Cycling · Research · Socialising

Week 41: First Year Report

The entire week was set with a single goal: complete my first year report. Every PhD student in the University has to complete some form of formal assessment at the end of their first year, usually in the submission of some report or review of progress. The report is usually written with some broad comments about work already completed, but the main focus of the assessors is to confirm that the student in question has a project and is on track to complete their PhD. The assessment details vary from department to department. Some of my friends and peers in other departments handed in their reports months ago, others are yet to hand in at all. In physics, the reports are shorter than most other departments; for example, biological ones are somewhat more technical in nature, and social sciences tend to be more argumentative.

In any case, it needed to be completed, and I wouldn’t be satisfied handing up a substandard report, even if the pass rate of the assessment is very high. I spend all of the week working on it, leading up to Friday afternoon on the submission date. It was a rather strange document to write. Normally, when writing about science, the story to be told is obvious, and it is easy to construct a narrative around it. Here, though, the story is fragmented and incomplete, so I wrote bits and pieces here it there, then went back through it several times to flesh it out more. By the end, I had something I was broadly satisfied with, though I did have to go back and edit through some of the mathematics, which was unfortunately incorrect.

The entire week was somewhat dull otherwise. For most of my working hours, I had Eurosport’s coverage of the Tour de France cycling race in the background. The stages were mostly flat and so the coverage is fairly monotonous, which is rather relaxing when trying to write. I was also eager to follow the race as in a fortnight’s time, I would be joining the race in the French Alps to watch from the roadside.

Of course, the week wasn’t entirely uninteresting. On Wednesday evening, I got an invite from Camilo and Joseph to a dinner party at their King’s College flat, near the Fitzwilliam museum. I went straight from the department, having made some progress on my first year report, and was welcomed in to their large kitchen/living room. We sat in the reclining chairs around the small tables. Soon, we had formed a mid-sized group of scholars and peers, chatting and gossiping as groups are likely to do at such dinner parties. Camilo and Joseph put on an excellent meal with a Caesar salad, some glazed chicken pieces and a dessert of cake. I really enjoyed the opportunity to break momentarily from the monotony of the first year report, but knew I had to get some sleep again to continue on.

The process signing of contracts for our new house in August continued again this week. Apparently there was a problem with the first contract we had submitted, and so had to resign and resubmit the contract again. It a bit took coordinating to get the four of us to sign the contracts again, but it was all accepted, and so the only remaining obstacle is the right-to-rent check, where the landlords have to sight our visas to confirm we have leave to remain in the UK.

On Friday, my first year report was looking almost complete. I read through it a couple of times to iron out any issues, and then submitted it through the online portal. It will likely be the second-last formal submission of my academic education; the next one should be the PhD thesis itself. Of course, there will be many other things to submit and learning to be had, but it is still a bit of a milestone to complete.

Once I handed it in around midday, I went home to relax and do nothing for a while, except for watching the Tour de France for a bit. I played a match of Real Tennis against Krittika that afternoon to wind down, but then spend much of the evening binge-watching the remainder of Breaking Bad.

The weekend for me was also more straightforward than usual. I spent the day time watching the Tour de France race through the Jura mountains, and then in the afternoons I went out for a ride myself to prepare for my own trip to France. On Saturday I rode out to Ely, but the long way around. It was a mostly flat ride, allowing me to push a high gear and do ninety minutes of solid effort to emulate, somewhat, the effort that I’ll be needing to do on the mountain passes of the Alps. On Sunday, I rode down to Newport in Essex, which was a little more lumpy, with a short and narrow climb out of the town of Littlebury. Both rides were beautifully warm, riding through fields of wheat which are almost ready for harvest. The hillsides were covered in a warm, tan colour, which appeared brighter than the similar, but dead, brown colour of some fields back in Australia.

On Saturday evening, I met up with Annalise and Krittika at Parker’s Piece, who were out enjoying the Cambridge summer festival. We got food from the food stands, myself stocking up on some bratwurst, and headed over to Krittika’s place to put some plans into place for a trip to Scotland we are thinking of doing soon. Afterwards, we headed out to Jesus Green to meet up with a group of Gates scholars that Callie had organised together to enjoy the long summer evenings. The group swelled and shrank, but we were discussing all things family and political right through until after the sun had set. For me, my week and report were over, but the fun stuff was just about to kick off…

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