Continuing where Part 1 left off…
Meeting new people again
I am very much an introvert. Loud social gatherings freak me out. I’m not a natural talker. It takes me a while to open up to new acquaintances.
…And yet I like meeting new people. I like spending time in coffeeshops because it means I’m around people. I go along to new events because I don’t mind starting from scratch socially. Once I’ve got to know a person I make a lot more noise.
This is why I like moving to new places and why I’m excited about the PhD. American universities are very international, liberal places. The more nationalities there are a workplace, the more I like being there (even when I’m in a multi-lingual country like Switzerland and have to deal with language barrier problems).
When I’m back in the States I want to join new activities and groups, even though my time will be constrained.
My body requires a certain level of stress hormones to keep it feeling normal. Without cortisol, endorphins and adrenalin fizzing around my bloodstream I don’t feel…well, anything. Boredom frustrates me deeply, I’d rather keep busy – even in it means I’m under pressure. There’s a perfect concentration of those stress hormones that keeps me buzzing and makes me fly through all the tasks I’ve got lined up.
Edinburgh life right now? There are days when I’m stuck at the computer hammering out freelance articles for the next deadline, but after I’ve submitted my assignments I will be waiting for a week or more to get the next batch. All quiet on the western front? Yawn.
When I get back into grad school I will have a lot more to balance up. I’m hoping to get involved with the departmental Graduate Student’s Association (seems like a great way to meet lots of people) and join a fitness class or two. Throw in all the standard 1st year graduate activities – coursework, research, TA duties – and I’m going to be busy. Probably even…pushed for time.
The average well-meaning individual will have a hard time dragging me into a “Well, what 1 thing do you miss the most about living in __?” conversation. I tend to just adapt myself to the living circumstances, savouring what is available but not really pining for the stuff that isn’t.
There are some things that I’m looking forward to re-accessing when I return to American though, which I can’t find satisfactory equivalents of elsewhere.
– The freedom/opportunity to buy nail polish at 4am if I am such inclined.
– Brunches. Americans appreciate brunches in a way that other countries don’t. This makes me sad. A good brunch should be boozy (there was a time when I Brunched with my book clubbers: mimosas were served in champagne flutes until the kitchen ran out of glassware…then switched to pint glasses), have sweet & savoury courses, featured unlimited refills of coffee and last until 3pm.
– Water fountains (fully functioning) in public toilets, shopping malls and train stations. I’m one of those people who glugs through a couple of litres of water per day, usually without even noticing. My glugging is inhibited in the UK because once I’ve finished the contents of my water bottle when I’m out and about…well, I’m stuck. By contrast, in the USA you are never too far from a water fountain.
– Frozen yoghurt joints that are “pay by weight” rather than “choose a size and 3 types of topping” (the latter is usual in the UK). Even though I can easily waste $20 on a single froyo order that way. Damn it, man cannot survive on 3 toppings alone!
– Philadelphia. I guess you already knew that, though?
Moving My Life Forward
It was back in April 2010 that I first decided: “I want to do a Chemistry PhD in the States”. Jeez, that was 3 years ago! My desire to do that PhD haven’t been tempered in the slightest – in fact when I worked in industry and saw more of the various job opportunities available to those with postgraduate qualifications I became even more adamant.
So…three years later that desire is finally bearing fruit. I don’t regret the gap – in fact I am grateful things took the trajectory they did – but I do now really want to get stuck in.
Here in Edinburgh I’m holding back on activities, socializing, travelling and a host of other things because I know my life is not going to revolve around here after this summer. Starting the PhD will mean re-starting the simple act of living for me.