Because the commission that validated my Masters application was held after classes began, I can’t say that “classes start this Wednesday” — they started nearly a month ago! I can, however, say that “I’ll be starting classes this Wednesday.” For the second year of the comp lit Masters, we take three courses: one is a required research seminar, the second is another research seminar that the student chooses, and the third is called a unité d’enseignement or UE, academic subject, which is also at the student’s choice. All are held one day a week, over a two-hour session. The second seminar I want to take is held on the same day as the required one, which is nice! I’ll be able to take that one day a week off work, and do the third course half electronically, half in person, since it’s held in the evenings (I would have to leave work early to get there on time).
I’ve spent the last few days hurriedly organizing things so that I have as much logistical support, so to speak, as possible. As always, I have a very limited budget, but I enjoy the challenge it brings, and often find that it helps streamline where you might not have otherwise.
First, I wanted a cheap, reliable way to keep on top of work, school, and personal emails, since a lot of my coursework will be done electronically. While a good solution might have been a netbook, which also could have been used for homework, I didn’t want one for two reasons: even a small, light one would be a pain to haul around on buses every day, and I couldn’t afford one anyway. I decided to upgrade my phone instead, and got a Nokia E71. It can use 3G and WiFi networks (among others), which is perfect since I’ll have free WiFi coverage at the university and at home. I got a barebone subscription with unlimited internet for 22 euros a month — that’s quite cheap for France, which has the most expensive 3G subscriptions in the world. You might be wondering why I’m happy to have free WiFi since I get unlimited 3G coverage… while it is unlimited, the connection is downgraded (slower) once you’ve used more than 500Mb of traffic in a month. That’s a healthy amount of traffic for a smartphone, but I’ll still be happy to use the free WiFi spots when I can, since they may well be faster.
Second, I wanted a dedicated study area. Growing older has further ingrained the importance of separating relaxation from work/school, so, if possible, I didn’t want to use my nice PC for studying. I’ve kept the laptop I got six years ago, and recently resurrected it with another stick of RAM and an installation of Xubuntu. With that, it runs nearly as fast as my more modern PC, and does everything I need it to do: word processing, email, and web browsing. The only thing missing was a permanent network connection for it — I’d been borrowing my PC’s Ethernet cable until now. I finally ordered a WiFi card for my Freebox, and soon will have my own home WiFi network. But I also wanted a desk to put my laptop on!
Above you can see the result of my repurposing. The desk itself isn’t very pretty, but it was free, as was the chair. I found the trestles and chair on the street, and the tabletop was hanging around in a cupboard when I moved into my apartment a couple of years ago. I’m happy with how everything turned out: I’ll be able to sync my calendar and email on the phone, laptop, and PC, back up documents over the home network I’ll set up, and take notes by hand (I prefer it) on my sunny little desk by the patio window. Bonus: when not in use, the laptop doubles as a bed for Kanoko.