Monday, July 16, 2007

Milestones

Today it is three years since I first learned that I had been accepted as PhD student at Lund University. I can still remember the ecstatic feeling of listening to my voicemail outside Westbahnhof, realizing that a long standing dream had come true.

This day marks a milestone also in the opposite direction; today, exactly three years remain until I have to finish my PhD. Looking ahead over those years, I am very excited about the work I will be able to do, both here in Sweden and, thanks to a generous grant from the Crafoord Foundation, also as a visiting scholar at Rutgers University.

Even so, I think that the last three years have taught me a lot about both the possibilities and limitations of being a PhD student. The daunting combination of guilt-ridden inertia and euphoric activity. A boundless academic environment, equally deprived of ceilings and floors. Yet, I would not want to have it any other way. Before I started my PhD studies I thought that the great challenge would be an academic one. Now I know that it is in fact a psychological one: to have the necessary staying power, to keep motivation up and the pages constantly streaming out of the computer.

Finally, the coming fall semester marks a milestone when it comes to teaching as well. With more than 350 hours of teaching behind me, regulations stipulate that, after this fall semester, I am not allowed to do any more teaching during my time as a PhD student. In many ways, I find that sad. I have come to truly appreciate teaching, both as a way to stay sane during all the writing but also as a practical activity free from all doubts about its instrumental value.

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