Australia

As many of you know, I’m currently in AUSTRALIA! About this time last year I applied for an ESRC Overseas Institutional Visit award and was fortunate enough to have it granted. The funding was to come to the University of Newcastle in New South Wales to work with A. Prof Jenny Cameron in the school of environmental and life sciences. It gives me the opportunity to work in a different environment with a set of new ideas and voices, so my aim is to get a chapter polished off for my thesis whilst here.

I arrived 5 weeks ago, and time is absolutely flying past. I was so worried about coming over into a different department, but it turns out my fears were unfounded – everyone is ridiculously nice, kind, and welcoming. I’ve really enjoyed hearing about the diversity of projects people are undertaking, and have taken the opportunity to immerse myself in some new literatures and test out a few different ideas. I’ve been going to reading groups, seminars, and meetings and feel thoroughly at home here. I’m also finding myself more productive on this side of the world – due in no small part to the vast majority of my friends, family, and colleagues being asleep during my working hours! There’s a serious lack of emails to distract me during the day. And that’s not wholly a bad thing…

The main campus of Newcastle Uni – Callaghan – is massive. I still haven’t got my head around the scale of it. It took me the best part of an hour to find my department when I got off at the wrong bus stop on my second day! It’s beautiful though – there are plenty of huge towering trees all around the campus, with lots of walkways between sites. The only problem is that all the greenery draws in the mosquitos. I got munched pretty badly during my first few weeks, but have luckily found a jungle-strength repellent to keep me safe of late.

(Look at all these trees!)

On the whole I’ve really been enjoying the Aussie way of life. Popping over to the beach (literally a stone’s throw away from my apartment) always feels like a complete treat, especially when the sun is still warm on your skin. There’s a great coffee culture, heaps of fresh fruit and veg available at the local markets, and always plenty of new things to see and do. I’ve been lucky enough to end up in a beautiful apartment with two lovely housemates. Plus, Newcastle is less than a three hour (and less than £10!) train journey to Sydney – one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever had the good fortune to visit.

It’s been an absolute ball so far, but highlights include:

Olive picking with my new housemates! One of the members of staff in the department has an olive grove at home and invited us round to help her harvest it. We had such a nice day handpicking the olives, and a mere 4 days later were clutching bottles of olive oil from the very same olives!

Picking!

 

So many olives!

Visiting Sydney and taking in the views from the top of the Sydney tower eye – stunning!

My 25th birthday! Jenny brought in a delicious sour lemon cake and everybody came to birthday morning tea. The weather was divine, and for lunch there was a departmental pizza picnic! YUM! I was totally bowled over by the kindness of people I’d met merely two weeks before.

Seeing a real life (totally adorable) WOMBAT! And koalas, and kangaroos, and echidnas….

Going to a community economies research network meeting – Jenny invited me to attend their monthly meetings at which likeminded researchers drawing on particular theoretical frameworks all get together to meet up, discuss ideas, and read each other’s work. Not only did I get to meet loads of lovely people, but the meeting was on the Hawksbury River, a completely gorgeous part of the world. Oh, and we ate heaps of delicious food as well!

Doing my departmental seminar! I was a bit (very) nervous about putting myself and my work out there, but it went well and I got lots of generous feedback to help me turn it into a full blown chapter! Progress is being made!!!

I have also learned what a rip tide is. Getting caught up in one wasn’t such a great experience, and having to be rescued was excruciatingly embarrassing. Suffice to say, I’ve not been back into the sea above knee level since…

So, I’m half way through. Goodness only knows what the next five weeks hold, but if they’re anything like the first five then it seems there’s still much to look forward to. I’ll be back with an update again soon!