So, You Want To Do A PhD [And Get Money While You’re At It]

I have a strange kind of nostalgia for this time last year. I remember how I had arrived back in Galway for a few days to meet with a potential supervisor to discuss PhD ideas and funding, whilst also keeping my visit very low-key because I was a little bit worried about everything falling through (I’m cautious to the point of Let’s Not Do It At All, sometimes). Otherwise, I was spending my last few months in Stratford reading, researching, writing, thinking, putting together That Proposal. It’s amazing how much has changed in the last twelve months. When I think about it, those few months were fun, exciting, and full of possibility: now that I’ve started my PhD with full funding, I consider myself very lucky to be able to do what I want to do, to be able to do what I love with financial backing. It’s difficult at times, but there is nothing else I would prefer to do right now — which can only be a good thing.

Now, it’s that time of year where research councils such as the AHRC and IRC are rolling out their call for applications, and where people are putting together their proposals, and are sending tentative ideas to academics they’d like to be supervised by. I’m not saying I’m an expert on all that there is to know about applying for a PhD and getting funding (every situation is different), but this is all I can offer.

1. Initially, the process of choosing a supervisor should go like this: Topic, Supervisor, Institution. Which is a contradiction, but this was advice given to me by a PhD student at the Institute and he was damn right. I remember my MA supervisor telling me that I should do the project I’m doing *in* Ireland — because that’s where all the resources and archives and performances are. In that case, choosing my supervisor, and to that extent my institution as well, was a no-brainer (again, have you SEEN our archives?). As much as we all want to work with Tiffany Stern because she’s Tiffany Stern and pretty bloody amazing at what she does, do your research interests align with hers? No? Then don’t approach Tiffany Stern.

2. Make enquiries to intended supervisors. Who is the most enthusiastic about your work? Who makes time to answer your email in a detailed and timely fashion? Who shows interest? What is their attitude towards you? They could be a Big Shot in your field, but if they’re dismissive towards you… do you really want to work with them? This may not be feasible or maybe too expensive, but also try and meet with them in person. That will also give you some indication of how you might get on with them, and how excited they are about your project. I don’t have any advice on contacting supervisors you might not know (I was lucky in that I knew mine from my undergraduate days), but when initially emailing them, don’t send them A Huge Chunk Of Text. Especially if you’re prone to rambling about the stuff you love, like me. I remember redrafting my initial draft of the ‘so hey I’m interested in working with you’ email to my supervisor twice: partially out of fear, partially because it was too damn long. Save the rambling for when you meet them (but please don’t scare them off either).

3. Get reading! Get writing! Don’t be afraid to show drafts of applications to your intended supervisors. Contrary to popular belief, they will not think you are wholly incapable of doing research because of a rough draft you send to them. Remember, they were at that stage you’re at right now too, and they genuinely want to help you succeed and GET MONEY.

4. Enjoy doing the funding applications. I’m serious. They help you clarify and think about your research in ways you can’t imagine. You also need to be super specific in them too, especially when it comes to money and justifying your project’s financial needs. Go onto British Airways or Ryanair or Aer Lingus and see how much it would cost to attend the main conferences in your field. Include details of conference fees, bursaries (if they are awarded, that is — you don’t know if you’ll get them, but it will show that you have actually thought this through), living expenses, and accommodation. This also goes for research trips, but you need to make sure you’re thinking about them sensibly (I wanted to go to the Guthrie Theatre initially, in my first year. Ha ha, good one).

5. Further on from writing and reading and editing, use your supervisors, but ask friends, former tutors, and people whose opinions you actually trust to read over your drafts too. Listen to them. Sometimes you will agree with them, sometimes you won’t, but it is very valuable to discuss your ideas with other people who may offer different perspectives on your work. (If your supervisor is anything like mine, they will encourage this.) For example, my undergraduate Shakespeare tutor [who, in my mind, is equally as brilliant as Tiffany Stern] doesn’t work on performance, but his suggestion to be conscientious of plays with an Irish presence in the text was something I needed to be aware of. My best friend reads everything I send to her, and she is the queen of detecting clunky expressions and has the innate ability to make sentences sound beautiful and clear. And where your supervisors are concerned, they can help in making very valuable changes: suggesting a line of enquiry to take, or a place to go on a research trip to, or particular authors to include in your critical context section.

