I plan to enter graduate school (MA+PhD) in September 2018, which means I have something of a ‘gap year situation’ ahead of me [not in a strict sense, as I’ve been working for a number of years now]. I want to use this unstructured time ahead the best way I can.

If you were in my position, how would you spend these spare 12 months before grad school officially begins and the clock starts ticking? How would you prepare for what’s ahead, what would you focus on?

It goes without saying that I have already given these questions a lot of careful consideration, but I’m very curious to learn how others would approach this topic; especially, current PhD candidates, postdocs, and lecturers/professors. Knowing what you now know, if you could go back, how would you spend a spare year like that?

Some background:

  • My field is social/cultural anthropology.
  • My ultimate goal (grad school and beyond) is to prepare a CV and a research portfolio, which will aid me in launching an academic career in Europe.
  • I have a BA in anthropology and an unrelated MA,
  • I currently freelance (unrelated field); I have plenty of spare time, and can arrange my schedule in whatever way I see fit.
  • I live in a mid-size European city (not a capital); can’t move anywhere this year, but can likely do some limited traveling.
  • There’s a small anthropology department here, but I’m not affiliated with it, and never was. My degree is from the US.
  • I can speak the local language fairly well.
  • The grad school (next year) will be in a different county, and learning the new language will be one of my key objectives this year. The language of instruction will be English, however.

Note: Not sure if I made this clear, but I’m not looking for suggestions such as “travel for fun,” or “get a new hobby.” I want to use these 12 months in the most productive way possible.

In response to feedback from comments: I would like the advice focused on: setting myself up to do outstanding work in grad school and beyond (postdocs, etc). I am not concerned with the “getting into grad school” part here.

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