This week we have a guest blogger, Katherine, who is a current Msc Global Environment, Politics and Society student and one of the founders of the fantastic Grad School Club. Katherine is an engaging and thoughtful member of the School of Social and Political Science community and is an absolute pleasure to have on the blog. She writes eloquently about how the Grad School Club came to be and everything that it offers to you, as a prospective or incoming student.
One aspect of postgraduate life that distinguishes itself from the undergraduate experience are the long hours of solitude and independent research that it entails. No matter how good the intentions of adhering to the hours of a 9 to 5 job, Masters and PhD students must deal with ebbs and flows of productivity as well as isolation. Clearly, any student relishes the times when the words flow, when readings are absorbed like a Metro newspaper and concepts are fluid and lively rather than opaque abstract ramblings. I admit that often this is not the case, despite even the most sincere efforts to ‘get in the zone’. I confirm that following extensive scoping of all possible Chrystal Macmillan Building (where you’ll be based!) levels and imaginative study social spaces;
1. Studying at tables outside professor’s offices resembles an extension of the “occupy” movement
2. The glass-enclosed first floor study spaces turn the individual into an aquatic state of being after more than six hours.
3. Sitting in the West Wing feels like a temp concierge job.
Thus as a group of desperate Master students, we decided to submit to Franz Kafka’s idea that “writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself”. Frankly I believe that Kafka was wrong. In fact I am glad that I did not spent most of my time in the Graduate School in solitude because I would have missed a big part of what it means to be a postgraduate. It is as much about getting involved in activities, being engaged through seminars and getting to know the familiar strangers sitting next to you on Facebook during breaks.
This is where ‘life’ can be brought into the postgraduate experience. The Grad School Club is a simple forum, an idea, to break the monotony of desk-based academia. There is much value of having regular events such as Bad Football Fridays on the Meadows organised by students for students, the introduction to local bars, renting the movie lounge at the Brass Monkey bar and the successful Spring Ball following a stint of deadlines. The World Cup Final event was a highlight in the midst of dissertation time, drawing 70 students out of their respective study cocoons.
Bringing together international and local students, PhDs and new Master’s students in these informal settings is not only good for ‘community building’ (sorry I’m a politics student banging on here) but actually encourages support, insight and moreover encouragement to not submit into “a cold abyss of oneself”.
I can even say this now with 12,000 words of my dissertation left to write, weeks of long library hours to endure and tragic Tupperware meals for one to look forward to. Those familiar strangers are now proof-readers, fellow procrastinators and share with me the wonderful moments of epiphany.
The Grad School Club is very simply a starting point a self-sustaining idea. I advise you to see and take the opportunities that exist here in Edinburgh. Throw yourself into the postgraduate life which indeed can go beyond a mundane 9-5 desk-based job. The Grad School Club can be joined through their Facebook group.