy to others whatever that means (an unexpected gift, or a sandwich, or a hug)


But even if you don't have awesome happy roommates or friends around, or you don't feel comfortable to talk to your friends about what you are going through, there are always services for you at the U of M to help you get where you want to get (I mean finishing up your midterms, or getting your dissertation done, or graduate, or whatever else it might be (I seriously can not think of anything not study related now :) Some of my friends checked out the U of M Boynton Mental Health Services (the word "mental" here doesn't mean you might not necessarily have to have mental disorder or disability to be eligible for the services. You might simply feel homesick or suffer a heartbreak after breaking up with your boyfriend/girlfriend.) The experienced professional will be glad to help you there: http://www.bhs.umn.edu/east-bank-clinic/mental-health-services.htm You just need to ask.


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