A fond look back at my research life at the University of Northampton

By Dr Nadia Anwar

Nadia in the SOTA research office

Now that my academic life at the University of Northampton has come to a close, I take this opportunity to reflect on and share my experiences as a research student. In July 2012 the decision to leave my former university and move to the University of Northampton was not an easy one to say the least, especially when as an international student I was required to pass through the rigors of applying for a new study visa and starting my research process afresh. But my first two experiences at Northampton helped overcome my initial apprehensions and concerns to a great deal. The first was my preliminary meeting with Prof Janet Wilson, Dr Victor Ukaegbu, and Dr Jumai Ewu, my potential Director of Studies and supervisors who ensured me of the potential of my research and showed profound insight and knowledge into the field of my study. The second was the highly professional manner in which my move was handled by both the administrative staff and visa department of the UoN.

From the very beginning of my academic journey in Northampton, I realised that I was at the right place and in the right hands to receive the kind of guidance I had come to the UK for. Since the literature review of my research was already in place due to the research work I had carried out at my former university, it did not take me long to float through the initial stages of my research procedure. My supervisors’ contribution in all this is highly commendable as they not only gave me the freedom to make decisions for my thesis, but also very wisely steered me though the rough patches with their expert advice and encouragement. The professional expertise of my supervisory team enabled me to confidently take on the challenges of my research, from analytic and critical knowledge of texts to epistemic and methodological understanding of the area of my study. Their encouragement inspired me to work even harder to reach higher academic standards. Although after my transfer I was beset by another crisis when my first and second supervisors left the university but the way the Graduate School, and, in particular, my Director of Studies handled the situation without jeopardizing my research process and disturbing my studies is exemplary. This once again allowed me an occasion to thank God for my decision of joining the University of Northampton when I had other options available.

Nadia Anwar1What interested and impressed me the most is the dynamic research culture of the University of Northampton with its emphasis on seminars and departmental and international conferences. My supervisors encouraged me to present my research at international conferences while also recommending my funding applications for various awards which enabled me to travel to Freiburg, Johannesburg, and London and present my work to the audience of international scholars and experts in my field. Subsequent publications provided me with an insight into a wider academic sphere. By attending and presenting in conferences I got a brilliant chance to subject my ideas and thoughts to critical scrutiny in a setting designed for theorising new ideas and for interrogating concepts and practices that my research study proposes. By sharing my thoughts to an audience of scholars from the same field and discipline, I was able to get positive feedback and identify the weak areas in my research and to find an opportunity to keep in step with current debates in the field as well as to contribute to such debates. More importantly, these opportunities allowed me to meet academics, experts and scholars on African, especially Nigerian drama and have useful discussions with them about my research. In the course of conferences I was offered with many prospects of networking with academics, students and playwrights for future help in my research. I wouldn’t have gained these invaluable experiences without institutional support and my supervisors’ encouragement.

My life at the University of Northampton not only equipped me with a range of new academic and person-specific skills but also played a significant role in my personal and professional growth. The Graduate School workshops provided me with a proactive and interactive research platform where I not only found answers to my research related problems but also acquired a number of skills which prepared me for upcoming professional challenges. Worth mentioning is the friendly and warm manner with which the staff at the Graduate School arrange its events and facilitate research students and resolve their issues. Without doubt, their help, support and invaluable suggestions contributed in enhancing the quality of my experiences at the university. Among other wonderful experiences, I will also always fondly remember the Research Centre and its intellectually rich environment, which we adoringly named ‘liminal space’ – a space which helped us grow through useful and stimulating discussions with our peers, stirred our creative juices to produce quality work and provided us a safe haven to share our research related frustrations.

In the end I would humbly advise all my friends who are thinking of undertaking a research or are already in the process of doing one, to never let their spirits be dampened by the amount and pressure of work they are expected and required to do. The key to success is not to achieve in a given period of time but to remain steadfast by clinging to the process, to persist and persevere. A good research requires whole hearted commitment and academic honesty. Be flexible and let your mind be an open receptacle. Be ready to critical evaluate, analyse and select what suits your research the best but respect and accept opinions and suggestions that may ultimately refine and improve your work. This balance may take months to achieve but continuous hard work and the ability to sustain interest in your work will ultimately make this possible. What helped me retain my intimate connection with my research and make the most of my time in the University is that I always thought beyond language and cultural barriers by engaging in useful discussions, sharing my research and experiences, and interacting with my peers and colleagues.

The time I have spent at the University of Northampton has enriched my personality and enabled me to pursue my future postdoctoral projects and academic career with confidence and spirit. Getting a PhD degree is not merely an academic achievement but a life time journey that may appear hard at times but worth a million while when it is over and done with. As Emily Dickinson will say ‘To comprehend a nectar / requires sorest need’, I also believe that taste of success can only be fully appreciated once one has passed through the odds that this life changing journey presents one with.


About Simone Apel

Researcher Developer for The Graduate School, University of Northampton.

Posted on November 2, 2015, in Doctoral journey, Researcher careers, School of the Arts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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