(Last Year’s) New Beginnings (and in Limbo)

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!

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A realisation about PowerPoints

… They’re all set out to look like little book chapters, aren’t they!

I am about to embark on writing a chapter for a book, and I’ve dug out the paper I wrote and gave upon which this chapter is based.  The paper is laid out so each paragraph is split by the command , except some where I change tack and talk about something while the previous slide is still up.  The University of Nottingham PowerPoint template has subheadings: a subtitle page, so to speak, which breaks the ‘chapter’ down into smaller chunks, different sections basically, and I think that’s actually really useful for organising ideas into longer pieces of writing.

I never expected PowerPoint to become my tool for thesis etc. mapping!

I also checked the word count: my chapter needs to be 6,000-8,000 words, and this paper was just over 3,100 before I’ve added references, made it academic (it currently reads how I speak, because that’s what it’s for) and generally tied it all together, so I think I’ve got it in the bag 🙂

Expect an update on blog-status at some point, although right now I’m finding it a useful idea-laying tool, which I think is what I’ve always wanted to do with it academically!

Run down or take off?

The inevitable ‘I evidently haven’t put enough time into this blog’ post, with the usual question: put in the time to keep it going, or discard it (appropriately) and just use it as a static set of webpages?

Option one seems distinctly less likely but then I also haven’t done the organising well enough of my other projects, leaving me with time that needs parcelling up for projects, so I could feasibly factor this in…

So I will see you later, I expect, a it’ll either be a ‘final post’ or ‘I found time! Go me!’ start of a new chapter.

That’s Dawn, MA, to you…

Yes, I did it: I passed my MA!  Only a pass: my weaknesses in writing and formulating did not allow for a merit or distinction, but a pass nonetheless 🙂  Therefore I am now a Master of Russian Metal Music.

And technically it’s Dawn MA BSc anyway ;P

I have mostly written up a piece about Canada but I haven’t had time to sort the pictures for it yet, so you’ll have to wait a bit.

So what else have I been up to that’s kept me away?  Well, Summer was working 40hr weeks on my MA thesis (while still working 18.12hrs a week at paid-work), followed by an Autumn of panicked jobsearching as I was told my contract wasn’t being renewed. I’d found a job within 3 weeks though, which I started while finishing my old one as the times worked so I’m effectively working 5 days a week until Christmas, which might explain a thing or two…

I hope to post again in January!  Meanwhile, keep track of what I’m up to on Twitter 🙂

Better late than never?

You know how it is: you start a new blog, intend to keep something of it going and then circumstances change and it all goes a bit awry. Well, that happened.  Here’s a brief summary of life over the past 8 months.

Firstly, I didn’t do anywhere near enough work in Semester 1, and the blog was not the only thing to suffer.  I’m catching up but this week, having been Freshers’ Week, I’m nowhere near target either, so procrastinating here probably isn’t helping greatly.

Secondly, it all kicked off at work: we had a sudden closedown of the trial I work on. That meant having to fit 2yrs worth of work into practically 3 months. My study work didn’t suffer much but everything else did.

Finally, there has been a lot of things to do with organising and administering RPGSoc and related outfits to be done.

Of course, that wasn’t the half of it: what else has been going on?

RPGSoc won the National Student Roleplaying and Wargaming Championships in Manchester: I’m the current Champion of D&D 5th Edition and Large Model Painting.  I have been playing 5th Edition on Thursday nights still: our gaming group has changed with the change of storyline, and it’s not as good anymore (the group slightly, the storyline mostly), but it’s still brilliant 😀

I’ve been to no airshows since the loss from the air of Vulcan XH558, but I did go to both Bruntingthorpe Cold War Jets open days with my friend from Essex who’s recently moved to the area and I also went to Newark Air Museum’s Fleet & Foreign Open Cockpits thing (although only for the Foreign-y bit), as well as City of Norwich Aviation Museum while I was visiting Emilie and the East Midlands Airport Aeropark with my Mum.  I also visited the Avro Heritage Museum last December with Matt.  So that’s four new Vulcans on the ‘visited’ list 🙂

We went abroad to Austria for the first time in ages and I remembered how much I miss Graz.  Some friends moved back to Nottingham and it’s like the family came home.

My Masters has really kicked off: I’ve been to loads of conferences as a participant so I’ve travelled well!  I’ve also met lots of very interesting and lovely people.  My supervisor thinks my work is very good (it has been described as ‘excellent’!) so it can’t all be that bad.

