PhD Induction: the absolute last one… ever

… I hope!

Yesterday we had the final inductions, the College of Social Science, Arts and Humanities (CSSAH) induction, and the AHRC Midlands3Cities students were pulled out in the middle of that to have our own induction. By my count, that made induction number five, not counting mini ones like induction to the library, etc. Fortunately the people who make up the welcoming team seem aware of the fact that we’ve been more than thoroughly inducted and welcomed, and even made a joke of it yesterday. One brave soul, who has a foot in two different departments, admitted to enduring 7 inductions!

The CSSAH session was useful – they handed round a sheet that asked us to think about different positions with regard to managing the supervisory relationship between supervisor and researcher, and then to discuss with our nearest neighbour in twos. One useful thing that came out of that discussion was to consider numbering our drafts in the same way that software programme designers number theirs: for major changes, number them by 1, 2, 3 etc., for minor changes, number them by 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, etc [the amusing part was when we both turned to each other and said at the same time, ‘write that down’!]. I also thought about making meta notes: making a note of where things are, a sort of overview document of not only WHAT kind of documentation and files I have, but how they are stored, where, the sub-files, etc. Those who have never studied at this level may be thinking I’m ever so slightly nuts, but yes: That much paperwork DOES get generated and its important to keep ontop of it all, keep it sorted out.

We then went onto the M3C session, where we met the Leicester site directors, three students who have preceeded us in the programme and who gave us tips, and we talked through some of the requirements that M3C have of us. What was most useful for me was meeting the person who is responsible for approving my communication support expenditure; putting a face to a name is always good. While we’ll sit down for a more in-depth chat at the end of October, it was good to do some preliminary chatting and agreement on practices to get me through the next few weeks.

The inductions weren’t the only event we had yesterday. Class 2 of the Research Design and Practice module took place in the morning, with lots of heavy discussion on formulating research questions. The group work made me realise that I had taken slightly for granted that there would be one particular kind of primary source evidence in existence, and that I didn’t really know what to find in answer to the question that I was posing for part of my research. This is something that needs to be addressed, fairly quickly I think, and possibly brought up with my supervisors for discussion in November. Having said that, I’m not worried about this. Even if it turns out that the primary source evidence that I had assumed did exist, doesn’t, then it’s not an insurmountable problem: the absence of evidence/material is something every researcher has to learn how to deal with/handle sooner or later. It’s not the absolute disaster that it may otherwise appear on first sight – and in some respects, it’s something I’ve already had to deal with. My first ever article (written from the research I did for my undergraduate dissertation), on the battle at Cursneh Hill, grew partially out of a lacunae in the primary source evidence, as it forced me to look elsewhere to understand not only the gaps in the evidence, but also the impact of the event that I was seeing in evidence much, much later.

The end of induction certainly does not mean that the uni is now shooing us out into the world to toddle off and research alone like good little doctoral students. The Research Design and Practice class is running till the end of term (before Christmas), and I think there may be a subsequent module to run after Christmas to the Easter break; I have the beginning of a two-part course on history teaching and training starting tomorrow and a brief meeting with my primary supervisor to discuss training needs; and an event at Nottingham Uni next Tuesday which may give me the opportunity to try something I’ve long wanted to do. In between those, I’ve lots to research, as I said before, I have a historiographical review essay on C17th Herefordshire to write and an abstract for a conference. The abstract is coming together in my mind, and I’ve made a few brief notes on that, so I know how I’m going to approach it. I’ve a huge stack of articles that I’ve printed out to read for the historiographical review, so there’s lots to do! In some respects, Induction really doesn’t represent what a PhD is like for a student, in that there’s far more socialising, networking and talking than normally happens (I think, usually, that the life of a PhD student can be quite isolating). Which is why New History Lab is so important. Their next meeting is on Friday, and I’m baking…. I’ve promised to bring along a batch of the infamous cookies from my supervision, so Thursday evening I’ll be batch-baking those. I just hope I don’t end up with a soggy bottom or a Mary Berry glare of doom!!

PhD induction: Graduate School Induction

The last, but one, of the PhD induction events was today. At this point, it’s perhaps starting to drag a little, as one of my new friends said to me this afternoon. And there’s one more to go to! But for all that it was fun and I did get some information from it, so it wasn’t a total bust.

