Jun
29

Emails, Surveys, and Interviews: June Update and A Meditation on Not Being Afraid to Ask for Help

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The campus of the University of the West Indies Cave Hill in Barbados, my home away from home for the summer.

It’s been four weeks to the day since I arrived in Barbados, but it feels like I just got here. Time flies when you’re busy researching something you’re passionate about. I’ve spent most of my days at the Richard and Jeannette Allsopp Centre for Caribbean Lexicography at UWI Cave Hill, learning about language attitudes in the region while at the same time recruiting participants for my study. The Centre has a wealth of sources in print as well as researchers willing to suggest pieces and help with questions. It was on a trip last October with Dr. Iyabo Osiapem’s Caribbean Linguistics class that I first came to UWI and met Dr. Jeannette Allsopp as well as Dr. Jason F. Siegel. Drs. Siegel, Allsopp, and Osiapem have proven to be incredibly helpful in the development and execution of my thesis, both in terms of their personal guidance as well as in their published writings. I want to use this blog post to focus on the importance of not being afraid to ask for help or guidance from academics in a respective field when working on something like a study for an undergraduate thesis, because I’ve discovered that more likely than not, academics and their contacts are more than happy to help create a meaningful and substantial work.

I didn’t seriously consider pursuing an honors thesis until after my first visit to Barbados and UWI Cave Hill, where I met Drs. Siegel and Allsopp. Meeting experts in a field and talking to them about their work made me even more excited about language contact and attitudes, excited enough to want to pursue a thesis on the subject. Dr. Allsopp published The Caribbean Multilingual Dictionary of Flora, Fauna, and Foods and co-edited Language, Culture, and Caribbean Identity with John R. Rickford and at that time was already on my radar as one of the most influential scholars of Caribbean creolistics. The more I’ve read of both her work as well as work she has edited, the more influential to my own research she has become. Dr. Siegel is the Research Fellow in Lexicography at the Centre, and has gladly offered guidance for my research, from everything to helping me recruit participants to acting as an expert on the various debates over creole genesis and providing me with an office space to conduct my study. Dr. Osiapem, who is now not just my professor but also my thesis advisor, has helped me hone my wandering and often worrying mind in the process of narrowing down a thesis topic and plan of action, and will be helping me with the final steps of writing a draft of my work. It’s humbling to meet academics whose works I had read closely and who hold positions I greatly admire, and asking them for help was intimidating. I didn’t even begin to think that anything I was working on was worthy enough to ask the Centre for their help. However, I learned quickly that academics are generally friendly and more than willing to offer guidance to undergraduate researchers.

I’m nearly done interviewing and surveying students in Barbados, and though there have been bumps, the whole process has been going smoothly and within my desired timeline. I only have two more weeks in Barbados, and looking back, I don’t think I would be able to successfully complete my study were it not for the help of experts I’ve contacted who have been willing to guide first-time researchers, and I’m grateful for everything my professors and their colleagues have done for me so that I can make sure that my thesis is the best it can be, and for the community of scholars of creolistics for being so willing to help. So far, this project has taught me to be less timid about my work, and has motivated me to not be afraid to ask experts in the field about questions I may have regarding linguistic theory: after all, they’re the ones writing the textbooks!

 

Comments

  1. This was actually really heartening to read, both because of the promise that it has for your own research (best of luck by the way – you seem well on your way to success!) and because it is a reminder that all work, however independently accomplished, can always be improved with a little bit of help from those around you – especially if they have time and experience on their side. I know from experience how daunting it can be to approach people for help – and so, I’m really glad that you’ve been able to get the help you need.

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