The Scamp in Belguim

I know I promised to finish detailing my journey in Cyprus.

I haven’t.

I know I said I was going to write my discussion chapter and make my chapter edits to finish my thesis by the end of July.

It’s not looking good.

So, in an effort to stick to something, I am going to post this week about my time in Antwerpen and then go back to work on the posts about Cyprus.

And I am going to write my damn thesis.

I was in Belguim to attend the JURE conference. This is dedicated to junior researchers of the European Association for Research and Learning. I had really high hopes for this conference. I thought I would be able to network and meet people who were doing all kinds of interesting research all over Europe. What I got was a keynote speaker who made the point that when a person is sleep deprived they suffer from fatigue, and when they suffer from fatigue they are less motivated to learn.


A quick browse through the programme showed that 90% of the researchers were purely quantitative researchers (they do massive surveys and only care about the numbers) despite the fact that their research deals with the motivation of learners. My favourite moment from the first day of the conference was the presentation by a guy who said that because he interviewed a few teachers and they could not name an educational theory, it meant there was no such thing. I asked about critical pedagogy, which happens to be the educational theory that I am using for my thesis, and he did not really have an answer for that.

I ditched the afternoon sessions to take a wander around the city. While listening to the keynote…and by listening I mean surfing the internet on my tablet, I discovered that Antwerpen has a large Jewish population. I am not sure why this surprised me, but it did. I decided to wander to the Jewish quarter because there is nothing I love more than exploring Jewish neighbourhoods and connecting to my religion all over the world. One thing that I learned is that the Jewish people in Antwerp are very Orthodox and that a tattooed girl in a bright geometric dress is not quite their idea of a good time. I wish I could have gone into the synagogue, but I was not dressed appropriately, and I respect the culture too much to be an ignorant tourist.


I also wandered into the central train station because it is a fantastically built structure in the heart of the city. I’d been through it the night before when I took the train in from Brussels but went back to really appreciate the marble and polished services.


I wandered the main shopping area and as I weaved in and out of the shops, I noticed that there was an overabundance of tourists who were more interested in muscling each other out of the way for ice cream then enjoying the city, so I took my dinner back to the hotel to work on chapter edits. Those edits did not go well. I am reading edits about edits my supervisor made, and there are a few comments that make me wonder if he actually read the chapter or if he just skimmed it. All of these edits keep me from feeling like I am making any progress with this work.

I really wanted the break in Cyprus and the week in Belgium to help me feel less burnt out, but I am not sure that any of it helped.


Day one in the city though was a success, and I hoped that day 2 of the conference would re-energise me about the research being done by other apprentice academics.

The Scamp in Scotland

…..kinda. I’m currently in Birmingham, England at a conference on assessment in higher education. I was supposed to attend the conference with my supervisor, but he hurt his back, and decided it was best if he stayed home. I’ve never been to Birmingham, but luckily the train station, hotel, and conference center are all less than ten minutes from each other. I’ve already decided which lectures I am attending, but now I have to network on my own, and eat dinner solo. I’m not good at those sorts of things. I am horribly antisocial, and I have a lot of work to do to make up for the things that I did not do whilst in Spain (I also have a lot of writing to do about my trip, but that will have to wait). It is also strange to be one of the youngest people here, and one of the few from the States. Already today someone told me that I have a fantastic accent, which is not something that I get to hear very often.

My first day back in Scotland was not a pleasant one until dinner time. I spent the whole day on campus meeting with my supervisors face-to-face, and trying to sort out what my schedule will look like for the next three years. I was unprepared for the fact that they see the research I am doing for the school, and my PhD as two separate projects, with two separate papers to be completed. I’ll be running data for 16 programs, complete with questionnaires, focus groups, and interviews, and from that, I will have to find a little bit of data to use for my PhD. On top of that, I am working on two projects with other professors in regards to gender and assessment, and social justice, equality, and assessment feedback. Each one of these would produce enough results for four separate dissertations, and I am slowly seeing my free time slipping away. On the upside, I have my own desk, a work phone, and really fantastic people supporting me. One of my supervisors took me to lunch and told me that she was the one I could call when I needed to vent, scream, or cry to, while the enthusiasm of the man in charge of me is completely contagious. I left the meeting with them excited, scared, and ready to get to work.

I wish I could say that they were a representation of the school. The rest of the day went downhill from there. The school refuses to reinstate the number I need for my visa, and after a trek to a campus 30 minutes walk from where I am based, I was informed that I am here illegally, and that they will not allow me to apply for the visa from the UK. This was said rather loudly, and in full range of all the other people working in the office, and it was all I could do not to cry in the office. I was so turned around when I left that I almost ended up on the wrong bus, and I walked into the wrong bank to try and make a deposit into my Scottish account (Note to self, The Royal Bank of Scotland and the Bank of Scotland are not the same). I had to use some fancy talk to get a new phone since I do not have a permanent address in Scotland yet, and I generally felt like I had been run ragged before I made it to dinner with one of my best friends.

Thank God for wine and good banter. Seeing Lozza after almost two years was fantastic. Meeting her fella was just as great as he is a wonderful guy, and she looks so stinkin’ happy with him. I was in fine form with the poor boy, but he was a great sport about it. I look forward to when I can cook them a proper Mexican feast, and more crazy catch-up sessions. It is nice to know that there is a friendly face in the crowd for bad days.

I now have a meeting with the international office to see about sorting me out with a visa, but I am not above crying and then going to the American consulate to get what I want. I know that things will work out, but I am just hoping that it is sooner rather than later, and that I don’t have to threaten bodily harm to make it happen.