But I’m getting in advance of myself. I headed into uni early, after dropping off my partner at the station – parking at the Uni of Leicester is a nightmare at the moment (thanks to building works in the nearest car park) and getting there early to find parking is a must. While eating breakfast there I was thinking about the trip to the University of Nottingham campus yesterday and how you experience space without a map, and perceptions of space around us, how we move through it, experience it. Does space feel larger when you walk it as opposed to driving it, and when you only see part of the space? Do we overdefine spaces by boundaries in modern life, compared to our early modern or medieval predecessors who lived, largely, without maps? Is the way that we perceive and imagine space different to those early modern predecessors? I cannot help but think that we must do, because so much of our lives today are shaped by having a perceptual, overhead and map-like vision of the spaces that we move through. Who here hasn’t googled their house, understood a place that they were about to visit through google maps? Is it a common ability, now, to be able to remember what we see via digital maps, to relate where we are on the ground to an imagined mental map of the space around us? Even in a pre-digital age, I remember pouring over maps, learning to mapread, to understand the spaceand the world we live in, in relation to other spaces that we cannot yet necessarily experience because we haven’t been there. We live in a connected world – quite literally. We understand how Leicester is connected to Nottingham, the spaces that we have to move through to go from A to B. In today’s world, we can – through maps, through google, visualise the next bit of space that we can’t necessarily see, without having actually been there. In the medieval period, when people undertook pilgrimmages, maps could simply be a route, a series of places that one had to go through to go from A to B. So if I was in a small village outside Ludlow, going to pilgrimmage at Canterbury, to the Shrine of Thomas Becket, then my route map might be – small village-Ludlow-Hereford-Cheltenham-Oxford-London-Canterbury. But that’s not a direct route, not the shortest one, just the simplest one, in that there would be something like a road, a route, with signposts and people to direct you on your way. There was no need to percieve, to understand spaces in the same way that we do now. I think we’ve lost, almost, a sense of adventure, in our digital, mapped world. But then, medieval and early modern people would have totally understood and known, in a very deep and full way, their locality, their parish, the areas around them. Modern people would struggle to do this, I think. I’m a historian and I have no idea where, for example, on a very simple level, the parish boundaries are for my home. But 500 years ago people did need to know – the knowledge was imposed on them, they would ‘beat the bounds’, walk around the edge of their parishes, so that they knew, to the last inch, where their parish ended and someone else’s began. They knew where the boggy bits were in winter, where the best wild strawberries grew, where the worst wild apples were that were really only good for pigs. They understood where the safest crossing place was for a river. In short, their perception of the world, the knowledge that they considered important to know abour their locality, their imagined space, is totally different to ours. Does this mean that their world was more defined than ours? Or just defined differently? Interesting questions, all, and totally outside of my sphere of research. (and one of my former lecturers, if he was ever to read this, would probably slap his hand against his forehead and start muttering about why I didn’t think all about this during the MA….!)

After breakfast – both physical food and thinking – this morning was spent in the library. I had intended to start the bibliographic search for the positioning essay that I have to do, and I did start that, after sending rather a lot of emails (trying to sort out too much at the moment I think). In history lit reviews – at least, the ones focused on British or Irish history – one of the best places to start is BBIH, the Bibliography of British and Irish History, which is a massive database of all publications on British or Irish history, regardless of whether it’s a book or an article. Its got a powerful search tool, and to begin with I just typed in ‘Herefordshire’ and the beginning and end dates of my search period. The results were interesting and have suggested some books and articles that I need to follow up on. But what was really startling was the first result – my own name! It’s very disconcerting, seeing your name and work pop up like that when you’re not expecting it – it quite threw me for a moment. And then I did the inevitable screen grab and sent it to my mum. (Doesn’t everyone do that?)

