Trying to make it all look normal: A day in the life of a Master’s student: Ditshego Masete

My walk to university from where I stay could count as my exercise for the day. It takes about 20 minutes usually, but if I’m running late it takes as little as 10 minutes. If I do it that fast, I need to have a face cloth with me to deal with all the sweat, and no one wants to start a day with a shirt that is soaked in sweat. The 20 minute walk takes me to the main gate of the university, and I then need to walk a further 8-10 minutes to get to the library. By the time I get to library I am exhausted, but I still get my research done.

The library is where it all happens. It opens at 8:30 and by 8:15 every morning, Monday to Friday, I am at the library doors waiting for them to let me in. It always feels like I am an executive. The security lady who opens every morning knows me by my first name, by now. So, we exchange greetings and I proceed to the post-graduate cubicles. A small room in which I stay cooped up all day long while scratching my head and staring at my laptop. That is before the COVID-19 pandemic of course.

And that is the thing. My research is desktop-based. I do not have to go to the field to gather data, or to the lab for experiments. I am a Master of Arts in Literature student. I read novels and philosophically and scientifically interpret them, situating their narratives in the existing contexts of humanity. It all sounds easy I know. But no, it is not as easy as it sounds. There is a lot of reading that happens before a chapter of my thesis can be produced. As a literature student, the selected novels I read for a study are my primary data, the journal articles, critical theory, interviews and other material are my secondary data.

Now with COVID-19 everything is different, as you can imagine. The library is closed as it is seen as a closed space that could easily become a hotspot. That means there is no need for the walk. It also means a drop in productivity because I stay in my room and try to do my work. While I am working I see dust on my kitchen counter I get up to clean it, then I see a spider I get up to take care of it, you can imagine the constant distractions when I am at home. But I think the most important thing worth noting is even with these distractions  I am not like the other researchers whose work came to a complete halt because of COVID-19 because all I need is a table, chair, my laptop and a bit of internet and then I set the house on fire.  

Yes, we have normal lives like everyone else. It is not easy, but it is very exciting.

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