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As a Student
Thursday, 29 November 2007
My New Website

http://faculty.ksu.edu.sa/aljarf/default.aspx

 


Posted by reemasado at 7:27 PM
Saturday, 3 December 2005
When I Scored 30% on the GRE Test
Going to the States for graduate school was always the dream of my life. However at one point, that dream seemed too impossible as my family, like many families in Saudi Arabia, did not allow me to go to the States on my own to study. My older brother, who was studying in the States, got his Ph.D. degree and came home before I graduated. It was until I got my M.A. degree, when Uncle Adel and his family, who live in the States, came over for a visit in the summer after my father had passed away earlier. When my Uncle and his wife learnt that I had obtained my M.A. with honors, Auntie Amal wondered why I didn't go the States for my Ph.D. "I am not allowed to go there on my own, I answered. "I need to stay with a relative there", I added. She thought it over with my uncle at night, and while having breakfast the following morning, they invited me to stay with them while studying for my Ph.D. They added that I needed to take the TOEFL, GRE, and make arrangements to go to the States the following year. They added that the GRE test was extremely difficult. "Not for me", I said confidently. "How does it look like?" I asked. They were kind enough to send me a GRE book and so did my brother who was working at KFUPM. I was extremely excited and felt that my dream was about to come true. It was only a year away and the only obstacle was the GRE test.

I took the sample GRE test at the beginning of the book and scored it using the answer key. I found out that despite the fact that I was English major and that I had graduated from Umm Al-Qura University with honors, I only got a score of 30% on the GRE. As usual, I thought that getting 30% was not important and what was more important is not to stay at that low level. I was determined to study and work on my weaknesses in order to go to the States.

I examined my answers and found out that I had the following weaknesses: (1) On the Verbal Part: I had to read 5 long passages about specialized topics and answer 80 questions in just 50 minutes. Although the questions were multiple choice questions, the 4 options were too close which made it difficult to choose one. This required a high comprehension level, not at the literal level, but at the inferential level. The questions also contained gap filling items that required the selection of one word out of four and all the words were unknown to me. (2) The Quantitative Part required answering 50 multiple-choice math questions in 30 minutes. In order to choose an answer, you have to solve the problem and solve it right, in order to make the correct choice. If you unknowingly make a mistake in solving the problem, you will find your wrong answer among the options. (3) The Analytical Part had 50 problems to answer in 30 minutes and those were like riddles, and required logical thinking.

I found out that I was not reading fast enough to finish the passages and answer the questions in the designated time. I did not know the vocabulary items included on the test. I was not familiar with the mathematical terms and could not solve math problems in English. I was not familiar with the logical-analytical type of problems. What I liked about the GRE books was that they contained some tips on how to answer GRE questions, had some passages and some math and logical problems for practice. In addition, one of the books had a list of 3000 words from which the vocabulary test items are selected.

I made a strategic plan for improving my GRE test scores. The plan had 4 goals: improving my reading speed, memorizing 3000 words, memorizing math terms and practicing math problems in English and practicing analytical problems.


Every day I studied for 7 hours (from 5 p.m. - 12 a.m. ) and I did that for 5 straight months and was able to memorize the 3000 words in 2 months.

My daily schedule included a time slot for reading, another for memorizing and reviewing 50 words, a third one for memorizing math terms and solving math problems in English, and a fourth one for solving logical problems.

Every night I prepared 50 vocabulary cards for the following day. Since we did not have index cards or ready-made blank vocabulary cards that I could buy from the bookstore, I had to make the cards myself from scratch. My younger brother used to buy sketch books used for drawing classes. I used to draw squares with a ruler and pencil and cut them. This means that I cut 3000 small cards.

Although the English meaning of the 3000 words were given in the book in English, every night I looked up the Arabic meaning of 50 words. I believed that working on my words and looking up their meanings myself would help me in learning them. I wrote each word on one side of the card and its Arabic meaning on the back and wrapped a rubber band around them. I used shoe boxes to keep my vocabulary cards. I had many sets: some for easy words, some for extremely difficult words that I needed to review many times and over different time periods.