After noting down a few books, chasing a publisher, and suggesting a book to the library for the ‘more books!’ campaign, it was time to grab a quick lunch and then head off to the Graduate School Induction. This started with a brief introductory talk from the Graduate Dean, then was followed by another brief talk on managing the student-supervisor relationship. After that we broke into groups and discussed our three biggest concerns/worries, that we had to write onto post-it notes. I got to meet some more new people, including one very nice physics student that I had a lovely chat with afterwards. My three biggest concerns were:

  1. the question of whether I should bother my supervisor with something minor (we get told so much about ‘look in the handbook! the answer’s in the handbook!’ and tales of students asking where they can find things that they’ve been told so many times before in class. All that does have an impact and I’m one of these people that prefers to be self-reliant rather than bother someone else. If anything I probably carry that too far in the wrong direction and struggle on alone when I shouldn’t.
  2. Organisation. Not of admin, or my time, but of my resources, making sure that I’ve checked every single place that I should be checking for something, checked every single available possible resource. I shamelessly borrowed this from something a friend said, they were worried about organisation in a slightly different way but in discussing it in the break, I realised that they were tapping into something that had been nagging away in the back of my brain (thank you to the friend – yes, you know who you are!).
  3. Not being good enough. I struggle with imposter syndrome and, yes, I worry that one day, I won’t be good enough. I’ve invested so much into this, emotionally, that I think if that day ever came, it might just break me. I’m really not sure how I would handle that and I think it’s something I do need to consider, not because I’m anticipating being not good enough any time soon,but because, inevitably, at some point, I will stop. Even if I continue to learn, continue to write, one day my brain will stop or just be unable to the kind of mental processing that I need it to do and I may have to live with the consequences of that.

Boy. That last one was dark! I didn’t think about it that way when I was writing it on the post-it note, but yes, that last one is definitely a big worry and probably one that many people share as well. No answers to that one but the rest of the induction was filled with advice – advice for mental health, wellbeing, information on the student’s union, various training courses that are available to us. So much to consider, to think about. It’s almost overwhelming.

The next – and absolute last (I think) – PhD induction session is on Monday, which is the College of Social Science, Arts and Humanities induction. It should be interesting, and comes straight after a class on Research Design and Practice, so another very long day. Tomorrow is lunch with a friend, fitted around more historiographical lit review research, from home this time. I did my MA dissertation at the same time as this friend did theirs, so the lunch tomorrow is in the nature of a ‘hooray, we made it!’ celebration lunch! Should be fun and I’m really looking forward to a good catch up. Not going to blog tomorow – well, not unless I have any major breakthroughs in the lit review!

 

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.

PhD induction: M3C Residential School Day 2

It’s quite amazing. I arrived home from the AHRC Midlands3Cities residential school in Birmingham just about 36 hours after I left, but I feel as though I’ve been away for weeks. The last two days have been so intense, intensive both in terms of the amount of information thrown at us, but also the …. changes that the school have created within us. It’s a difficult process to try to describe and I’m not at all sure that other people who attended are also feeling it (I’d be most interested to know if they were). But, I guess I feel a bit like I found myself. This is where I was meant to be. Since getting the news about winning M3C funding a few months ago, its felt slightly unreal, especially since there was so long to wait before it all began, with very little information about what the next three years would be like. Its felt dream-like, out of reach almost, and when PhD induction week started it seemed a bit hard to believe that it was now finally HERE. The last two days, however, have delivered a hefty, hefty dose of reality, validation and messages of success and ‘this is the beginning’ and all kinds of other lovely phrases, and it’s starting to really sink home, the magnitude of all this and what it means.

There’s a lot going round in my head, obviously and it will take time (And a fair few night’s sleep I suspect) to sort it out out better in my mind. I am so very very tired which is certainly not helping matters! I slept well enough last night (woke up at 5.30 am wondering why the window wasn’t where it should be), and this morning started with breakfast rolls and coffee. It was a more conventional day – a series of talks and presentations on a range of topics that we needed to know about. For example: Midlands3Cities run several funds that their students can apply to for things like funding trips to places that they need to go for research. There was a lot of explanation of the funds, what the differences were, how to win them, when to apply and so on. That took up most of the morning, then lunch was provided (a delicious beef lasagne followed by a lovely rhubarb and apple crumble). The afternoon session was about work placements. Midlands3Cities work with partner companies/institutions, and allow their students to work for/with them on a variety of projects or placements. They’re never for very long, six months at most, and our own research is extended by the same time, but it allows us – the students – to gain work experience in relevant fields to their research. So, for me, that could be working with a heritage organisation like the National Civil War Centre, or the National Archives, or even the diocesan archives. It’s not a compulsory thing to do, but it does add value to your qualification and help boost your career. This afternoon however, real companies/organisations were brought in who are setting up projects for the future that they want to try to find doctoral students to work with. We were organised into groups, and the facilitator explained their project and asked us what sort of skills and experience they thought students should have in order to work on the project. There were some really interesting-sounding projects and I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on some of those, for potential opportunities in the next few months.

