I will forever value the experience I was granted this summer as part of the Brackenridge Fellowship. I learned a lot about interdisciplinary work, the research process, and the opportunities available to me at Pitt. This summer I learned that research, particularly the methods and timeline of a study, are not as strict as I once thought. There is certainly room for deviation from the norm, and straying away from the scientific methods can even benefit the work one does. There is no set way things need to be done, and this allows people to make adjustments as they see fit and tailor the research experiences to their needs as well as to those of their specific study. I realized this after I began my project and completely rearranged the detailed schedule I had mapped out for the summer. I started off thinking that I would read each text after researching the author, and then compile all of my notes on each work one by one so that all of my textual notes would be complete by the time I finished all of my readings. I quickly realized that (1) I should study the authors’ lives after reading the respective writings to avoid introducing bias in my evaluations and (2) it would be better for me to read the texts and take notes while reading each one, but hold off on completing my final analyses until I had studied each text. This revised method has allowed me to identify themes present in most or all texts, as well as connections between the authors’ lives and the pieces they each wrote. In this case, giving myself the leeway to make changes to my plans as I went along helped me achieve more in my research and learn in a more effective manner.
Moving forward, I will continue to utilize each and every lesson I have learned the past few months, but I believe the most important takeaway I gained was confidence in myself and my work. One of my biggest barriers in my academic and research studies is the self doubt I face. I have found that this tends to hold me back and limit the opportunities I make available to myself. After speaking with so many great students, faculty, and staff, I have come to acknowledge my own capabilities and have built a better trust in myself. This confidence extends beyond my work into my personal life as well, so I am incredibly grateful for this welcomed change. The trust I have for myself and my project has also given me the courage to continue my research in pursuit of a Bachelor in Philosophy, which I never would have known about or considered myself capable of achieving without this fellowship.