My PhD: The First Fortnight

I’ve now been a PhD student at the Shakespeare Institute for two whole weeks. It’s gone so quickly; every day has had something new and exciting to keep me busy. Here’s a little insight into what I’ve been up to so far…

Welcome events at the Institute

At the Institute, we know how to kick off a new academic year. Current SI students throw a tea party to welcome new students, and everyone consumes copious amounts of tea and cake together. This year was no different: the day before this term began turned out to be an excellent opportunity for us all to get to know one another (and, of course, to increase our blood sugar levels).

Afternoon tea at the Shakespeare Institute: how better to kick-start a new academic year?

The first day of term involved less cake and more introductory talks. It was slightly terrifying to be taking notes about vivas and the selection of examiners on Day #1 of my PhD, but I understand the supervision process a lot better now. The evening involved free tickets (woo free stuff!) to see The Two Noble Kinsmen at the RSC. There’s no space for a proper review here, but it was great! I’m hoping to go back and see it again at some point.

First-day freebies: The Two Noble Kinsmen at the RSC (photo by Donald Cooper © RSC)

Midlands3Cities induction

Days #2 and #3 were spent at an induction event run by my funding body – the Midlands3Cities AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership. New M3C PhD students based in Birmingham, Nottingham, and Leicester came together at the ICC in Birmingham (too many acronyms…!) for two days of introductory talks, workshops, and some tasty, tasty food. We heard about the various pots of money we have access to during our studies; M3C generously provides additional funding for students to complete relevant training, placements, and/or research trips, and to attend and organise events around the world. There was also a great session on communication and managing supervisory relationships, and we were lucky enough to be put up in a hotel overnight and fed a fancy three-course dinner. I came home feeling like I have a first class ticket to Doctorhood; I really can’t wait to get stuck in to it all.

Trio of desserts at the M3C induction. I ate them all.

Transitioning from MA to PhD

Even though I’ve now been studying at the Shakespeare Institute for a year, I’m feeling like a newbie all over again. My whole timetable has changed: a variety of weekly, module-specific seminars have been replaced with a research seminar every other week, where PhD and MA-by-research students take turns to give 50-minute papers on their work. I meet with one (or both) of my supervisors once a month, and between meetings I manage my own time and workload. I’m not sure yet where I’ll be spending the majority of my time. There’s a very shiny new research room in the University of Birmingham’s brand new library on the main campus, and of course there’s the cosy library at the Institute. (Or there’s always my bed desk, but I guess I’ll try the other options out first…!) Either way, things have changed a little more than I expected them to. It’s all good, though – once I find my feet, I think I’m really going to enjoy this new way of working.

Part of the beautiful Research Room at the new UoB library. (There’s a coffee machine and lockers, too <3.)

Extra-curricular and funsies

I’ve also spent quite a bit of time getting involved with activities outside of my own research during these first weeks. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust reading room has become a second home while I crack on with one project, and I’ve started working as an assistant on one of the MA modules at the Institute. There was opportunity to meet fellow research students on the main campus last week at an evening social event, and on Friday, I took part in my very first weekly SI football match. Football was a lot of fun – particularly the post-match trip to the local pub – but walking has proven to be a somewhat painful activity ever since. Maybe I should stretch more before my next attempt…?

There’s no photo evidence of football just yet, but look – it’s in my diary! It must be true.

It’s been a pretty fab first fortnight. I’m very happy to be getting started on a new project – by far the biggest I’ve embarked on – and I’m excited to settle into a new routine. Stay posted for more updates!