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Confessions of a recovering academic

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Once upon a time I flirted with becoming an academic. Perhaps a serious affair is a better way to describe it… but after a decade I had commitment issues.

Sure I loved teaching, I could even handle the hours of meticulously marking papers, gobbling up thick heavy tomes? No problem! Regurgitating papers and essays? Well… I would start by procrastinating then spew out content – sometimes with passion and sometimes merely intellectual curiosity.

You need to understand, the University of Manitoba (U of M) environment was where I grew up. I was a professor’s brat which meant the University was where I went to nursery school, where I learned to swim, where we went each summer to Mini University for ‘camp’, where I used to hop a bus from school to attend piano lessons… in short it was always home.

Photo: UManitoba.ca

Photo: UManitoba.ca

Education came naturally.

My mother was the only one in her immediate family to graduate from high school – but then went on to get three degrees! We grew up with her going to University classes, singing and teaching music.

And my fathers side? His father was a school principal. He ran the chemistry lab at the U of M and then went back to complete his PhD mid-career, packing the whole family up for an adventure in Hamilton, Ontario at McMaster University.

And me? I initially vacillated between modern world history and international politics, eventually settling on South Asian history. Academics is how I first came to India many years ago on a Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute Study Abroad program… back in 1990!

I also did a stint at the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University… then returned to India from 1995 – 96 to both gain a modicum of proficiency in Hindi and complete archival research… which eventually produced a thesis.

Collated cases from 100 years of the Bombay Law Reporter

100 years of the Bombay Law Reporter cases

However along the way, academics was abandoned for an eclectic corporate career… and a journey back to adopt India as ‘home.’

Yet always in the back of my mind I had this dream that one day I would go back to University purely for my own indulgence. My vision of a post-retirement plan!

While I have no complaints on the career front, going independent has its ups and downs, which means I’m an exceedingly long way from being able to afford to ‘retire.’ It also means period of insane activity then slogging away at gaining the next project or client win, so recommitting to ‘proper’ academics an unrealistic stretch!

As enthusiastic as I am about all sorts of activities, somehow that thirst for continuous learning atrophied. Even the way I would voraciously consume books abated. Sooooo not good!

So, instead of some lofty and unrealistic New Year’s resolutions to ‘get fit‘ (yeah I keep trying and keep falling off the wagon), I decided to take the learning plunge.

Good thing there are now a plethora of potential avenues available right at ones fingertips! A recommendation from a wise man, a simple flip through their course curriculum, and voila! I found myself registered, profile created and poised to start a new program 1st Feb. Gulp!

Anyone else returned to re-embrace studies later in life? 

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  1. WHAT…?! You can’t leave us hanging like this – what’s the course/programme?

  2. Digital media? Excellent! Maybe you can come work for us! 😉 Not sure we would be able to afford you though….
    I also would love to return to academia – like most enjoyable things in life it is all about the funding – Musicology doesn’t have that much commercial value to be funded by a company sadly and AHRC funding and the such has been cut by our arts-hating UK government. One day I am determined I will do my Doctorate though (and be rich enough to fund it!) Who knows, maybe an Indian University will have me….

  3. Hope you will enjoy the studies. I am planning to go back to university in a few years to do m my master degree. Let’s see how that will work out

    • This isn’t formal Uni… just a test run at an open course.

      My challenge is my master’s thesis was a bit over-board in research and length (just shy of 250 pages!)… just saw its now been downloaded 2,500+ times. I wonder it what takes to become a thesis ‘best non-seller’? 😉

  4. thewriteedge says:

    I’ve always flirted with the idea of going back to school too, but sometimes I think it’s also a passing fancy. Since I’m currently in a long-term relationship with my writing and publishing, I’m not sure another serious commitment would be such a good idea. :> Still not ruling it out, though.

    So cool to learn more about your academic background and how you connected with India in the first place. Hope the course goes well!

  5. footwalker says:

    Can relate! People like us need a wannabe-a-Ph.D degree! 🙂

  6. My mom worked at the uni running those “uni camps” 😀 along with a few other roles. I also spent hours there, was put to work stuffing envelopes at home, got admin jobs there… yup, it was like a second home for me, too. I’m a course/program addict. I enjoy learning and once I figured out the secrets, it wasn’t hard. I want to do a master’s but a PhD? Na. Too much work unless I find a topic that will engross me for several years. 😀 All the best with your new venture!

  7. By the way, I’m not surprised. From your writing and your unique takes on life and experiences, you would make an extraordinary academic. Maybe a part-time stint at an online uni?

    • Awww.. blush! blush!

      I think some of my old academic buddies had a secret notion I would get over my scholarly hiatus… smarten up and rejoin the academic rat race.

      Haven’t yet… but…

  8. EVP says:

    I finished a PhD, taught for a few years and then just got a “real” job – academics is only attractive from the outside – even if one gets a permanent tenure-track job (which is a challenge in the US), it’s still not a smooth ride. Pay is low, colleagues could be annoying but you are stuck with them, students come less and less prepared for rigors of academic life every new academic year. Sure, non-academic life is stressful and full of ups and downs, but it’s much better due to constant change and a tone of opportunities to learn new stuff and expand. Meeting my old academic friends for a drink these days is torture since they are all still doing the same thing (in slightly more detailed way) as they were 10 years ago.

    • Uh… did you read my mind back in 1999 when I said “Ta ta! Bye bye!” to academics??

      I have no serious regrets about embracing a different path and why I know any return to studies is an indulgence not a career, per se. Though I may do a little teaching again just to keep from getting too rusty! Have a couple offers of options convenient both in location and expectations that I’m considering.

      What was your PhD about? Curious….

  9. Marta says:

    I have done several online courses: one paying (teaching spanish as a foreign language) and then several free ones in coursera and edx. I never got to use anything for work, but I like studying, haha. Right now I am doing a course on style and variations in spanish, but coursera got greedy and now if you want a certificate you have to pay for it, grrr (you would get a free completion certificate before).

    • Greedy @$$h0le$! But clearly you get something out of these online courses. The one I’m taking says it is ‘blended’ i.e. combination of self-learning, instructor lead and discussion groups. Let’s see how it goes!

      • Marta says:

        Well in fact I can understand that they have to pay for servers to put all courses, and salaries for the staff, etc, but still, before you got a free completion certificate and if you wanted the super-cool certificate then you paid… Anyway, I will keep studying 😛

  10. mmarinaa says:

    Good luck with the studies!

    I’ve considered it mainly out of the desire to stop working, haha. I’m already a teacher, so it would just be less teaching, more learning if I went back. But I can’t really justify it, sadly.

    • Well, I stopped working a full-time regular job a couple years ago for the ups n downs of independent consulting – which means periods of manic work then nothing except slogging it out to get more work. 🙂 So fitting something like ‘studies’ in is no different than picking up another assignment.

      I’m starting small, not full-time though next term will likely also add doing a few lectures at a local college too. Transitioning back to a little academic flirtation, without giving up on the core work I’m doing now which is focusing more and more on enabling learning through practical technology than my earlier consulting work helping companies set-up new distribution channels or transform existing ones.

      Let’s see where it all leads!

  11. NancyTex says:

    Good for you, Carissa! I think that’s awesome.

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