Personal update: scraping up funds for summer school
Though we get some rather nice perks here at Cambridge, most of us live on the same student budgets as those at any other university. While I’m fortunate to have my university fees covered by the Marshall Commission, all my other expenses are covered one stipend check at a time. With no disrespect to the commission, similar funding issues prompted a former scholar to resign his scholarship. Don’t get the wrong idea, I have no intent to do the same — the opportunities here are too great and the budgetary issues aren’t seriously prohibitive.
However, I’ve run up to a bit of a road bump. This year I organized a group of Marshall Scholars to run the Belfast and Edinburgh marathons. The events were a success and we received support from the Northern Ireland Bureau and the Scottish Executive to support our runner’s registration fees. Unfortunately, due to a miscommunication, I found that my bank account had been debited £130 for a registration cheque I had filled out before we had received funding. I’ve been trying to contact the marathon office for some time now, but as the event has now passed there is nobody answering their telephone. Similarly, the event manager seems to not check his e-mail.
While I’m hoping persistence will eventually put me in contact with the right people, I’m keenly aware of upcoming expenses. In the near future I’ll be paying my final college bill, shipping my belongings up to Durham, and attending the BUSSTEPP 2007 summer school in York. Thanks to a generous grant from Trinity College, I have partial support for the school. I may be able to get some reimbursement from the Marshall commission, though I’ll be keeping a close eye on my bank account for the next couple of months.
To be honest, it’s nice to have something else to think about other than exams — which what most people around here seem to be thinking about right now. And to be a little more honest, it does make me feel a little more like a “proper grad student” to be making more discretionary decisions about my finances as I try to squeeze out research-related activities. As an undergraduate, nearly all of my fees (university bill, housing, food) were covered in a lump sum that was covered by student loans and my parents. Back then I measured any other spending (books, leisure) in units of hours of lab research for which I received a small stipend. I spent my last summer in Berkeley, where I instead chose to measure my expenses in units of hot dogs sold at the restaurant next to my studio. For now I measure my expenses in fractions of the total cost of summer school registration. Smaller expenses are measured in units of brie and grape baguettes sold on Mondays at the CMS.
This, by the way, is always the problem when speaking to a physicist: unless you’re in the same sub-field, you’ll almost certainly confuse one another because you use different units.
For now, exams are halfway through. I have to admit that I don’t have the same gusto as some of the other students — I’ve been distracted by a couple of the research papers that I’ll be basing my Durham project on. My new topic of interest is CP violation in supersymmetry, and there’s a lot of neat things for me to learn. In the near future I’ll share some retrospective thoughts on Part III, and I may be able to post some post-examination statistics to be compiled by my neighbor.
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