Reflecting on my time in Cambridge

Sunset at Grantchester Meadows

I have less than a week left now of my sabbatical in Cambridge and so I have spent some time reflecting on what I’ve learnt while I’ve been here. I’ve also had to say farewell to a lot of my new friends, as term finished last week, so most Easter Term visitors left Wolfson College at the weekend. I have met so many fantastic people since coming to Cambridge, from such a wide range of fields: engineers, journalists, musicians, astrophysicists, librarians, educational technologists, learning developers, diplomats, teachers and trainee teachers. I have discussed topics at breakfast as wide ranging as south east asian politics, to climate change, from library design to Roman history. Breakfast at home with Radio 4 (playing on my ipad of course) will never be quite the same. But what are the key things for me? It’s difficult, so these are just some initial thoughts.

Firstly, I think the College system where you get to meet people from so many different disciplines, makes for a richer open discussion on a wide range of topics. People who never normally would attend a seminar about each others research get to meet on neutral grounds and bring a wider range of opinions to the table. Secondly, I realise that learning really is a lifelong process. I met several researchers at Wolfson well over 70 who were actively engaged in their subject, and as passionate as many younger researchers. It truly was inspiring to meet these people. Thirdly, that having some time to think is so valuable. I find the hectic rush from one meeting to another and the desperate need to answer e-mails exhausting, but also not very efficient for actually getting work done. In my time away, I feel I’ve been able to take a step back and to stop simply reacting to things that happen. I hope some of this can continue when I get back to work.

Fourthly, I think I have learnt the value of being in the right frame of mind to work. Having the luxury of being able to work when I choose has been hugely liberating. I find I have a balance back in my life, but I am probably working far harder than I do normally. I’m just doing it when I feel like it, rather than being tied to a 9 -5 working day. So if I want to go ball dress shopping at 4pm in the afternoon I will. But you’ll probably find me up writing around 11pm as that’s when my brain seems to come alive.

Finally, I have learnt that you can’t beat a drink for bringing people together: whether it be a nice cup of tea, a glass of wine or a cocktail in the bar. Talking to people, sharing ideas, learning from them is really hugely rewarding and a lot of fun. Here’s to my last few days in Cambridge – cheers!

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