The Fifth Element: Leicester

This week marks the start of university number five: Leicester.

University of Leicester: David Wilson Library
University of Leicester: David Wilson Library

It’s a fine coincidence, all in all. Two years ago in Geneva, I was assisting with the Erasmus scheme by informing second-year students about the benefits of spending a year at an Anglophone university.

We attracted the attention of Leicester and negotiated what became a very attractive partnership for us.

Writing a promotional article for the department magazine, I discovered the magnitude of Leicester’s recent ascent. One of my best students chose to spend a year here, and did magnificently.

So for all the upheaval and readjustment that comes with yet another switch, to pursue the experience I facilitated for others feels a just turn of events.

Neverending story

As a PhD student at 26, you face the inevitable comic put-downs about never-ending studentdom. “Are you planning to get a real job before you retire?” So much so, in fact, I get used to bringing up the jokes first.

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 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 at Leicester.

With the long day-trips strongly reminiscent of my master’s in Edinburgh (commuting from 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.

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