I started my vocabulary study session by reviewing the words I memorized the day before, and would place the words I could not recall aside. I would re-study those first before moving on to learning the new set. After studying the new set, I would shuffle the cards and test myself. Sometimes I tested myself several times for consolidation. I would look at the English word and give the Arabic meaning and would review for a second time looking at the Arabic meaning and giving the English word. I re-studied those words that were difficult to master. I had the words that were difficult to remember together in one set and would review them several days in a row and then at different intervals.

This was I was able to memorize all 3000 words in 2 months. since many English words consist of prefixes, suffixes and roots, I thought learning some would help me alot. So I went through Al-Mawrid Dictionary (which has more that 1000 pages) page by page and copied all the prefixes, suffixes, and roots in a notebook. Next to each I wrote the Arabic meaning and few examples. I made lists of words that share the same prefix, suffix or root such as "democracy, autocracy, beaurocracy etc.). In my notebook, I had about 500 prefixes, suffixes and roots.

To learn about speed reading, how to improve my ability to memorize and recall a large amount of vocabulary items, I used to read about memory, attention and study skills in psychology books. A vocabulary quiz in Readers' Digest magazine was also very helpful.

As for reading I read everything I could find. Every month I bought the Readers' Digest magazine and read it from cover to cover. I used to keep a book in my desk at school and read while eating my sandwich during recess and even read while going upstairs to class. I did not want to waste a single minute. In order to develop new reading skills, I ordered a book from London about speed reading which arrived 2-3 months later. I read in all subject areas: psychology, education, sociology, biology, chemistry and others.

For the math part, I memorized math terms from a book that my father had and solved math and logical problems in the GRE books.

To measure my progress, I took a practice test once every month, scored my answers using the answer key, and examined my errors to find out why I made those mistakes and what was going on in my mind when I answered a particular question and how I should have looked at it and thought about it. I found out that every month, the result of 7 hours of hard work and continuous studying was only 20% and the number of items I could finish within the time limit set by the test was getting better but was neither fast nor good enough to go to the States. I was never frustrated, was patient and determined to improve. I knew that the process was long and slow, but was sure I would get there one day. Whenever I felt tired, bored or frustrated, I'd visualize America and my dream of studying at the university there. I would remind myself that the only obstacle was the GRE. Passing the GRE was under my control and no one else's.

Two months later, I sat for the GRE test. The GRE used to be held at the American Embassy in Jeddah several times a year at specific dates. Before taking the test at a particular date, you have to fill out an application form and mail it to the States with the registration fee. The first time I took the test, my GRE score was not good enough. I knew that I would not get a good score. I just wanted to have a feel for the real test atmosphere and how much I could answer within the designated time in the real test session. I also found out that in the actual test session I answered fewer questions than when I took the practice test at home.

I was planning to re-take the test after 2 months and had sent my application. ButI was extremely stressed out and I got sick as a result. I was having severe headaches and felt dizzy at the same time. My brother took me to an Egyptian doctor who was my father's friend. The doctor examined me and could not find anything wrong. So he asked: "Are you thinking about anything?". "She is thinking about the States", my brother answered with a laugh. The doctor got excited and wanted to know all about it. My brother told him how hard I was working and how many hours I was studying. The doctor assured me that I would go to the States and I would get my Ph.D. But he requested that I take a break and he prescribed some medications.

I was taking the medications and was studying at the same time, but my condition got worse and went to the doctor's for the second time. The doctor gave me strict orders to stop studying and take a break for 2 weeks. He advised me to read children's stories and go out for a walk in the open. I did that for 2 weeks and soon I was feeling better and when I resumed my studying, I was doing better.

I mail-ordered more copies of the GRE which I answered for extra practice. Rather than taking a sample test every month, I started to take it every 2 weeks. I answered a total of 16 test.

After another two months I took the GRE test and I passed the test with high scores. I only made 7 mistakes on the Verbal Part and my math score was higher than 93% of all the students who take the worldwide.

