Saturday, January 1, 2022

Empowered: The Grad School Chronicles (1.09)

(Restart Story) 

You step into the seminar room to find most of your cohort already there. Mac is in the midst of an animated conversation with James about the nature of his research. 

"Right," he exclaims, "and that is exactly why we need to learn more about the military history of early modern Europe! Hey, James, want to hear a joke?" 

James rolls his eyes and, for a brief moment, flicks them in your direction as if to say help me

"Well," Mac continues, "here we go: how long was the hundred years' war?"

James pauses. "Hmm, I don't know, how long?"

"115 years! Ha!" Mac looks genuinely impressed by the joke, a satisfied expression on his face. 

"Well yes, good one Mac!" James offers a sympathetic laugh then turns back to his laptop, pretending to write down something important. Before Mac can initiate conversation with you, Professor Metternich begins marshalling the attention of the class. 

"Hello everyone, if I may have your attention." His manner of speaking is peculiar, it's not quite an English accent, but it's more affected than a traditional American one, reminiscent almost of a Mid-Atlantic accent. "I am Professor Metternich. This class is on the United States after World War II, with a specific focus on the Cold War. We shall begin with introductions. Mac, if you will?" 

Mac sits proudly in his chair. "As you all already know my name is Kevin Ryan, but I go by 'Mac' for short. I study early modern Europe, and if I may say, Professor Metternich it is an honor to be in this course. I am a huge fan of yours." 

Mac locks eyes with Metternich, holding his gaze for an uncomfortable amount of time before looking away in response to the professor's unblinking expression. 

"Next. Introduce yourself please." 

"My name is Estella. I'm planning on studying colonialism's effect on the Filipino diaspora living within the United States." 

Metternich barely stifles a laugh. "Studying your own people is truly a noble endeavor. I wish you the best of luck." Estella shifts uncomfortably in her seat. 

Michael is next to go, and so on and so forth. With each introduction you come to know a bit more about your compatriots and their fields of study, and come to appreciate less the manner in which Metternich treats them. 

"Thank you for your introductions. I should give you all some backstory on myself. I am Joachim Metternich, the youngest full professor at Eliot University. I finished my undergraduate education at 14 years of age, and I completed my doctorate at 18. Some call me a 'rising star,' but I would not be so bold." Metternich grins, but his smile doesn't reach his eyes. 

The seminar itself is excruciating, with Metternich expecting everyone to have read every page of the readings, grilling each of you individually about your takeaways. By the end he is thoroughly displeased with your cohort, warning everyone that he expects a better effort next week. 

You check the clock sitting above the room's whiteboard. It reads 4:10pm, meaning you have a bit of time before your meeting with Anderson on the rooftop. What do you do? 


I hope you are enjoying this interactive short story. If you can spare it, please consider donating to my Coffee Fund so that I can keep writing stories like these. Thank you again for reading my work! 

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About The Author

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Nicholas Garcia (M.A.) is a PhD Candidate at the University of California, Davis. He is also a Co-Founder of the Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies. Previously, he contributed to and the Davis Humanities Institute.