Seven things my first three weeks have taught me

This is my first time doing a fairly monumental research project.  It’s also my first time living in a non-English speaking country.
Needless to say, it’s been quite the adventure so far.
  • Germans speaking English are at least as self-conscious of their linguistic abilities as I am…
….but we understand each other and can carry on conversations on most topics.  Talking about different German regional accents versus English regional accents is particularly fun, especially when people attempt a Southern drawl.
  • Hildegard isn’t going anywhere.  Take a break.  She’ll be waiting when I get back.
Seriously.  Being passionate about my research topic is a double-edged sword.  On one side, I’m super excited and motivated to learn all the things… but on the other side, I have a tendency to take in more information than I can actually digest in a short period of time.  Medieval history isn’t going to change.  Primary sources from nearly 1000 years ago aren’t going to evaporate and their original authors aren’t going to revise them.  There might be some sort of archaeological breakthrough, but I’m not holding my breath.  Taking breaks means maintaining sanity.
  • Switching to a related-but-different research topic is not taking a break.  
Nice try, Erika.  Going from primary source reading to finding and consuming articles about medieval performance practice or the development of chant notation or the use of instruments in church music or any number of tangentially related topics is not taking a break.  It’s fascinating, but not the sort of refreshment my mind needs.  (Reading stuff in English also doesn’t count as a break.)
  • Mid-day naps help me process information.
Naps are delightful.  Naps count as breaks.  Taking one in the middle of the day allows me to rest and recover mental stamina and synthesize things I’ve read without my head getting too much in the way.  It also makes me feel like I have more hours in the day.  Naps are super!
  • Sometimes going outside is intimidating, but DO IT ANYWAY.  
Complete isolation is not healthy.  It’s a little like leaving tea leaves in a kettle for too long.  Steeping in my own thoughts and research in my own apartment in my own somewhat-trilingual world for too long leads to general saturation and existentialism.    Interacting with other human beings is great, and thinking about it is harder than actually doing it.
  • Reading in nature is great, but not efficient for me.
It’s not that I can’t concentrate, I just end up concentrating on other things.  Things like the direction of the wind, the shapes in the clouds, the newly-blossomed hawthorns, cormorants fishing in the Rhein, the hawk that’s just found a thermal and is now spiraling upwards…..
….but also,
  • My best ideas happen whilst wandering about.

Exhibit 1 – This Peregrine’s natural habitat.

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