Musings on my Exchange

York Minster, York, UK - Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Hello All,

Last week was amazing, and I had a great time. In addition to a graduate conference on monday, I had the privilege to attend a workshop at the Warburg institute in London on the topic of ‘The Nile in Medieval Thought’. It was a preliminary presentation of research for an upcoming publication, and I was extremely impressed.

Unfortunately, I have been having so much fun of late that my return to Australia from the UK has become acutely close. The last few months have been some of the most stimulating of my adult life, and I will always remember them. Although I have much still ahead of me (a conference, a summer school on Palaeography at the London Institute for Advanced Studies, a little trip to the continent, a two week intensive Latin summer school, and possibly one final conference), I felt that I would like to reflect on some of the things that I have learned -both about myself, about academia and about the UK- in the last five months:

  1. First, I have learnt above all that I really love being a PhD student. Getting out there, having ideas, meeting like minded people, going to inspiring places: I love it! This has given me a better idea of what goals I should pursue.
  2. Second, I have really found it a privilege to meet the other postgraduates at the York Centre for Medieval Studies. They come from all over the world and study very diverse topics, but their erudition, brains and good humour are a great inspiration.
  3. Third, I have learned to love York, a truly beautiful city. I will always leave a piece of myself in her crooked streets and weathered stone, and it will wait for the day I return.
  4. Fourth, I have learned what it is to feel like a proper scholar. Doing latin, going to conferences, talking shop: all of these things seem to be coming together.
  5. Fifth, I want to do it again!! I didn’t take the exchange options that I could have as an undergraduate. I am a contrary person, and have only ever done things because I wanted to. Now that I know what I want, I want to study overseas again. Maybe another exchange to the US or a postdoc. Dare to dream.
  6. Sixth. I still call Australia home. Seeing the natural beauty (it really has been beautiful while i’ve been here) of the British isles has kindled in me a pride in my country, my state, my city and even my university that I haven’t been aware of before. I look forward to going home and seeing my home with new eyes.
  7. Seventh, I want to leave Australia. This sounds contradictory in light of #6, but I want to get out and see more of the world. Not just see it, but live there. This may be because I feel like I want to go out, experience things while I am young, and then return home later. It may also be a plan to flee my student loan (shhhh). Just kidding Australian government!
  8. I am both more English, and more Australian, than I thought. As a first generation Australian with dual UK/Australian citizenship and an English/Scottish family, I am a bit more of a pom than most of my fellows. When I come here I feel more Australian, and yet I feel at home more than I thought I would. I imagine my third culture kid friends will tell me to cry them a river, but an interesting observation nevertheless.
  9. Universities Systems are Different/Universities Systems are the Same. As the dichotomous slash implies, these two statements are fused together into some form of nonsensical mass. University cultures really do differ, but never in the way you expect.
  10. Finally, being an Australian postgraduate is a blessing and a challenge in equal measure. Australia’s isolation makes it hard to stay on top of the latest conferences unless you are a frequent flying serial keynote speaker professor. On the other hand, our PhD program seems to compare quite well. The funding is generous, there is a lot of optimism (or naivety), and we make good use of online resources. I feel a lot more grateful for my university than I have in the past.
In any case, those were my musings. More soon. Take care!
James
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