Summer Project Part 1: The CARE Form

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The CARE Form

From the very first day of orientation at LSHTM, when your still wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, as opposed to the currently unshaven and caffeine-intoxicated state, the higher-ups at The School begin talking about your summer project.

Your summer project (feels like it should be capitalized, it’s so important) is the culmination of your Masters at The School and it can take the form of a Policy Report, a Literature Review or a Research Project. Exams finish in the first week of June and the Project is due in the first week of September – giving exactly 13 weeks to pull yourself away from the books from studying and into new books for research.

Each course has different requirements for their Summer Project, and I’ll be writing a 5- part Blog Series on the process from start to finish as a MSc Public Health (General Stream) student.

The course portion of school ended so…. abruptly – you spend a couple weeks hiding out behind books and in libraries and cafes littered through London, and then after two days of test writing, suddenly you realize, it’s over. Everyone scatters, does their project and goes on to live their lives. The start of the summer project marks the beginning of the transition again to non-school life, or NSL.

But before you get to the Summer Project, you have to go through the process of filling out a Combined Academic, Risk Assessment and Ethics Approval Form. The acronym, CARE, is probably the only loving thing about this form.

Weighing in at 10 pages, the CARE form is typically British (I’m British as well, so don’t think I’m hatin’) – very structured, colourful check boxes with  with various sector approval dates (supervisor, course director, ethics, etc.), many places for signatures (sometimes making you feel like a chicken running from building to building to catch someone before a meeting to sign it) and an entirely complicated system of checks and balances to ensure that your project gets proper approval. Without approval for your CARE form, you can’t do a Summer Project. It’s step one in the final journey of school .

The students in my course had a meeting right before Christmas, with our Course Director, who gave us a detailed run through of the CARE form and what we should expect. As she appraised the thirty or so of the students at the end of her talk, she concluded with the dreaded,

“And you all should have a pretty good idea of what your project is going to be and already be starting to line up your supervisor.”

She must have seen the blank, if not doe-eyed look coming from my vacant eyes as she paused, and then followed her last statement up with some carefully chosen words…

“Is there anyone who has NO idea what they will be doing for their Summer Project?” She said, as she pretended to scan the crowd, keeping her body language firmly directed at me.

I feel like it’s in these silences, these tiny moments and decisions that make up our lives, where we truly define ourselves. As part of me was screaming to stay quiet (be aloof, and mysterious), the physical side of me had already put my hand in the air (be honest, even if it’s detrimental).

I looked at it incredulously, like it wasn’t even a part of me, waving and proud, like a puppy who didn’t know  he did something wrong. Curses. Betrayed again by my own self.

I was the only one with my hand up.

Not surprisingly, my all too put together classmates had their wits about them and their hands remained in the laps while they craned their necks and scratched their chairs on the floor to get a good look at the delinquent in their midst.

I slowly withdrew my hand as our Course Director told me to see her after class (*gulp*) and  I silently committed to either better organized, or just better at lying.

Time to Find A Summer Project, I guess.


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