Studies – Thesis time!

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That’s basically how my desk looks like (messier). Copyright: Unsplash/Sharon McCutcheon

These last days have been really really busy. I am writing my thesis — a 30 pages/12.000 words paper to pass my first year of master! I am writing about the representation of Black masculinity in the TV series New Girl. Finding the precise and detailed topic as well as my research question took me a long time, but now I think I am on the right track — I am meeting my supervisor next Thursday to talk about it. Meanwhile, I can just tell you how the whole thing is organized.

Two years/two thesis

My master is kind of special. Indeed, it’s not only one but two thesis that we have to submit at the end of each year. The first one must be not as deeply researched as the second one. However, it is still a lot of pressure and… not a lot of time to write.

Deadlines

Basically, we have two to three months to write our thesis — if we want to defend it in June, it’s longer otherwise. The first deadline was 1st March: by then, we needed to have a pitch to submit. Not a fully detailed topic and research question, but only a short text stating what we wanted to talk about. Then, on 7th April, we needed to submit a detailed research plan and (theoretically) we are expected to have written 80% of our thesis at the end of the month.

Supervisors

After submitting our pitch, our course coordinator matched us with our supervisors according to the topics we wanted to study. I set the first meeting with mine on 27th March. I had no idea how to tackle my topic which was by then only defined by “masculinity in TV series”. At the end of the meeting I realized I would have to read A LOT. So I did and the next one, set on 9th April, I was (late and) able to submit my research plan. I have been working on my thesis ever since, and my next appointment with my supervisor is… next Thursday!

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Gender Studies – How does my online master work? 1/2

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Copyright: Unsplash/rawpixel

I just realized I wrote two articles about my master’s face-to-face week, which took place two weeks ago without never explaining how the online part of my master works on a daily basis. So here is the first part of all the information you need about the “Gender, Intersectionality and Change” online program from Linköping University.

Online?

“My master is online”. I must have told this sentence to people I met a thousand times since I moved to Linköping. Then, I usually have to explain why I decided to move here anyway, which I already explained in the first post of this blog.

But what does online mean? This basically means that I never have classes on campus. My weeks are totally free: I study when I want, and I organize my time as I wish. I must admit that I like the freedom I get to wake up and go to sleep when I feel like it, to go grocery shopping in the middle of the day and take afternoons off whenever I want. This is just perfect. However, I understand people who are telling me they could not do it. Gladly, I never had procrastination or motivations issues so studying without incentives is not a problem for me.

Since the program is online, the majority of my classmates still live in their home country and only come to Sweden for the face-to-face weeks. They often combine their studying with working full-time or part-time, which I think is very brave given that the master is a 100% workload – this means that it is required to study full-time (just the amount of time you would study with on-campus classes).

How do I know what I have to study?

The program is also divided in two semesters: the Autumn semester and the Spring semester. Last semester I attended four courses: Introduction to intersectionality, Exploring intersectionality, and Analytical Tools. Before each one of them starts, we get a Key Document which sums up the skills we should acquire thanks to this course, the assignments we will have to submit, and our schedule.

Yes, we have a schedule. Each week, we must watch a pre-recorded lecture, attend a mandatory online tutor-meeting or co-tutor meeting (without a tutor) and we have the possibility to participate in a non-mandatory seminar. These are the three meet-ups we have settled each week.

The (co-)tutor groups were decided in the beginning of the semester and we were in charge of finding the best way and the best time of the week to meet-up online. My group and I are meeting-up on Microsoft Teams, but other meetings such as live lectures or seminars are usually held on Skype for Business.

That’s it for this first part, I will explain in details how the literature is distributed and how assignments must be submitted later!

 

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On Campus – Swedish university system: what does it look like?

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As a French student, I was surprised the first time I came to Sweden to discover a totally different university system. First, it’s not unusual for Swedes to take a gap year after gymnasiet (high-school). Hence, most of them are more than 20 years old when they start studying their Bachelor.

During my Erasmus year in Uppsala, I was only 19 and ending my Bachelor while some of my classmates were, sometimes, until 26 and just starting their studies! Today I am 22 years old and just began my second master, while Swedes from my age are mostly in their Bachelor. I think this difference stems from a chiller way to perceive studies and their outcome.

