I haven’t written for a while as I recently moved to Exeter for a summer internship in Met Office. If you’re interested in what the research here involves, check out my popular science blog. However, my Exeter adventure involves way more than work.
While London and Imperial are as international as it gets, Exeter has a very British (or rather English) feel. Today I spent ages queuing for cream tea and discussing with English colleagues what being British actually involves. Here’s the list of very British things I experienced only today.
- Queuing. I come from a Central European country, where your place in the queue depends pretty much only on how cunning you are.
The Isle of Skye will ruin scenery for you forever.
You have been warned. There is no place more dangerous for your sense of beauty, especially if you go when the sun is out. After that, no other scenery will seem to measure up. Future holidays will be spent passive-aggressively trying to get fellow travellers to look at pictures of Skye on your phone.
I mean, just look at these photos from Talisker Beach.
Blue skies, crystal clear water, black sand and green pasture behind us. Just shocking.
And the scandalous seafood lunch with Talisker Bay oysters going at ~£1 a piece.
The second term was tough with five separate two-week modules and two one-week half-modules, all with their own coursework and deadlines, plus we all had to complete a literature review for our research project and submit a 20 page write-up. As well as intimidating, this was very exciting as it marked the transition from the taught components of the course to the research element, which is exactly why I embarked upon the course in the first place: to test out my ideas for research into the energy system transition to see if they have any validity, if I can ‘do research’, if I find it interesting and feel it can be useful.
I’m definitely a social animal. While I need some “me time” once in a while, I tend to surround myself with people. This is why when I embarked on my first PhD journey, I wasn’t too thrilled to learn that I’d be travelling alone. That sounded so scary, I was afraid that something would go wrong or, in the best case scenario, I’d just feel lonely and miserable for a few days.
Since then I’ve been to so many conferences in various countries, often extended to a mini-vacation. Almost always, completely alone. And let me tell you, I learned to love it.
If you’re thinking of going to Amsterdam, go to Haarlem instead. No, seriously.
Haarlem is a smaller city just 15 minutes away from Amsterdam by train. It’s got far fewer tourists, cheaper and nicer accommodation, and way better food. PLUS, it’s a mere 20 minute bus ride to the beach!
With the final assignment of term 2 done and dusted, we decided to take advantage of Eurostar’s new direct train from London to Amsterdam (£35 one way). Well, almost direct. It does do a short stop in Brussels and the total journey is about 3.5 hours. Nevertheless, it’s still way more convenient than a flight.
Best part of doing a PhD? Conferences! When you finally manage to do some meaningful research, it’s time to present it to a wider audience. In other words, pack your suitcases and bon voyage! I know that attending conferences might be a bit overwhelming in the beginning, so here are a few tips to make the most of them.
- Find a good conference. If you’re as lucky as I am and have a great supervisor, she or he will suggest interesting events to you. Otherwise you’ll need to do the work yourself. However, at Imperial we’re flooded with e-mails advertising scientific events, there’s also Google and your colleagues who can give you some advice.