It is noteworthy to say that when I was studying for the GRE, I was working as an English teacher at a junior high school in Makkah. I went to school from 7 a.m. - 2 p.m. I had to prepare for my classes, prepare audio-visual aids, check homework, prepare tests and grade them in addition to other responsibilities at schools.

In the early 1980's, we did not have faxes, photocopiers, express mail service, the internet and online orders. Everything had to be done by hand, had to be sent by regular airmail and things took a long time to process. Many English books, magazines, newspapers and other sources were not available in Makkah either.

Finally, the amount of time and effort I put in studying for the GRE paved the way for a new struggle that preceded my travel to the States and more challenges while studying there.

Posted by reemasado at 12:01 AM
Updated: Friday, 9 December 2005 12:51 PM
Friday, 2 December 2005
Failing My Statistics Test
Going to the States for graduate school was always the dream of my life. However at one point, that dream seemed too impossible as my family, like many families in Saudi Arabia, did not allow me to go to the States on my own to study. My older brother, who was studying in the States, got his Ph.D. degree and came home before I graduated. It was until I got my M.A. degree, when Uncle Adel and his family, who live in the States, came over for a visit in the summer after my father had passed away earlier. When my Uncle and his wife learnt that I had obtained my M.A. with honors, Auntie Amal wondered why I didn't go the States for my Ph.D. "I am not allowed to go there on my own, I answered. "I need to stay with a relative there", I added. She thought it over with my uncle at night, and while having breakfast the following morning, they invited me to stay with them while studying for my Ph.D. They added that I needed to take the TOEFL, GRE, and make arrangements to go to the States the following year. They added that the GRE test was extremely difficult. "Not for me", I said confidently. "How does it look like?" I asked. They were kind enough to send me a GRE book and so did my brother who was working at KFUPM. I was extremely excited and felt that my dream was about to come true. It was only a year away and the only obstacle was the GRE test.

I took the sample GRE test at the beginning of the book and scored it using the answer key. I found out that despite the fact that I was English major and that I had graduated from Umm Al-Qura University with honors, I only got a score of 30% on the GRE. As usual, I thought that getting 30% was not important and what was more important is not to stay at that low level. I was determined to study and work on my weaknesses in order to go to the States.

I examined my answers and found out that I had the following weaknesses: (1) On the Verbal Part: I had to read 5 long passages about specialized topics and answer 80 questions in just 50 minutes. Although the questions were multiple choice questions, the 4 options were too close which made it difficult to choose one. This required a high comprehension level, not at the literal level, but at the inferential level. The questions also contained gap filling items that required the selection of one word out of four and all the words were unknown to me. (2) The Quantitative Part required answering 50 multiple-choice math questions in 30 minutes. In order to choose an answer, you have to solve the problem and solve it right, in order to make the correct choice. If you unknowingly make a mistake in solving the problem, you will find your wrong answer among the options. (3) The Analytical Part had 50 problems to answer in 30 minutes and those were like riddles, and required logical thinking.

I found out that I was not reading fast enough to finish the passages and answer the questions in the designated time. I did not know the vocabulary items included on the test. I was not familiar with the mathematical terms and could not solve math problems in English. I was not familiar with the logical-analytical type of problems. What I liked about the GRE books was that they contained some tips on how to answer GRE questions, had some passages and some math and logical problems for practice. In addition, one of the books had a list of 3000 words from which the vocabulary test items are selected.

I made a strategic plan for improving my GRE test scores. The plan had 4 goals: improving my reading speed, memorizing 3000 words, memorizing math terms and practicing math problems in English and practicing analytical problems.

Every day I studied for 7 hours (from 5 p.m. - 12 a.m. ) and I did that for 5 straight months and was able to memorize 3000 words in 2 months.

My daily schedule included a time slot for reading, another for memorizing and reviewing 50 words, a third one for memorizing math terms and solving math problems in English, and a fourth one for solving logical problems.

