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One of my favourite lines of literature is the final line of Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights: “So Lyra and her dæmon turned away from the world they were born in, and looked towards the sun, and walked into the sky.” As a naïve and poetically-minded tween, I just liked it because I thought it sounded nice. Now entering postgraduate study, it has taken on new meaning for me.
Becoming a postgraduate is a process in turning away from what is safe. The structure and rigidity of undergraduate courses are noticeably absent. No longer are there whole rafts of deadlines for lots of small assignments that you are reminded about three times a week in lectures. Contact hours are way down — you may only have one lecture all week, and go days without talking to your supervisor. Expectations are higher, in both work quality and independence. It really is like turning away from the world that you know.
But we don’t do this because we are lost. We do this because we have seen the brightness of the sun. Whenever I am feeling swamped or disheartened, I only need to walk into the sky with Lyra and remind myself of what I am doing here. At postgraduate level, we are no longer in search of a fancy bit of paper (well, mostly). We do it because we want to make the world better, and we can see a path through which we can do that. This quote reminds me that if you look towards the future, there is nowhere you can’t go and there is nothing you can’t achieve. There’s nothing wrong with aiming for the moon — even if you miss, you’ll end up among the stars.
So go on. Indulge yourself. And remember, if you ever need help with anything at all, the PGSA is here to assist. Good luck for 2017 everyone!