Let’s not leave it another eight months, eh?  Well, I’ll try my best.

Philosophy of Language

I am interested in philosophy of language, but I don’t really understand it: I read the suggested reading and understand it as I read, but as soon as I finish, it’s gone from my mind.  To really make sense of it, I have to make notes as I go, which is time-consuming, but is it worth it?

I went to this seminar having read all the recommended reading, understood it and, as just mentioned, entirely forgotten it all (making extensive, time-consuming notes was not worthwhile for this seminar given my other responsibilities).  But I learned some things in the seminar which were useful, and backed up my ideas: that’s crucial, because if my ideas had been wrong I would have been too demoralised to even think about looking at it for my research.

I consider myself a novice in this area: I’ve always had more to do in the linguistics side than the philosophy side.  It also doesn’t help that it’s all generally written in a high register which I now have difficulty understanding, but was probably fine when I was constantly immersed in high-end academic writings (so, 2002-6).  But I think it might be worth looking at.

As I am looking at interpretation of song lyrics, the philosophy becomes important: it is all about relevance, inference, meaning defined and meaning received.  So I will read the book the lecturer kindly lent me and make extensive notes on it, and then I will decide if it’s worth including.  At the very least, it is worth looking at because it is interesting, and at worst I will have more things to think about.

My First Month (Back)

I have been attending University as a postgraduate researcher for four weeks now, so I feel an update on progress is in order.

Things have not really settled down yet: it was my birthday Monday and prior to that there were many other interruptions to contend with: Vulcan tours, my parents visiting, friends visiting…  On top of only discovering at the last minute there’s a whole raft of seminars and workshops to attend, rather than the half-dozen I’d been led to expect by everyone and everything (not erroneously, either!), things have been rather busy.

It was quite useful, then, to ‘attend’ the second ECR Chat of the academic year on ‘Dealing with Competing Demands’, during which I was notably multitasking on watching Twitter and playing in Matt’s roleplaying game.  This week’s training workshop also touched on multitasking and time-management, two things I have become very proficient in recently: I have created a timetable of my entire life until the start of January!  And only that far because I don’t know yet what’s really happening beyond.

Things will settle better from this weekend onwards: less visitors, less touring, less nights out.  Yes, nights out: RusSoc and RPGSoc have had a few events I’ve attended which have been out in town, with a few more this week.  At least the RusSoc ones involved a considerable amount of Russian practice.

Another large chunk of Russian practice came when I had to go to London to have my fingerprints digitally (ha ha!) taken for my Russian visa.  Sitting in the waiting area of the Russian National Tourist Office meant I was exposed to Russian (at a level I could understand), and mine and Matt’s trip to the Cosmonauts exhibition at the Science Museum straight after involved a lot of trying to work out not only what words meant, but also semi-obscured handwriting.  At least it was all post-revolution Cyrillic this time!

With all this gallivanting about, I don’t feel like I’ve really done much.  I have, though: part of my ‘research’ is preparing for this research trip to Russia, so those hours spent writing interview requests and emailing them (or, in some cases, messaging on Facebook) are ‘counted’, as are at least some of those spent going to London, applying for my visa etc.  And I have had time to squeeze in a little bit (maybe a half-hour?) of ‘real’ research preparation.  Which is nothing, but I also know that won’t last: I’m only four weeks in, and week six sees the start of the time I have time.

I think I’ve mostly been semi-demoralised by the lack of progress as compared to other times: even my second undergraduate degree, which was similar to this in that it was part-time and I was working otherwise full-time, but being taught meant I ‘progressed’ much quicker.

Another similarity between my BSc and this MA is the feeling of isolation, which is not entirely anyone’s fault.  I might have kept in contact with the Department since 2006, but things have undeniably changed, not least the format of what I’m doing.  I have tried to make friends, mostly outside of the Department because I think it’s easier to make friends within, but even within the Department and my peer group I find it hard because we’re all working on our own projects, I’m not often in the Department or on the same campus, I don’t want to follow around the people who attend the same seminars etc. as I do like a lost puppy and, crucially, I’m a bit too independent for my own good.  Which is why I think I feel the need to attend departmental stuff as often as I can.  I was going to attend SlavSoc but it’s all drinking and that’s boring, although they do appear to be trying to start something more inclusive.

Well, hopefully some sort of stability for the next two to three weeks will mean I feel much more settled and much less like I’m floundering in a dark sea…