Summing up the year. On a personal note

IMG_4693As Christmas celebrations have almost quietened down and the New Year festivities are fast approaching, I feel like it’s about time to take a pause and look back at the major milestones that this past year has marked in my academic life.  Winter being at its height, I am pleased to note that every season of 2013 has brought something that enhanced my professional and personal being immensely.

Spring witnessed the beginning of the journey I have been long awaiting – starting a PhD program at Leeds meant taking my research aspirations on a whole new level. A completely different world opened up in front of me – the world of unexplored opportunities and recurrent challenges, the world of continuous professional development and ongoing self-reflection, the world of endless mental and emotional struggles between ideas and hesitations, between despair and enthusiasm, between the fear of never getting there and the all-triumphant will to achieve the ultimate goal. Tracing back the evolution of my research project from what now seems to be a rather unexciting study of the EU food labelling legislation to the investigation of the ethics of consumption and the role of distinctive food choices in the formation of consumer identities, I can’t underestimate the amount of reading, writing and thinking that has gone into just shaping up the project that is going to absorb the next two years of my life. Having set the theoretical and methodological foundations of my study, I look forward to going out into the field, talking to people, understanding them and learning from them.

Summer was marked by The Everyday Growing Cultures project. Working as a Research Associate on what turned out to be a fruitful collaboration of talented people from the variety of areas, I have witnessed the development of a small study into a much bigger project that tapped into issues of importance to different social groups, from the proponents of open data movement, to academics, to computer geeks, to lay people dreaming of having their own share of the good life on an allotment plot. The project still yields fruits – I am soon off to Bournemouth where our research team will present the project on an annual MeCCSA Conference.

Autumn brought novelty. Starting to work as a Teaching Assistant in the Sociology Department meant embracing a totally new, unfamiliar and, admittedly, intimidating role – the role of a teacher, a mentor, an adviser, an authority even. Giving the first couple of teaching sessions was like diving into the uncharted waters, the fear of unknown being overcome by the pleasure of becoming someone you always wanted to be. Through this experience, a new understanding of what the role of a teacher entails and what the learning process itself is about emerged, bringing me to develop as a teacher, but also helping me to grow as a student. My major takeaways are that no two classes are ever the same and preparing for a teaching session is a never-to-be-complete task. My sincere hope is to have more teaching opportunities, tasks and challenges in 2014.

Winter yields fruits too. The Twitter and Society edited book, for which I have co-authored a chapter, is finally out. Seeing my name on an academic publication produced mixed feelings of complacency, joy and a fervent commitment to work hard and prove myself capable of further accomplishments.

All in all, the year has been fulfilling. It has been eye-opening too. I have finally found my own religion– the religion of science. I have finally become a true worshipper – a worshipper of the human intelligence. My feelings are mixed – I am full of admiration for the depth and breadth of human knowledge, despair of ever grasping it all and yet an insurmountable desire to embrace as much of it as a human possibly can.

I do not particularly like making New Year‘s resolutions and have never made any – I reject the very idea of committing to something that you either continuously failed to do in the past or could harmlessly postpone until the next year.  Yet, in fulfillment of the promise made to my research supervisor, Nick, and in an effort to make my blog a little bit more attractive to readers, I intend to keep my future posts under the 500 word limit, which means the most exciting and topical food-related issues being explained, discussed and thought-through in a clear, concise and succinct form. The rule is coming into effect as of 2014, which, I hope, makes an excuse for this longest ever post, the very last in 2013.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

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