I wrote the bulk of this post shortly after my graduation last year, but never posted it. I have, in fact, just been through all my draft posts and deleted a fair number that are no lone relevant, but this one still serves! So, to the post I found today:
I graduated on 17th July 2018. To some, this is a life-changing experience as you leave one stage of life and move on to another: you may have moved away already, be living with your parents again or have started a new job on the other side of the world. It may be the last time you see anyone you’ve just spent the last 3-4 years with. Or it may simply be, as it was for me, an excuse to wear a silly hat, have some nice photos done and drag the parents around campus again. For me, it was my third graduation: my second at University of Nottingham, and my first where the weather wasn’t horrible. I’ve lived in Nottingham since 2003 effectively and so the day wasn’t really the same sort of special as I’m on campus all the time, and I didn’t study at the Uni much so didn’t really make any friends who also graduated at the same time: in fact, my name was on its own under my degree level and subject. Some of my friends from RPGSoc and who I’ve met through owning rabbits are graduating this year too, and some graduated earlier than me and some later, so I’ve looked them up in the programme and wished them well.
For me, graduation was the formal end of my time as a Masters student. It is not a new beginning in itself but signals the final point in my Masters timeline. I can no longer call myself a student, but then I haven’t actually been a registered student since 1st October 2017: I couldn’t join any societies as a student member all last year, but then I hadn’t passed my course until part-way through the academic year, so I wasn’t ‘not’ a student. I was in a sort of limbo, where my student email still functioned and my student card still worked, but I was an associate member of the Student’s Union and couldn’t vote, or stand as a council member, but yet all my emails came through to my student account. With graduation, that ends and I become a true Associate Member again.
But where does that leave my status as a researcher? Does the formality of graduation end my association with Nottingham? It certainly doesn’t end my research: I fully intend to carry out as much as possible even without formal support, thanks to my status as a University staff member, which gives me access to libraries and resources in a very similar way to those I had as a postgraduate research student. And that association with Nottingham through formal employment, albeit completely unrelated to my own research, means I cannot in good conscience call myself a fully independent researcher since it is the University of Nottingham which has supplied me with library books and access to online resources which I would otherwise be unable to afford, especially as I only work two days a week. Working part-time enables me to enjoy hobby time as well as continuing to pursue my research activities and support myself without simply sponging off my parents and/or the other half which wouldn’t work for me longterm.
So, I am an independent-ish researcher with an MA(Res) looking for opportunities.
Which brings us to today, a year since I graduated (the same graduations are happening today, rather than a calendar year), and where am I? the short answer is: limbo.
I’m an independent researcher with ties to University of Nottingham: I work 2 days a week as an administrator in a pan-European doctoral training programme, and the University lets its admin staff use the libraries and resources too, so I’ve still got all the access to books and journals I had before, but no-one telling me what to do, or guiding me as such.
I’m both working (14.5hrs per week!) and not working because I’m not fulltime, not on a permanent contract and not working as an academic, researcher, teacher etc. I do not know where I belong and there are no set rules or overall guidance in terms of paying academic society memberships, conference fees etc. The student – academic dichotomy doesn’t fit me. (I feel some readers may be thinking the adult – child thing doesn’t apply to me either XD)
I’m still researching, but not as much as I’d like or as much as this job lets me (with the other 5 days off), because my house renovations have taken over a year (which is a blog post in itself but a much more private one I’m not willing to write) and I’m really struggling with it now. I need some sort of finalisation, order, or simply space to sit down, knock out the work I need to do and try and reorganise my time back to what it used to be, rather than the only workspace being the bed or the sofa if I have books I need to access, or the downstairs computer if I don’t, or I need Windows (perils of upgrading to a Chromebook Flip, although I will be getting a second PC eventually).
Life, however, has been generally good over the last year. Academically, I’ve presented new (fledgling) research at conferences, written a book chapter(!) and am currently rewriting a book review (from November: see above house status :S). I’ve had two proper rejections (a conference and a different book chapter) which weren’t too bad, and I cannot complain because I’ve had loads of great acceptances which far outweigh two tiny things. I suppose having a fairly wide ‘niche’ is useful!
I actually came here to write a draft about my latest carnivorous plant exploits, but reorganising my drafts has been much more productive!