Monday, 4 October 2010
Every year around Labor Day, I start to get that lovely, crisp 'back-to-school' feeling. I've always loved going back to school--shopping for new school clothes and checking off the supply list, meeting all your classmates & teachers on the first day, figuring out who to sit with, etc.
This fall's been a bit different, and it's a long way from picking up colored pencils and glue sticks at the start of first grade. I've got fancy moleskine notebooks, 4 GB flash drives (which weren't on the supply list even when I was in high school), and a netbook with wireless internet connectivity. My new textbooks aren't 'required'--I'm making up the reading list.
The only thing that's really the same: the nerves. This afternoon, I'm speaking with the director of the Fulbright awards programme in London. He wants to hear about my research aims before I contact his scholars for interviews. This all sounds very high-brow and exciting, and it's all I've ever wanted--to be an academic and get to talk to people like this. So part of me is thrilled, the PhD student part of me couldn't be happier. But the other side, the little-kid-in-first-grade part of me--well, it's terrified. How did this happen? Since when am I qualified to talk to anybody about my research? When I did book reports in school and made dioramas and posters, there wasn't any programme director asking me about my research. This is just some topic I'm interested in, and I found some great supervisors, and now I'm here...My third day of the PhD and I'm already expected to talk about 'my research aims'...
Before I went to England for the first time, on an exchange program at the University of Bath, I was really excited but very nervous. So nervous, in fact, that I threw up. Right there in the Starbucks parking lot as I was enjoying a good-bye coffee with my best friend. I felt better immediately, and I'll always remember her advice. As I fretted about meeting new people and making friends, she said "Relax. People always like you, because you're smiley and fabulous. They won't know what hit 'em."
And it was true--I had an amazing time, met some great people, and really fell in love with England. And England really loved me back. I found my niche, and my area of interest. So now, as I wait for that phone call, I just need to remember--I'm in my zone. I'm living the dream. This is my research, and I own it.
Update: The conversation went fine. I really had no reason to be that nervous. Am meeting up with a Fulbright student next Monday!