An Amateur's First Impressions of Academia

It is all go in this house.  Today is Dad’s birthday (he got a beard trimmer – how glam – and a collaborative effort beardy card involving input from at least three of my soon-to-be-ex colleagues).   I realised on Thursday that although I’d bought the present I hadn’t thought to send it to Cornwall, so I spent a frantic lunch-hour at work printing pictures of elaborate beards, finding a beardy poem (Edward Lear, in case you ever need that information) and having a colleague take me in hand and do magical favours with Quark Express.

Today was also the day the All-Purpose Polish Tradesman arrived at 8am to commence dismantling our hideous toilet/bathroom combo.  There hasn’t been much visually exciting progress, but expect photographs tomorrow.

It was also the day I commenced paid employment in academia.  So far, it’s quite like I imagined it would be.  I am using the Chief Brain’s office since she is on maternity leave.  This is the kind of maternity leave where you still manage two staff and work five hours a day but you do it from across an ocean.

The Chief Brain is astonishingly nice.  We spent 40 minutes on the telephone, and she seemed genuinely excited that I’m part of the research team.  I wonder how long that will last.

The room I’ve been temporarily allocated is a small office on the third floor of an elderly but dignified building. The building seems quite grand and solid on the lower couple of floors, but the further you ascend the more structurally questionable things become.  Staircases are smaller and make odd twists and turns, and corridors are narrower.  The floor of the Chief Brain’s room sags quite dramatically in the middle.  Perhaps this is due to the weighty tomes that are stacked all around.  It might be because of the unknown quantities of crap under the desk which I didn’t have the heart to shift.  I don’t fancy uncovering any corpses – rodent or otherwise.

I’ve never had my own office before, and even this one isn’t really mine.  I’m happy about that, because spending too much time alone could be the reason so many academics have lost touch with their social skills.  Fortunately, the Chief Brain doesn’t seem to be like that.  We share curious enthusiasm for all things justice-related, and she can hold down a normal conversation.  Still, I’m struck by the loneliness of doing something nobody else has done before.  I’m used to working in collaboration with upwards of five people, but here it seems I’ll be on my own for much of the time.

I worked in an academic support role for years, so I was expecting my first day to be off-kilter and peppered with the surreal.  However, the only real shock of the day was that everyone brings their own tea and coffee to work. And their own milk.  This is the beverage equivalent of compartmentalised working, and I hope I don’t get sucked into that kind of attitude when more than a cuppa is at stake.

Things could get very strange, but I can’t wait to find out how strange.


5 Responses to “An Amateur's First Impressions of Academia”

  1. 1 trash August 16, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    Ooo, compartmentalised coffees. A milkjug minefield if you will.

  2. 2 Jenn @ Juggling Life August 17, 2010 at 2:07 am

    If nothing else you’ve got the “paid” part of paid employment to look forward to!

  3. 3 Mrs. G. August 17, 2010 at 2:45 am

    Congrats on completing day one!

  4. 4 unmitigated me (m.a.w.) August 17, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Good luck at the new place. Many exciting surprises ahead, I think!

  5. 5 Suzanne August 19, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Congratulations on the first step on a new journey! I look forward to hearing more as you settle in and get your bearings.

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