It’s been a busy summer.

And yes, I’m starting summer in April. It’s been a weird year.

They aren’t kidding, a PhD is a lot more work than it looks like. Been flitting back and forth between working and travelling, and am going to give you the photo montage catch up. Let us begin with April then eh?

April 2019

In April I went to the SEAHA Conference in Oxford. I got to stay in the swankiest of student accomodation, presented my poster, and then spent time dodging rain and doing some sightseeing in the afternoons and evenings. Also got to have lunch in one of the colleges, which felt very Harry Potter-esque.

Straight after the SEAHA Conference, M and I went to Malta! It was warmer and sunnier than the UK, we had the sea out the window, and there was a lot of Really Old Things to look at. It was an excellent choice. We stayed in Xemxija (which is covered in prehistoric, Roman and Phoenician remains, and the oldest tree on the island btw) and travelled around the country to Valletta, Mdina, and Rabat. Valletta is the capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like most places like this, the main street is flooded with tourists, but if you go two streets down you can wander nearly empty areas. Mdina is the Silent City, as no cars (other than people who live there) are allowed in the walled city, and even then you only really see them parked in a few areas. It’s like walking into a movie set. Rabat is the town right outside of Mdina, which has early Christian catacombs, a Roman villa, and the strangest car park design I’ve ever witnessed.

Sadly, we did have to come home and back to real life. I had some data acquisition at the museum from our scanning electron microscope trials and did work both at home (with cat company) and in the museum.

We managed the first BBQ of the year in April, when a random warm weekend showed up and we decided to make the most of it. It was wise, as the weather was a bit weird after that.

I did also pop down to London to the UCL campus to become inducted into the Institute of Making. It’s the university’s MakerSpace, and gives me access to a huge plethora of tools and ideas for making any old idea I get in my head. The idea is spreading, so check if you have a MakerSpace in your area!

Finally, I got to prep, CT scan, metal coat and SEM data capture a beefly as my first attempt for data for my dissertation. It totally didn’t work, but the beefly did make a nice little victory pose for the scans.

 

May

May was a hectic month. Started it with the annual trip to Lyme Regis with the NHM to volunteer at the Fossil Festival. Lyme Regis still looks exactly as I left it, and the kids still know more about dinosaurs than I do.

Came home from Lyme Regis, washed some clothes, and threw them back in my suitcase to head off to Amsterdam directly afterwards for the 2+3D Photography Conference at the Rijksmuseum. Ophelia did not approve of my leaving. Amsterdam was a fun city to visit, but very expensive. Also, hunting for a historical building will probably lead you through the red light district and you should be prepared for the surreal experience of prostitutes in windows. Would definitely recommend the Rijksmuseum though. They’ve got a massive collection of All Things Dutch, and have displayed it really well.

Back from the Netherlands, M and I decided we wanted to attempt camping again. Reader, one night it got so cold that ice formed on our tent. If there is anything to be learned from this second attempt, it is that camping should never be done as early as May. During the days we had a good time of it though, with rather pleasant weather.

We had to detour down from Suffolk to Chelmsford to get M’s car fixed mid trip, but we used it as an excuse to see the remnants of the Springfield Lyons Bronze Age Enclosure. You can see where the perimeter of a camp used to be, as well as some burials. Again, felt a bit like walking onto a movie set.

We also visited Southwold again, and a new visit to Dunwich – the city that fell in the sea. It’s a really interesting story, and the last vestiges of the thriving medieval city can be walked around. Plus there’s a beach, and that’s always nice on a sunny day.

I tried whitebait when we were out camping one night when we went to the nearby pub. I had no idea what it was. Turns out, it’s like fish fingers that can stare back at you. As long as you don’t stare back, they’re not bad actually. M is still unconvinced.

Towards the end of the month the weather got better and I did as much work as I could outside in the back garden. Judging from the grassprint I left, perhaps too much. When the weather wasn’t behaving, it was all good though as M built me my new desk! It feels like a real office upstairs now.

Finally, we celebrated M’s birthday and had some walks about town to enjoy the new signage that Colchester seems to be putting up everywhere. Some are odder than others.

