As a PhD student about to begin my second year of coursework, I am just beginning my professional life. My graduate education thus far has been online, so I am unsure about the extent to which my experience differs from the “traditional” one I always imagined. What feels most tangible, however, is the lack of opportunities for building organic relationships with peers. Although the quarantine has made me more resourceful and patient as a scholar, it has also made it challenging to connect deeply with colleagues beyond their Zoom rectangles. As the usual collision spaces for academics, such as conferences and libraries, have been closed or moved online, I have found it difficult to form relationships with peers outside of my own department—especially outside of my home institution. Even though I have virtually met colleagues from various departments through interdisciplinary courses and online events, I wonder how many additional professional relationships I could have built had my first year been in person. I also wonder how many international scholars I might have been able to meet had travel been possible. As a newcomer to the field, I look forward to using future in-person events to build long-term professional connections that will foster interdisciplinary thinking and enrich my scholarship throughout my career.
JESSICA WILLIAMS, PhD student in art history, University of Southern California