6. If the scholarship you are applying for requires an interview, bring a thesis outline and a plan for the duration of your studies. Draw on it during the interview (maybe bring another copy for yourself to keep), but leave it with your interviewers. Also, you might be asked to think about how your work so far has brought you to this stage, and how your work can make an impact beyond your immediate field. This is important: what are the wider implications of the work that you want to do? Again, what your assessors want to see is that you have actually made an effort, and that you have thought this through, and that you’re not flying by the seat of your pants (well, we all are flying by the seat of our pants, we all just need to learn how to hide it. I’m still learning myself. Also, isn’t ‘flying by the seat of your pants’ a FABULOUS expression?).

8. Acknowledge that your research is going to change and develop over this period, and that this is okay. In fact, it’s fun. As I’ve already said, funding applications are invaluable for helping you to clarify your research question, and to reshape it into something more exciting than you previously thought. If you don’t get funding, that doesn’t mean that you’re incapable of doing research, or that your idea isn’t great — research councils are unpredictable and often very fickle. Someone will get funding from one awarding body, and will be turned down by another. It’s very, very weird, and very saddening considering the amount of funding that is out there for the humanities (i.e., dwindling, dwindling quite fast). I wish you all the best of luck, and enjoy the ride.

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The stimlist needs your help

So, it would be great if this survey was sent far and wide. Do fill it in yourself and pass it on! And fill it in again, if needs be! (God knows I keep remembering other stims to put in…)

...autisticook

we-can-do-it-stamp
A couple of days ago, I wrote a blog post about stimming and why I’d always thought I didn’t stim.

In that post, I added a survey so people could list their own stims. Autistic stims, but also ADHD stims, OCD stims, Tourette stims, manic stims, depressed stims, stressed stims, and any other stim you can think of.

The response has been overwhelming. Over 250 stims have been added so far, with more coming in every day.

Have a look at the responses so far.

So. This is big. And I want to make it even bigger. Because perfectionism, right?

But I can’t do it alone (argh!). I need your help.

Please post a link to the stimming survey on your blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed, Google+ circle, Tumblr, or Pinterest. Or link to this post. Comment on other blogs. Spread the word.

We’re doing this for everyone who’s ever…

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[The day is finally here. Registration for speakers closes on 25 April, auditors have until 23 May. As I’ve said before, I can’t recommend BritGrad enough, and I’m so excited to be involved this year. Get submitting them registration forms NOW!]

BritGrad. June 1st - 3rd 2017

Friends, postgrads, countrymen…lend us your abstracts!
 
We come to open BritGrad registration.
 
The research that men do lives after them,
 
The best is often entered in their papers,
 
So let it be with BritGrad.
 
 
(What are you waiting for? Get registering now! See the CFP and poster for more details.)

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The (slightly sentimental, slightly mawkish) Year in Review 2012

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,600 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

I wouldn’t necessarily say that my annual report would be the most impressive thing that you’ll see this year, but it’s nice to see how far the blog has come. (And there are fireworks too!) I’m personally glad to see that ‘Women with Asperger’s syndrome’ was a particularly popular post, and of course, one is always very happy to see that picture of Mick Jagger from Bent again.

However, it has got me thinking about the year itself. At this present moment in time, I’m pretty much halfway through my masters degree, I’m in the UK, it’s my first Christmas as a postgraduate student, and also it’s my first Christmas HAVING TO WORK OVER THE BLOODY HOLIDAY PERIOD. You can add a optional ‘Gah!’ after that last bit, if you so choose. I’d like to think that at this point, I’ve adjusted more to what is expected of you as a postgraduate. I feel that I’m almost settling into a groove of sorts, knowing what level to work at. Well, maybe — we’ll see what happens when the final essays for this semester come in, how second semester pans out, and when the dissertation kicks off next summer. But in general, this year has been all change, change, change. In more ways than one.