Every night I prepared 50 vocabulary cards for the following day. Since we did not have index cards or ready-made blank vocabulary cards that I could buy from the bookstore, I had to make the cards myself from scratch. My younger brother used to buy sketch books used for drawing classes. I used to draw squares with a ruler and pencil and cut them. This means that I cut 3000 small cards.

Although the English meaning of the 3000 words were given in the book in English, every night I looked up the Arabic meaning of 50 words. I believed that working on my words and looking up their meanings myself would help me in learning them. I wrote each word on one side of the card and its Arabic meaning on the back and wrapped a rubber band around them. I used shoe boxes to keep my vocabulary cards. I had many sets: some for easy words, some for extremely difficult words that I needed to review many times and over different time periods.

I started my vocabulary study session by reviewing the words I memorized the day before, and would place the words I could not recall aside. I would re-study those first before moving on to learning the new set. After studying the new set, I would shuffle the cards and test myself. Sometimes I tested myself several times for consolidation. I would look at the English word and give the Arabic meaning and would review for a second time looking at the Arabic meaning and giving the English word. I re-studied those words that were difficult to master. I had the words that were difficult to remember together in one set and would review them several days in a row and then at different intervals.

This was I was able to memorize all 3000 words in 2 months. since many English words consist of prefixes, suffixes and roots, I thought learning some would help me alot. So I went through Al-Mawrid Dictionary (which has more that 1000 pages) page by page and copied all the prefixes, suffixes, and roots in a notebook. Next to each I wrote the Arabic meaning and few examples. I made lists of words that share the same prefix, suffix or root such as "democracy, autocracy, beaurocracy etc.). In my notebook, I had about 500 prefixes, suffixes and roots.

To learn about speed reading, how to improve my ability to memorize and recall a large amount of vocabulary items, I used to read about memory, attention and study skills in psychology books. A vocabulary quiz in Readers' Digest magazine was also very helpful.

As for reading I read everything I could find. Every month I bought the Readers' Digest magazine and read it from cover to cover. I used to keep a book in my desk at school and read while eating my sandwich during recess and even read while going upstairs to class. I did not want to waste a single minute. In order to develop new reading skills, I ordered a book from London about speed reading which arrived 2-3 months later. I read in all subject areas: psychology, education, sociology, biology, chemistry and others.

For the math part, I memorized math terms from a book that my father had and solved math and logical problems in the GRE books.

To measure my progress, I took a practice test once every month, scored my answers using the answer key, and examined my errors to find out why I made those mistakes and what was going on in my mind when I answered a particular question and how I should have looked at it and thought about it. I found out that every month, the result of 7 hours of hard work and continuous studying was only 20% and the number of items I could finish within the time limit set by the test was getting better but was neither fast nor good enough to go to the States. I was never frustrated, was patient and determined to improve. I knew that the process was long and slow, but was sure I would get there one day. Whenever I felt tired, bored or frustrated, I'd visualize America and my dream of studying at the university there. I would remind myself that the only obstacle was the GRE. Passing the GRE was under my control and no one else's.

Two months later, I sat for the GRE test. The GRE used to be held at the American Embassy in Jeddah several times a year at specific dates. Before taking the test at a particular date, you have to fill out an application form and mail it to the States with the registration fee. The first time I took the test, my GRE score was not good enough. I knew that I would not get a good score. I just wanted to have a feel for the real test atmosphere and how much I could answer within the designated time in the real test session. I also found out that in the actual test session I answered fewer questions than when I took the practice test at home.

I was planning to re-take the test after 2 months and had sent my application. ButI was extremely stressed out and I got sick as a result. I was having severe headaches and felt dizzy at the same time. My brother took me to an Egyptian doctor who was my father's friend. The doctor examined me and could not find anything wrong. So he asked: "Are you thinking about anything?". "She is thinking about the States", my brother answered with a laugh. The doctor got excited and wanted to know all about it. My brother told him how hard I was working and how many hours I was studying. The doctor assured me that I would go to the States and I would get my Ph.D. But he requested that I take a break and he prescribed some medications.

