A Day in the Life of Student Alison Peters
Published: December 16, 2015
Ever wonder how other students work a job, feed a family, walk a dog, answer discussion questions, manage to have clean clothes to wear (ahem, most days), and put together a PowerPoint presentation—all without losing their marbles or their reading notes? This post is part of a series giving you a microscopic view of how students manage their lives and their coursework at the iSchool and a better feeling for who your classmates are—people just like you.
Alison Peters is an iSchool student in the final semesters of her MLIS coursework. As well as holding down a daytime job and taking classes, Alison also writes the community profiles for the iSchool—the interviews with students, faculty and alumni—which give a detailed account of the successes and adventures of individuals in the community of SJSU’s School of Information. Here’s a peek into her typical day, how she stays sane and organized and how she makes it all fit together.
Usually, I have to drag myself out of bed—I am not a morning person. My alarm goes off at 6:30 but I give myself a 30-minute grace period, and then get ready to go to work, Monday–Thursday. (Fridays are my own, and I spend most of the day on schoolwork and writing, with extended dog time to break things up midday. And Friday through Sunday is when I get all of my big iSchool work done—things like group projects, papers, presentations, and research projects. I cram it all into three full days, and breathe a sigh of relief on Monday morning!)
I have coffee straight away, and depending on the weather and my state of awakeness, I’ll take the dog for a quick morning walk, which makes for a refreshing beginning to the day. I’ll check my personal email now too (which includes school and writing notes) to make sure there’s nothing urgent I need to take care of. My commute to work is a nice 20 minutes on a fairly serene highway—especially for the San Francisco Bay Area—so it’s quick and pleasant.
I get into the office and the first thing I do is refresh my coffee and start up my computer to check my work email. I work for a small human resources consulting company, and when I get to work, I enjoy chatting with my co-workers about anything from precipitation expectations to new developments in the economy and even the lady who keeps smuggling herself onto domestic flights without detection. Then I start my work for the day, which involves checking on employees and clients. As a third-party employer, I’m responsible for hundreds of employees working across the country in various industries.
To stay organized, I use the heck out of the Google suite. I have everything calendared: work, personal and iSchool profiles, and they show up on my phone so that I can check in and reprioritize as necessary. I use Google Docs to share copies of my profiles with my editor and with the profilees and to keep track of notes and edits, and I use Google Sheets to track each profile—those under consideration, and where everyone is in the process (Pending, Interview Scheduled, In Progress, Published, etc.).
During my breaks I check my personal email, responding to issues regarding the community profiles—new people to interview, interview follow up and feedback from works in progress, site issues, etc. And as a contributing writer for BookRiot.com, I frequently check in via our primary communication tool, Slack, where we chat about interesting bookish and author news, good new stuff to review, and updates from other writers who reside all over the world. It’s a little like the iSchool, just without the degree part.
On Tuesdays, when we typically publish the profiles on the iSchool website, I contact the profile subject to let them know they can now see their story online. That’s probably the best part, and it makes me happy every week when I get the pleasure of seeing someone view their hard work through a public lens, and realize—Hey, I really do a lot of cool stuff! That makes my day.
Lunch is strictly reserved for reading for class—actual readings or discussion responses—and going over my profile notes to prepare interview questions or drafts. I like to bring lunch and sit outside (which is possible for most of the year in Northern California), or go to the park and read in the sunshine. If I’m calling a profile subject for an interview, I use a call recorder app on my iPhone (making sure to confirm beforehand that it’s OK for me to record our chat), slip in my ear buds and enjoy the conversation.
I usually take lunch late, and then come back to the office to finish up tasks for that day. The mornings are typically crazy busy, so I like the more breathable pace of the afternoons, and look forward to going home and starting up my other work.
I head home and gather up the happy dog to take her on our big evening walk. I live in a tiny city that’s surrounded by open land—oak savannahs, shady hillsides, rolling hills filled with grazing cows (and the occasional curious coyote!)—so we take advantage and head out for an hour or so. It’s a great way for me to exercise and unwind, and the quiet time allows me to process stuff I’ve been mulling over—profiles, school notes, upcoming projects, etc. Then I come back home and get started on the LIS side of my workday.
When my wife comes home we have dinner together, after a quick tug-of-war over whether iPhones are allowed during dinner, for continuing email checking. (Answer: no.) So I unplug for a while and give my eyes a rest. It’s nice to just sit and take everything in, share the interesting tidbits with my wife, and discuss the many, many hats worn by the information professional.
After dinner I’ll usually turn a device back on to listen to a class lecture or do some reading. I also continue to check email and respond to writing-related messages right away, and see what my classmates are talking about on Canvas. I like to check my calendar for the rest of the week to make sure I’m on top of assignments, interviews and work-related tasks, and then power down and start my bedtime rituals.
Evening until bedtime
At the end of my day I like to unwind by reading before bed. Right now I’m obsessed with mysteries, which are hard to put down, but I need my sleep! So I read a little, make sure all of the cats and dog are safely inside, and then turn the lights out.