Tag Archives: academia

California Dreaming

Last August, when I gave my first paper at an international Celtic conference, a great opportunity arose from it for me. I was invited by a professor to give a seminar in UCLA at another conference in March of this year. Of course, I accepted his offer on the spot! What a fabulous opportunity! The last few months have been spent writing and preparing for this and it was a nerve-wracking and stressful time. Hence, the absence from WordPress. My life was taken over by this. Thanks to my supportive husband, I was able to throw myself into the deepest depths of textual transmission and stemmatics (huh?!). There were many a late night spent in the 24 hour postgraduate reading-room in university and coffee and sugary sweets were a staple. There were many a time when I felt like throwing in the towel and trusting my own work and lacking confidence in my ability to present my work. But my supervisor and my husband were very supportive and egged me on! The hard work paid off  and I pulled it together in time. The seminar was successful and I had positive feedback. Unfortunately, I did not get to see any sights and sounds of Los Angeles as I was only there for three days. But UCLA is a great campus and I loved being there. Here are some photographs.

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Westwood Boulevard

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The iconic building Royce Hall, UCLA, this is where the conference was held!

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Royce Hall's Italian Romanesque style made it feel European!

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The reception for the conference was held on the balcony which faces Powell Library

LAX - Next stop Rome, Italy!

After my whirlwind trip to LA, my next stop was Rome for a week-long workshop, but I’ll save that for another post :)

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Academic Anomoly

An anomoly can be described as something unique that goes against the grain, diverges from the established norm, breaks rules and trends. The pattern in academic life goes as thus: gain a degree; then a master’s; embark on a doctoral; followed by a post-doctoral and hopefully gain a tenure in your field in university. Sigh! I guess this normally takes approximately 10 years or less.

I have come across plenty of people who have been successful at this and are still in their early thirties. Well, I am an academic anomoly. Why? Well, I fell into academia later in life than the norm. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do so I partied instead.  My aim was to get a degree. This was achieved in 2006. But here I am in 2011 and I am doing my PhD.

I look on jealously at those postgraduate students in the Reading Room who can devote hours and days on end to their research. They are at liberty to pour over books until the small hours of the morning. Yet, I struggle to keep my eyes open past ten o’clock in the evening. After dinner, playing, pyjamas and mental mind games to convince a 3 year old it is time for bed, my brain is jelly and the last thing I can decipher is the uses of the subjunctive forms in Old Irish.  These students don’t know how lucky they are.

Then there are those who are fortunate enough to have gained funding and scholarships to aid them in their research. Far be it that they have to worry about where the money is going to come from to pay the fees. Oh sure, the part-time job helps to pay for drinks, food and rent. But here I am cowering in worry as to how I am going to come up with the funds to pay for another 2 years on the research register and at the same time pay for 2 adults and 2 children to survive in the capital city. Is it a selfish act and should I join the real world? I guess most would say yes. I should put children first.

On a totally superficial level, I arrive into university everyday and enter a fashion parade. All these young hipsters have so much time (and grant money) to dedicate to their wardrobes and appearances. Everyone trying to out do the other in an effort to appear unique, when really what happens is that they all look alike. I get up in the morning and blindly gather some clothes and throw them on before dressing the kids. As for putting on make-up and doing my hair, forget it. A pony-tail is suffice. So I arrive in a fluster after cycling in and I realise my bra is on inside out or my top is on backwards!

At the end of the week between work, teaching and family commitments I have probably done about three hours productive research. Sometimes I feel like I am spitting in the ocean when I think about the vast amount of work I have to do still. Frequently, I lack confidence in my capability of completing this doctorate. Then there is a glimmer of hope and I see myself in the cape, graduating and sighing in relief. This is what I hold on to and I know deep down that I will achieve what I have set out to do, even in the face of all these adversities.

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