Ciputat, UIN News Online – Hasnul Insani Djohar, the head of English Literature Department of the Adab and Humanities faculty UIN Jakarta shared her experiences when she was pursuing an English doctorate degree at the University of Exeter, UK to UIN News Online, Monday (08/10/2020). After undergoing tough times, Hasnul officially embraced her PhD degree from the university in 2019
Before leaving for England to continue her doctoral studies, Hasnul first stopped at Central Michigan University, United States, to take a Master’s degree in the same field in 2013.
As a new student who has limited knowledge in English Literature, Hasnul feels proud that she can be accepted at these two prestigious universities until she has successfully held a Masters and PhD degree. The University of Exeter, where Hasnul earned her PhD, is one of the top 100 universities in the world and the top 10 universities in the UK.
Hasnul revealed that when she was accepted at Exeter, the learning process was not as easy as she imagined. The University of Exeter requires its students to have advanced English language skills and English literature. “I was pushed to read millions of texts and write papers. I cry every night and struggle to study even harder,” she said.
She also experienced the same obstacle when taking a Masters degree at Central Michigan University. At this university, according to Hasnul, she must take three literature classes, such as American literature, Victorian literature, and world literature for each semester. For each class, she must have at least 11 novels to read, so if there are three classes, it means that there are three novels that she must read in a week.
Hasnul experienced panic when she had to read novels that became her learning demands. “I panicked and had no idea how to read three thick novels in a week,” she complained.
Luckily, she met Desmond Harding, a professor who teaches at Michigan University. He suggested that Hasnul need to buy all the novels and then write a summary after she finished reading them. Hasnul also asked to borrow audio books from the library to help her more understand about the novels. Thus, she was reading the novels while listening to them.
“For all three novels, it took me a week to read and write a report on critical writing for each novel. I had to prepare and present the contents of the novels in every meeting, because there were only 12 students in one class,” said the author of the book Gender, Minority, and Globalization in Women’s Literature of the Ummah published by Ohio State University (2021).
At the University of Exeter, she was required to study even harder. Although she had experiences studying in American institutions, she still struggled to be able to read quickly and effectively and fostering her critical thinking skills through argumentative writing.
Hasnul said that during her first days in Michigan, most of her Postgraduate friends could read ten books in English a day, she was only able to read one chapter for the whole day, sometimes she even felt lost and had no ideas what the author of the book were arguing about.
Based on her limited experience, Hasnul then forced herself to practice reading and writing more and more every day. Hasnul then read a lot of practical and useful books, such as how to read effectively, how to write a dissertation productively, and how to practice a proper time management. Through the reading, she hopes that it will help her in solving her problems in writing her thesis.
In order to get her PhD, Hasnul had to make a tight schedule every day, starting from waking up at 03.00 AM. After praying and reading the Qur’an, she then wrote for two hours without stopping. At 7 AM, she went to the gym on campus, either to swim or take sports classes. At 8:00 am, she arrived at her “office” to continue writing and reading several books and articles related to her research.
“During my study period, the campus gave me a special room plus a sophisticated computer that supported me to focus more on my studies,” said Hasnul.
Another challenging activity, according to Hasnul, was when she was accepted as a teaching assistant at the University of Exeter. She has to divide her time to conduct her research and prepare for teaching, at least one hour every day.
Although Hasnul herself only taught and guided 15 students, Hasnul felt it was like teaching hundreds of students because the preparation and correction of their writing were very time-consuming.
“I can’t imagine if I was a real professor here, teaching three classes, supervising Masters and PhD students, and leading several researchers at the same time,” she said.
Hasnul also understood that at the University of Exeter many professors live like being hunted by ghosts. They have to walk and talk fast because there are so many deadlines to finish. So, there is hardly time for them to hang out and chat. Instead, they are busy with reading and writing. However, said Hasnul, most of the lecturers at the University of Exeter are very nice and really appreciate the students, including herself.
“Hopefully this habit will influence me to be always productive in writing articles and publishing books,” she said. (usa/ns)