Stijn van Gils

Column: preventive homesickness

My PhD is like a tired marriage where you stay together for the kids. The first two years were great but then the annoyances started. And meanwhile my journalist urges were getting stronger. But you don’t just abandon a PhD.
Stijn van Gils

And so I kept going. I often thought: this is ridiculous, I’m going home. Those weren’t very productive days but I stayed put.

The night before my last conference presentation I decided I would definitely not give my presentation. As I tossed and turned in bed, it seemed the perfect protest against the academic system. But I still went out there and did it. In fact, I suddenly realised that it was going to be my last time.

Since then I’ve been suffering from preventive homesickness. Every time I run a linear mixed model I feel more nostalgic. Whenever I have to supervise my student, it occurs to me that science is actually rather fun. Sometimes I wince at the thought that I’ll soon no longer be able to read scientific papers.

And my affair with an investigative journalism platform is not turning out to be a bed of roses either. The work is fine but after sweating away for ages and finally writing something, I hear on Facebook that a download price of 29 cents is pretty steep. That is when I suddenly feel the attraction of a government salary plus pension.

Or my new colleagues (great guys, don’t get me wrong). I get to Amsterdam only to hear that Wageningen is on the other side of the world. That’s when I feel homesick for the days of sharing an office with Italians or Chinese people.

I just know it’s going to be disaster and I’m going to get so annoyed. But at least these are disasters and annoyances I know. Perhaps a postdoc is not such a bad idea after all.

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