Well. Yet again, about nine months have passed since I posted to my blog. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that I have let the blog sink lower and lower on my priority list, and the second is that during the past half year, I have started a new job, at Uppsala University. The combination of these two factors has meant that I simply haven’t seen myself as having time for blogging, when there was so much teaching and research to do.
Nevertheless, I have realized that I miss the blog, so I have decided to try to start up again, even though we have a new term starting this week—one which promises to be every bit as busy as the previous one. But if I can manage to bump the blog up on the priority list, maybe I’ll be able to find the time for it after all.
Another rationalization that I can apply, if I get desperate for one, is that since I have successfully withstood the tractor beam of Facebook, I don’t spend all the time checking my social networking pages that most everyone else I know now seems to spend. This could, given a charitably loose sense of logic, be taken to mean that I have saved so much time in the “internet stuff” category that I can afford to go back to blogging, which has never really taken much of my time anyway.
In any case, I’ll give it a try, and we’ll see what happens. In the meantime, perhaps I should try to account for the past several months.
As previously described, I defended my PhD thesis in March 2010. This was definitely a good experience, but my feelings about it have always been mixed. Although it took me many years to actually finish graduate school (which is bad), I was in fact able to whip through my thesis project in just two years (which is good), even though I was usually in a different country from everyone advising me on the project (which might be seen as bad). And of course, I did a lot of different things—research, teaching, presenting, travel, etc.—during the time when I was technically still a student (which is most probably good). All in all, I would have to say that the sense of relief was greater than the sense of accomplishment (which is probably neither good nor bad).
I submitted the revised manuscript in April, and “graduated” in May with neither pomp nor circumstance—I didn’t attend the graduation, and in fact I didn’t even remember it on the day it took place. But the university has certified that I am done and has threatened to take away my e-mail account, so I guess that’s that.
Luckily, the “Now what?” feeling that often follows a graduation did not last very long in my case. In late April, I got a call from the Department of English at Uppsala University, where I had been working with some people on a research project, saying, essentially, “Would you like a full-time job, starting immediately?” Well, not immediately, but in July, when the term officially starts. I didn’t have to think about it for very long: Uppsala University is the oldest and arguably the most prestigious university in all of Scandinavia, and the Department of English there is a great place, full of lovely people and good students. Plus, Uppsala is a gorgeous town with lots of great stuff going on. It’s sort of a medieval college town—imagine Ann Arbor, Northampton, or Lawrence, only five hundred years older. I’ll put up some pictures soon.
During the interim, I managed to keep busy. I went to Germany in May and London in June to present my doctoral work at different conferences (the one in London was called FirthDay, which I thought was cute), and I also gave colloquia in the Departent of English and the Department of Linguistics at Stockholm University, so I kept my reserach momentum going fairly well after the defense. Then I had a little time for some vacation (much of it spent carousing around the island of Gotland with a motley bunch of naturalist-linguists), and then I started my new job. Unfortunately, it’s not a permanent job (the tenure system doesn’t exist here), so I can stay on for a few years at the most. In the meantime, I’ve been applying for permanent positions, but that’s another story.
I spent the end of the summer trying to figure out how everything works in my new workplace. This was more difficult that you might expect. Of course I’m not about to complain about my wonderful new workplace, but let’s just say it took a while, not least because I had seven different courses to teach, some of them with up to three sections (groups) each. Yes, this is possible; those of you who are not familiar with the Swedish educational system will not know that courses here are considerably shorter than courses in, say, the US, with under 20 classroom hours per course. So in a way, two courses here is like one course in the US. More on the Swedish educational system in later posts.
My job also includes miscellaneous administrative duties, and I was also hired to help put together some online courses for next year, so that’s another thing I have going on. Plus, I have a certain amount of time that is earmarked for research, which is great, if you manage to use it that way. That’s one of the big challenges of the job, as I think anyone else in academia would agree.
The autumn term started for real in September and ended around Christmastime, so the experience was essentially like an amusement park flume ride lasting fifteen weeks. And somehow in the middle of it, Annelie and I managed to go to Chile for ten days to give some lectures and do a bit of hiking.
That description is, of course, flippant and superficial, and probably sounds too negative. In my next post I will try to go into a bit more detail about my experiences teaching this term, because they have been really powerful, and some people out there might find it interesting to hear about them.
So that’s my nine months in a nutshell. I hope that those of you out there in the world who used to be in touch will consider being there again. This year I’m going to try to communicate better with friends flung far and wide; now that I’m getting into some sort of groove, I want to make better correspondence a part of that. Here’s to a good year all round!
Posted by: Gregory