This week marked the start of university number five: Leicester.
Two years ago in Geneva, I was marketing the Erasmus scheme by conducting interviews with second-year students to inform them about the possibilities. In doing so, we attracted the attention of Leicester and negotiated what became a prestigious link. Producing a supplementary article for the department magazine, Noted, to aid the promotion effort [2008-2009 Spring, 12-15], only then did I understand the magnitude of Leicester’s ascent. One of my best students, Noémie, chose to spend a year in Leicester, and did magnificently. For all the upheaval, admin, and readjustment that comes with yet another switch, to practise what I promoted (if not preached) proves a most worthy cause.
As a PhD student at 26, you face the inevitable comic put-downs about neverending studentdom and not earning. I get used to instinctively bringing up the jokes first. At times, I silently implore people to understand the pressure behind this gamble. And yet, paradoxically, the solipsistic vein in me hopes they don’t understand. The distinct nature of this situation is one of the only unique things I have. That speaks volumes in itself.
Research offers great times, and great moments. This summer saw plenty. But postgraduate study has the power to inhibit more than it provides. Far from avoiding work, I simply undertake mine for no salary, with an isolating daily life, and a frugal lifestyle. It has cost me my physical and mental health, and more besides. One wonders whether it will lead to a job in the end, or whether lack of full-time experience will leave real trouble entering a tight labour market. It is a daily torment.
Although I could never have expected events to unfold in this way having started a PhD in Geneva three years ago, I am proud to begin tenure at Leicester. With the long day-trips strongly reminiscent of my Research Masters in Edinburgh (living in Sunderland), I am hopeful of recapturing the same lustre. Putting yourself through a rigorous ordeal helps you to realise and appreciate your dedication. It brings a sorely needed sense of accomplishment that cannot come from living on the doorstep.
To picture this in terms of Doctor Who’s The Satan Pit (which brings to mind Marvell’s ‘Dialogue Between Soul and Body’): where my torment sucks me towards a black hole, I look for a tardis to Leicester.