Induction week experience
Having just participated in the post-graduate Induction Week, I would like to share a few comments on this overwhelmingly positive experience.
First of all, as an in-context student, I realised the importance of face to face contacts with my supervisors and the rest of the academic community, or other tutors, administrators and fellow PhD students. I have known my supervisors – Richard and Julian – for a year now, having completed a couple of DL courses with them last autumn and spring, but DL, web-based, email-supported and Skype-enhanced connections could never fully replace the psychological, emotional and intellectual comfort of meeting them in person.
During last academic year, I also became familiar with other significant people in the School of Education through email, but, again, meeting them in the concrete environments of their offices and daily activities created an additional connection, vital for all concerned parties.
Another major practical advantage of taking part in the meetings and lectures during that initial PG Welcome Week was an opportunity to work out how the PG support and training systems function, what’s on offer and when, and who takes care of what – not just within the School of Education, but within the broader parameters of the Faculty of Humanities.
Establishing contacts and ways of maintaining regular communication lines with fellow doctoral students, whether full- or part-time, residential or in-context, was also an important benefit of being at The University during those first few days. I only wish that the in-context “pioneers” – Achilleas, Magdalena and Paul – could have been there at the same time as well. Their cyber-support and encouragement were a great prelude to the real-life experience, though.
Sharing experiences with other – former, current and/or prospective – PhD students is always extremely reassuring as well as interesting, but during the Welcome Week, it also became quite clear to me that it is almost impossible to compare them adequately and accurately: I discovered that there is no universal formula for the PhD journey as each doctoral student moves along an individual route, often through the uncharted waters (or, in my case, unmapped and unexplored desert sands…) of idiosyncratic research needs and requirements. My supervisors discussed those with me at length and although I am now only at the very beginning of my work, I feel that meeting them was absolutely crucial in establishing the foundations for a sustainable (and possibly quite idiosyncratic!) modus operandi that could work for me/them/us on a long-term basis.
At the end of the week, I felt I had been listened to and offered a tailor-made approach to my research needs and interests. I also felt I could not have moved forward without the experience of the introductory consultations and encounters. Ultimately, I came away from Manchester with a clear plan of action for the next few months and a firm resolve to strengthen those fledgling academic connections through further trips and meetings.
On a slightly different note perhaps, here is another observation – I was truly impressed by the sheer vibrancy of The University of Manchester, teeming with thousands of students and hundreds of nationalities, and overflowing with creativity, energy and freedom to express individual passions and interests. It all seemed to spill over into the city, embracing it, engaging with the world. Yes, fair enough, Oxford Road was a little messy and noisy, but I didn’t mind it. Why am I going on about it? Because I am familiar with a somewhat different, clean and quiet, glamorous and expensively built educational institution located outside the main city, where guards only allow authorised people in, where most people look alike, where tidiness and tranquility hover close to sterility… Of course, that, too, has its advantages, but the overall impression of Manchester was that of life as opposed to inertia.