At the beginning of this year I attended the 7th Annual Winter School in Florence. This event offers PhD students from across the world the valuable opportunity to develop their research skills within the field of urban and spatial planning. Experienced academics based at institutions across Europe deliver a variety of lectures and workshops.
Aiming to gain some practical experience in policy alongside my doctoral studies, I decided to apply to the Political Studies Association’s/House of Commons Committee Office internship. A large part of my doctoral research focuses on analysing policies in a British context, so the chance to witness government scrutiny first-hand sounded like an invaluable opportunity.
After being a struggling entrepreneur myself, I have a strong passion for applying entrepreneurism into settings outside of the privileged, well connected, ‘suited and booted’ stereotypes it’s normally associated with, and in particular in the application of entrepreneuring (the doing of entrepreneurial activities) to disadvantaged groups, and those we might consider as ‘at-risk’ of falling out of society’s support and favour.
At the end of November, I took myself down to London to attend the Middle East and Central Asia Music Forum hosted at Birkbeck College. One of my supervisors, Caroline Bithell, had told me about it earlier on in the semester but what with it being just a few months into the extremely hectic first semester of PhD life, and what with me having nothing to present, and what with my inability to afford the train tickets, I’d written it off and put it on the hallowed “Maybe After Fieldwork” list. When I found out that the NWSSDTP would be able to cover the costs of my attendance, however, my excuses dissolved and I began looking forward to it.
‘Working with Will taught me how not just to pause, but to pause effectively to refill the tank and orientate for the next task’.
This one day workshop was designed to enable participants to ‘Take stock, let go and imagine what’s possible’. Through a wonderful range of activities the day invited participants to step back, take stock, experience alternative perspectives, explore common challenges and identify a clearer sense of the way ahead.
Telling people that you’re doing a PhD can provoke a wide variety of reactions, ranging from the flattering to the mildly offensive. While people are often impressed by the idea of (eventually, hopefully!) ‘becoming a doctor’, others are sceptical about just how much ‘real-world’ experience you can really get within the cushy, ivory-tower world of academia. Many of my friends – themselves having graduated years ago, or skipped university altogether and gone straight into the ‘real world’ – are certainly, understandably bemused by my still clinging onto the identity of studenthood, semi-jokingly questioning if I am ever actually going to leave university and get a (so called) real job.