Friday, 21 December 2012

Adventures into Academia

This post might be a little over due, but I decided a couple of weeks ago to apply for a PhD, which I had been thinking about for a while, but hadn’t really settled on a research project, and was a little daunted by another 3 years in Academia. However I have bitten the bullet as it where and drafted (and redrafted, and re-redrafted) a research proposal, knocked out a personal statement, and sent more emails than I think I’ve ever sent before in my life asking people if they would be at all interested in supervising my crazy little brain child.

Of course, I have left the whole process very much to the last minute, it seemed to get squeezed out by masters work, and trips to Birmingham and essays and flu season and all those other things that people are expected to do in order to stay fairly functioning members of society (you know – laundry, showering, sleeping, doing dishes, admitting that Christmas is coming up…). Nevertheless the application deadlines are marching along and I will probably need to submit my applications this week.

I’ve actually had a fairly positive response, particularly considering the slightly off the wall nature of the project, and the fact that not many academics (read no one at all) in the UK appears to be working on my area of research. I’ve heard back from people in Newcastle and Leeds, and my current supervisors at York have suggested I stay on here. I change my mind about what I want to do approximately every 30 seconds. While I would love to go somewhere new, particularly Newcastle since I would be working with leaders in the field, I also really really love York, both the city, and the supervisors I would be working with.

I’ve been trying to decide the best way to explain my proposal to people with little or no interest in the field, so far the best explanation I can come up with is that I want to look at short stories by Vietnamese and Holocaust writers and think about how grief, memory and trauma are dealt with within these stories. Which should be super interesting, but no one really seems to be working on Vietnamese stories in English Departments in the UK and so it’s hard to find an appropriate supervisor, Leeds even shunted me across to the French department.

I’m not really all too sure how successful my PhD applications will be, not only because of the whole no one is looking at this stuff thing, but also because as I said earlier I haven’t had a great deal of time to spend on developing my ideas because of the fact that masters year is INSANELY busy. But I’ve actually strangely enjoyed doing it, and I’m just considering it as my first foray into the big crazy world of academia. Here’s hoping I don’t get too lost…

Friday, 7 December 2012


I was doing so well at posting every week, and then masters happened in a big way, and everything went a little mental BUT! I actually went on an adventure last week! I really really didn't have time to go, and I probably don't have time to write this, but you guys! I went on an adventure that wasn't to do with frisbee and didn't involve a new section in the library (you know like when I got a book out of the N section the other day, EE was pretty exciting, I narrowly missed out on a long stint in the microfilm room, such are the adventures of my daily life...)

About four years ago, I went to the German Christmas Market in Lyon and it was amazing and beautiful, and I loved it, and I haven't been to a Christmas market since, and so when I found out that the largest Christmas market outside of Germany was in Birmingham, and one of my friends invited me down to see it, (I might have planted the idea in his head, in the interests of honesty) I decided this was the perfect time to recreate the experience. So wrapped up in a million layers, because it was really really cold in York, I set off on my merry way to Birmingham, where I was met at the station no less, and we went shopping in the Bull Ring, which apparently is famous, but I've never heard of it, so I don't see how it can be...

The Bull Ring in Birmingham

It turned out that it was significantly less cold in Birmingham than it was in York and I was wearing far too many layers to be comfortable inside a shopping centre, but it was delightful nevertheless. We had lunch at a really really nice Thai place, and had tempura vegetables to start (side note - tempura vegetables are brilliant, but the tempura spinach was a stretch...) and then I had Pad Thai, which was yummy and had mango, but no prawns, which I was totally ok with, and Dan had a very nice Thai Green Curry. In short if you're looking for somewhere to eat in Birmingham, you could do worse than the Thai place next to the Bull Ring. Also, they have really fancy taps in the toilets and orange-y glow lighting which makes you look like you've stepped out of an episode of TOWIE.

After lunch we did a little bit more wondering around and then FINALLY made it to the Christmas market. AND IT WAS BRILLIANT! Granted it was a bit crowded, but the advantage of being with a 6'4" city boy is that he kinda barges through, and the (relatively) little Surrey country bumpkin can trail along in his wake. It was like a kind of crowd water skiing. There were a lot of food places, and a lot of Gluwein places, and despite my completely unfounded prejudice, Birmingham City Centre is actually a pretty nice place (granted it's no York but you can't ask for everything). Incidentally, Birmingham does also have a really large and very lovely Waterstones, which was exciting to me. At the Christmas Market there were lots of pretty stalls, and things to look at, and lots and lots of people to watch, so I was happy as larry. Particularly since the aforementioned boy bought me a wonderful Gluewein mug which I'm currently drinking Christmas tea out of. 

Two mugs of Gluwein (note how my nails match my coat and my mug)

In short I had a fantastic day, there was much eating (of Thai food and wine gums) and much drinking (of gluwein and mulled cider) and days which involve much eating and drinking are my favourite days, particularly when I get to do these things with wonderful company.

Christmas comes to Birmingham