 

June

In June we went to Italy with M’s family and stayed in a town outside of Venice called Lido di Jesolo. Honestly, if you don’t have ALL the pasta, what are you even doing? The weather was gloriously sunny, the mosquitos were in full force, and there was always something to go see or do.

One of the days there we went to Venice proper. Venice is exactly as beautiful as everyone says it is. However, it is also filled with every tourist all at once. The day before we went a cruise ship accidentally ran into one of the docks, so they banished them all from docking when we were there and I’m not sure it made the blindest bit of difference. Still, you should definitely go. But maybe stay in the city itself and enjoy it when the tourists start thinning out.

Back in London, I was back in the lab helping with an intern doing some SEM work for me. We scanned all kinds of microfossils. We also pushed the SEM to its limits and ended up finding a fault in the contrast that nobody had noticed before and had to call out repairmen. Fun times. We also got to go up one of the towers of the museum, courtesy of my supervisor, which was a legitimately fun time.

There had been a heatwave all month and towards the end it finally broke with a deluge of rain to try and make up for the previous lack of it. SO. MUCH. RAIN. This has been a trend that continued throughout the summer, with a spell of no rain and high heat, then humidity going through the roof, then a torrent of rain.

Back at the museum, I finally got a chance to see the temporary Museum of the Moon exhibit. It’s free, so well worth a visit, but it’s also pretty darn cool.

Mostly though, I was downstairs doing work. Like sorting out butterflies in a box. And then bringing said butterflies to an after hours museum event to explain what I’m trying to do for my PhD to members of the public that walked through. So far everyone has nice things to say about it. So far.

Also, one day I decided to make a log of how long it takes me to get from London back home to Colchester. Not sure I want to know how long it takes going the other way after doing this. I mean, obviously I have an idea, but it just confirms my lunacy in hyper-commuting like this.

July

Not nearly so much going on in July. Went to Manchester for the MMC 2019 Conference and presented some of the work I’d been up to thus far at the Zeiss Microscopy booth. Got to see some really interesting work done in the microscopic world, and even learned a few tips and tricks. And it being Manchester, we got rained on.

Went to a wedding for one of M’s good friends as well. Beautiful converted barn location out in the West Country. Fabulous couple, amazing food, and riotous dancing were all a part.

Otherwise it was mostly just time sat in the lab, working on data acquisition and attempting some experiments.

Oh yes, we also painted the kitchen. And then got a phone call that they could take my gallbladder out the next day. So that happened. And then I got to wear those glorious compression socks for a week. God, those drugs were heavy duty. I didn’t have any pain issues, but I also seem to have lost 4 days worth of proper memories. To be fair, one of those was the hottest day of the year, so I don’t miss that one much.

 

August

August has been frantic catch up of data acquisition post-surgery and then write up of dissertation based off said data. This means I’ve been knocking about the house A LOT. So much so that I got to see our new wheelie bins delivered as our council has decided to join the 21st century and collect rubbish from bins rather than bags on the ground that get savaged by seagulls, cats, and foxes.

The heat came back, and with it I made sun tea. Ophelia guarded it carefully.

Most of the time though, I’ve been dragging the chair and table out and do my work in the sunshine.

There was some rain again, of course right before my early birthday BBQ. I watched the weather apps religiously up until the day and stared out of the office window.

Thankfully, the weather mostly held on the day, just giving us some exceptional winds. It was great to see everyone, though hopefully next time will be a bit less breezy!

 

And there we are, basically up into today. From here on out I’ll just be frantically writing up this dissertation and then prepping for the oral examination with PowerPoint that’s due to come afterwards. Oh yes, and waiting for ethics approval to do the proper PhD work as well with minors. But hey, what is academia if not a long list of things to do, things to chase up, and things to wait to happen?

 

— Kate

Let’s just go!

The university has opened online registration, and I am officially signed up (as much as I can before my campus visa checkpoint – don’t ask, I have no idea) for the University of Leicester! My student ID should be ready for me when I get there. I’m excited. 🙂

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 10.34.34 pmScreen Shot 2014-08-26 at 10.34.43 pmAlso got word from the Museum Studies department with a tentative schedule of the first two weeks, and I’m pleasantly surprised to see that classes aren’t really early so far. I was trying to prepare myself for 8:00 times, but 9 and 10 are totally cool too. Just from the titles, it looks like a fascinating start!

