End in sight

by ninashiel

The past few months have been very busy. I have written a paper for publication, based on a conference presentation two years ago, attended an intensive spring school in Germany, got involved in a summer school organisation at DCU, and even managed to write Chapter 6 to the point that I’m very much nearing its end now. The paper I had to write four times because I kept being unhappy with it – it’s amazing how difficult it is to go back to material you have last dealt with years ago, particularly when your research has moved on far in the meantime. You want to keep annotating your own arguments, but if you do that, then the whole paper unravels and you end up writing something completely different from what you promised in the abstract. 

The spring school in Germany in February/March was organised in Goettingen, at the Georg-August University, as part of the European Campus of Excellence initiative. I see that a very brief report of it the spring school has been written here. I left with somewhat conflicting views of it. On the one hand, it was very well organised, most of our expenses were covered (apart from wifi at the accommodation, which was a huge oversight – we absolutely needed internet for our work, and I ended up paying €30 for the two weeks to have wifi in my room) and we had a wide variety of people from all over Europe, together with world class lecturers. I had two big problems with it: one, we had practically no freetime, which led to all of us being excessively tired and less motivated than we could have been towards the end of the second week. Secondly, while the principle of having students from all levels of their university careers was on the first sight stimulating, it was also problematic. At 35, I and one other student were the oldest in the group. I had expected a professional gathering of peers or near-peers, but we were constantly treated as undergraduates who needed telling what to do. The fact that many of the students were, or at least behaved, like undergraduates, certainly didn’t help, but it often led to a certain feeling of being in an American high school sitcom. I could feel myself regressing at times, irritatingly.

Incidentally: there is nothing as annoying, ill-mannered and thoughtless than constant chattering during a presentation. My presentation, someone else’s presentation, I don’t care. It is the height of rudeness, and I’ve been known to rip my own students a new one for it. Unfortunately I was not in the position to do so in Germany.

Our summer school will be held together with Mater Dei Institute, and it is called Word and Image: Imagining Japan. We will start with days of more general discussion, and finish off with two days specifally focusing on Japan. I’m looking forward to it greatly, as, besides the spring school in Germany, I have not been professionally travelling this spring. This is a deliberate choice: I already have quite a few presentations and publications under my name, and this year I want to fully focus on finishing my PhD as well as I can. And that is not very far away now, at all.