Chapter 5: To the Crownlands

Last week I spent the week visiting London. In case you didn’t get the reference the title of this post is a nod to Game of Thrones; Kings Landing, the capital city of Westeros, is in the Crownlands (references are always funnier when they have to be explained). The reason I mention this is because to me London can sometimes seem so different it may as well be part of a fantasy story.

The CDT I am a part of is paired with University College London (UCL), because of this we semi-regularly do training weeks which take place alternately between London and Nottingham. If you hadn’t guess this time we were in London. This was only our third time in London but this trip was significantly more successful than others; last time a group of us shared a room and due to a mistake with the booking I slept on the floor of the hotel room (I’ve definitely slept in worse places).

On our last trip to London our training focused on practical skills; if I’m honest despite the fact it was only a few months ago I have forgotten most of what we were taught (sorry if any of the CDT people are reading this). This time our training focused on “personal development.” This included a seminar dealing with difficult supervisors, which I thought was ironic considering the difficulty I had with my supervisor on my last training project. While that gives you an idea of what training I was doing while visiting London it isn’t what I want to make the main point of this post.

I feel like when I was younger I misunderstood what travelling for work meant. I always figured it would be interesting to say to people that I was away traveling on business, and that “I’ll be back from Dusseldorf on Friday!” In reality when you actually talk to people who travel for work they point out that all you usually see is an airport/train station, the hotel and wherever you are working during the day. For instance, despite going to London twice I haven’t been to many of the actual tourist spots, but at this point I could walk blindfolded from King’s Cross train station to my hotel (although I wouldn’t recommend wandering around London blindfolded).

This little discussion of travel isn’t supposed to be cynical, in fact I want it to be the opposite. While it may not always be how you imagine it, travelling for work can be fun experience and (from my own perspective at least) I should see traveling for work as an incredible opportunity, even if it is not what I expected. People are always amazed when I tell them that up until last year, when I was 23, I had never been to London; I had never had the opportunity. Now it is something I can say I have done, even if it was for work, I should count myself lucky enough to have had the chance to see more of this corner of the world.  

Once again, I am trying to stumble my way toward a coherent point- even if it might not be what you expect, take advantage of everything you have and find enjoyment where you can. In science we can forget that while we are “pushing the boundaries of knowledge” we should try and enjoy ourselves while we can. I was aiming for this to be a mundane recap of my time in London but it evidently ended up down a different, more philosophical, route. In the next post I am hopefully going to get into a bit more of the science stuff, specifically how my research project came about, and what I will be spending the next 3 and a half years (yikes!) working on. Until next time, this is Steve the Scientist signing off.