Grad School – The New Life (Pt 1)

There is an awful lot I want to say about how I’m getting on in the States with my PhD program…yet I’m so unsure about where to begin (or how to say it) that nothing is really happening on the WordPress front. The best I can do is this stream-of-conscious collection of snippets.

|Towards Domesticity|

It was several months ago when I wrote about what being settled in one place would be like, and how I’d cope with staying in one place. Right now I’m not feeling completely settled – I still have a lot of household & decorative stuff I need to buy/collect, but the apartment I’ve got is a nice, spacious one (albeit in the familiar flavour of beige temporary student apartments world-wide).

To an introvert like myself, the private sphere is an important one. It is where I go to when I need to recharge my energy, re-focus and either disconnect from or rev-up for the outside world. It doesn’t have to be tidy (in fact, I prefer it to be messy, since that gives it a more ‘lived-in’ feel) – but it does have to be MINE.

At present, I’ve ticked off the following “domesticity” items on my list, with more hopefully to come soon:

  • Photo Frames for my pictures. This was one of the first things I bought, actually.
  • Spare food in my cupboards. I even now own some chilli sauce (it was a gift from a friend) and several varieties of jams (“jelly” to my American readers).
  • Battle against the beige. I improvised with a pair of colourful scarves that I’ve hung up like banners on my walls. They’re a sophistication level up from posters.

A coffee machine is next on my shopping list, probably with my first paycheque.

|Towards Society|

I’ve not really played by the rules I set out in my ‘Back To Society’ Game…but that’s mainly because I’ve not felt that I really needed to.  In what feels like an overnight transition I’ve been pulled out of my insular Edinburgh existence and tossed back into society, then. Americans are great to be around – they talk a lot, and of course I immediately start to talk back. It doesn’t feel challenging to make small-talk in the USA like it often does in the UK. Making friends for me is always a slow process…but based on previous experiences I’m on the right timeline.

|Away From Poverty|

Reading this recent news article from the BBC really hit home for me, because the contrast between my life in Edinburgh and life in the USA is markedly different. In Edinburgh I was constantly stressed out about my finances – I’d consult my income spreadsheets multiple times per day, I’d fling myself at all paid opportunities I believed I was qualified for, and I didn’t engage in “leisure” because it felt like I couldn’t afford it. Having to constantly think about my precarious finances was emotionally and mentally draining. It is nice that I don’t have such a problem now (although I’m still waiting for my first paycheque).

In general I feel a lot happier & healthier on the Eastern Seaboard compared to my last 6 months in Edinburgh. I’m no longer crashing asleep at 8.30am. I’ve got a lot more energy. I’m drinking less caffeine and eating less junk food. In fact in general I think I’m eating a bit less (not that I need to lose any weight, but I think stress & overall bad diets cause me to eat more, so eating less is a sign that I’m doing OK). It feels as if the bits of my personality I like are coming out again.

The parallels between Basel-London and Edinburgh-New Brunswick are fairly obvious: moving from a period of stagnation/wrong directions to one with a very focussed direction.

|So Far Away|

Am I missing the UK? It’s funny, because while we’re on the subject of those two parallels…it’s London that I’m really aching for. I wish I was able to pedal from Streatham to Chelsea one more time. I wish I was back in Imperial College on the top floor of the Chemistry building, watching the sunset illuminate Queens Tower. There are several things about my time at Imperial that were simply fantastic, which I can’t really replicate over here. I don’t think that there is a problem with me pining for London occasionally – especially not while I’m still adjusting to my new life – but it is interesting what revelations come when you move location.


...And all this is before I’ve even gotten onto the subject of Grad School itself…


3 thoughts on “Grad School – The New Life (Pt 1)

  1. One day you’ll probably miss where you are right this moment, just as now you are missing the place you used to be. You’ll find the fantastic-ness of this new life and it will stay with you wherever you go. Good luck with your new home! 🙂

  2. Pingback: Happiness As A Destination | St Andrews Lynx's Blog

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