AAR conference and applying to PhD programs

I attended the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting in Chicago in November. Even though I arrived with a sinus infection and had to miss out on the Islamic Studies workshop I had signed up for, the conference was a great experience. I attended two sessions relevant to my topic, one on Negotiating Muslim Identities and Representations and one on Everyday Islam and Ethnographic Methods. Both were very interesting and gave me a lot of insight into the field as it currently stands. I also attended a session out of personal interest - Monsters Among Us, about religion in popular narratives of zombies, ghosts, and vampires.

While the conference felt a bit lonely at times, since I wasn't reconnecting with fellow students or colleagues, I'm looking forward to attending other annual meetings in the future. The Exhibit Hall full of new books by publishers alone was enough to excite my nerdy heart!

I've taken this year off in order to recharge my brain and apply to PhD programs. I'm very excited to go back to school and jump into my research again, but I also know that my brain has been in school since I was 4 years old and it needed a little break. Now I've turned in the applications to 3 of the 5 programs I'm applying to, and soon it will just be a matter of waiting. The application process has been a little stressful--how do I portray myself in a way that is attractive to schools? How do I play up my strengths and convince them that my lack of an MA degree is okay and even an asset? How do I talk about quoting professors in my thesis without seeming like I'm pandering? I've always had a hard time writing about myself and I've been struggling a lot with my personal statements. Luckily my mother, a college professor who used to be a freelance editor, has been helpful in reading my drafts, and a lot of other people have been very nice about reading and providing their advice. Once one was done, the rest could be modified to be like it, so I've been slowly finishing up. The last two are due on January 1st, and I'm hoping to get them done before so that I can go into 2013 with no commitments!