There are *some* constants. I’m happy to announce that I’m still in love with Shakespeare, in fact I probably love him even more now. I’m happy to announce that the friends and family I care about are still here, whether they are still in Ireland, reside in the UK, or further away. And I’m happy in Stratford, which has been almost a new beginning of sorts. I know I’m starting to sound like a Stephen Gately song, so any better turns of phrase will be very much appreciated in the comments.

I haven’t had any major problems with 2012 (it still has one more day to completely mess around with me though). I’m hoping that this time next year, I can say the same about 2013 (don’t mess around with me either, please). I hope all of you have as much fun as you can possibly muster in 2013, just as long as you don’t go too crazy on the pink lemonade while you’re at it.

Don’t ask me WHY I Googled ‘christmas squirrel’…

Happy 6th of December, everyone. Some of you are still doing exams, some of you are not (like yours truly — OH WHAT A FEELING. This is quickly interrupted by the fact that I have essays to write over the Christmas period, so perhaps do not take heed of what I am saying), and some of you… eh… well, I don’t know what you are doing, but everyone likes a cute little animal getting very festive, right?

What a happy little skwirrel.

I don't know what sort of pun should go here. Suggestions welcome.
I don’t know what sort of pun should go here. Suggestions welcome.

[BritGrad is on the horizon! I’m delighted to be involved this year, as this year’s conference was tremendous fun. What’s even more exciting is that it’s entering its fifteenth anniversary too. Keep an eye on the blog (and Facebook, and Twitter which is coming soon) for updates. Mark it in yer diaries, cancel your wedding, postpone that holiday, etc.!]

BritGrad. June 1st - 3rd 2017

Hello all,

We’re very pleased indeed to announce that BritGrad 2013 will convene June 6-8. Mark your calendars now!

In other news, we have a new committee about to plan another excellent conference, chaired this year by Cathleen McKague. For more info on the core and sub-committees, head over to theAbout Us section of the site.

[They can be reached, as always, at britgrad@yahoo.com.]

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The New Newness

I’ve been living in Stratford for the past few days now, and two weeks from today, myself and a gaggle of other new students will be arriving at the Institute for the start of two weeks’ induction. Exciting, nerve-wracking, new, lovely stuff. Although, in the light of new things and new places and new newness, I’m trying to avoid turning this post into a minutiae description of what it took to get there, like some blogs do. Seriously, I just hopped on a plane from Knock, landed in Birmingham, took a train or two, THAT WAS IT. This blog does not host contemporary rewritings of ‘Old Man Travelling’, if that’s what you’re here for.

sad Wordsworth reacts to this news. maybe.

Stratford hasn’t really changed a lot since I last was here, unless you’re counting the amazingly fantastic weather. Hundreds of tourists are still pounding the pavement on Henley Street, filling its restaurants, wandering into Shakespeare’s house and gardens and into the giftshop and bookshop, and eventually trickling down onto the green outside the RSC Theatres. Seeing so many people enjoying the sunshine, replete with vendors floating in the river (coming from Ireland, I still find that incredibly novel) and buskers playing the violin or the electric guitar — it’s a sight that’s very reminiscent of Galway in the summertime. Oddly, I still feel like a tourist of some sort, but maybe that’s because I’m still finding my way around, looking for the nearest ATM, the cheapest place to buy colour shampoo, and still finding hidden crevices within the town that I hadn’t discovered before.

I can’t remember if I felt the same about Galway — the first time I had visited NUIG with the intent of studying there, to me the university appeared to be this GREAT BIG SPACE. I genuinely thought it was huge (it’s really, really not). Subsequently, when I finally moved, I barely remember if I ventured beyond the centre of town at all (getting involved in NUIG Dramsoc actually brought me into the town more, now that I think of it). I speak as someone who only first went out to Salthill in my third year, to the ridicule of many.

Anyway, such adjustment is customary, isn’t it? I like to think that I’ve learned a bit about adjusting to somewhere new four years on. The funny thing is, I’ve realised that I’ve gone from being the token Shakespearean in Galway to potentially becoming the token Paddy here. We’ll see how that works out around 17th March.

and now, a nice picture of Mason Croft, where the SI resides — admire, everyone.