I was taking the medications and was studying at the same time, but my condition got worse and went to the doctor's for the second time. The doctor gave me strict orders to stop studying and take a break for 2 weeks. He advised me to read children's stories and go out for a walk in the open. I did that for 2 weeks and soon I was feeling better and when I resumed my studying, I was doing better.

I mail-ordered more copies of the GRE which I answered for extra practice. Rather than taking a sample test every month, I started to take it every 2 weeks. I answered a total of 16 test.

After another two months I took the GRE test and I passed the test with high scores. I only made 7 mistakes on the Verbal Part and my math score was higher than 93% of all the students who take the worldwide.

It is noteworthy to say that when I was studying for the GRE, I was working as an English teacher at a junior high school in Makkah. I went to school from 7 a.m. - 2 p.m. I had to prepare for my classes, prepare audio-visual aids, check homework, prepare tests and grade them in addition to other responsibilities at schools.

In the early 1980's, we did not have faxes, photocopiers, express mail service, the internet and online orders. Everything had to be done by hand, had to be sent by regular airmail and things took a long time to process. Many English books, magazines, newspapers and other sources were not available in Makkah either.

Finally, the amount of time and effort I put in studying for the GRE paved the way for a new struggle that preceded my travel to the States and more challenges while studying there.



Posted by reemasado at 1:46 PM
Updated: Friday, 9 December 2005 12:42 PM
Sunday, 27 November 2005
My Thesaurus
When I was in school, I was blessed with my Arabic language teachers. I grade 4, my teacher of Arabic was the school principal and she was a poet. She taught me the basics of Arabic grammar and spelling through stories and dramatization. When I was in grade 6, my teacher of Arabic required that we read Arabic texts paying attention to word endings. In grade 7, my teacher of Arabic was a journalist and she made Arabic lessons interesting by telling us about her work at the newspaper. In grade 8, my teacher of Arabic used to tell us about recreational reading and how she used finish 2 books per week by reading for 30 minutes a day. These 30 minutes were her break time from housework and taking care of her 3 little kids. In Grade 9, I was studying about pre-Islamic literature and the poets of Mu'allaqaat. She always recited poems with good expression and made me visualize that age.

In the summer holiday I used to read about Arabic literature and collections of poems. I was fascinated by the richness of the Arabic vocabulary and the many names the Arabic language has for the camel, horse, sword, lion ... etc. I thought about collecting word synonyms. So I started to compile the words that refer to the camel, horse, lion, sword ... etc. Something similar to Rogets thesaurus. When I told my uncle about that, he bought me an Arabic dictionary (Al-munjed). I used to read and search the dictionary for words that I could add to my dictionary.

My dictionary consisted of chapters each of which has a topic. Topics are in alphabetical order and words in my dictionary are also in alphabetical order. I used to work on my dictionary in the summer holiday (between grade 10 and college freshman years). My dictionary is hand-written and I still have it.

Posted by reemasado at 12:01 AM
Saturday, 26 November 2005
How my father encouraged me to learn English
I was English major in college and in my freshman year my father got sick. He went to the doctor's who gave him some medications. When my father got home, he called me and asked me to read the leaflets of his medications and tell him what the side effects and indications of each medicine are. I apologetically said that I was still freshman and that I was English not medicine major. "There are many difficult words in the leaflet", I added. "Shame on you",my father responded. "Is that why I sent you to college? I am not asking you to give me an answer now. Don't you have a dictionary?, he added. "Yes I do" I replied. "Take your time. Look up the meanings of the difficult words in the dictionary and then give me an answer", he advised. So I sat and looked up the meanings of all the difficult words in order to give my father the information that he needed. This way I exposed to English medical terminology. Learning medical terminology became an enjoyable task. In addition, every time my father received an English telegram, he would hand it to me and ask me to tell him what it was about. When I was junior in college, he asked me to listen to the news on the BBC and tell him about the world news, i.e., what was going on in the world. When I first listened to the BBC news, I could not understand much and could not re-tell the meaning in Arabic. since BBC news is broadcast every hour, I listened to the same news cast several times a day while my father was out at work, in order to be able to tell him the details in Arabic. I thank my father for pushing me to go beyond books and what I was learning in class and for teaching me to search for information instead of saying "I can't" and "I do not know". He also taught that when one does something for the first time, he/she may not find it easy, but the task gets easier by, repetition, practice and determination. Soon difficult tasks become easy and fun.

