Just a quick note before this post – I’m at home for the weekend and have forgotten both my laptop and memory card for my camera. Thus, I am writing on my mum’s mini laptop and you are about to read (if you so wish) a rather long post with no pictures. Not that I actually had any pictures for this post anyway, but hey ho…
Hello again, sorry for the short break there. I appear to have been particularly pro-active over the last few weeks and it all caught up with me for a while. Let me take you back to the end of last term, just before I broke up for Christmas. I’d just been allocated a new personal tutor, as my old one had moved to another university. This new tutor emailed me to sort out a meeting with him and wondered if I’d be interested in helping him out with his research project over the summer. I knew my friend had been wanting to do this and had been emailing lots of lecturers to try and get a place but had been finding it difficult to, so for me to just get offered was amazing, and so I said, “Yes PLEASE!!”.
Over Christmas, I’d been thinking over the whole thing – I knew it was a great opportunity and would look really good on my CV, but all the time I was thinking – I’m going to have to give up 10 of my 12 weeks of summer holiday, I’ll be working 9 till 5, five days a week and I’ll have to turn down lots of nice holidays and barbecues and days out with my friends whilst not really getting paid. I kept switching from thinking what an amazing opportunity it is and everything I’d be missing out on. And then I got another email from my tutor saying that actually, he wouldn’t be running his research after all because he’d be going on holiday. That’s when I felt disappointed and realised that despite missing out on all of those nice times with my friends, I did actually want to do it and those opportunities would still be there next year (hopefully!). I’d be investing in my future and giving myself a better chance at being employed after uni.
So then, once I was back at uni, I started emailing all the lecturers I knew asking them if they were running any research and whether they’d be willing to take me on over the summer. Most replied either saying that they weren’t running any, or that they’d already found someone as I was only asking less than one month before the application deadline for the funding. However, one particularly helpful lecturer replied saying that although he wasn’t running any research, he knew some colleagues who might be interested and gave me a list of about 10 people to email. After frantically contacting these people, I finally got some interest. One had already found someone, but would take me on anyway (just without the funding, as there’s only enough for one undergraduate); one wanted to know my results; and one wanted my results as well as my CV.
The next day was spent writing out a CV (copying my own details, experiences etc into one of Heather’s old ones) (don’t ask me how I’ve got this far in live, having had two jobs, without one) and searching for my results from last year. After sending these off, I got an offer for an interview and an acception. I was pretty sure I wanted the placement that I’d been plain accepted for, but thought I’d still better go to the interview if only for the experience. The day before the interview, I went over a few of the lecture notes on diabetes, which is what their research was based on but when I went in, I found I was able to answer hardly anything. I had a few good guesses and managed to figure out some of the answers with a bit of help, but overall it was half an hour of me squirming in my chair trying to answer every question with the fact that I loved the idea of working on ‘something so current and that affects so many people’. They finished the interview with, “Well, we’ve interviewed five other candidates and you’re our last, so we’ll let you know by the end of the day.” I came out and went over everything with my friend, saying that I was actually kind of relieved that it went badly, as I wouldn’t have to write an awkward rejection email.
Then I went home and opened the email saying that they would love to take me on and look forward to working with me over the summer. Bugger. I rang Heather to ask her what to do and she dictated a very nice, sorry-but-in-the-last-two-hours-I-decided-I-don’t-actually-want-to-work-with-you email and they replied with an equally nice, that’s-ok-it-was-nice-meeting-you-anyway email.
On Wednesday, I met with the other pair of researchers and had a nice chat with them. They were really nice people, very jokey and we got on really well. There were no scary interview questions, just a bit of explaining on my part as to why two of my exam results weren’t as good as the others (answers – I had the flu, and the lecturer kept slipping into Russian when he wasn’t sure of the words). They asked me when the best time would be for me to start the research, gave me an outline of what we’d be doing and a draft breakdown of funds that I’d need to apply for funding. Not only that, but they said they quite often take on summer placement undergraduates for PhDs and gave me a load of tips on things to do to increase the chance of my application being accepted! I came away feeling like the next few years of my life are sorted, and being very happy that I’d accepted this placement rather than the other one.
And after all that, it’s still not certain that I’ll get the funding for this placement. I’ve sent off the application and if they like my answers, I’ll get up to £1000 to help out with travel costs, accommodation, food etc, depending how much I’ll need.
So now I guess I just wait and see, and cross all my fingers and toes, count my lucky stars and do some good old fashioned wishing.