Sunday, 9 January 2011

Fresher in the Midst

I'm a bad blogger, having not updated in since the middle of December. However, now things are underway, I'm aiming to get a bit better!

The snow did alter things a bit, but I finally got back home just before New Year, which was seen in wrapped up in a blanket outside by a fire with some of my new neighbours. It was a really lovely way to see the New Year in.

So, a few days later I rocked up to my department, nervous as hell, ready to start the next 3.5 years of my life. It sounds pretty intimidating when put like that! Spent the first day just finding my feet, sat in with the secretaries, as there wasn't a desk available for me. They were lovely though and I also got introduced to some of the PhD students, so I've slotted in with a little group there. That was pretty much the process for the first couple of days, as my academic record is wrong, meaning that at the moment I can't access the computer system, register, get an ID card, look up journal articles etc. More than a bit limiting really! It did mean that I could go home early on Thursday and spend the rest of the day and all day Friday working from home. Not that a lot got done, mostly because I'd find an article, read the abstract, try to access the full version and end up frustrated. Rinse and repeat! It's still an issue, so I think there may be some stamping my foot - it's not like it should take that long to change 2011 to 2010 really.

I had a really good meeting with my supervisor on Thursday morning though, which definitely calmed my nerves in some respects and then daunted me in others! I think having a bit more focus on what I need to do has helped, because until we can speak with the company and get exact details of what they are wanting, there is a limit to what is practical for me to do. She also introduced me to a couple of people in the department, which was handy.

One of my OMG WTF moments happened during one of these introductions. It was meeting the head of the group I am working under and my supervisor just dropped into the conversation what I did for my MSc thesis - Glucose sensors in China. All fine. Then she added on that I was going to do a seminar on it. I think my face must have betrayed my inner, whaty what what thoughts, as she tagged on, "Once you've settled in, of course". It will all be OK, as I did a presentation plus questions as part of my MSc, but it was all a bit daunting. I then had to try and compose myself and hold an intellectual discussion about it all with this man.

Otherwise, there was a definite amount of considering how to plan my 42 months; including thinking about deadlines and things. Thankfully, my 5 month report is minor, and it will definitely be a case of cutting down on what I have put in there, rather than not having enough material. Given that it may well come when the first testing is happening and I'm trying to process results, that's a relief. Just before Easter, the plan is to go to a conference in London, get a feel for things in the field and then probably go to Munich in October for a European conference, where she hopes I'll be presenting my first poster. Now that was another intimidating moment. Least they are all lovely and supportive and want to help!

The weekend has been spent fairly gently. Curling up with cups of tea, enjoying books for pleasure and popping out to a local town to see what was there and have a cup of tea. Baking has also occurred, but I feel that deserves a separate post, for baking shall feature most definitely. Food is definitely something to enjoy and there is nothing like coming home to the smell of something delicious in the slow cooker and some sweet treat for afterwards.

So, here's to another week of things going relatively well, settling in and being a valid student. Hope that everyone else has had a successful start to the new year too.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The move and the meeting

Well, I've not been exactly reliable with getting an update, but here we go!

The move didn't exactly go smoothly, but I did get into my new place and I do love it. I am not planning on moving again in a hurry, I don't really fancy the general stress of it all, let alone the fact I seem to be a little cursed. The short version of my move was failed deliveries, a car breakdown and nearly seven hour delay to the journey, a spectacular fall on the ice, a massive and heavy unexpected leftover wardrobe that is eating space, a non-working cooker and a dishwasher that can't be connected as the pipe is missing a part! Despite all that, I am quickly settling in. Currently, I am away but I'm looking forward to going back, getting everything put away and testing out the cooker for baking capability - clearly that is very important. A few mornings having a cup of tea in bed looking out at this view (maybe without the snow) will also be wonderful and feel very luxurious.


I've also got a bit further with getting to grips with the nitty gritty of the PhD. Everything I knew was a bit vague and I was a little uncertain how they felt about having me, given that I am not fully well and will need a little extra support and understanding.

My first inkling that things were going to be relatively OK was a phone call from my Aunt who I am planning on staying with when I have to spend time over at the industrial partner. Apparently, she's been at a dinner party the night before and sat next to a guy. He was talking about having done some interviews in Southampton, that they'd interviewed good candidates but one very bright girl who they were very pleased had accepted the PhD and they were looking forward to working with, and despite her having M.E. they wanted to support her as best they could. Needless to say, my Aunt realised who it was he was on about, although I don't think she let on.

I also had a meeting with my main supervisor in Southampton. She was really nice and answered any questions I had. I think I felt a little overwhelmed by it all, but I keep reassuring myself that it's all one bit at a time and to start with there will be a lot of support to know where I am going with it all. I got a tour of the department and the facilities, as well as briefly meeting some of the other PhD students and longer meetings with a couple of people that I will be working closely with initially. Having more details and things to read and a bit of a plan of action has certainly been reassuring. It's definitely going to take a bit of getting used to on both sides and adapting expectations, from my side, not knowing what to expect and from theirs understanding that they have someone with biomedical understanding who needs the engineering training rather than an engineer that they'll train in the biomedical side of things. Exciting and daunting in equal measure, but that's all part of the adventure.

Anyway, back to planning Christmas baking for me. I really have no idea where all the time has gone.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

The Night Before...

... the adventure begins!

Well, tonight is the last night I shall be living here, here being with my parents. That's not to say I won't be back to visit, but that is very definitely what it is going to be - visiting.

I'm swinging between excitement and nerves about the whole thing. It's not just the moving but the whole new life I am going to be embarking on. I keep panicking that I am going to be too out of my depth, that the whole thing will be too much. Then I have to stop and remind myself that I can do this; I've always found a way in the past and that the whole team I will be working with seemed really nice at the interview. I also just remind myself not to look at the whole next three and a half years, but just the next three and a half weeks. That's far enough to plan in advance, right?

In fact, the next three and a half weeks are going to be filled with lots of fun. I'm making the most of having some spare time before I start my course by squeezing in visits to as many friends as possible. I'm having a few days in my new place before flying out to Belfast for my sister's MA graduation and seeing extended family, before heading up to Glasgow to see some very dear friends. I'm also going to try and see some other wonderful friends in Derby before Christmas - phew!! Let's be grateful I've done most of my Christmas shopping.

So, tomorrow I shall embark on the next chapter. I shall be living on the edge of the New Forest, where I can see horses and cows and pigs with piglets while enjoying a drink in my local. The countryside is where my heart lies, so having that in my life will help me keep my head when I am threatening to lose it at points!

But that is all tomorrow, tonight I need to try and get some sleep.

Goodnight all and welcome to my little corner of insanity!