PhD Induction: Last Day

Day five of PhD induction week, the last day, was a pretty good day. We had a fantastic – and well attended – talk from one of the school’s professors on ‘getting an article published’. The professor explained some really useful things such as like why we have two standards of Open Access publishing, the differences between them, and what it means for us as would-be publishers. It’s made me realise how fortunate I was with the editor of the journal that pubished my first article, how patient he was with me (and I still got two free print copies of the journal, which, according to the talk yesterday, just doesn’t happen any more). I think it helped a great deal that the professor themselves was the editor of a journal so was able to explain things from an editor’s perspective, and also explain the reasons for some of the time lag between submission and getting an answer from the journal (acceptance, rejection, etc) and what’s going on behind the scenes that we just don’t see – and how long we should be leaving it before emailing said editor for news. And, too, there was advice on rejections, how to handle them, the admission that everyone gets rejected, and that you must not take it personally – even the professor gets rejected every once in a while! It was a great talk and what I really loved was the professor’s enthusiasm for their subject. They’re clearly a person that still loves their job, their history, and its so good to see people at the top who don’t have that world-weary, institutionally-battered cynicism. I don’t know about anyone else but it gives me hope for the future.

The second event of the day was an introduction to library services. Lots of info about what our library has within its glass walls, the special collections, how to use the library search, all that kind of thing. You might think, as a long-term Leicester resident, that I’d have skipped this session. Not a bit of it! A lot of what was said I knew (and could chip in useful info) but at the University of Leicester, Library Services are continually working to improve and develop the services they offer and its important to keep on top of these changes.

The third event was the long-awaited New History Lab! The first session of the semester is always well attended as it’s officially part of induction week and people show up to find out what it’s all about. Put simply; it’s a history postgrad community run by postgrads, involves tea and cake and a seminar and then they all troop off to the pub. I say ‘they’ cos I usually have to scarper to collect my partner from the station at just that point, unfortunately, but hopefully one day I’ll be able to go to the pub with them! The chair of NHL presented a short briefing on ‘ten things we wish we’d known when we started our postgrad courses’, with some real nuggets of information. Even things like ‘use social media – with caution’ [ahem!], and that is absolutely correct, of course. I do remember the same talk being presented two years ago when I started my MA and looking back, I did take the tips onboard, perhaps subconsciously, because I did find them useful over the years – and I’m sure I will continue to remember them in future. Many of them are very commonsense ones, no-brainers, almost, but if you ARE completely new to an institution or to postgrad study it is so very easy to miss things, especially in a week like this when so much information is thrown at you. We had a fun quiz after. I’m sad to say I didn’t get the much coveted prize (chocolate!). Maybe next year! Many of the attendees were existing postgrads of one kind or another, so not everyone was new and it was a really good mix of old lags and newcomers to the university. I’m looking forward to the next!

Overview of the week and other thoughts: Continue reading

PhD induction: Day Four

I’m actually really qurite proud of myself this evening.

To explain why, I need to talk about my background a bit. I think I’ve said before that I’m deaf, and as a deaf person, communication is something I can find very difficult, particularly in noisy environments (and especially if I’m without my interpreters). As such, in the past I’ve found that I’ve really struggled with networking. Even with sign language interpreters, I’ve still struggled. Lack of confidence in myself, lack of social graces. I’ve not grown up with interpreters; although I’ve been deaf as long as I can remember, I’ve not used interpreters on a regular basis until I went back into education in 2011.That lack of access, of communication, does hinder the development of social graces and networking skills in a person, and up until relatively recently it’s been something I’ve really struggled with. I’m better at it now, than I was then, but even as recently as two years ago, I was still really not able to mix well in professional, but social settings. Take two years ago, for example. Then, I attended the school’s social reception, with an interpreter. I stood mostly on the edges of the gathering, trying to summon up the energy to dive in and mingle. Some – staff members who knew me, for example – came and talked to me, and I responded but I know, looking back, that I let my fears get the better of me. I think I left after about 45 minutes. Determined to do ‘better next time’ but not really knowing how to, or how to improve my abilities.

This afternoon, the same event, I did better. Vastly better. It helps, of course, that after two years of a part time MA, and five year of studying at the University of Leicester, that I know a good proportion of the staff, with at least nodding acquaintance, and I also know many of the other PhD students, even before my own PhD started this week. I know that makes a huge difference. I’m still proud of the way that this time, I didn’t hang around on the edges. I dived in, talked to new staff members as well as the old, talked to people I knew, and people I didn’t. My interpreter helped immeasurably (they all know who they are: thank you from the bottom of my heart for this week) but reaching out, responding, keeping the conversation flowing, reacting well – that was all me, not her, ME. And although I’m exhausted, I realised tonight that I’m so much better at that kind of communication than I was, I enjoy it more than I did. Rather than being something to be endured with gritted teeth, these kind of academic social events have become something to look forward to, an opportunity to talk with my peers. One fellow student put it very well this afternoon when we were discussing what I talked about in yesterday’s blog, how I feel that the AHRC Midlands3Cities residential school changed me somehow and I wasn’t quite sure what it was. She suggested that it was the difference between a taught MA and a research degree: being treated as researchers for the first time. She may be right, I need to chew on that some more. But what she is absolutely right about is the importance of discussing anything and everything with one’s peers, not just work but experiences, to get used to the exchange of ideas, of conceptualising and expressing oneself on the fly, not just adequately, but well. It’s one thing to craft a wonderful piece of written work; there is time to do that, time to consider the advantage of this word over that. It is quite another to do the same verbally. Like the difference between a slow, considered painting, and something created quickly, in a matter of minutes, but not slapdash, careless, and with beauty in its own right, regardless of being created so fast.

My day has actually been non-stop talking. I met a friend for coffee this morning; we had a great chat, and saw off a ladybird that seemed to have a bit of a thing for her, off her jumper and hair…! Another friend for lunch; we had a great gossip and a catch up. The afternoon was a session on research via the internet. The increasing digitisation of primary sources is fantastic for historians, although there are drawbacks, and we needed to be aware of those – and where to look for different resources. It’s a field that changes a great deal in a short space of time, thanks to technological advances, so although I went through that session myself two years ago, I decided to sit through it again and I’m glad I did. The School Social was next; I had some cracking conversations, caught up with people I’d not spoken to in some months and I’m glad I went.

Tomorrow: The last day of induction week (although not the last induction event of the year; there is one more next week, and the final one is the week after), which sees a presentation on how to get an article published (which I am really looking forward to), a session on the online library search systems (which, again, has changed quite a bit recently so a refresher is needed) and finally, New History Lab.