As well as this, other newness currently resides in my room, in the form of Very New Books and boxes of herbal tea. That’s a non-sequitur, right there, but surely a very necessary one. Newness continues apace!

 

Strange News From Nowhere, or, The Great Galway Goodbye Trail

I’m a little sentimental today, as today is the first time in four years that I won’t be starting another year in Galway. No more rolling into NUIG at nine in the morning, fresh as a daisy, at the start of the only week in the academic year where you could legitimately get away with not doing much work. No more filing into large lecture theatres, filling out forms, deliberating over whether you want to do the history of the Crusades or military history, children’s fiction or true crime. No more running into folks you haven’t seen in weeks or months, screaming down the concourse OH MY GOD HOW ARE YOU HOW WAS YOUR SUMMER etc. before you all go in separate directions for your first class.

A lot of people I know are doing that right now as I write. Some of them are starting or continuing their postgrad courses, some of them are going into final year, some of them are starting second year and awaiting what’s in store.

Life in Galway over the past four years wasn’t always without its stressful and unhappy moments. That’s only to be expected. But I’ll miss Galway immensely. I’ll miss the university, I’ll miss the people, I’ll miss the town. At the same time though, I am incredibly excited about moving to Stratford later this week. I’ve finally secured somewhere to live, and I’m looking forward to familiarising myself with the town even further. I’m looking forward to starting at the SI, to meeting people who love Shakespeare as much as I do (he’s a pretty cool guy, I know), to studying wonderful things such as performance history and practically every single play in the canon and experiential close readings and so on — the stuff I dreamed of learning more about from as little of more than a year ago when I realised that Shakespeare was what I wanted to continue with. This is the point in the post where I’d say ‘It’s a new chapter in my life, a new beginning’, but I’d rather side-step that for now. Mainly because it’s trite.

So long, Galway, and thanks for all the fish.

‘Who am I? I’m the goddamn Batman’, replied Aunt Helga

St. Swithin’s Day comics, anyone?

Happy St. Swithin’s Day to you all. I’ve been wracking my brains lately trying to come up with a blog post, or something to write about. You know, the sort of polemical blog post that asks Why Do Today’s Parents Stop Their Kids Doing The College Course They Love (mine didn’t, but still), or a general fluff-piece that critically analyses Swedish House Mafia music videos, which are great fun because they really don’t make any sense, or something else entirely. Maybe I should hold it off for a few days and write a commemorative ‘July 19th: The Day The Ice Age Ended’ article. Which, in all likelihood, would probably spin out into reams of Father Ted jokes and references to sabre-toothed, acorn-eating squirrels. And this, in result, would probably last two paragraphs in total.

So here’s a list of things that I’m going to write about instead, as a form of meandering update searching for a point to make:

1) I’m going to write about Batman. This roughly translates as ‘I’M REALLY EXCITED ABOUT THE NEW BATMAN FILM EVERYONE’, which is preferable than having to format this blog into a love-letter to Christopher Nolan and his work (even though he probably is a very lovely chap). This is maybe to the point of fearing for one’s mental health, as I am now one of those insane folk who will be turning up for a 5am screening of The Dark Knight Rises at the local pictiúrlann, because of those pesky time-zone restrictions. You can laugh at my folly next week if I fall asleep in the midst of doing anything important next Friday evening. I can only hope it’s not making the dinner or doing the ironing.

2) The Galway Arts Festival is nearly upon us! In fact, it starts TOMORROW, and this is very exciting. I’m due to see Propeller Theatre Company in the second week of the festivities, when they bring Henry V and The Winter’s Tale to the Black Box. I’m just as excited to see them as I am to see The Dark Knight Rises, or maybe even more (words cannot express the love I have for The Winter’s Tale, they really can’t). I’m also hoping to see Fishamble’s The Great Goat Bubble, and if money were no object, the DruidMurphy cycle. David Greig also has a new play at the festival, if I’m not mistaken. If you don’t see anything else, at least go to the Macnas parade, which takes place next Sunday (for my sake, because I can’t perform in it this year and it makes me very sad. And Macnas are wonderful, creative, inventive, hard-working folks).

