This week marks the start of university number five: Leicester.
It’s a fine coincidence, all in all. Two years ago in Geneva, I was marketing the Erasmus scheme by conducting meetings with second-year students to inform them about the benefits of spending a year at an Anglophone university. In doing so, we attracted the attention of Leicester and negotiated what became a very attractive partnership for us.
Writing a supplementary article for the department magazine, Noted [2008-2009 Spring, 12-15], I began to understand the magnitude of Leicester’s recent ascent. One of my best students, Noémie, 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 very just turn of events.
As a PhD student at 26, you face the inevitable comic put-downs about neverending studentdom. So much so, in fact, I get used to 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.
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 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.