October has been crazy! Lots of work, travel, applications, paper-writing, marking, presentations, the works! I was expecting October to be a productive month so that I can make lots of progress on my project. How wrong I was! From the first day, I have been peppered with work outside the realm of my PhD. I guess most academics are right when they say, “You actually only spend 30% of the time on your PhD working towards your thesis submission”. Sadly, my supervisor does not buy that excuse!
I did receive a lot of good news this month though, however, succeeded by the promise of more work. I found out that I would be travelling to Germany to visit the company that sponsors my PhD. I will be working in their labs, based in Dusseldorf, for 2 weeks. This will provide me the opportunity to explore other parts of Germany during the weekends. The sad part was that, I had to travel to London for my visa application and prepare an experiment before I leave for Germany in November. Both tasks were something I had not accounted for at the beginning of October. I had also been accepted as a volunteer on a major Computer Graphics conference in China, which is also great news. Volunteering gives me the opportunity to attend the conference, without having to pay the fee or having to worry about accommodation, which will both be provided for. Then again, I still had to worry about flights, but my professor managed to find a travel grant that did cover a major part of the flight expenses. I still had to run around for all the applications, but then again, I’m going to China! Woohoo!
Another piece of good news I received was that my work during the summer internship has been accepted as a conference publication. It will be published in the proceedings of the International Conference for Nuclear Energy for New Europe in Slovenia. A poster describing my work had already been presented at the conference by my mentor, but having an academic publication attached to it helps improve my CV. So lots of positives during this month.
Sadly, the bad news is that I’ve been terribly overworked thanks to the applications, marking and work. My week off from marking during reading week was spent completely in the labs, including the night of Halloween. Visa applications require a lot of preparation time with bank statements, flight bookings, university letters and accounts to be sorted, along with the application itself. I found myself running multiple times to the bank and the student services centre, which made me wish I were higher up the totem pole to be able to afford a secretary! Thanks to all the extra bits and bobs, PhD work kept spilling over to the weekends, so much so that I found myself making a warm acquaintance with the guard at the Learning Commons.
I finally cracked and had to take the last weekend of October off and get some fresh air again! I decided to join the University hiking club group on the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge. The challenge is to cover three peaks in the Yorkshire Dales within 12 hours, which is the equivalent of 42kms of hiking and roughly 1600m of ascent. We managed to cover it in around 10 hours, despite having to slow down to accommodate some slower members in the group and taking in some of the amazing views along the way. It was lots of fun and very satisfying, considering we had to battle heavy rain and winds during some parts of the hike. After completing the challenge on Saturday, we explored Malham Cove on Sunday, which is a huge natural limestone formation in the Dales. Some of the views were beyond words and pictures don’t do them any justice, but I shall try! Now, on to November with more work to dread and travel to look forward to!