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For Love of History: Spicing Up Academic Life

Nicole Williams wrote a brilliant guide for women who are searching for the career of their dreams. What makes Williams’ article unique is her direct, hilarious comparison of work-love to intimate love shared with another person. In this spirit, she adapts typical “love tips”—such as playing the field, accepting an arranged marriage, or rekindling an old flame—to the world of work and career.  

The article’s fourth tip, “bring back the love” to an existing relationship (i.e. career), inspired me to make a list of things I can do, as an undergraduate History student in my fourth year, to spice up my academic life when the pressure of mid-terms and research papers are dampening my passion for my subject:

1. Read or write in out-of-the-ordinary places. Try the stairs, in the kitchen, in a cafe, in random places at the university, at different branches of the public library, etc.

2. Buy a toy related to a historical period or person. Go to a museum gift shop or a fancy toy store and find something zany and cute to put on my desk.  

3. Rent a film. Historical dramas (e.g. Braveheart), comedies (like History Bites), or TV series (such as Deadwood, Rome, John Adams, etc.) will add a new dimension to my learning. This will help a lot since I’m a visual learner and I enjoy Mel Gibson.

4. Use candles and incense to enhance a mood. Citrus is refreshing, lavender is relaxing, peppermint stimulates the mind, and jasmine energizes.

5. Talk with like-minded individuals. Throw a historically themed costume party. Start a history student club at the university or find a historical society in the community. Attend Remembrance Day events commemorating veterans.

6. Laugh a little. Order a history-related joke T-shirt from and wear it to class.

7. Explore some aspect of history purely for fun, recreational reading. Get a book on the history of aphrodisiacs, tailoring, Dene culture, or whatever interests me—explore the history sections in book stores, jot down the titles, then borrow them from the public or university library.

8. Listen to history-specific genres of music from a variety of eras, like baroque or early jazz.

9. Find books on culinary history (such as The Food Journal of Lewis & Clark: Recipes for an Expedition) and follow the recipes to create dishes that stimulate the taste buds and create more positive associations with my academic subject.

10. Learn to have an open mind about possible topics to explore in a paper. Spend a day keeping history ‘on the brain’ to maintain a healthy intellectual drive.

11. Pick a “date night” to go out with a book or visit a museum or other historical site. Dress up. Or, stay home, wear comfy PJs, and snuggle up on the couch with Herodotus.

12. Bring another person into my study life. Meet at a cafe or the library to work on our individual projects.

13. Build a healthy emotional relationship with myself. Do not criticize myself. Frequently remind myself how smart and creative and curious and hard-working I am.

14. Try out different positions while reading: sitting up straight, at an incline, laying on my back, on my stomach, walking home from work or school, walking on the treadmill.

15. Wine & dine first. Writing after having a drink may help me relax.

16. Satisfy my every desire. Plan rewards for every chapter/article/book read or quality writing session completed.

17. Do it frequently. Reading and writing frequently boosts interest in the subject. the more I accomplish, the more I’ll want to do it again!