Right now, I feel both as though I am on the final stretch of the M.Phil and that I am still less than halfway through the single most important item: the thesis that stalks me down Oxford’s cobbled streets. Now that I have a schedule set, the first order of business is prioritizing the reading that I should do in the remaining time. The second is to get the thing written. I will feel a lot better about the whole process once I have submitted and discussed one draft chapter: at present, I don’t particularly feel as though I know what I am doing. Once I have intuitively accepted that this project is not enormously more difficult than others that I would now brush off, it will come together quickly. Thinking about it as five or six long papers on related themes is one way to make the whole assembly seem less daunting, though it is important for them to be tightly integrated.
Aside from the thesis, all I have left are two papers for international law (both of which can probably be made highly thesis related) and four three-hour exams. Two of those are on the core seminars from last year: history and IR theory. The other two are on the optional papers from this year: the developing world and international law. There is good reason to be concerned about all of them – the two core seminars from first year aren’t exactly sharp in my mind, and the two optional papers cover a lot of material. That said, there is only so much information you can transfer from mind to paper in three hours. Likewise, while you do need to know a good amount of stuff to do well on Oxford exams, the way in which you approach and answer the questions seems to make all the difference between a tolerable grade and a really good one.
Parallel to all of this is the lingering and difficult project of finding something worthwhile to do after this. I have three basic objectives: finding a job that will (a) increase my knowledge and experience, (b) make me at least financially neutral, no longer going deeper into debt, and (c) not make people say: “So you did an M.Phil at Oxford and then you did… that.” This is the sort of project that you would be expect to be easier than finishing the degree itself, but it’s a matter of comparative advantages. With five months until I leave Oxford, the clock is ticking.
PS. New difficulties have arisen, with regards to the submission of the fish paper to the MIT International Review. If three specific things can be dealt with, it should be published within the next few months. If not, I may need to start hunting for yet another journal in which to try and get it printed.