What next? A new journey begins…

Hello! And thank you for joining me for the first entry of my new, academic blog. If you have found this from my previous blog about my 2012 trip to Thailand then expect fewer references to scorpions, tigers and elephants and more references to corpus linguistics, corpus linguistics and, erm, corpus linguistics. The latter trio is just as exciting as the former though, I assure you…

Anyway, last week I graduated from Lancaster University with a first class BA Honours degree in Linguistics. Like much of the recent summer weather it was a beautifully hot, sunny day, and I got the chance to talk outside with many fellow County College graduands (and, afterwards, graduates!). The question that seemed to occur most frequently in many of the conversations I had was a very simple one: what next?

Graduation Day: standing outside the office in CASS where I will spend the next four years of my academic career.

Graduation Day: standing outside the office in CASS where I will spend the next four years of my academic career.

I met people with a range of exciting and interesting plans. People moving to London to break into the West End; people training as teachers; people joining grad schemes; people travelling the world; people moving home for some R&R, and of course some people with no idea whatsoever.  The main message I got was that, whatever people were doing next, it was unlikely to be here in little old Lancaster.

Unlike me. The answer to my own what next?  question is exactly the opposite. I am staying here at Lancaster for (at least) another four years. When I told people this, I met gasps of either horror or congratulations or some hilarious combination of the two. Those who did seem horrified were mainly concerned about how I could possibly stay here for another four years without getting bored of the sparse-at-best nightlife or the lack of a Nando’s or Primark.

But when I told them what I was staying here to do, they soon conceded that I would be kept busy enough for the next four years of my university career to fly by without so much as a yearning for a popular chicken restaurant or an ethically questionable clothes store. I am staying here to complete a 1+3 postgraduate studentship as a Research Student at the ESRC funded Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science (CASS). It’s a bit of a mouthful, and I quickly tired of repeating it on graduation day, so it soon became “I’m sticking around to do a bit of research for a while”. I would have then gone on to explain with much excitement all the juicy details about what I’ll be doing, but the sun made me so hot under my robes I really didn’t have the energy for it.

In short, I’ll be collecting a corpus of spoken language data and exploring all of the methodological issues that come along with this process. I expect it to be a difficult and yet (hopefully) rewarding project, and for my work to be under the CASS banner and all the interesting and important people affiliated with this centre is very cool. This is something I never envisaged myself doing, and even as late as the start of 2013 I was oblivious to the existence of CASS, let alone the opportunity to work here as a Research Student!

My original plan was still to stay in Lancaster – but only for one year. I had applied to do an MA here in the Department of Linguistics and English Language, and then probably use that to boost my employability in finding a job somewhere out there in the real world. This plan was born out of a realisation, during my degree, that I could be good at something (namely, linguistics) and also enjoy it. A huge influence in this realisation was the tuition and support of CASS Deputy Director Dr Andrew Hardie, who taught me during all three years of my degree. He was incredibly good at helping me find my footing in an academic environment that is so different to pre-university education.

Incidentally, he was also the man who first introduced me to the field of corpus linguistics during my undergraduate studies. And indeed, in February of this year, when I first heard about the opening of the centre and the opportunity to join it, Andrew was the first person who I arranged to see to discuss how to best put together an application. A month later I got the good news from CASS Director Professor Tony McEnery that I had won the studentship and that the next four years of my life would be accounted for by research in a new, ESRC funded centre.

So…what next? Well, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work here and join a long-held tradition of cutting edge research in corpus linguistics at Lancaster University. As a new member of the Lancaster linguistics family I am extremely excited to see what the future brings.

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