“So, you can take the girl out of academia, but you can’t take the academia out of the girl, eh?”
Those were the words of a friend of mine after I announced the news. Well, guess who can has PhD scholarship?
Last year I applied for Oxford PhD scholarships for 2009-2010, and completely forgot about it. Then in the April I was told I was selected and invited for an interview. All happened very fast and unexpected. It began with a call from British Council and professors from Oxford, when I was asked to come in person to the interview (last minute call) to Belgrade. Since I reside in Rome, I had to take the first plane next morning and I appeared in the early afternoon as the last candidate to be interviewed for this great opportunity. Actually I was about not to go, because it seemed impossible to make it to Belgrade in such short time, but my UN supervisor was encouraging me to give it a try.
Shall I mention that the interview was more like great, nice interaction between professors and me, carefree chat on social networks and media since professor and BC representative wanted to know more about the usage of the social networks in Serbia and they were all ears when I started passionately to talk about Facebook. Anyway, at the end of the interview I was told I will know the final result soon. So I went back to Rome, and seven weeks ago (I know, I know – I was and I am very busy at work to announce this to all of you officially) good news came right into my inbox: the official email from the Oxford University. I was super-happy and ecstatic and wanted to keep this to myself to summarize my thoughts and to think about this very well, and also to talk to my closest ones, to consult with the allies, and with my UN supervisor.
As much as I was happy – I had a huge dilemma that I was not facing for the first time, to choose between two good things: research or work. There is an eternal battle in me between academic/research life and practical work. The thing is I am equally engaged into both -academia and practical work, and since it has been two years since my Master thesis – I found myself still writing papers, publishing, going to conferences, storing for my research I’ve been developing in my head, travelling over the Europe and the United States, soaking and exchanging information, getting inspired. All in between, I’ve been working on practical things, still creating and contributing to the interwebs, interacting with people, making connections.
I officially accepted the offer to spend school year at Oxford Internet Institute, to work on my PhD research, and to interact with supersmart people, including my mentor dr Hogan. w00t!!! Or shall I say Blimey! I couldn’t be any more pleased. Yes, this means I am going to start the end of my research and writing of PhD dissertation.
For those who don’t know [and I doubt that those of you reading this don't know – there is zero % that you didn’t hear for Oxford Internet Institute] – OII is the academic mecca for scholars, researchers, web creators, superb centre for the study of the social implications of the Internet. Going to OII will allow me to continue my PhD research that is focused on communication practices in virtual communities of the young adults in Serbia, especially focused on Facebook. Spending time at OII will bring me a productive, collaborative, inspiring environment in which I can accomplish my plan. Plus, there’s amazing work at OII concerning social web and media.
I am aware that PhD process is painful, but I strongly believe that knowledge is power. I wouldn’t be working on things I did in the past, and now for the UN on developing projects, which foster the technology, sharing of knowledge, web of science, semantic web, if I didn’t believe in them. Also, being surrounded with wonderful and supportive people, I am even more determined to start writing the dissertation and continue my research, because this is what I want. I realized that PhD is worth all the craziness around and inside the academia, as well as there are things that I can do with a PhD that aren’t academia.
The practice and work will keep me to the ground and sane as much as I can be – I won’t quit my UN job, this was one of the first issues I was concerned about, but luckily I have really fantastic supervisor, dr Keizer, who fully supports and encourages me. So, with all “blessings” I shall continue working on science and technology, semantic web project and return back to my research for the final dissertation. It sounds difficult and it is, but I am enjoying it and I see great benefits for my long-term goals.
I can’t wait to begin my research and writing, exploring, examining, publishing, interacting, soaking energy from experienced and smart people, that will inspire me to produce interesting ideas and the outcomes for the future projects and work. Also, I miss UK at some points, I have friends and colleagues there, and oh I love British countryside, and London is very near. I am aware about H1N1/09 virus, but I hope British people are working on it, and I’ll try to boost up my immune system. All in all, I am grateful for this great opportunity and for the all good people who supported me in this, and in general. I couldn’t be more happier. w00t!