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  • Writer's pictureVeronica

An exciting life update!

A break from our regular programming for a very exciting update...

I'm thrilled to announce that I will be moving back to the UK in September to start my PhD at the University of Exeter! My research will utilise creative social science methodologies to investigate the visual communication of climate and food futures. I will be funded for four years by the UK's Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) through the South West Doctoral Training Partnership (SWDTP).

When I finished my MSc at Exeter, I had no idea I would be going back!

For the first year, I'll be living in Falmouth, in Cornwall, to undertake another master's degree (yes, I already have one, but apparently there wasn't enough social science research methods training in that master's degree, so I have to do another one). While I'm not thrilled about having to do another graded dissertation, I'm excited because it gives me an extra year to refine my PhD research project and explore the stunning Cornish coastline!

aerial view of Porthcurno beach in Cornwall
Porthcurno beach, photo shot on my drone in 2019

Not only is there a sea swimming society at Exeter's Cornwall campus, but there is also an aerial society (yay!), so I am already looking forward to continuing my training on the silks after a two-year break!

After I finish my (second) master's degree, I'll be moving back to Exeter, where I'll be starting my PhD research. My project will combine my interests in climate change, food systems and photography – basically a perfect fit for me. The project is both interdisciplinary and collaborative in nature, working with the largest supplier of stock images internationally, Getty Images, and an internationally-leading UK-based charity working to change the climate conversation, Climate Visuals.

I'm thrilled to have an all-female supervisory team made up of the following incredible academics: Dr Saffron O'Neill (Geography, Exeter), Dr Angela Cassidy (Centre for Rural Policy Research, Exeter) and Dr Julie Barnett (Psychology, Bath). I love that both Saffron and Angela have spent time within the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia, where I completed my undergraduate degree. Academia can be a pretty small world!

Being back in the south west of England means I will get plenty more opportunities to explore the varied landscapes of Devon: from the coves and cliffs of the coast path, to the vast empty moorlands of Dartmoor and Exmoor. I have already committed to hiking the entirety of the South West Coast Path, but I reckon the 1,013 kilometres (630 miles) shouldn't be too challenging spread over four years. Here's to four more years of exploring the south west, of wild camping, waterfall swims and time completely immersed in nature.

Opening the email that offered me funding for the PhD, I began to cry tears of happiness and relief. Since the beginning of 2020, one of the main constants in my life has been uncertainty. Visas and work have been such a constant stress, so knowing I'll have a four-year visa for paid work in the UK feels like such a relief. And even better, I'll be living in a part of the UK that I truly love, doing work that interests me.

From September, Brett will be studying in Paris as part of his Fulbright scholarship. The long distance is no doubt going to be tough, but I look forward to getting to share our new adventures with one another as he moves to the big city and I move to the middle of nowhere (just for reference, it takes over 5 hours by public transport to get from Falmouth to London...). If all goes well, we'll be able to live together again when we both move back to Exeter in September 2023 – for me to start my PhD and Brett to finish his.

I know doing a PhD isn't going to be easy. I've experienced imposter syndrome in the past, where I don't feel like I'm good enough/smart enough to be in academia, and I understand that this will likely be a challenge while I'm working towards the PhD. But for right now, I'm just going to enjoy the idea that I'm going to be a real-life social scientist, and allow myself to feel excited to get started, to continue learning and building skills, to research a topic that I find interesting and to work with academics who I respect. I'm ready to face this next adventure!

veronica phd interview
Red-faced after my Zoom PhD interview

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