It has reached half-term, and that means there is time for a brief break from the rigours of work, and an opportunity to both relax and spend some time dedicated solely to study. The life of a part-time student is great: but it is very different to studying full-time. People sometimes suggest that being part-time equates to not being a real student researcher, but where PhD study is concerned this certainly isn’t the case. Although one may only be in Cambridge perhaps once a week, it doesn’t mean that when I think about my research I only do part of it, or that it isn’t a prime concern all the time, but more that I have to structure my work around the other aspects of my life. It becomes a delicate balancing act, and one you have to become an expert in quickly.
The nature of not living in Cambridge means that I practically reside on forms of public transport instead. I have plenty of time to consider aspects of space and place when traveling between home, work and Faculty, and even more so when I am waiting in the driving rain or other biblically inspired weather conditions as I posit as to whether living out of a travel suitcase is worth it. Every time I come to the same conclusion: the slightly nomadic existence is always worthwhile.
Because I love it. I relish the intellectual debate with friends, colleagues and staff. Gaining new research skills, engaging with more experimental methodologies and grounding oneself in diverse theories means that I look forward to each session because it is a new challenge, and because I want to learn and continue to develop my skills. But being part-time is inevitably going to be different, and I’m jealous of those who can do this everyday – but it does make me conscious that I have to make the most of it whilst I’m there, and I think that I do.
It means my deadlines are slightly different. I have to plan which books I need and when meticulously in advance. I have to be aware of travel alerts and any potential delays. I have to work around commitments to my job in the early years sector, my work for Cambridgeshire FA, and any involvement in societies and committees. I have to be organised and prepared to the highest degree, but it doesn’t matter – I know the rewards and I believe in what I do, and am sure that long-term it will all be worth it.
So when the holidays come around, a time portrayed in children’s literature as one of enjoyment and exploration, I can relate even more so than when I was younger because of what it now means for me. I too can relax, take time to explore the literature and criticism in depth, and feel, even if for just a few days, like a full-time student. I can bring together all that has been discussed before, have some clear room for thinking and writing, and shake the feeling like I am balancing it off against the other domains of my life. I think that I am quite lucky to be able to pursue so many things that I enjoy, both from a work and academic perspective, and being part-time isn’t a bad thing at all – it is just different! If I didn’t travel or work, I’d be unable to do these things, and they become a force of habit – I’m grateful for the opportunities I have, and try to embrace them fully at every opportunity. Although it may be a different way of studying, I still enjoy doing it with all that it entails – and that I know that whether I am classed as a part-time student or not, my dedication to both my research and my subject is most definitely full-time.