3) Also, the Galway Fringe Festival is underway too! This is running for most of the month, and is also very exciting. There is A Lot of Theatre, Art, Dance, Music, Literary Events, etc. — and it’s all over the town, even spilling into and out from the university (The Tribal Lyric, Ahhhh Lad!!, and Third Time Lucky to count a few). In general, Galway finally has its own Fringe, go see some shows, huzzah, groovy times. It’s about time we had one.

4) In general, life is generally quiet here back at home. But in the nicest way possible. It’s mid-July though, which means we’re already halfway through the summer, and closer again to new semesters, new colleges, that kind of thing. That is exciting in itself, but I’m enjoying the quiet time when I still can have it.

An Irish Girl In Stratford II: The Berlin Decision, or What You Will

This is pretty much a post-Stratford update, if you will. I didn’t come back to Ireland with a broken or amputated leg, a curse having been put upon me by a vengeful gypsy, or having accidentally blown anything up, so by those standards the expedition went rather well. Stratford, as I’ve probably reiterated over the past few days to anyone who’s asked, is really quite lovely. In size, it’s comparable to Galway, and it’s remarkably easy to get around. It’s CLEAN too (it’s a tourist town, so I guess it has to be).  And having located the Shakespeare Bookshop and Waterstone’s, the place adequately fulfils The Bookshop Quota. So all that’s grand.

The main reason why I came over (other than checking out where I’m going to be living for the next year or so) was for the BritGrad conference at the Shakespeare Institute. The Institute host this conference every year, which is organised by graduate students, and allows graduate students to show off their work and get feedback. As well as that, they manage to bag rather amazing plenary speakers (and this year didn’t disappoint. You can listen to some of them here). Now, Galway is great for meeting drama folk, and I’ve met a lot of them through studying theatre and English or through Dramsoc. I love being able to sit in a café, a seminar, or anywhere around town or college to discuss theatre with those who care about it as much as I do. If there’s one thing I’ll miss about theatre-going in Galway, it’s going to see a performance and arguing about it afterwards with dear friends over tea in Java’s till the wee hours. But what Galway lacks is a proper contingent of Shakespeare heads, and that’s what BritGrad provided in spades. That’s not to say that Everyone In Galway Hates Shakespeare (there are a good few who love him too, including the dashing WordOtter), but it was a nice change to refer to Cymbeline by its proper name rather than as ‘a really obscure play of Shakespeare’s’. Hell, there was a fascinating paper on the play last weekend, which made reference to Maradona’s Hand of God.

what’s a Thierry Henry?

This was all in an institution where people shared the same enthusiasm for the same interests. And also the same infectious excitement as gosh golly, well Professor Whatsername IS GIVING A PLENARY TODAY. In short, it was just wonderful being around people who love Shakespeare as much as I do, and that’s why I’d encourage any postgraduate working in that area (or general early modern drama-ness) to get their tushies over there for next year’s conference. Ah you will. You will now. ‘Gwan. They’re all LOVELY.

An Inept Tourist’s Guide to Stratford-upon-Avon:

a) Shakespeare’s House and Gardens: I regretfully didn’t visit Hall’s Croft and the rest, but there’s a lovely exhibition (voiced by PATRICK STEWART and… some other actress who I can’t remember as I’m terrible at recognising voices) where you get to see a copy of the First Folio (another is in Oxford, and not even Katherine Duncan-Jones is allowed to touch it) and get to potter around in his digs for a bit. The best bit is seeing the performers outside, especially on a very sunny day.

b) The RSC: Pretty much goes without saying. I’d recommend Richard III at the Swan, by the way. And there is such a gorgeous green outside the theatres, with a huge scrum of folk relaxing underneath the trees or buying ice-creams off the boat vendors.

c) Holy Trinity Church: Where you can see Shakespeare’s grave, memorial, etc. I didn’t get a chance to go here, despite being advised to. I’m sure they won’t move it to Shelbyville before I return.

d) The Real Tea Café: Because it was cheaper than Anne Hathaway’s. Well, this *is* supposed to be an inept guide of sorts.

In other news: Double First Class Honours degree, howrya?