I finally took a trip up to Lancaster University! Unfortunately, it wasn’t for a jolly. I met my supervisor in person, and I attended the Intellectual Party/Summer Conference. I enjoyed the conference and managed to get a bit of research done despite the busy schedule.
My PhD programme is a distance programme, but when I originally signed up, there were supposed to be two face-to-face residentials in the first two years. Even though the residentials come at a cost (hotels, travel, time off, meals etc), I was really looking forward to meeting my cohort and the teaching team in person. Unfortunately, I joined the year COVID happened, so the first residential was conducted online as an emergency response. The year after, COVID was still a thing, so again, this was conducted online. It was a shame as I felt I missed out on meeting people and making some important connections. Last year, I decided to go on a writing retreat to give me some time to really dedicate to writing, and it was amazing. This year I thought I’d do something a bit different.
I received an email from the university advertising a conference called the Intellectual Party/Summer Conference, an event for PhD students to meet and collaborate with others. I was a bit apprehensive at first, but I’m really glad that I went. It was a different experience as much of the conference was set up for students to talk about their research, which was really good, but after a while, I did just want to listen to other people talk. I really enjoyed the two craft skills sessions I attended. The first was “building an academic identity”, and the second was “surviving your viva.” I met some really lovely people doing some really amazing and interesting research. On the first day, there was a BBQ and on the second day I went for dinner with a couple of the people I met at the conference. The conference was only two days, but I extended my trip to four and managed to squeeze in some writing time in the library and meet my supervisor in person, which was brilliant.
I didn’t get as much writing time in as I originally wanted, but I came away with a lot of ideas. I’m learning a lot about myself recently in that I go through this process of what I call the “procrastination mind.” I watched a documentary about famous writers (and I can’t for the life of me remember who said this…), but one writer said that procrastination is part of his writing process – even when he isn’t writing, he is in his head and he explores plots, thinks about characters etc. This is probably controversial as many people would probably consider procrastination as just procrastination. But I do feel that I go through long periods of thinking where my mind is processing and sorting ideas and different directions. When I had a short break from writing earlier this year, I went through my “procrastination mind” period and came back refreshed with a new direction and fully formed ideas. I’ve learnt that this is my process and that there are typically three; having ideas and thinking about writing (my procrastination mind), thinking and writing (actively progressing) and no thinking and no writing (getting nothing done at all; writer’s block). It’s the last phase for me which is a sign that things are not going well.
Anyway, the Lancaster campus was gorgeous (if not a bit confusing to navigate), and the library was probably one of the best libraries I’ve visited at a university. It was clean and modern and had a nice feel to it. It was just a shame that it was cold and rained 90% of the time as that did spoil it a bit. If I ever decide to do anything else at a university after this PhD, I really need to make sure it’s in a hot country. My MA was in Ireland and it rained the entire time there too. Florida maybe?
I stayed in an apartment in the centre of town which was ideal. The town itself has everything you need, the buses to campus are regular, and it only takes about 20 minutes to get from the centre to the university. I enjoyed waking up and strolling down to the centre of town, grabbing some breakfast and making my way to campus.
I felt like I packed a lot in when I was there and was absolutely shattered every night. The train journey to Lancaster was long and tiring in itself, taking nearly 4 hours. In fact, when I came home, I was exhausted. Overall I enjoyed my trip and the conference, but I won’t be going back to Lancaster anytime soon.
If you want to learn more about the intellectual party conference visit the website at http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/intellectualparty/