16th Jan, 2011

A new start

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!

Responses

Thanks for the nutshell! I, too, have avoided the tracktor beam of Facebook, and so far am very happy with my decision. It’s just that I don’t have an office job, so I don’t have enough computer time. Or something. Anyway, looking forward to the next entries!

I was so pleasantly surprised to see a post from you pop up!

It sounds like you have been both busy and productive. Congratulations on the job and other good things.

So, where are you living now? What is Annelie up to? How far apart are your jobs?

(And I have recently largely withdrawn from the tractor beam of Facebook. It felt a bit like getting out of an abusive relationship.)

Vad skönt att du kommit in på allvar på den akademiska arbetsmarknaden. Jag hoppas att du trivs och missköter sig din arbetsgivare så ska de få med mig att göra.

Calin, it’s great to hear from you. Thanks for being there. I will try to write something interesting that you can spend your non-Facebook time on.

Alejna, nice to hear from you, too! Thanks for noticing the blip. I hope things with you are well. Sorry to hear about the “abusive relationship” part, but I’m glad you’re dealing well with it. I wonder if they have support groups for ex-Facebook users?

I was actually thinking I would write a post on my commute, just in case that might seem interesting. I’ll answer your other questions in an e-mail.

Sven, det var verkligen toppen att höra av dig! Ja, det känns faktiskt jätteskönt att komma in och kunna jobba precis som man skall. Hittills har mina arbetsgivare betett sig oklanderligt, men det var bra att veta att du står redo att “play the heavy”. Tack! Hoppas vi ses snart.

Greg Oreo!! Dude, you should, like, join Facebook and keep in touch with your Spanish amigoes.

Un abrazote desde Valencia. Miss you lots.

Miguelín,

Hey there! Boy do I miss you guys. I wish I could be in Spain right now rather than here in the slush (today it was above 0 degrees Celsius!)

There has to be an alternative for those of us who like the idea of keeping in touch but don’t want to buy into the whole Facebook thing. I wonder if anyone has any good ideas?

Come up to Sweden and I’ll take you sledding!

¡Abrazos!

I just don’t think that I’ve bought into anything by using Facebook… Unhip as it sounds, Facebook has positively made my personal life considerably better, and it has helped strengthen many family ties and made some of my friendships deeper. Un abrazote, Greg Oreo. Espero que nuestras coordenadas GPS se crucen en algún lugar pronto!

Miguel, I’m glad to hear that about Facebook, and I don’t doubt that you are getting a lot out of it. I do have issues with Facebook as a business and the policies thay have about, for example, privacy. But the real reason I haven’t started using it is that it just seems to take up so darned much time, and I haven’t got that kind of time. It also seems like it would be hard to consciously limit the amount of time you spend on Facebook, given its supposedly addictive nature. That really scares me!

Nice to have you back. I’ve just checked here occasionally over the last several months, partly because I was travelling a lot in the second half of the year during my sabbatical, which alas ended last weekend. Now that you’ve set the scene, I look forward to some informative and entertaining observations of life in Uppsala. Whatever the merits of Facebook, there’s still a place in the world for literate blogs.

well, so much for starting up the blog again, eh? Not that I’m any better, mind you - I’m just sayin’

Hi Joel, and thanks for pinging me. And thanks for your blog about Iceland. Next stop: Sweden!

I’m happy to report that I’m back in the saddle and have started writing again. Thanks for hanging in there!

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