There is serenity in the quiet and thrill in the noise. Places like Crail (the most rural of Fife-shire) and Basel (which despite its pharmaceutical core was small, compact and provincial in its tempo) are the quiet ones. Places where I can have an early night without worrying about the noise or on missing anything important; places where I can take long walks in the countryside and breathe in fresh air; places where you can appreciate taking it easy and relaxing with nature.
Then there are the big city lights. Edinburgh has its clubs, pubs and shops to suit my every whim. The pressure of students gave the city cheap eateries, a vibrant spectrum of interest groups and accessible culture (discounted U25 entry into classical music concerts). Philadelphia is an American metropolis in the style of NYC or Chicago: skyscrapers, quirky student districts and never-ending suburban sprawl, doughnuts (“donuts”) available at 11.30pm and pharmacies selling makeup remover are open at 5.30am. In the city you stay out late just to see the monuments illuminated. You take up new hobbies because they’re suddenly offered at the end of your street (ballroom dancing & pilates are the most famous examples). Instead of sitting with your feet in the river you sit with your feet in a fountain.
12 months in Switzerland was 12 months in the “quiet zone”. I didn’t actually mind the quiet – I needed the sleepy weekends to write up personal statements – but I kept thinking about the exciting time I lived in the big city…
I also had to make a firm set of decisions about what I would do following my placement in Switzerland. I wanted to reapply to the American graduate schools for PhD – I knew I would likely accept a British PhD offer too if it was made to me – but the application deadlines for the American PhD programs are in December/January almost 9 months before Semester enrolment would happen.
I had a brief look over the re-application criteria for one of my chosen universities. They informed potential re-applicants that the graduate selection committee looked over both your application attempts and that they required at least one new referee the second time around. It was quite clear from the webpage their expectation was that you would go away and do something constructive between your applications. If I wanted to re-apply to this university again (amongst others, potentially) I would have to try and fit something in between then (late Spring) and the submission deadline (early December).
I’ve done 2 industrial placements giving me a total of 12 months experience. That surely counts as quite extensive. On the other hand, I’ve done less in the way of academic-based research (the students who worked in industry in their 4th year completed shorter Masters research projects than those who stayed in-house): maybe an internship in a university research group would be more constructive to my PhD applications than more industrial work?
And that is how London came about.
Which is quite exciting. I’m chronically under-travelled in my own country and haven’t made it down to the British capital more than 3 times in my life. A large number of my university friends ended up there in their quest for fortune and fame, there’s probably more Edinburgh University friends of mine there than left in Edinburgh. London is big, chaotic, multi-cultured and enticing. If I can live in a place like London without going crazy(-er) it will open me up to the possibility of living in other scary & vast metropoli such as Manhattan or Chicago.
I’m going to be affiliated with one of the top universities in the country, even in the world. If I want a brand-name education that will be respected in other countries, I’m going to get it at Imperial College.
I’ll be busy and the pace will be hectic…but in the end I know it’ll work for me. I’ll make it work.