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 10.43.37 pm

So now I’m only really left with buying a ticket for the bus, a ticket for the train to Leicester, and packing my bags. It’s one thing to sell off most of your life to get ready to live out of what fits in a suitcase. It’s another thing entirely when you start to fill up said suitcase. SO MANY THINGS. SO MANY CHOICES. What have I forgotten that might actually be really important?

Considering I’m to be living in Leicester for a year (10 months actually, then 2 months out interning, then who knows where next?), I really can’t bring all that much along with me. I suspect leaving the country makes a minimalist out of you eventually. I took the main idea of a packing list from Study Abroad and tweaked it a bit, but do you see anything I’m missing or really won’t need? I haven’t done a weigh in on my bags quite yet, so there may be some tossing out of things anyhow.

In reality, I can almost promise it will be me shoving what remains of my closet after losing weight these last two years into my bag with the questionably useful and/or ill-fitting but still beloved clothing going in last in case they need to be pulled out and left behind. Mom also managed to find a carry-on sized space saver bag, so the sweaters may be getting the big squeeze and going in my carry-on bag. Honestly though, I don’t think the weight limit is going to be a major issue. But with no further ramblings, I’ll leave you with the ULTIMATE STUDY ABROAD PACKING LIST. 😛

— Kate

The Ultimate Study Abroad Packing List

Clothing:

  • Underwear – two weeks’ worth (Two weeks worth? Let’s be real. All the underwear comes along. We don’t leave behind good underwear.)
  • Socks – two weeks’ worth (Yeah yeah, it’ll be the ones that aren’t questionably falling apart. They’re socks. Pretty sure I can get a new pair or two in England, just possibly.)
  • Camisoles (Layering all day, err’ day.)
  • Thermal leggings (I seriously doubt the use of these, but man are they comfy.)
  • Tops
  • Sweaters
  • Trousers
  • Skirts
  • A set or two of workout clothes (Will it promote my going to the gym? Unlikely.)
  • Pajamas
  • Swimsuit
  • Coat/Jacket
  • At least one nice outfit for formal occasions
  • Shoes (I fear my fancy sandals will not see much use, but then again, I’ve been living in Chacos since March. Yay for my body always running on high heat?)

Toiletries:

  • TSA Compliant Toiletry Kit (Enough to clean up for a day or two until I get things there. I can already sense my desperate need to shower upon arrival after learning my lesson last time.)
  • Brush and comb (If they weren’t needed right after said emergency shower, I’d say forget it.)
  • Contact lenses and solution (Yay being blind!)
  • Glasses (Does this really count if it’s on my face?)
  • Nail clippers (Teeny tiny justifiable-bringing-along-in-case-of-brutal-hangnail-attack pair.)
  • Makeup (No one likes to play games with new brands on makeup. Especially not ALL the makeup at once.)
  • Medications (Yay drugs! Now to make sure they all have my name written on them.)

Extras:

  • Some cash in £ (Pleased with myself now for having a handful of £2 coins and a fiver that accidentally came home with me last year. That’s some snack money whilst in the customs line!)
  • Purse/ wallet
  • Important documents (passport, visa, itinerary, plane tickets, ISIC card, etc.)
  • Outlet adapter (Actually not sure I’ll need one. Livin’ the USB plug life means international is SO much easier.)
  • Sunglasses (Didn’t need these once last time. I blame it on living in big sky country for the last four years.)
  • Cell phone with changed out SIM card for UK and USB charger (Many thanks for getting me that old iPhone unlocked and a UK SIM shipped over!)
  • Laptop and charger (Must not forget to change the plug on the charger!)
  • Camera w/cords and USB charger
  • Kindle and USB charger
  • Water bottle/ Nalgene bottle (Depending on space/amount of cares given, might just get one past security. I’m flying BA, they dole out tea and wine like it’s going out of style.)