Posted by reemasado at 12:01 AM
Updated: Tuesday, 29 November 2005 9:44 PM
Wednesday, 16 November 2005
My Graduation Reception
After the defense was over, I accompanied my advisor to her office. She was so pleased to see the flower bouquet that I had for her as a surprise in her office as none of her students ever did that to her before. Unexpectedly, she offered to host my graduation reception at her house and offered to help me prepare for it. So I made a list of the people whom I wanted to invite, professors and students set a date for the reception and wrote invitations for 45 people. Few days before, my friend Edith and myself went shopping for the party. We filled the car with napkins, plates and cups and other things. I made 200 samosas the night before. In the morning, my advisor came over to my place, picked me up and drove me to the grocery store. I filled the cart with the groceries that I needed and to my surprise, she paid for all the groceries. When we arrived at her house, she helped me take the things into the kitchen and I started cooking. I cooked Arabic food. My advisor and her husband did all the cleaning, without whose help; I would have never been able to do. As soon as I used a spoon or a plate, they would pick it up and wash and if I spilled or dropped something, they would wipe it up right away. In addition, she baked a date cake and her husband cooked roast lamb. About lunchtime, they prepared me a most delicious lunch which consisted of toast, cheese and canned peaches. While preparing the food, they got me coffee, tea and juice and chatted with me. They helped me set the table, and decorate the dining room where the reception was to be held. The also started the fireplace. By 3:00 p.m., everything was ready. Before the arrival of the guests, my advisor took pictures of me with the food. It was an open house type of party. The guests arrived whenever they wanted between 3:00-6:00 P.M. I took pictures of all the guests. My advisor and her husband helped me a lot in receiving the guests and serving them and made sure that everything was fine. All my guests were pleased with the food and enjoyed themselves in a warm and friendly atmosphere despite the white snow, which was falling heavily outside. As long as I live, I can never forget my advisor and all she did for me. She was my mother, whenever I needed a mother. She was always a friend whenever I needed someone to listen and always opened her heart and home whenever I needed affection and sought refuge.




Posted by reemasado at 12:01 AM
Monday, 14 November 2005
A Warm Defense on a Cold Day
My defense was scheduled at 3:00 p.m., November 25, 1985. It was a cold and cloudy day and we were expected to have freezing rain for the first time in five years. Although I was excited about my defense, I was a bit nervous. So I went to my advisor for moral support. She was warm and smiling as usual and assured me that everything would be fine. She asked me not to be defensive if any of my examiners was critical, but rather to thank him for his comment and ask how I could correct the point and make it better. Moreover, she asked me to go to the library and find an article that one of my examiners had published, read it and be ready for any possible questions about it. So I did.

Around lunchtime, I went home, had lunch, took off my snow boots and put on a new dress and a pair of new shoes that my mother had sent me for the occasion. Since we were having freezing rain, slipping and falling down was very likely. I did not expect anything to happen and thought that I would be fine as I was not going to walk very far to the bus stop, which was only a few yards away from my apartment. I also thought that getting off the bus would not be a problem, since I did not have to walk a long distance to the college building.

After holding my thesis and other documents close to my heart, I walked slowly and cautiously on the grass. But the minute I set my foot on the sidewalk, I slipped and my elbow hit the sidewalk so hard. I felt an electric shock go through my whole arm and it started to hurt so badly. Despite the pain, I got up, collected my papers and took the bus.

I got off by the mall, which was close to the College of Education, went to the flower shop, and bought a big flower bouquet for my advisor in spirit of appreciation for what she had done for me. I went to the secretary’s office and asked her to put it in my advisor’s office after leaving for the defense. I asked the secretary to make sure that my advisor does not see it, as I wanted to surprise her.