Dr. Nick Barratt (Chair of the M3C DTP Partner Advisory Group) then presented the closing plenary lecture. This was an in-depth, warts and all, reflection of his own, rather zig zag career, where he felt he went wrong, what made him change careers and jobs when he did, how opportunities seemed to come his way, how he was, essentially, very lucky. Or was he…? He himself called that interpretation into question and spent time discussing how what some might see as luck, others might see as the sucess of knowing the right people, and being available and willing to take risks at the right time. One thing he said that really made me think, really struck home was that we have to sell ourselves, be our own agent, because no one’s going to advocate for us. And he had a point. We do have to sell ourselves, not just by being ourselves and striving to excel to the best of our abilities, but by actively promoting ourselves whereever possible, and making the most of possibilities that come our way. There was so much to think about from this weekend. It WILL take time to percolate through my mind, I’m sure.

Tomorrow: back to earth, back to my home institution, Introduction to web-research & the school social.

PhD Induction: M3C Residential School Day 1

Today has been exhilarating and exhausting in turns. I’m currently having a much needed, quiet cup of tea in my hotel room, relaxing before the evening event.

We – one of my interpreters and I – caught the train from Leicester this morning. A very cramped and crowded train but we had fun chatting all the way. Met up with my second interpreter, and another AHRC Midlands3Cities student from Leicester at New Street station; went for coffee, then hightailed it over to the ICC. More coffee, then the welcome, introductions and then, after more coffee, the first of two Vox Coaching sessions. This, the first of two workshops, was led by two actors, who were, I have to say, extremely good. The first workshop walked us through a scenario where a researcher was struggling with his boss, a professor. The two men – Pete and Dominick – played their roles very well, got us, as a group, to ask questions of the two, via an imagined big brother-style diary room chair, and to offer them advice for resolving the issues. Finally, they replayed their scenario, and each time we saw something wrong, we buzzed them, stopped play, and for them to correct the issue. Lots of laughter and hilarity ensued. It was so much fun and a really inventive way to get us involved in thinking about expectations and managing our own supervisory relationships. It worked far better than if we’d been sat down and lectured to.

After a lovely lunch, we were back in with Vox Coaching, same two gentlemen, who walked us through ideas of assertiveness, of being aware of our own body language when meeting people, of just simply saying ‘YES!’ In our heads when passing people. We walked through how we present ourselves when we’re just answering the question ‘what do you do?’, which is – apparently – what royals like the Prince of Wales ask people when they’re working. We discussed different levels of ‘I have a right to speak’ness, from the ‘barely heard, I apologise for even breathing’ level, through to the bombastic ‘I HAVE DECIDED TO SPEAK ABOUT SOMETHING INTERESTING AND ALL YOU PEONS WILL LISTEN‘. No – this was not what was said, at least verbally. This was all done through body language. The actual words the actor used was the same in each example and was something like ‘I have recently been researching something interesting and I’d like to share it with you’. (Great acting. One of them succeeded in doing creepy in three different ways – deliberately so!)

Although the two workshops were very different, they were extremely inventive in getting the material across to us, and I think, if I’m honest, that I shall probably still be absorbing lessons from them for quite some time. This was brilliant, interesting and inventive teaching, and there needs to be more of this – Not just within M3C, or in universities, but everywhere, as part of pedagogical practice, I think.

After that final Vox session, we broke for coffee, then worked on something called the VPP (Virtual Postgradate Platform). This is an M3C website where public information is available about all the M3C researchers. We control what goes up there, but generally, there’ll be something about our thesis, our sphere of research, maybe some info about papers we’ve given, or publications. Admin goes on behind the scenes, related to our research and the work that we need to periodically produce to pass each stage of our studies (we don’t just get a free ride for 2.5 years and then frantically rush to finish!). So lots of info about that and how we manage that. We then closed, had a group photo taken, and we scattered to our hotels.

