All posts filed under: Personal Notes

Worth it or a Waste of Time? Grad Studies in Paris (or indeed, elsewhere)

Paris works well as a place to visit, sight see and such but is it worthwhile deciding to stay here? Pursue grad studies here? What are the benefits? Do PhD studies still have the same value that they used to hold? In early 2011, I stumbled across an interesting article in the Economist that basically argued that opting to pursue a PhD could be a terrible choice. The evidence used in the article was predominantly aimed at a US audience, with a few examples from other parts of the world to bolster the argument or to add slight nuance. A major part of what the article says is quite pertinent : it argues that being a PhD student may only help to serve the interests of supervisors who act asa club of intellectual vampires: feeding off the energy, motivation and hard work of their bright graduate students and the commensurate cheap labour to boost their own publications records. It also makes the point that the economic benefits of doing a PhD are not guaranteed – …

A Hermit Grad Student’s Perspective on the Election Outcome

After being swamped under mountains of work, I am only beginning to emerge from the cloistered life of a grad student. I have the awkwarndess of a hermit being thrust back into the social world, walking quickly down busy streets, avoiding eye contact with people and walking with a head slightly tilted sideways. I stop short of covering my ears to shield myself from the noise. It all sounds a bit loud. Holding human conversation feels weird. I repeat myself more than is necessary. I miss Mika, my computer. I am not sure that the people that I speak to understand what I am saying – especially not like Mika. I have clearly been behind a computer for too long and need to become human again. So, Paris will serve as a rehabiliation centre for me over the summer. I will learn to smile again, you know, to enjoy life. I will regain my capcity to hold real life conversatons that do not necessarily require dictionaries and a special glossary for non-experts. It is all …

Weekend Gratitude List

The weekend lived up to, and exceeded, expectations that it would be a good one. I’m profoundly grateful to have Paris as a setting for great friendships, to be with the love of my life and to receive an interesting, utterly enjoyable education. If I did not fully believe there was a God before, I certainly do so now! The following five make up my bedtime prayer of a 5-year old ‘Thank you God for…’ list: 1. Sunshine and a walk down Boulevard Jourdan The street is named after one of Napoleon’s Marshal’s of France, Jean-Baptiste Jourdan. Under Napoleon, his fortunes waned toward the end but he eventually emerged in the 1830 revolutions as a voice against the royalist ‘reactionaries’. 2. Getting to jog again The weather is warming up, and it is possible to jog again on a frequent basis. The days are longer, the opening hours for my little local park are slightly longer, evidence of spring blossoms are beginning to show. it is a beautiful time of the year! 3. Paella, Wine, …

The cosy rush hour Paris métro

I was standing face to face and thigh to thigh with a greasy haired, very healthy man looking into my eyes when I began to wonder: at what point did I become so at peace with the intimacy and crowdedness of the Parisian métro at rush hour? I tried to recall a time when this whole scenario of pushing and shoving and engaging in near-kisses with strangers would have been awkward or uncomfortable. But,I could not. Paris has grown on me – or rather, the métro has. Above are a few glimpses of the sheer madness and extreme intimacy of the rush hour métro. Now, this is something that you do not get to really become prepared for when choosing to live here. However, it adds up to make the experience of living in Paris what it is – imperfect, far from the tourist book stereotype and a tad bit frustrating. And that’s precisely the beauty of the city – it is not so much the upromose of mindlessly smiling constantly while leaping under the …

Another face of Paris

As sometimes happens, I took the metro from the wrong platform. Call it a momentary bout of absent mindedness or stupidity I am at complete peace with my handicaps. Today this meant moving a bit further north than I am usually prone to do. So I decided to take advantage of my lack of attentiveness and I thought to leave the métro stop and look around. After all, I never get the chance to spend time aroung Chateau d’eau. I was greeted first by a man handing out flyers with evangelical christian messages before the entire street came into full view: Young African men milling around the metro, occasionally stopping harried passers by; young Arab men standing under the trees that line the boulevard, plenty more precariously standing with one foot in the small shops, hair salons and eateries and the other on th ebusy pavement. This could well be any city in the global ‘south’. It is a different feel and look to mainstream Paris and I am not sure what to make of …

The joys of setting up appointments as a student in France

I was going to whine about setting up appointments in Paris and throw in a few unfair stereotypes about French bureacuracy, but instead I chose to think of five things that are positive, funny or interesting about trying to get appointments with lecturers and other important people for the purposes of research. In no particular order.. 1. Just because someone doesnot respond in six weeks does not mean they have forgotten, email responses frequently come months or even years after your enquiry. it might take a while, but it will come. 2. “Yes but no” is a perfectly good response to email requests. Do not get upset about the lack of clarity – it is called a nuanced response. part of the game is trying to tease out which is the more preferred response. 3. Good manners are abslutely important in email writing. Being respectful works wonders – pay attention to tone and use of words. 4. Using traditional , snail mail is not completely odd. A thank you card or note sent via the …

Paris during one of those weeks

So, the past week was one of those very ‘special’ ones where all the deadlines converge, urgent emails that cry out for response constantly find their way into your inbox and sleep is merely a closing of the eyes. It was one of those weeks were your mind remains active and the lines between waking life and the world of dreams become blurred. It becomes something of a temporary state of psychological disorientation but there is something slightly poetic and beautiful about it when this scenario plays itself in Paris. Here, there is always the chance to decompress and relieve the stress by evacuating all the pent up frustrations by taking a healing walk amidst the maddness. And, I must add that this week’s weather was especially healing. It was a hesitant shift from a short lived cold spell to gentle episodes of healing rain that semed to whisper that spring is on its way as delicate drops kissed the earth. Apart from the healing rain and opportunity to walk and decompree – for many …