Shortly before I went to the Conference Room where the defense was to be held, my friends Jessie and Edith had a surprise for me. They gave me a flower bouquet and we took pictures together. Soon we headed toward the Conference Room. Although the defense is usually private, my uncle, and few of my friends attended my defense, as I was a foreign student. Soon, my six examiners arrived and we all sat around a large oval table. They all praised the high quality work I had done and expressed their admiration for how much time and effort I put into my thesis. My thesis was almost perfect. They had nothing to critique whether at the linguistic or methodological level. So they just asked me to give a summary of my study without orally and asked questions about how I could apply the results of my study in teaching ESL. I was able to answer all the questions with confidence and ease and as I responded to questions my advisor gave a sign of approval and admiration by smiling. Before the end of the defense, the guests and myself were asked to leave the room. So we left and waited outside. In few minutes, we were asked to re-enter and my advisor announced that I had passed with distinction. Before leaving the room, my friend Duangrudi took pictures of me with my examiners. Then my uncle and friends hugged me and soon we all left, as it was 5:00 p.m.

Throughout the defense, I forgot all about my elbow and did not want the pain to spoil the occasion. As soon as I got home, I started to feel the pain in my elbow. I was unable to hold anything in my hand, even my coffee mug. The following day, I went to the clinic, the doctor examined my elbow and had some x-rays taken. There was no fracture, just a severe trauma. After a month, my elbow recovered, however, reminding me that roses always bloom among thorns.

Posted by reemasado at 12:01 AM
Saturday, 12 November 2005
Losing My Ph.D. Thesis
The first step in preparing a doctoral thesis begins with preparing a proposal. A proposal is a summary of what a doctoral thesis is about, i.e., the topic to be investigated and the research methodology. A proposal is usually presented to the student’s committee that reads and approves or disapproves the student’s proposal. If the committee approves the proposal, then the student can go ahead and finish the thesis. If not, the student has to consider another topic for her/her thesis.

Unlike other proposals, my proposal consisted of 130 pages and took a whole year to prepare. I visited several schools and observed ESL classes. I prepared my observation form, applied it, told what statistical techniques I was going to use, and what results I expected to obtain. In brief, my proposal contained a detailed account of what I was going to do in my thesis.

Every day, I went to the Computer Center, and worked on my proposal for long hours. After finishing a particular section, I would type it on the computer, print it, and hand in to my advisor. My advisor would read it and write comments on it. Then I would make the necessary corrections and retype that section. I did that several times as my advisor was always meticulous and always made sure that everything was perfect.

One day before I was supposed to turn in my proposal to my committee members, I was making my final corrections in the evening. After working for few hours, I wanted to take a short break. So I saved my work, crossed the street, and went to the Quicktrip store, for coffee. After I had my coffee, I went back to the Computer Center to print the final version of my proposal. To my surprise, every time I tried to open my thesis file, the computer responded by saying that there was no file. After several trials, I discovered that I had lost my whole thesis, i.e., my 130 pages as a result of a mistake that I made in saving my thesis file.

I cannot find the words to describe how I felt that moment. I felt like a multimillionaire who had lost all his money in a second. In just a second, all kinds of ideas were going on in my mind. I was thinking of what I might do to have my thesis ready by the next morning. It was not possible to take the draft that I had at home and make 6 copies of it, as all the photocopying centers were closing. It was not also possible to retype 130 pages myself and have them ready by the next day. It was too late to contact a secretary at 8:45 p.m., have her retype my proposal and have it ready by the next day. In brief, I was in a predicament. I could only visualize failure. I felt that that was the end of my graduate study and was certain I would never see the day I graduate. So I broke down and cried my heart out.