[Later]

My face is actually aching now. I don’t think I’ve ever talked so much, or laughed so much in ages. Tonight was a sit down three course dinner, but what was brilliant about tonight was the level of conversation. All of us there tonight, I think (I hope) had good conversations, but tonight, in a lull, I looked around and everyone was passionately engaged in discussing ideas with their neighbour – Not just polite ‘yes yes’ chit chat, but active, interesting, fully engaged conversations that paid little respect to things like nationality, language, or disciplinary boundaries. For example: I’m a historian, not a linguist, but tonight I spent a substantial amount of time discussing linguistics of sign language with a German linguistic student, who knows German, English and Spanish, and a dancer studying identity through dance and Caribbean music, talking about her experiences of how languages were used in Senegal, and my sign language interpreter. I wad able to offer not only my experiences as a deaf person, but also my experiences with my Dutch in-laws, and how I’ve used – or not used – communication in both The Netherlands and Germany. It was a cracking conversation, but the German student apart, none of us were trained linguists – what mattered was experience, and sharing ideas regardless of disciplinary boundaries or language.

And while I freely admit to being absolutely shattered now (and really struggling to write this) I also feel energised, and enthused. I have a taste now of that the next three years are going to be like, the conversations I’m going to have, the ideas we’re going to achieve as a group, and there is something amazingly inspiring about that. I can’t wait!

I think no record of the evening can go by without mention of the two University of Birmingham students who presented performance pieces to us, one entitled ‘Never Rehearsed, Never Repeated’, involving squirt guns and lemon juice, and a final piece involving lots, and LOTS of sellotape. Wonderful performances that will most definitely stick in the mind for a long time to come!

Tomorrow: day two of the residential school, then back to Leicester (and earth!) for the rest of induction week.

PhD Induction Week: The Introductory Session

You know, it’s slightly ridiculous. I’ve been studying at the University of Leicester for almost five years now, and I still get that ‘first day of school’ anxious feeling the first morning of a new course. At least, till I get onto campus. That’s what I did this morning; dropped my partner at the station (at Leicester, the station is down the road from the Uni) and then went for coffee. And sat and worked for a couple of hours, making notes, and my anxious feeling disappeared.  I guess I’m more comfortable in my role as student than I thought…

Anyway, this week is chock full of all kinds of events at the University of Leicester – it’s also Fresher’s week, so we’re dodging undergraduates and people giving us flyers for things we don’t want (one advantage to being an older mature student: they tend to assume we’re staff and don’t bother us!). I’m hoping to blog my way through this week, to give a flavour of what a PhD induction week is like – through my eyes – but we’ll see how far I get with that one. It’s a heavy week for me in terms of lipreading, and I may just find its too much work on my eyes (if you want to know what it’s like, turn the sound off on the television and try lipreading/understanding a programme on that. Exactly. and I’ve got to do 12 hours of it tomorrow). So we’ll see.

Today was the lightest day of the week, with the introduction to induction week. I got to say hello to a few of my fellow new PhD students, one of whom will be at the residential school in Birmingham tomorrow, which was nice. That was before a two hour session where a whole lot of information was thrown at us by the Postgraduate Tutor – most of it was the kind of thing you’d expect to hear in a session like this. Where to find the student handbook. Where to find this, that the other.  Some of it I’ve heard before – in my MA induction – and some of it, well, okay, a lot of it was new. Every day now, I’m getting a better idea of what the PhD is going to demand of me, a shape of the work that I’m going to have to produce over the next few months. And that’s all good. But I’m also finding out some of the fun stuff. As our Postgrad Tutor explained, this first year is the most free we’re going to be for the rest of our academic lives. Its about reading – a LOT – and engaging in lots of conversations, opening our minds to the possibilities and learning our fields. Put that way, it all sounded really exciting. It was a lovely way to start the week – we’ll have to see if the rest of the week maintains this feeling. I do expect it to at least end that way, with the introductory New History Lab session. This is the history postgraduate community at Leicester and it’s fab, warm, welcoming and they do tea and fantastic cakes! I am firmly in favour of cakes. Cakes are food for the soul, as well as the body, in my book…. but I’m jumping ahead of myself.

First – tomorrow: A very long day. The train from Leicester to Birmingham first thing, and the M3C residential school all day, with a dinner in the evening. Should be fun!