 

I think the Swedish university system is built to make you responsible for your own studies. Photo: Unsplash/Mikael Kristenson.

 

One course at a time

In Sweden, as most European countries I think, a school year is divided in two semesters. Each semester is then divided into several “periods” – from two to four. One course fits in one period. That means that in one semester you can have from two courses to four courses, one after the other and not at the same time.

For instance, I am now studying my third period’s course entitled “Analytical Tools”. It started on 12th November and will be ending in January. Before I got one course in September, “Introduction to intersectionality”, and one in October, “Exploring Intersectionality”.

This is way different than France where I could have more than five courses to study at the same time during the whole semester. Here in Sweden, I can focus on one course at a time, which allows me to better understand and acquire the knowledge necessary to succeed in my exams and my studies.

 

You cannot fail

The Swedish system is built as to make you feel like you can’t fail. Indeed, it is possible for you to take the same exam indefinitely, until you succeed. Thus, exams have usually two dates and essays two deadlines, in case you don’t feel like taking it the first time – because you did not study enough for example – or if you are sick.

In France, if you are not showing up at an exam you need to get a really good reason, otherwise it’s written that you failed and you have to register to a re-take exam, which is not seen as a good thing on your grade transcript. In Sweden, it does not matter as long as you pass the exam. I think this way is really encouraging and makes you more relax about your exams.

In general, I think the Swedish university system makes you more autonomous and responsible for your own decisions: if you decide not to study, you don’t have any sanctions but you can only blame yourself for your lack of studying.

 

 

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“Gender Studies”, what is that?

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This week has been pretty stressful: I had to submit my final assignment to validate the second course of my semester. It was a 3.000 words essay about a topic I was free to choose. I decided to write about “Discrimination against veiled Muslim women in the French labour market”. I have always been curious about the origins of inequalities between people. Where do sexism, racism and all other types of discrimination stem from ? That is what “Gender Studies” are all about.

What do Gender Studies consist in?

First, “Gender Studies” claims to be a transdiscplinary academic field: its aim is to apply a gendered framework to whatever other existing academic field. When I am reading scientific literature for my classes, I can be reading sociological and psychological experiments, as well as linguistic or medical papers – I must admit, being from a social sciences background these lasts are sometimes complicated for me to understand.

Studying Gender Studies originally means studying the roots of inequalities between genders. In order to do that, “Gender

Gender equality symbol. Copyright: Pixabay/janeb13.

Studies” traditionally analyze gendered representations and power dynamics in society and their influence on human behavior and psychology.

But, more recently, Gender Studies went further and extended their way of understanding inequalities beyond gender. They included other parts of human identity, such as social class, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, age etc. Nowadays, studying Gender Studies means studying all oppressions – sexism but also racism or homophobia for instance – and working on deconstructing what we think is “the social norm” when it comes to identity.

Gender Studies are not all about gender

In 1989, American jurist Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the concept of “Intersectionality”. According to her research analyzing the social position of Black women in the United States, she demonstrated they were undergoing a “double discrimination”: not only as women or as Black persons, but as Black women altogether.

Since then, intersectionality has been widely used in Gender studies and applied to analyse the social position of different populations such as disabled women – intersection between ableism (discrimination against disabled people) and sexism – or even white middle-class men (intersection between male, class and white privileges).

Gender is of course still a cornerstone of Gender Studies, but it is now often analyzed in relation to other oppressions and types of discrimination.

If you are looking for a Gender Studies program for complete “beginners” LiU’s online master is not the right one.

So far I’ve had two courses: “Introduction to Intersectionality” and

“Exploring Intersectionality”. Both were very interesting and being already familiar with Crenshaw’s concept, it allowed be to go further in my reflection.

What I liked about the LiU Gender Studies master program was that it was very specific. Indeed, its full title is “Gender, Intersectionality and Change“. This means, I was not going to study basic Gender Studies courses but deepening my understanding about gender and other inequalities. If you are looking for a Gender Studies program for complete “beginners” LiU’s online master is not the right one.

However, if you are looking for a program to keep studying or working with gender, identity and inequality issues, this can be a good way to go further into these topics. Many of my classmates are studying this master along with a full-time job – which can be difficult – and are doing it in order to specialize in gender, while remaining in their field. And since it is online, it’s very practical: you can organize your study and work times as you want.

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