I was somewhat lucky, because this happened 15 minutes before the Technical Support Office at the Computer Center closed. So I dashed through the door, dropped on the chair, and cried heartily. I can never forget how kind the T.A’s at the Technical Support Office were. They calmed me down and asked whether I was working on my proposal the previous day. I answered in the positive. They said they could restore that version not the one that I lost. They also told me that they always saved a backup copy of every student’s work, as they knew students very often lost their work as a result of fatigue. I could not believe what I heard. He wrote the “restore commands” for me and said that my thesis would be restored 8:00 a.m. the next day. He added that if I did not get it at 8:00 a.m., they would make another request and I would regain my thesis at 11:00 a.m. I typed the “restore commands” right away, ran back to the Technical Support Office and begged the T.A. to check and see whether I followed the steps correctly.

Soon, I went home. I was still in a state of shock, thinking of what happened and could not sleep that night at all. I was looking at the clock all night long and could not wait for the sun to come out. I ran to the computer center early in the morning and waited for the clock to strike 8:00 a.m. I turned the computer on, checked it and the thesis was there. I saved my thesis three times. I spent the whole day making the corrections that I made the night before. Later, every time I wanted to save my work, I stared at the keyboard with terror, hesitated and then made sure that I press the right key. I finished the corrections and had the 6 copies printed just in time. I carried all 6 copies and ran from building to building to hand the proposal to each committee member. By the time I finished, it was 5 p.m., the end of the day and finally gave a sigh of relief.

Posted by reemasado at 12:01 AM
Thursday, 10 November 2005
My father's death during final exams
When my father passed away, I was an M.A. student and it was final exams. It was Monday night and I was studying for the final exam of course about education administration. The following morning I went to school as I was a teacher and when I got home in the afternoon I knew that my father had passed away. I could not go to the university to sit for the final exam. The following Tuesday was the last day of the course and we were supposed to go to class to give a presentation about our research papers. So I thought I would be possible for me to re-take the final exam then. So after the funeral and morning days were over (3 days), I tried to study but I could not. I was so sad that it was difficult for me to concentrate. I spent 6 hours studying one page but in vain. On Tuesday (a week after my father's death) I went to class. When my instructor saw me, she asked me why I did not take the final exam. I told her that my father passed a way. She said she was sorry and that I had to re-take the exam right then. I told her that I could not review the material and was not ready. She insisted that I take it then and if I did not, I would get a zero. She added that even though I was the best student in her class and even if I get a full mark for my semester work, I would fail the course, if I don't. She asked me to go out and try to review while my classmates are giving their presentations and that I had to sit for the test at the end of the session, i.e. 60 minutes. I went out of the classroom and started to cry. Some of my classmates gathered around me. Some offered to read for me and others offered me their notes. I told them that I was having trouble concentrating and recalling and that it was impossible to review a whole semester's material in just an hour. I was certain I was going to fail. While crying, I was flipping the pages of my notes and felt that there was no way out. An hour later, I went in and sat in front of my instructor. She asked me questions that I could answer without having reviewed the material and I answered them all. She smiled at me and said that I have passed with an A.

Posted by reemasado at 12:01 AM
Tuesday, 8 November 2005
Molar Toothache during Final Exams
Between my freshman and senior years in college my 4 molars (wisdom teeth) came out. My molars used to come out one at a time and one per year. The best time for my molars to come out was during final exams, which always lasted for more than 2 weeks. Every time, a molar came out, I was in severe pain. I would have high fever; a headache and a very swollen cheek. In addition to traditional remedies, I always went to the dentist who would give my antibiotics, pain relievers, fever reducers and a mouthwash. I always had a minor oral surgery in which the dentist would cut the part of the gums covering the top of the molar to help it come out. It was difficult for me to sleep, to eat and to study. So I always cried and cried and cried. My father used to sit by my bed at night, take care of me and give me moral support. No matter how painful my molars were, I never missed a final exam. I always reviewed as much as I could, and would go to college with a swollen cheek and sit for the exams. I never felt like postponing the final exams. I was always patient and always passed with excellent grades.

Posted by reemasado at 12:01 AM
Updated: Monday, 21 November 2005 5:55 PM

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